15 amazing things you must do in Riga, Latvia

By |2018-08-20T20:15:44+00:00January 14th, 2016|Destination, Europe, Latvia, Popular, Top 10, Urban|59 Comments

15 amazing things to do in Riga, Latvia.jpg

So, last week we talked about why you should visit Latvia. Besides the fact that it’s cheap and you get some serious value for your money, there are so many things to do in the city of Riga. Most of the major sites are located in the Old Town, which is a UNESCO protected area with unique buildings and architectural masterpieces. This part of town has many cafés and restaurants so it’s easy to spend a whole day exploring without having to venture outside for lunch or dinner.

Aside from sightseeing, there’s a great selection of spas & wellness, historic buildings and markets. I never ran out of things to do while I was there! Whether you have a week+ or only a few days, here’s a list of the top things you should do when you’re in Riga:

15 amazing things to do in Riga, Latvia.jpg

1. VISIT THE THREE BROTHERS

Location: In the Old Town on Maza Pils Street

The Three Brothers – almost impossible to photograph, but pretty nonetheless. Together, the houses form the oldest complex of dwelling houses in Riga. The white house is from the 15th century, the yellow is from 16th and the green from the 17th century.

Riga, Latvia

2. NOTICE THE ARCHITECTURE

Location: Everywhere in Riga

So cosy and so charming. The architecture in Riga goes from wooden buildings to art nouveau, from Modernism to Gothic. It’s a different landscape depending on which part of town you walk though, and you’ll be able to find unique statues of cats, wooden compounds, and colorful houses.

Be sure to bring your camera as you’ll want to snap pictures!

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia

Want more posts from Latvia?

Espa Riga Spa

Click the above image to find the best spa in Riga.

3. VISIT HOUSE OF THE BLACKHEADS

Location: In the Old Town at the Town Hall Square

If you were a German merchant and single in the Middle ages, you’d have a room here at the House of the Blackheads. This house was built in 1334 for upper class merchants and was used as a venue for meetings and banquets.

The House of the Blackheads is to Riga what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, so make sure to put it at the top of your list.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

4. RELAX IN THE PARK

Location: Close to the Old Town and Freedom Monument

I love green areas in larger cities. It’s like a breath of fresh air, away from the busy streets and downtown horns. In Riga, the park has a canal running through it and a bridge with love locks. It’s a great place for a jog, for relaxation or a picnic, and for a boat ride. In the winter, you can feed the ducks that live on the canal.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia

5. LEARN ABOUT THE OCCUPATION OF LATVIA

Location: Close to the park and the Old Town

Latvia has a long history of being occupied by foreign powers so freedom is a particularly important value for Latvians. Right next to the park, you’ll find the Freedom Monument. It is a significant symbol as it’s dedicated to the Latvian heroes in the fight for freedom 1918-1920.

If you want to learn about the occupation from 1940-1991, you can head to The Museum Of Occupation, which is only 10-15 minutes walk away (right next to House of the Blackheads in the Old Town).

Riga, Latvia

The Freedom Monument has the inscription: For Fatherland and Freedom/Tēvzemei un Brīvībai

Riga, Latvia

The Museum of Occupation

6. VISIT THE ART NOUVEAU DISTRICT

Location: Albert Street, 20-30-minute walk from the Old Town

So, aside from the Old Town, which houses most of the major sights in Riga, you should head to Albert Street and Elizabeth Street. Here, you’ll find the fascinating Art Nouveau architecture, which is absolutely worth a visit. Riga has a total of 800 art nouveau buildings, but the majority is around Albert Street.

In case you haven’t heard of art nouveau before – I hadn’t before I visited – it’s inspired by nature and mythology, so there are lots of flowers, sphinxes and Cerberuses on the houses. I’m not really an arts person, but I actually thought it was very cool.

Riga, Latvia-3

Riga, Latvia

7. SHOP AT CENTRAL MARKET

Location: Next to the Old Town by the river

Monday – Saturday: 08.00-18.00
Sunday: 08.00-17.00

Hungry or just in the mood for people watching? Then go to Central Market. It’s one of the largest marketplaces in Europe, where locals sell anything from fresh fruits and vegetables to cakes, dairy, clothes and bags. There’s both an inside and outside area so you could easily spend 45-60 minutes at the different market stalls.

The place is fun to explore, but don’t go wandering off at the outside market. I ended up getting lost at the outer rim of the marketplace, and this area seemed very poor, dirty and unsafe, plus there’s nothing to see or do there. You should also be careful of pickpockets and swindlers.

Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia

8. VISIT THE MANY CHURCHES

Location: In the Old Town

Riga has many beautiful churches and you can’t help but see at least a few when you’re walking around the Old Town. For me personally, I was most impressed by St. Peter’s Church and Nativity of Christ Cathedral. The latter is Russian and adds a bit of bling to the skyline. These are the most important churches in Riga:

  • Riga Cathedral – the church organ is considered one of the most historical organs in the world.
  • St. Jacob’s Catholic Cathedral the beginning of the Reformation in Latvia took place here and in St. Peter’s Church in 1522.
  • St. Peter’s Church has a cool observation tower at 72 metres. It costs €9 to enter the tower.
  • Nativity of Christ Cathedral – the biggest Orthodox church in Riga.

Notice that the oldest churches in the Old Town have roosters atop their spires, not crosses. According to tradition, the rooster scares away the devil and keeps watch for God.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Outside St. Peter’s church, there’s a sculpture of four animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster standing on each other. It is based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm and represents the Town Musicians of Bremen. 

9. NATIVITY OF CHRIST CATHEDRAL

Location: Close to the Freedom Monument

This cathedral was so unique that I gave it a chapter of its own. I actually found it by coincident on my way to Albert Street, but was really taken aback by the structure and flashy Russian style. It’s definitely worth a visit if you ask me!

Mind the dress code if you want to enter: You can’t wear shorts, and women must cover their heads.

Riga, Latvia

The cathedral was built in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883

10. THE SWEDISH GATE AND OLD CITY WALLS

Location: In the Old Town at the end of Aldaru street

Only a small part of Riga’s old city walls remains today, and you’ll find it at the Swedish Gate. The Swedish Gate (Zviedru vārti) was built in 1698 when Sweden took over the city, and it’s the only structure in the Old Town that has preserved its original looks.

Interesting fact: The apartment above the gate belonged to the city executioner, who would put a red rose in his window the night before a head rolled.

Riga, Latvia

The Swedish gate

Riga, Latvia

A bit of the old city wall

11. TRY RIGA BLACK BALSAM

Location: At every bar, pub and restaurant, more or less

When I first heard the word “Riga balsam”, I thought of hair conditioner because that’s what we call it in Denmark. In Latvia however, Balsam couldn’t have less to do with hair products. Can you guess what it means then?

Dam dam daaa: ALCOHOL, of course!

Black Balsam is an herbal elixir made from pure vodka and it’s used in traditional medicine and sold in every tavern in town. It’s kind of a must when you’re in Riga. Even the locals say it ↓

Riga, Latvia

It’s like visiting Russia without drinking vodka

12. VISIT A LATVIAN SPA

Location: Try Espa for a high-end experience. It’s next to Radisson Hotel

I’ve mentioned this before, but the spa in Riga is reason alone to visit! Aside from the fact that the service is excellent, it’s also super cheap. So, if you’re a girl and you like wellness, facials and hour-long massages…. ok, who are we kidding → if you’re female, go here. You won’t regret it.

Riga, Latvia

13. HEAD TO THE BEACH

Location: 25 kilometres from Riga

The sandy beach of Jurmala is full of life and people in the summer. Aside from several sports activities, you can swim, sunbathe, enjoy the sunset or visit one of the many restaurants there.

It’s easy to reach Jurmala beach; simply hop on the train and you’ll be there within 30 minutes. The price is maximum $1.80.

14. INDULGE IN THE FOOD

Goodness, don’t get me started on the food. I’ve mentioned earlier that sushi is superbly cheap and that Lido is a great restaurant if you want Latvian food at a fair price. Here are some more suggestions.

Where to eat:

  • Sushi: Tokyo City, Ganbei
  • Salads & traditional Latvian: Lido
  • Café: Al Cappuchino; close to Albert street (the coffee is great for Instagram photos)
  • Hot new restaurant: Koya (at the banks of Daugava River)
  • Great for sunset view: Terrace Riga (on top of shopping mall Gallery Riga, close to the Freedom Monument)
Riga, Latvia

Roast chicken with glazed vegetables

15. GO OUT

Location: In the Old Town and the center

Aside from being a cultural and historical capital, Riga also has a party-scene worth traveling for. The many pubs, cafés and bars in the Old Town is a major draw for stag parties, but there are also quite a few clubs and cocktail bars around town that are worth checking out.

Riga, Latvia

And there you have it. As you can see, there are LOTS to do in the city of Riga, and you can easily spend weeks here. If you’re limited in time, you won’t have trouble seeing all of the above sights in two days.

HOTELS IN RIGA

Riga, Latvia

The Hotel Garden Palace

High-range: Hotel Centra Riga $85 per night, located in the quiet area of                          Elizabeth street (iela), close to Albert Street. Click here to see the latest prices.

Mid-range: Hotel Garden Palace $45 per night, excellent location in the Old                    Town. Click here to see the latest prices.

Budget: Two Wheels $16 for a dorm room. Located 15-minutes walk from the                Old Town. Click here to see the latest prices.

So, what do you think? Would you go? Did I miss anything?

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59 Comments

  1. Kirstie January 14, 2016 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    I’ve been thinking about adding Latvia to my itinerary during my European travels this summer, and now I think I definitely have to go! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jub January 14, 2016 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      Hey Kirstie,

      Definitely checkout Riga, it is awesome! Another cool beach is Vecaki Beach, it is more of a local beach but still has plenty of facilities. Roughly the same distance from the city as Jumala 🙂

      • Miriam January 15, 2016 at 11:17 am - Reply

        Thanks for the tip about Vecaki beach, Jub – I’ll have to check that out when I return 🙂

    • Miriam January 15, 2016 at 11:15 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Kirstie! It has its own charm and is definitely worth a visit if you ask me.

  2. Our Wanders January 15, 2016 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Miriam! We’ve read about Latvia on several other blogs too lately and it looks such an amazing place! We don’t know why we’ve never thought about visiting it, but it’s on the list now. It could not be an accident to bump into these posts anyway, there should be consequences. 🙂

    • Miriam January 16, 2016 at 8:34 am - Reply

      It definitely must be a sign 😉 I’d wait till summer to visit though – it’s super cold at the moment! Let me know if you decide to go, I’d love to hear what you think.

  3. Helena FREEDOMtravel January 15, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Riga is a wonderful city! I would also recommend the fantastic restaurants with local food:

    http://www.freedomtravel.se/2015/12/rigas-basta-restauranger/

    • Miriam January 16, 2016 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Thanks for the tip, Helena! I will check them out when I return!

  4. Helena FREEDOMtravel January 15, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Jag skrev en kommentar… Hamnade den i skräpposten?

    • Miriam January 16, 2016 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Ja, det gjorde den. Det er vældig underligt, for den gør det ikke ved andre kommentarer. Tak fordi du bliver ved med at prøve!! Det er jeg virkelig glad for, Helena.

  5. Julia January 18, 2016 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I’ve always been curious about Latvia and this post has definitely inspired me to visit! I would love to wander around the Central Market!

    • Miriam January 18, 2016 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Happy to hear that, Julia! If you’re ever in Europe, you can find really cheap plane tickets to Latvia.

  6. Serendipity Tess January 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Oooooh love the look of that! Definitely a place to visit one day! Thank you for taking the time to compile this!

    • Miriam January 23, 2016 at 12:41 am - Reply

      Thanks, Tess! It’s definitely worth going if you ask me.

  7. skrydis March 24, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    A nice list of do’s in Riga. Im from LIthuania and thinking about going for a weekend in Riga. You know, take an airbnb spot, and travel around Riga for a couple days. There is a lot of things to do and see there I see 🙂
    Maybe there is a list also with what do not do in Riga – Don’ts list of Riga? 🙂

    • Miriam March 24, 2016 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Definitely go to Riga since it’s so close. It’s great for a weekend getaway. As for the don’ts list, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that 🙂

  8. Monica March 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Such a great blog 🙂
    We are also in Riga and loving it.

    • Miriam March 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Aw, thank you! Have fun in Riga and remember to try the Black Balsam 😉

  9. Hush Travel April 12, 2016 at 1:31 am - Reply

    A long and so beautiful list of do’s in Riga, The images are also fine and elegant. Images surely inspired to visit Riga. I think i will make a tour to Riga within nest month. I love the 3 brothers from Riga.

    • Miriam April 12, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Thank you for stopping by! Have fun if you’re heading to Riga. It’s such a lovely city and they have great sushi.

  10. Ioana September 19, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Hello Miriam. I discovered Riga because of a singer from it and now, after I read your article I’m thinking serious to visit this beautiful town. I have only one question. How it cost to live here? I mean, approximate beacuse I’m thinking to go and study in Riga. I hope to write more articles like this, because you convince me to see Riga 🙂

    • Miriam September 20, 2016 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Ioana. Riga is a lovely city and I’m sure you’d like it. I don’t know about living costs though as I only visited for 4 days. But in general, things are cheap compared to the rest of Europe. You can read more about costs in my other article about Latvia here: http://adventurousmiriam.com/why-you-should-visit-latvia-right-now/

  11. Paula December 12, 2016 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Wow! Stunning photos. Riga is still very high on our list. Hopefully we’ll make it there in 2017.

    • Miriam December 12, 2016 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Definitely go! It’s such an underrated place so you’ll feel like you have it almost to yourself.

  12. Sonia January 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Absolutely brilliant website, full of lots of helpful hints. Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to my weekend in Riga and make use of all the information you have supplied me with.

    • Miriam January 4, 2017 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Sonia! Have a great time in Riga, it’s a lovely city.

  13. NickG February 1, 2017 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Thanks for some great information and some really good photos, Miriam! I am hoping to do a father-son trip with my 15-year-old son to the Baltics this summer. Do you think that Riga is a good city for teens?

    • Miriam February 1, 2017 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Thanks, Nick! Yes, Riga would be a fun city for teens. There’s a little bit of everything in Riga and the rest of the Baltics, also for boys: Architecture (if that’s your thing), war history, water parks (Livu Waterpark) and a Motor Museum, just to name a few. Tallinn is a lovely town too, if you’re thinking of visiting.

  14. Flora Adams February 20, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the nice post and beautiful images. Riga is one of the beautiful places which has plenty of lovely places to explore. There are some of the best places which are of historical and strategic importance and also places which are close to nature like St Peter’s church, Sun Museum, Central Market, Adventure Park Mežakaķis, Jūrmala and Kalnciema Quarter these are most beautiful places in Riga. We enjoyed a lot the beauty, delicious food and culture of this place.

    • Miriam February 21, 2017 at 10:12 am - Reply

      Hi Flora,
      Yes, Riga is a wonderful city and it’s definitely worth visiting, especially in the summertime!

  15. Janice March 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Awesome post! I just come back from weekend getaway in Riga and now I’m planning to go back for a week or two.
    Your tips are really great! I’ll add some to my Riga to do list!

    I was lucky to stay in amazing Airbnb right in the heart of Old Town and it was so beautiful! I could just walk to all most important tourist atractions. Restaurants in Old Town are simply outstanding and prices are amazing!
    Next time when you go back to Riga check out this Airbnb. Host super helpful and friendly! I get so many insider tips and helpful info how to safe some money and see as much as possible!
    I love Tallinn but Riga is now my favorite – romantic fairytale 🙂

    Keep up the good work and write more about Baltic countries 🙂

    • Miriam March 16, 2017 at 11:25 pm - Reply

      I’m glad to hear that, Janice! Have a great time if you go back anytime soon. Riga is a lovely city 🙂

  16. PATRICIA April 21, 2017 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    RIGA IS MY NEXT TRIP, I’M SO HAPPY BECAUSE I’M GOING TO PLAY VOLLEYBALL TOO IN LATVIA!!
    CSIT 2107 JUNE WILL BE THE BEST MONTH!!!

    • Miriam April 23, 2017 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Sounds fun, Patricia. Have a great trip!

  17. Rachel April 24, 2017 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Hi, Im going to Riga in 2 days and taking my camera, I love art nouveau architecture, cant wait to try the food and the vodka and I beleive there is a chocolate museum I have to try too lol. Your list has helped me to look for accommodation close to where the sights are and a few wonderful things to do and see. I will probably do them all except the beach 🙂

    • Miriam April 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      I’m really glad to hear that, Rachel! Riga is amazing so I’m sure you’ll have a great time 🙂

  18. Ben May 1, 2017 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Hi Miriam, I am currentlty in Riga and I found your blog most useful, thank you for writing it.

    I would recommend on your return to visit the Meźaparks area (number 11 tram). Along the way there is also The Brethern Cementary devoted to WW1 and Latvian War of Independence, along with the Meźa cementary.

    Sigulda is also an hour and a half on the train away and is a lovely small village, which also has an old bobsled track, I recommend for a half a day visit.

    • Ben May 1, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Oh and also the free walking tour from out the front of St. Peter’s church from midday (alternative tour) is very good as well.

    • Miriam May 4, 2017 at 8:36 am - Reply

      Thanks Ben, and I appreciate the tips for what else to see in Riga. Have a great day 🙂

  19. Mahmoud May 6, 2017 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    This post is great.. I choose Riga to be my first destination in the next trip 🙂

    • Miriam May 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Mahmoud. Riga is a great city, especially in the summer when it’s sunny and warm 🙂

  20. Ross May 9, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Great list. I’m heading to Riga in a few weeks and this will be very helpful

    • Miriam May 9, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Oh that’s great! Have an awesome trip, Ross!

  21. Sarah Muran June 9, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Great post! Going to use it or my next trip 😀

    • Miriam June 10, 2017 at 11:43 pm - Reply

      So glad to hear that, Sarah! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  22. Marek June 26, 2017 at 3:44 am - Reply

    All you talked about was the old city, what about the part of Rīga thats over the river??

    • Miriam June 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      I mention the things in Riga that I think are great to visit. If you have recommendations for other sights, you’re more than welcome to share them here in the comments, Marek.

  23. Virginia Addison September 12, 2017 at 1:06 am - Reply

    My husband & I are coming to Riga 22nd – 28th December. Will Christmas markets still be on and will museums etc be open? Really looking forward to it anyway.

    • Miriam September 12, 2017 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      Uuh, I don’t know unfortunately. I haven’t visited Riga during Christmas 🙁 You could ask the tourism centre in Riga, I’m sure they’ll know: info@liveriga.lv.

      Have a great trip.

  24. Flora February 7, 2018 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Hi Miriam! Thanks a lot for listing such amazing places in just one go. I am planning to come to Riga with my friends within 6 months and definitely share this information with them. Is there any affordable travel facilities for tourists? I need to know some airport travelers so that it will save our time. Looking forward to your kind reply.

    • Miriam February 9, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading, Flora. I’m not aware of any airport transfort, unfortunately. But I’m sure you can find one at the airport or grab a taxi, which is what I did.

  25. Vladimir April 19, 2018 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Perfect. You were such help <3

    • Miriam April 19, 2018 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Vladimir! I hope you had a good time in Riga 🙂

  26. Jai April 23, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Riga is a great place. Thanks for the spa advice. Any advice for gay and lesbian travelers? BTW I married a Latvian!

    • Miriam May 25, 2018 at 9:48 am - Reply

      Glad you found it helpful, Jai! Latvians are wonderful (one of my good friends is from Riga) 🙂

      I don’t have any advice for gay and lesbian travelers, unfortunately. I just checked two LGBT blogs I know, but it seems they haven’t been to Latvia. Otherwise their blogs could have been helpful – maybe for future travels? Here they are: http://www.globetrottergirls.com and https://travelsofadam.com.

      Have an amazing trip to Riga 🙂

  27. Angel August 7, 2018 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Going in Nov/Dec time frame (not my choice) Is everything still open (the market) or do they close once tourist season is over?

    • Miriam August 10, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Angel, the market is still open in November/December. You might even be able to find a Christmas market if you’re there in December.

  28. Dan October 2, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    We went there last year, it was cool to see and glad I went but it wasn’t great. No nightlife on weeknights is a downer.

    • Miriam November 11, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Dan,
      I’m sorry that it didn’t live up to your expectations. I’m surprised that there’s no clubbing on week nights – they do make up for it on weekends.

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