This trip was made in collaboration with NordicTB, Live Riga, LIAA & Tallink Silja
If Budapest is the spa capital of the world, the Latvian spa-resort Jūrmala on the Baltic coast makes a good second runner-up. With its impressive 26 km long white sand beach, fantastic spa & health retreats, and a convenient location only 30 minutes from Riga city center, this costal gem has all the ingredients to qualify as a top spa & wellness destination in Europe.
I’m going to be honest. Before I went on the press trip to Latvia a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Jūrmala. Not even after a spa weekend trip to Riga last year.
It’s a bit funny that exactly a year later, around the same time in February, I ended up in Latvia again with a bathrobe and slippers in one hand and a camera in the other. I’m starting to sense a tradition…
The initiators behind this trip was NordicTB (a collective of Nordic travel bloggers that I’m a member of) who organized their first travel blog summit on board Tallink Silja Romatika together with Riga Tourism, LIAA and Tallink Silja. Together with 20 other Nordic travel bloggers, we had a three-day long conference where we exchanged tips and ideas, talked about the travel blog industry, goals for the future and not to forget – discovered Riga and Jūrmala. A perfect way to kick off 2018.
Why SPA in Riga?
It was my sister, Yasmin, who first introduced me to the concept of “Spa weekends in Riga”. Since four years back, she has gone on yearly spa weekend trips to Riga with two of her closest friends. They normally stay at Radisson Blu Latvija, an award-winning hotel and spa in the center of Riga. When I asked her why she chose to go back to the same city, to the same hotel, the same month every year, her reasons where the following:
• Riga Light Festival. The first time Yasmin visited Riga was (by coincidence) during the Staro Riga Light Festival, an annual light show which is in conjunction with Latvia’s Independence Day on November 18. For a couple of days the whole city was filled with unique lights & multimedia installations on buildings, monuments, landmarks and squares. Yasmin fell in love with the luminous city that brightened up the otherwise dark November month and thought the city looked magical!
The 2018 light festival will be held between November 16th to November 19th, click here for more information. Picture credit: starorriga.lv
• Accessible & Affordable. Latvia and Riga attracted her with the short distance from Sweden and the great selections of affordable spas and restaurants. You can take a direct flight (1 h from Stockholm) for about 1000 SEK or a cruiseferry which is a more budget- and environmental friendly option. Tallink Silja has daily departures from Stockholm to Riga at 11:00 a.m and 17:00 p.m.
• “A safe bet”. Sometimes a holiday doesn’t have to be packed with new activities and must-dos. One of the main reasons why Riga became a recurring destination for Yasmin and her friends was because they knew what to expect, and already had their Riga itinerary mapped out from the year before. This means more time to relax, hang out with each other and enjoy the weekend – which is the whole purpose of a spa trip.
So, when me & Yasmin got a deluxe cruise from Tallink Silja when we won the Newcomers 2016 award at Nordic Travel Blog Event, Yasmin convinced me we should use our price to visit ESPA Riga. She was eager to introduce me to her special “Riga Spa Ritual”. It looks something like this:
Friday: Fly or take the ferry to Riga on Friday afternoon/evening, and check in at Radisson Blu Latvija (ESPA Riga is located in the same building). Begin your stay with a visit to the hotel’s skyline bar on the 26th floor and drink a glas of traditional Riga Black Balsam. Have an early night so that you are well rested the next morning.
Saturday: Eat a long hotel breakfast and enjoy a full day of spa treatments, sauna and swimming in the open-air vitality pool on the 6th floor. Spend the evening in any of the nice, cosy and priceworthy restaurants in the old town.
Jūrmala – The Baltic Riviera
After my ESPA visit in Riga last year, I could definitely understand the charm of spa weekends (although I’m still struggling a little bit with the art of unwinding). So when we got the opportunity to choose between different day tours for this trip my choice fell on Jūrmala, a seaside resort only 16 miles west of Riga that is famous for its spa and wellness centers.
On Thursday, after the breakfast buffet and a few cups of strong coffee onboad of Tallink Romantika, me and my company for the day, Annika, Jennifer, Otto and Helena, stepped ashore in a snow-covered Riga where a taxi and our local guide Laura from Jūrmala Tourism was waiting for us.
30 minutes later, we arrived to our destination.
Grand Art Nouveau houses with decorative towers made in wood, contemporary apartments, large pine trees and a never ending beach. I didn’t really know what I had expected Jūrmala to look like, but it wasn’t this.
In a way the city reminded me of a mini-Hamptons or perhaps a Baltic version of St Tropez, but on the other hand it was something completely different and unique. Our guide told us that Jūrmala originally was a string of fishing villages along the Baltic sea coast that over time became a popular holiday destination amongst wealthy Russians (this was while Latvia was still a part of the Soviet Union). But it wasn’t until 1877, when the railway opened, that Jūrmala became a tourist destination as well. Today, the seaside resort attracts people from all over Europe.
As we walked along the 26 km long beach strip lined with boutique hotels and restaurants, I could only imagine how beautiful it must be on a summer day. But visiting Jūrmala wintertime actually suited me very well. For a peaceful and quiet spa weekend, it’s nice that the hotels aren’t as crowded and that the restaurants and streets are calmer.
Spa Treatments at Jūrmala Spa Hotel
After a nice (but cold!) walk through the Dzintari Forest and the beach, I was happy to arrive to our third stop of the day: Jūrmala Spa Hotel, a four star spa hotel located just a stones throw away from the beach at Jomas Street, Jūrmalas main shopping street.
Hotel Jūrmala Spa has everything you need for a full blown spa experience; pool area with sauna and gym, a wellness oasis, beauty lounge and of course a spa center where you can, besides from all the spa treatments, also do medical check-ups and see a nutritionist.
Hotel Jūrmala Spa had an impressive range of different massages and we all got the chance to try a different type. How does choosing between underwater massage, drainage massage, massage for mothers to be, chocolate massage, massage with warm candles or Russian sculpting massage sound? The prices are very affordable. For example, a classic full body massage for 60 minutes costs 45 euros. For full list of treatments and prices click here.
I got to try a full body massage with warm cherry bags that also gave a lovely aroma. Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable (I usually never go for a massage since I find it difficult to relax – I know, I’m super weird…) but after a while, it became easier to relax and just like that, 50 minutes had flown by and I was escorted to the relax area where the rest of the group were all cosied up in their bathrobes drinking a cup of hot tea.
To top of our lovely day in Jūrmala, we were treated with a delicious meal at Lighthouse Grill before returning back to our boat.
Thanks for this time Latvia! I have a feeling we will see each other again next February!
Phone: +371 67 784 400
Jurmala Tourism: jurmala.lv.
Live Riga: liveriga.com/en/
The trip to Riga was made in collaboration with Tallink Silja. Opinions are our own.
Written by: Yasmin
After only a month into the new year, we had transformed into Zombie-mode (being tired, gloomy and walking in a weird twitching way) – and desperate times calls for desperate measures. My (Yasmin’s) favorite spa is located in the heart of Riga, on the 6th floor of Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija to be exact. I have a yearly tradition to go there with two of my closest friends to get rid of all kinds of ache and misery, and it works like a charm. Since we got a deluxe cruise from Tallink Silja when we won the Newcomers 2016-award, we decided to use it to go to Riga for a quick spa weekend, and I was super pumped to show Espa Riga to my little sister.
The boat trip
Many people have opinions about cruises. Sheida and I have grown up with cruise ships because of our Finnish background. Growing up, we took either Viking Line or Silja Line to Finland at least once a year to visit our relatives on our mother’s side. The ships have therefore never been associated with partying for us, rather a opportunity to spend time with our family, eat buffet dinners (I’m known as the Shrimp girl because of my massive portions), hang out at the deck if the weather allows it, and do some tax free shopping.
So, this was exactly what we did at Tallink Silja Isabelle – we ate long breakfasts and buffet dinners, brought takeaway tea to our cabin and talked for hours, and went to bed early. We also got super confused about the different time zones, and woke up at 05.00 two days in a row (zombie mode just leveled up) – the good thing was that we got some work done in the mornings, plus we were the first ones to the breakfast. Tallink’s followers were also able to follow us throughout our trip since we did an Instagram-takeover for them – we hope they enjoyed it!
As soon as we got off the boat in Riga, we walked by foot to Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija – an approximately 40 minute walk. I’ve been at the award-winning spa many times before (our usual setup is two nights at the hotel that traditionally begins with a shot of Riga Balzam at the hotel’s sky bar when arriving on Friday evening), so it felt great to be back. Espa Hotel has two floors, the general relax area on floor 2 with a pool, jacuzzi and two saunas, and floor 6 where the real magic happens.
After we had changed into our swimming clothes, robes and slippers, we took the elevator to the 6th floor. This is where you get escorted if you have scheduled a treatment. Guests usually are allowed to hang out at the 6th floor area for 1-2 hours and the hotel keep a limited amount of persons in the area in order to maintain peace and quiet.
In the area guests can alternate between a warm outdoor-pool, plenty of different saunas, from herbal and steam saunas to the classical Finnish saunas, and a relaxation area with a fireplace and refreshments. The treatments are wonderful (we truly recommend the massage), and afterwards you’re led into another relax room where you can drink water, tea and eat some snacks while recovering.
Relax area (a.k.a “Mother’s uterus”)
One of the real highlights is going into what I call “Mother’s uterus” (Sheida doesn’t approve of the expression but it’s my way of trying to explain how comfortable it is), see photo below. Sink into one of those adjustable chairs, put on some classical music in the earphones and close your eyes – it didn’t take more than a blink of an eye until I was asleep.
World’s best warm chocolate
I was determined to show another favorite spot in Riga to Sheida; the Rienzi Café, formerly known as Emil Gustavo Café, a chocolate heaven with hot chocolate to die for. It’s located in the old town (a short walk from Radisson Blu Hotel) on Apsizijas bulvaris 24. Seriously, I’m not even that into chocolate, but still I come back for this warm chocolate, year after year. Don’t miss this!!
That’s all from our Riga trip this time – but stay tuned, because a new trip to Espa Riga awaits in November. Let us know if you have any Riga tips, or suggestions on other spas worth a visit in Europe (Zombie-mode is never too far away…).