Stag & Hen Destination
Virtually unvisited by Brits until Latvia left the USSR in 1991, Riga has pushed its way to prominence in the stag and hen party scene over the last decade or so thanks to a happy combination of low-cost flights from the UK; offering good value for money; and that indefinable quality of charm.
This is a major city, its population about 700,000, and as a capital it has the amenities you’d expect in terms of restaurant provision, nightlife, and shopping. The bonus is that its architecture – medieval, art deco, bold Soviet era structures and pleasing wooden buildings – provides an elegant backdrop to your stay, the city in places striking you as enchantingly Ruritanian.
As ever we’d recommend working through a specialist organising company – they will know the places to go, the ones to avoid, the hotels and apartments pleased to see stags and hens, and how to get things done that outsiders would struggle with. Given nobody in your party is likely to know a word of Latvian they can help with guides too, and of course transport to make your stay smooth.
Riga is a summer and a winter destination. If you arrange your visit for winter there should be no shortage of snow for activities like skiing and snowboarding on the slopes, you can try your hand at bobsleighing, and give snow-mobiles a go. Take warm clothes, the temperatures can drop to -20 Centigrade at times in the coldest months. And if the great outdoors can only keep you satisfied for a time there is plenty to do indoors too – karting, bowling, learning to use a Glock and upwards in a tutored range session. A brewery visit, cocktail-making lessons, or learning to lap dance may be a bit more relaxing.
In the summer you can opt for rafting or canoeing surrounded by some beautiful countryside, or make for a sandy beach with suitable refreshment to hand. Push the (bigger) boat out and arrange a trip on a luxury yacht.
And if an adrenaline fix is needed (or demanded by your party) the whole freefall experience without having to drop out of a plane could be the one that goes down in your group legend, a giant fan propelling you into the air – with safety net to avoid tears before bedtime. Maybe a pool party complete with keg (and even some exotic entertainment if you feel no last-break-for-freedom do is right without such cultural explorations) will be up your street?
Quad biking is a popular stag and hen activity, there’s a major outdoor karting track for you to do the driving, or let someone else provide the thrills with a lap of a drifting circuit – you can do the screaming bit.
Laser tag, clay pigeon shooting, and that perennial of the stag scene paintball are further activities to add to your possibles list. Zorbing is another sporting event that catches the eye, but it is definitely one to do before getting acquainted with the local lager or vodka. Vying with those tipples as the national drink is Riga Black Balsam, which is an acquired taste that this writer failed to acquire in his visit. Be warned.
At night there are plenty of clubs where you can do the dancing, and/or enjoy the dance skills of others, including a hunk to bring the blush to your bride-to-be’s cheeks, or for stags girls who should bring a smile to the face of the grimmest mate – not that any of your mates are ever less than sunny.
Before hitting the clubs and bars in central Riga don’t forget to line that stomach with some of the local cuisine, or food from around Europe and beyond, this is as we said a capital city and there’s no shortage of places to eat. One idea to mention at this point is a medieval banquet – molecular cuisine be buggered, pass the roast meat.
Don’t miss out on getting to know this fine city on the Baltic Sea though. Take a shopping tour; hire a limo to see the sights in comfort; or book a walking tour to take them in at a more leisurely pace, maybe with a stop for coffee or something restorative on the way. But maybe not Balsam liqueur. Trust us.