The Local Behind Riga: Ance Vanaga

Like A Local Guide • 18 Oct, 2013

Tell us, why do you make a great local editor for Riga?

I am in love with Riga – how it changes and the great people who make a difference here by opening cool new places. I guess this love and genuine interest in my city and its people is the reason why I keep searching for new great things to discover. I always make note of the tips I get about what’s new and I try to check everything out. I also spread the word if I like a new place.

Why should people visit Riga?

It’s a very colourful north-eastern European city. It has a diverse history and it tries hard to keep up with new trends of living while also sticking to its roots and values.

Most post-Soviet cities like Riga offer loads of interesting things to do and places to go to. It definitely has charm and attitude, and while it’s a city of 800 000 people, it still has this feeling that it’s not that big at all.

What are your favourite places in Riga?

My absolute favourite places include smaller cafés, restaurants and bars that genuinely feel as if they’re made for hanging out with a bunch of friends, for example: Shot Cafe, Piens, Kuuka Kafe, Innocent Cafe, Tims Mints and more. I also enjoy places with a clear purpose or idea of what they stand for like the  restaurant Riviera that serves cuisine from the French Riviera, the Latvian rock music restaurant/club/pub Latvijas 1. Rokkafejnica, the local folk club/pub Folkklubs Ala, Show that will scare you as professionally as possible, the traditional white sauna Baltā Pirts and the Ģertrūdes Ielas Teātris hispter theatre. I could continue adding to this list forever, but the Like A Local Guide App and website will give you all the tips you need anyway.

If you’re into sightseeing and looking for new things to do, definitely visit the Quiet Centre and have a coffee at Sienna Cafe – this will give you a full Art Nouveau experience. Visit Miera Street Republic, go to Central Market and try some local treats (it’s located in old hangars where zeppelins used to be parked), head up to the viewing platform at the Academy of Science, walk down the promenade by the Daugava River, visit the artsy Andrejsala area full of nice lounge restaurants and, if you’re up for more, go to the Zoo in Mežaparks. The Open-Air Ethnography Museum is also a must-see!

Where else in Latvia do you recommend people visit and why?

If you have an extra day and preferably a car, visit Jurmala, but make sure you don’t only go to the boring pedestrian street. Visit the White Dune and Kemeri National Park and the bog path, and see beautiful old wooden houses. Remember to always ask the locals for tips! Other places I adore include Kuldīga, Sabile, Pāvilosta, Liepāja and Sigulda. Latvia is a green, cosy and small country. We love nature here so if possible, it’s definitely worth getting a room in a tiny countryside guesthouse and spending a day or two by a lake in the middle of nowhere.

Any specific/secret tips about Riga?

The coolest local places in Riga are mostly located outside the Old Town, away from the masses of tourists and big squares.

Tell a joke about your nationality/country.

I’m going to go with a fun fact. Latvia is famous for its special cow breed – the blue cow. They almost became extinct when their population shrank to a humble 28 cows. These days there are around 100. They are said to range from light blue to ink blue in colour. In my opinion they become much more blue when the sky is clear as their hides reflect the colour of the sky. At other times they appear more grey than blue.

What should people definitely know before visiting Latvia?

Be aware – we are a small nation with a big ego! We enjoy being leaders in at least a few things, so knowing that we have gotten two Olympic gold medals in BMX riding, that the real Crocodile Dundee – a guy who inspired the cast making the films – is Latvian, that the widest waterfall (249 metres) in Europe is located in Kuldīga, that we were the very first winners of the European Basketball Championship in 1935, that the world’s first spy camera Minox was invented in Riga or that for a few years Tobago was a colony of Courland (an historical territory of Latvia – Dukedom in 17th century) is a huge bonus in winning a Latvian’s true attention. Make sure you always support the small beer (alus) breweries like Valmiermuiža, Tērvetes, Bauskas, Brenguļu etc., and say that Aldaris and Cēsu Alus are so mainstream (roll your eyes when you say it), plus try Riga Black Balsam and say it tastes so good no matter how it tastes in reality.

Honestly, we are a bit reserved at times but we like being helpful and welcoming. Sometimes you’ll need to be a bit patient until we open up and then we will definitely help you. If you meet a new Latvian friend, he/she will most likely be a trustworthy and a true friend forever as we are very honest people.

Remembering and praising the facts mentioned above will guide you in the direction of the highway to a Latvian’s heart.


Like A Local Guide
Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.


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    Hello Ance! Could You send Your email to us - we would like to cooperate in some like a local tourism ideas!?
    Janis • Oct 28, 2015 • Reply
    I'm answering on the behalf of Ance. She has started new adventures and moved to Edinburgh for an unknown period of time. Hopefully you won't be too sad about not being able to meet her!
    Kris Härsing • Oct 23, 2015 • Reply
    Hey Ance! We're a bunch of French / English and Hungarian teachers who moved in Riga a few weeks ago. Drowned in work I feel like I've only seen the "touristy - mainstream" Riga… I feel like your page is going to change my life, so thank you for that ;) If you're still working in Riga I was wondering if you'd like to meet up with us one day? grab a coffee, talk about Riga and our different travels around the world :) All the best !
    Chloe • Sep 30, 2015 • Reply
    Well said Ance! :)
    ieva • Oct 30, 2013 • Reply
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