Friday, October 9, 2015

Riga from above - Skyline Bar

In the early 1960s the site of what is now Radisson Blu Hotel Latvia on Brīvības iela (then Ļeņina iela) was the chosen location of the proposed “Intourist” hotel. The 10-story design quickly became 23, and was intended to serve organized and Soviet foreign tourist groups. Completed in 1976, it first opened its doors in 1979. The USSR State Committee for Foreign Tourism rated it a category "B" hotel, which means that in addition to 680 rooms it was equipped with a conference room & the simultaneous translation booths, radio and video equipment needed to monitor all activity within the hotel. With an on-site 876-seat restaurant, souvenir and newspaper kiosks, a post office, municipal service center, and a currency exchange office, the Soviet government was putting forth a very specific image to foreign tourists. And, as self-guided tours of the region were near-impossible, Hotel Latvia was the face of the country shown to the West.

View from Skyline Bar towards the Supreme Court

Fast forward thirty years to a Latvia once again independant, and the building was due for renovations. Completed in two phases, the 25 million (US dollars) first phase of tower renovation was finished in a record 10 months in May of 2001. The second phase focused on the rest of the complex, with demolition work starting in 2003 and continuing until 2006 with the end result of 200 new hotel rooms, a glass arcade of shops and a conference hall that seats 1,000.

View from Skyline Bar towards the Daugava River

At almost 260,000 square feet, the Radisson Blu is one of the largest hotels in Latvia (although only 6th tallest, at 312 feet), and on the 26th of its 27 floors is the Skyline Bar. Self-billed as the “best view in the city,” the bar features totally Soviet-era décor with a pricey menu… but the view is grand.

In the shape of an elongated rectangle, tables stretch along the two long sides with views of Vecrīga to the southwest and the rest of the city to the northeast. Although there is seating in the middle section, the views are the reason you’ve come so make sure to get there early to snag a window seat. Or you can always do what we did – wait until someone is getting up to leave and quickly change tables.

Photo credit: Roberts - proof of a rare mom's night off!

The cocktail menu has options from 6.50 to 12 euro and the food section contains only several salads and desserts, but coffee can be had for under 4 euro so the fantastic views shouldn’t break the bank. If you linger for a while you might catch the sunset reflected in the windows of Gaismas Pils or the gold roof of the Nativity of Christ Cathedral. From the birds-eye perspective the Freedom monument looks rather tiny and you’ll notice that the observatory in St. Peter’s Church is not quite as high. But even if you’re just in for a quick look at the capital, the Skyline Bar will treat you to a completely different Rīga than the one you’ve seen on foot. 

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral and Brīvības Boulevard

1 comment:

  1. My mom, sister, and I stayed at the infamous "Hotel Latvija" in 1989. Our phone calls were clearly listened to (as evidenced by the somewhat thuggish men in fake leather jackets who often followed us when we'd made plans to meet someone considered 'undesirable' in the Soviet system), and there were bugs of both kinds on the walls. We did have a nice view of the Freedom Monument, however!


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