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A Weekend in Riga, Latvia

I’ve recently spent the weekend in Riga, Latvia and it has to be one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I’ve visited to date. There’s plenty to do and see in the city, with many of the sights within close proximity to one another in the Old Town.

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Cathedral Square, Riga

One of the best known buildings is the House of the Blackheads, originally built by a guild of merchants of the same name (similar halls can be found across Scandinavian, including in Tallinn). The original hall was built in the C14th but, after sustaining severe bomb damage in 1941 at the hands of the Nazis, was subsequently demolished by the occupying Soviets. It was reconstructed in the 1990s and, despite how controversial the reconstruction is considered, it is an impressive and imposing building.

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The House of the Blackheads

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The House of the Blackheads with the spire of the Church of St. Peter in the background

Other sights in the Old Town include the C13th church of St. Peter with its elaborate, layered spire. Close by is the sculpture of the Bremen Musicians, based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale in which a disgruntled donkey, dog, cat and rooster team up to form a musical quartet but on the way to Bremen, after scaring off a band of brigands, discover a safe haven where they live happily ever after.


The Church of St. Peter

Elsewhere in the Old Town is the C13th Cathedral, situated in a large square which also houses brightly coloured buildings. Close by, in yet another cobbled square, is Riga Castle where the Latvian president resides. It’s quite an understated building, painted in a vibrant yellow.


The Musicians of Bremen

In the more modern part of the city, there’s some beautiful architecture to see in the Jugend district which is characterised by Art Nouveau style buildings. There’s also the Orthodox Cathedral with its golden domes and elaborately painted interior.

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Art Nouveau architecture in the Jugend District

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The Orthodox Cathedral

The Freedom Monument, erected in the 1930s to honour the soldiers who died in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920), is also situated at the edge of the new city. It stands at 42 metres and the figure of Liberty stands atop, holding three stars symbolising the three regions of Latvia. The statue has a Guard of Honour, with two soldiers (weather permitting) present at the monument.

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The Freedom Statue, Riga.

I visited Riga in January and I’m not sure if it was because it’s a relatively quiet time of year to travel but it certainly made a difference as parts of the Old Town were practically deserted. Fortunately, if you’re as deeply unnerved by crowds as I am, this is no bad thing! The weather was also surprisingly mild with temperatures around 7 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately, I did miss out on a few things whilst I was there for which I’m blaming a particularly unpleasant hangover and bizarre opening times. These included the Latvian National Museum of Art (closed until 5th May 2016 for renovation work), the Museum of Latvian Occupation (also temporarily closed for renovation) and the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust Museum (closed on Saturdays). They’re all highly recommended in travel guides and on TripAdvisor so if you’re in Riga, they’re definitely worth considering.

Finally, this bollard cannot go without comment – look how dashing it is!

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Thanks for reading x

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Seen the Colosseum & Forum? 9 Other Amazing Ancient Ruins in Rome

As I’m tucked up in bed today with a cold, I’ve been wandering around Rome with the help of Google Earth. There are plenty of views of Rome’s major sights including the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill but there’s so much more to see of Rome’s ancient past in other ruins around the city.

The Temple of Portunus, Rome.

9. The Temple of Portunus

Just around the corner from the Circus Maximus (which is possibly the least inspiring of all Rome’s ruins) is the Temple of Portunus. Portunus was the god of locks, keys and livestock. Owing to the temple’s position in the Forum Boarium, known for its cattle markets, the Romans believed Portunus would oversee the sales of livestock.

The Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome.

8. The Temple of Hercules Victor

The Temple of Hercules Victor is a stone’s throw away from the Temple of Portunus in the former Forum Boarium. The circular temple is sometimes referred to as the Temple of Vesta as it was initially wrongly identified by antiquarians. The temple dates from C2nd BCE but has been used almost constantly ever since, even converted into a church in C12th.

The Pantheon, Rome.

7. The Pantheon

Possibly rivalling the Colosseum as the most tourist abound site in Rome, the Pantheon is undoubtedly beautiful if not overcrowded. The Pantheon was built by the Emperor Augustus’ close friend Marcus Agrippa, and his name is still visible above the temple. The building, which now houses a catholic church, was originally used as a temple to worship all the Olympian gods.

The Appian Way, Rome.

6. The Appian Way

The Appian Way once stretched over 300km from the centre of Rome to Brindisi on the coast. Sadly, there’s little left of the actual Roman road but around 15km remains in the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica and it’s possible to walk or cycle along it. There’s plenty to see along the way including the various tombs of ancient Rome’s rich and powerful. Tombs were not permitted to be built within city walls so families could gain prominence by building monuments, boasting of their achievements, along main roads outside of the city boundaries.

Aerial view of the Circus of Maxentius.

5. The Circus of Maxentius

When you’re the emperor of most of the known world, what else have you got to do but build your own personal racetrack? Well, apparently tack a villa and a mausoleum on too. Or that’s what the Emperor Maxentius did in C4th CE. The racetrack is far better preserved than the Circus Maximus and can be seen if you’re visiting the Appian Way (see above).

The Theatre of Marcellus, Rome.

4. The Theatre of Marcellus

The Theatre of Marcellus is my favourite building in Rome. It was constructed during the reign of Augustus in honour of his nephew and heir Marcellus in C1st BCE. Sadly, Marcellus died before construction was completed aged just 21.
The building looks like a miniature Colosseum but incredibly is used as a home as the theatre was converted into a palace and once owned by the powerful Orsini family. The property, which boasts fresco decorated staterooms, a ballroom, a library and three bedrooms, went up for sale in 2012 for a mere $26 million.

The Octagonal Room in the Domus Aurea.

3. Domus Aurea

Nero’s Golden House was one of the ancient world’s most extravagant building projects. The villa was built after the fire of Rome in 64 CE and included extravagant frescos and sculptures. Unfortunately, Nero was largely disliked by his successors and the palace was stripped and almost destroyed. Today it’s still possible to see the remains of the frescos and the impressive shell of the villa including its famed octagonal room.

The Markets of Trajan.

2. The Markets of Trajan

The markets were built under the emperor Trajan in the 2nd century CE. They formed an integral part of Trajan’s forum and are the largest complex of ruins in Rome. The markets were effectively a vast shopping centre (or mall, if you’re reading this from the other side of the pond) but also housed administrative offices for Trajan’s regime. The buildings, which include beautiful marble floors and vaulted ceilings, now house the Museo dei Fori Imperiali.

The Baths of Caracalla.

1. The Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla are one of the few examples of thermae (vast bathing complexes) which have survived to this day. The baths were built in the 3rd century CE by the emperor Caracalla and included a series of different bathing suites. Typically of thermae, the baths also included offices, libraries and shops. Located close to the Appian Way, the baths dominate the skyline and any visitor will be over awed with the scale and grandeur of the ruins.
If you’re planning on visiting Rome for a few days, check out my travel itinerary for 3 Days in Ancient Rome. It’s available on and Amazon.

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“Are You Classically Trained?”


My family occasionally mock me for being ever so slightly pretentious so I thought I may be self indulgent and start a blog about my favourite things. I love books, food, wine, films, museums, art galleries and travel. And I know I’m not alone! So, if you’re also interested in such things this may be the blog for you.

A little bit about me, in case you were wondering: I’ve recently graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Classical Civilisation and I’m about to embark on a Masters in Classics. Part-time I write for an entertainment website about films, music and celebrities, despite knowing very little about the latter. But it’s all good practice.

Let me know what you think of the blog!



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