Bastion Hill or Bastejkalns Park is a delightful little park located on the eastern side of the Daugava River between the Old City and the newer central part of Riga. The park itself is divided in two by, or perhaps more accurately runs along the banks of, the winding Pilsētas Canal, formally a moat and part of the Old City’s defensive system which was pulled down in the mid 19th century making way for the park.
The park runs between the baroque National Theatre, where on 18 November 1918 Latvia declared its independence from Russia, and the Latvian National Opera. I recommend, and thoroughly enjoyed, a walk between the two buildings, via the park and Freedom Monument (separate review). Alternatively, or preferably additionally, you can pass through the park on a boat ride around the Old City (though I didn’t do this).
The park is littered with things of interest in addition to providing ample opportunity to just sit down and unwind during a busy day’s sightseeing. There are no eateries (or drinkeries – ok, I made that word up!) in the park but it is surrounded by lots of them, so if you wanted to sit and relax over something to eat or a drink that presents no problem.
In addition to Bastion Hill (and the Memorial Stones, dedicated to “Those Who Died for Latvian Independence and Liberty” on 20 January 1991 at the base of the hill) and the Bridge of Love, on which I have written separate reviews, the plant and tree rich park (including a Ginko Biloba) is studded with walking paths, flower beds (picture two, attached, was taken from the top of Bastion Hill) and very pleasant sculptures, such as that depicted below.
The little pavilion by the water at the bottom of Bastion Hill is worthy of particular mention. This Chinese looking structure (picture 3 above) is Riga’s ‘Swan House’. In the 1890s the Riga Bird Breeding Association presented two pairs of swans to the City. This house, originally floated on a pontoon in the canal, was erected to house and protect the swans. When the swans (and presumably their successors) died the house was renovated by a former City mayor and moved to its current location, for all to enjoy – swans and people alike. Much to the irritation of local officials, burrowing beavers have to-day, pretty much taken over from swans on the banks of the canal.
Finally, lest my reader come across the statue depicted alongside and think they have encountered Ned Flanders, from the Simpsons, I should point out that this is, in fact, a memorial to Rūdolfs Blaumanis (1862–1908) a respected Latvian writer, journalist and playwright – as if you didn’t know!
Address: Bastion Hill Park
Directions: Between the Old City and the new central city area