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By Howard Jarvis. 14.03.2013


Save to foursquare Lāčplēša 68, Riga Email:
Working hours: Mon-Thu 16.00 - 24.00, Fri-Sat 16.00 - 05.00, Sun 16.00 - 24.00,



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Chomsky is just what Riga needs, a genuine “alternative” bar in an atmospheric old building a few blocks outside the city center.


As Riga’s nightlife moves further beyond the center encouraging visitors to the city to explore avenues and lanes they wouldn’t have ventured to 10 years ago, some bars are opening in what might seem to be truly risk-taking neighborhoods. But actually these areas are no more dangerous than the Old Town.

Cities like Zurich often mention alternative and “underground” clubs in mainstream marketing, and for good reason. Such language has a big audience. Latvian tourism officials on the other hand tend to politely ignore bars like Chomsky, which have an enthusiastic, student-heavy, non-attitude local fanbase. But for many visitors, this is just the kind of spot they’re hoping to find.

As it’s in a building set away slightly from the street, edgier local characters pass Chomsky by without even noticing. Located in a drab area east of the center, the structure is battle-weary and rundown. Dating back to the 1800s, it’s even older than any of the surrounding blocks. It housed a glass-cutting workshop for many years and a jewelry workshop during the Soviet period.

It’s the perfect setting for a bar that hosts regular performances of noise artists and experimental musicians who make their own instruments. On the nights there are no performances, young drinkers sit around rickety tables to discuss culture, philosophy and radical politics.

The bar’s young English-speaking owners say they adopted the name and bespectacled image of linguist and leftwing political critic Noam Chomsky as a symbol of political freedom. “He is one person everyone listens to and he should be respected,” one of them tells me.

But the conversation at Chomsky tends to be polite rather than fiery. Don’t expect any angry revolutions to begin here. Having said that, it’s easy to imagine revolutionaries gathering within these dark walls amid the ancient furniture, beneath the chipped and scarred ceiling. Parts of some of the warren of rooms are separated by planks. Three layers of plastic and wooden flooring were extracted leaving the original stone-and-wood floor.

There’s not much in the way of snacks, but try the spicy grilled corn. The drink selection is fairly minimal too, although a definite highlight is the highly praised Belarusian vodka Svayak at just one lat a shot. The brews are more varied, including the little-known but high-quality Latvian beer Bruvera and the honey beer Medalus on tap. German beers include Hefeweizen and Hefeweizen Dunkel. There’s the smoky Laphroaig whisky (€5) and also about ten different wines, such as the light and fresh Portuguese Vinho Verde (€2.15 for a glass, €9.30 for the bottle).

Unlike anything else in Riga, Chomsky is a great destination for dressing down, hanging out in intelligent company, and enjoying challenging music.


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