Review: A building’s complicated history defines Pullman Riga Old Town in Latvia

Transforming an historic building in one of Europe’s most underrated (and romantic) old towns, Pullman Riga Old Town is a five-star property that is surely one of the upscale hotel brand’s most eclectic in Europe. This interesting and endearing character is largely in part to the fusion, and at times clash, of new and old, tied together, oddly enough, by an equestrian theme due to the building’s former life as an 18th century horse stable.

A modern barber shop stands attached to the hotel, meters away from a charming bunker-esque cigar lounge that’s been carved from twin rooms, one of which was completely hidden until it was excavated during refurbishment. It’s this strange juggling act of the Pullman brand and the building’s complicated history that’s often times absurd but never unwelcome, distinguishing the hotel, which if judged solely by its minimally designed guest rooms wouldn’t be half as interesting.

Horses greet you in the lobby.

The quaint orange neo-classic facade is but the first step in the magnificence of this hotel’s entrance, which is understated and gives the feeling of a boutique hotel as opposed to a five-star property. Like many buildings dotted around Riga’s spectacular Old Town, this feels ripped straight from a beautifully illustrated storybook, deceptively hiding just how big the hotel actually is – 154 rooms, making it the largest five-star hotel in Riga – before giving way to a spacious but intimate lobby.

Quirky colourful furniture can be found throughout all common spaces.

It’s obvious the designers have pulled on many of the modern aspects of the Pullman brand, including the reception desk which is open rather than closed as well as the casual bar, the “Junction”, which features stool seating pretty much directly behind reception. The general openness of the lobby is then complemented by that aforementioned eclecticism, the most notable of which replaces Pullman’s signature globe with a polished black life-sized horse with a lamp attached to its head. The design is all over the place, but they pulled it all together well and make it work as the lobby flows into the other common areas, like Equus Bar and that aforementioned Cigar Lounge. The Equus Bar, a wine-and-tapas kind of joint, seems like a top-choice for both locals and hotel guests, with its cavernous glow and semi-private booths tucked away from the larger restaurant, which is towards the back and is set in a spacious modern area, a glass ceiling flooding it with natural light.

The cave-like wine and tapas bar is a highlight

Interestingly enough, the hotel employs a resident tea master to take guests and locals through tea ceremonies by the bar. Tea isn’t necessarily a “thing” in Riga, so entering this small gap in the local market seems to be working well for the hotel’s off-season, which must also see a lot of business clients due to their homely, vintage library-like meeting rooms.

The hotel’s lobby-level restaurant, where a mix of Northern and Southern European food is reinterpreted with local produce.
The strangest seat of all time.

It’s clear not all guest rooms are made equal. Mine was sufficient enough but the hopes of a view facing the beautiful park which stands opposite the hotel was replaced by the wall of a neighbouring building. The room, at the end of a long corridor, felt like an after-thought when compared with the photos of similar accommodations within the hotel. It features minimal design and what appears to be a king size bed but is really just two singles pushed together. Regardless, it’s comfortable and relatively spacious with an en-suite bathroom that’s large – almost excessively so (perhaps it would have served to make the room bigger and the bathroom smaller) – and features a generous rain shower. Also unique is the fact that each guest room has its own Wi-Fi connection, which is via the smart TV that sits mounted opposite the bed. You simply turn the TV on, access the Wi-Fi details and enjoy the very fast and efficient connection.

A comfortable enough king size, but really two singles pushed together.

All artworks throughout the hotel, including those in the room and corridors, are stunning horse-themed works which add a little bit of colour to an otherwise plain colour scheme. It seems most of the colour and personality was reserved for the lobby, as well as the 7th floor Spa Zone. Up there is a narrow hallway defined by three distinct spaces. First, there’s a spa with all the expected services; next, a moderately sized gym; and third, a very quirky 19m pool that’s surprisingly narrow and fitted with underwater coloured lights to give the pool a youthful multicoloured glow. A glass-windowed sauna is included down the far-end of the pool.

Horse art everywhere.

One space I wish I was able to spend more time in was a small outdoor rooftop terrace with park views.

Particular mention must be given to the hotel’s location. Those wanting to stick close to Old Town – which should be everyone who visits Riga; it’s a truly stunning ancient area with plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops – couldn’t possibly find a better five-star hotel. This is just a few minutes walk from one of old town’s main squares, but also the city’s metropolitan centre which can is best reached by walking along the peaceful Pilsetas Canal which is located in Riga’s biggest park. A short 10-15 minute walk will also bring you to the central bus terminal (traveling through the baltics is best by bus) and Riga Central Market, a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s largest markets with 3000 stalls and shops in five interconnected former Zeppelin hangars. Like Tallinn and Vilnius, Riga is certainly one of the most underrated destinations for a more relaxed Euro trip.

Nightly rates at Pullman Riga Old Town start from around $166 AUD.

Pullman Riga Old Town

Address: Jekaba Iela 24, Riga, Latvia
Contact: +371 67 815 444
Website: pullmanhotels.com

The writer stayed one night as a guest of Pullman Riga Old Town and AccorHotels.