We arrived into Riga in the middle of Latvia’s coldest month (February) and in the middle of a snowstorm that pretty much continued for our entire three days in the city.
Being English, and therefore not really having proper winters back home (it’s just permanently cold and cloudy and rains a lot), we welcomed the snow – so much so that within minutes of leaving the airport we had regressed to being small children once again and were throwing snowballs at each other rather than hailing a taxi into town.
However, with cold, snowy weather comes the frequent need to find a warm retreat away from the freezing temperatures outside; somewhere to dry off and to get the blood circulating through our veins once again. Fortunately Riga’s old town is full of cute, quirky little cafes with which to fulfil this need.
But before we sampled any of those we wanted to find a cafe of a different variety. We were heading over the Daugava River to the Āgenskalns district in order to find Riga’s Cat Cafe, Minka. Opened in June 2014, Minka Cat Cafe is a thoughtfully-decorated, bright and modern cafe that is home to three adorable felines – Citramons (a ginger male), Melnite (a black male) and the most playful of the trio, Cipis (a black and white girl).
It was a little tricky to find (not sure if that was down to our map-reading skills or the map itself), and considering that much of the Ãgenskalns area is a mixture of residential housing, Soviet style apartment blocks, and abandoned wooden buildings, it’s not somewhere you’d expect to find a popular tourist attraction.
But once you catch sight of the bright pink orthodox church with blue turrets (which also seems bizarrely out of place in this neighbourhood), you’re pretty much there; Minka is located on Meza Iela, which is one of the streets leading away from this church.
When we arrived around lunchtime, we managed to bag the one and only table they had available; it was ours for the next hour.
Unlike the cat cafe I’ve visited back in England (and, as I understand, many others throughout the world), Minka doesn’t charge an entrance fee. I’m not averse to paying a small cover charge if I know that it goes towards maintaining the health and wellbeing of the cats, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that entry to Minka is free.
We’d only intended to stay for a drink, but once we began perusing their inviting menu of tempting and imaginative snacks and desserts, we couldn’t resist ordering some food as well. I went for a couple of crostinis (at €2.50 each), one topped with olive tapenade, goats cheese, sundried tomatoes and watercress, and the other with smoked salmon, spinach, horseradish sauce, and a quail’s egg.
I also liked the fact that coffees come served with a tiny cat-shaped shortbread biscuit on the side.
The staff are friendly and attentive and will willingly engage in conversation with you about their city or the cats that reside in the cafe.
The cats on the other hand were not too engaging at first. Melnite lay in a basket by one of the windows overlooking the church, with only his head poking out the front, resting it on the soft wall of his furry bed. He looked far too chilled to move anywhere, and indeed he didn’t for the majority of our stay.
Likewise Citramons was fast asleep in a wicker basket on a shelf above our heads, occasionally draping his paw over the front for a young girl on the next table to tentatively stroke, with innocent, endearing curiosity.
We couldn’t locate Cipis for a long while, assuming that she had decided to seek refuge in one of the adjoining rooms. However we then noticed a family playing with a little black and white beauty, up on the sofas on the raised area to one side of our table.
We later learned that the sofas are Cipis’ favoured part of the cafe, and whilst she’ll sleep on them, play on them, roll around on them and clean herself on them, she rarely ventures far from the comfort of this piece of furniture.
We absolutely adored the food at Minka, and the patient, easy-going staff only helped to further enhance the peaceful and calming atmosphere inside the cafe.
The cats may not have been as entertaining or playful as we’d hoped, but it was comforting just knowing they were there – doing exactly as they pleased in an environment where they felt comfortable and completely at ease.
Whether you’re a fan of great food or furry feline companionship, I’d definitely recommend paying Minka a visit. And if you’d like to learn more about the perfect wintery weekend I spent in Latvia’s capital city, check out my post on Riga here!
Getting to Minka
From Riga’s Old Town Square, you have three options:
- Take a line 22 bus (departs every 20 minutes, journey time 4 minutes)
- Hop on a line 4 or 5 tram (departs every 10 minutes, journey time 7 minutes)
- Make the journey on foot (2.1 kilometres, approximately 25 minutes)
Have you visited a cat cafe before? Where was it? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
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