Most cat cafes focus on the cat-visiting part of the business rather the food and drink. That’s okay by me, as the point of going to a cat cafe is to witness some purring, get in a few pats, and toss around some toys. It’s hard to focus on two of my loves (cats and food) at the same time, and there are plenty of non-cat options if I’m just looking for a falafel or some spring rolls. But sometimes you hit the jackpot and find yourself eating well-crafted food in a tasteful, modern environment with a cat sitting in the chair across from you.
MINKA Cat Cafe is located in the Āgenskalns neighborhood of Riga, Latvia, approximately a 30-minute walk from Old Town. Five former shelter cats call MINKA their home, and they make perfect companions for lunch or dinner. The cafe serves beer, wine, and alcohol in addition to coffee drinks. There is no admission charge, and the prices are very reasonable. The full menu can be found on their Facebook page. I visited for lunch on a weekday, and there were guests at only one other table. But the place can get crowded at other times, so reservations are recommended if you don’t want to risk disappointment.
Location: Meža iela 4a, Pārdaugava, Āgenskalns, Riga, Latvia
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm; Friday-Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm; Sunday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Admission charge: Free
Price for a small latte: €2.50 (approximately $2.80)
If you’re like most Americans and have never considered Latvia as a vacation destination, you just might want to add it to your list. A Baltic state that was once part of the Soviet Union, Latvia shares borders with Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia. The capital city, Riga, is known for its mix of architectural styles. It has a medieval Old Town, more Art Nouveau buildings than any other city in Europe, and Soviet block housing.
As my Airbnb host was walking me to my apartment, he told me that the neighborhood around the street on which I was staying (Miera iela, or Peace Street) was given the distinction of being one of the most hipster neighborhoods in the world. With art galleries, interesting shops, and cafes and bars housed in sometimes crumbling buildings, I could see why. The street is also home to the Laima chocolate factory; I often could smell the aroma while wandering the neighborhood.
History lovers will want to visit the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and the House of Blackheads and tour of the former KGB building (buy tickets in advance). The Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine has some old exhibits downstairs, but upstairs there are fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) exhibits covering modern medical advances and medicine in space.
The Central Market is the place to buy wild berries and mushrooms in the summer or pickles, cheese, and bread in the winter. If you are in need of gifts to bring back home (or for yourself), ETMO is a shop selling handmade Latvian crafts. It’s where I found the most wonderful scarf I’ve ever owned. They also sell linen goods, pottery, and leather accessories.
AirBaltic is based in Riga, and it’s possible to book a flight with a layover that’s long enough for one to venture into the city. I still haven’t quite figured out all of my travel logistics for this summer, but flying through Riga is one of my top options.