BACKGROUND This five-star property originally opened as the Latvija Hotel in the Soviet era of the 1970s. At the time, it was the only hotel foreigners could stay in, although it was rumoured the KGB bugged all the rooms. Unlike today, it had a tunnel going through the base of the building for taxi pick-ups and drop-offs. However, this was removed when the tower was reconstructed in 2001 – a reception area on the ground floor was installed instead, along with a top-floor bar (accessed via a glass lift on the outside of the building) – and it became part of local group Reval. The six-storey North Wing extension was added in 2006, along with an impressive spa in 2009, which occupies an adjoining historic building. A year later the hotel was rebranded as a Radisson Blu. Today, Carlson Rezidor has four Radisson Blus in the city, totalling 1,300 rooms. The Latvija is the biggest conference hotel not just in Riga, but the Baltic region. The newest Radisson Blu in Riga is the Elizabete, which has two meeting rooms. WHAT’S IT LIKE? Rising 27 floors, this imposing block is one of the tallest buildings in the city (nowadays there are restrictions on constructing anything this tall). Although the hotel has been renovated in the last decade or so, parts of it still feel quite dated. The spa and gym, however, are much more modern and luxurious, as are the Skyline and D’Vine wine bars. Being a Radisson Blu it has a familiar international feel – you could be staying anywhere in the world were it not for the views. Facilities are extensive – there is even a 24-hour casino. WHERE IS IT? On Elizabetes Iela, a road just outside the old town that runs alongside the Esplanade and Vermanes Darzs parks. It is about 20 minutes drive from the airport. The city is small so it is easy to get around on foot from the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija Riga. ROOM FACILITIES Located on floors three to 24, bedrooms start from 20 sqm for a Standard and all come with air conditioning, bathrooms with tubs or showers, free wifi (although it couldn’t cope with streaming, which was annoying), minibars and hot drink stations for tea and coffee. You will, however, need to stay in a Superior Class room or upwards to gain free access to the pool and spa area (worth it in my opinion) and a decent-sized workdesk. All guests have access to the gym for free. If you want more space, go for a Business Class room (40 sqm), which also have Nespresso machines, robes, slippers and free mineral water as part of the turndown service. (There are 35 of these in the hotel.) Some rooms have parquet flooring while others have carpet. Suites (50 sqm) also have living areas with couches and coffee tables. I was pleased to have a room that looked out towards the old town, and the stunning gold-domed Russian Orthodox Nativity of Christ Cathedral below. RESTAURANTS AND BARS Breakfast is served at the lobby-level restaurant Esplanade, which has a lavish buffet laid out in the morning for people to help themselves to (6.30am-10.30am weekdays, 7am-11am weekends). The best seating is in the light-filled conservatory attached, and a nice touch is being able to squeeze your own fresh orange juice. Lunch and dinner buffets are also presented daily, along with a la carte dishes. On the other side is the lobby bar, handy for a quick coffee or beer. D’Vine specialises in wine and tapas, and also offers a business lunch menu. Skyline bar on level 26, meanwhile, is a hotspot for cocktails (it gets very lively at weekends with loud DJ sets). Entry is free for people staying in Business Class rooms or suites, as well as Club Carlson members, but everyone else has to pay a €3-€5 entry fee on Fridays and Saturdays. (This helps prevent members of the public coming just to take photos of the view.) The bar is one of the glitziest places to drink in the city but doesn’t have the sophistication of New York or London, for example. Drinks have names such as “Wrong Island Ice Tea”, “Party Lemonade”, “What Women Want” and “Cocaine”. It was very busy when I stopped by so it took some time for the waitress to make it to my table – she was very friendly, though, and delivered my beverage with some free nuts and olives. You can also order oysters, burgers and tiger prawns. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Events space is mainly found on the second floor – the Omega ballroom is the biggest-single venue with a capacity of 1,100 delegates (it has no natural light, however). There used to be a gym at the top of this Radisson Blu but the 27th floor was most recently turned into a function room with full-height windows. In total there are 15 rooms that can accommodate up to 2,500 people. Video-conferencing, PA systems, catering, AV equipment, lighting, wireless voting, furniture and decoration can all be provided. Wifi is free. I was a bit baffled by the location of the spa in relation to the meeting space on level two, however, as you have to pass through the breakout foyer to get to it (some people were strolling through in robes while networking was going on). I didn’t think this set-up worked very well. The lighting was also very dingy in this connecting corridor, which didn’t feel very welcoming. LEISURE FACILITIES If you are staying in a Standard room, you can pay €23 for 2.5 hours’ use of the spa and pool. I spent an hour in the expansive gym, which was really well fitted out with weight and cardio machines, as well as free weights, kettle bells and mats for body-weight training. It also had windows that could open for fresh air, atmospheric lighting, headphones, water and towels. There are locker rooms for changing upstairs, while downstairs is a dark, 18-meter swimming pool with a large whirlpool bath, experience showers, steam rooms and saunas along the far side. I didn’t have a massage but the venue partners with Espa. The facility is open from 6am to 10.30pm daily. Treatment rooms and a open-air spa bath are on the sixth floor. VERDICT If you are in Riga on business, this is the place to stay. Some of its interiors (including the bedrooms) feel a little dated and the wifi needs to be boosted but it has extensive facilities and is well located. Go for a Business Class room or Suite with a view towards the park for the best impression. Compared with most countries with the euro, Latvia is cheap and this is reflected in the rates. FACT FILE
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 571 rooms and suites (Standard, Superior Class, Business Class, Family, Suite, Presidential Suite).
- HIGHLIGHTS The swimming pool, gym and top-floor bar with panoramic views of the city.
- PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in July started from £79 for a Standard room.
- CONTACT Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija Riga, Elizabetes Iela 55; tel 371 6777 2222; radissonblu.com