What to do in Riga?
Come to discover the capital of Latvia, Riga, a charismatic city overlooking the Baltic Sea. Vibrant nature, rich culture, paradisiac beaches, impressive historical architecture, and local cuisine for a fine gastronome, Riga has it all and is ideal both for a short gateway in Europe, or a longer holiday. The city offers so many different touristic activities, featuring many sightseeing spots, that we did our best to pick up just a few from the long list.
What are Riga Latvia’s points of interest? We intend in this article to help you choose amongst the infinity possibilities of the charming Riga and make the most of your Latvian vacation! So, don’t wait to discover the best things to do in Riga.
Discover the intricate mazes of the Old Town
Probably one of the most important Riga points of interest is to stroll through those intricate cobbled streets of the Old Town, and yet UNESCO heritage. Enjoy wandering around this charming edge of the city. In a truly Scandinavian style, with its narrow streets, and colorful small houses coming straight out of the 16-18th centuries. Head up to the impressive squares of the Old Town: the Duomo Square is the largest with the cathedral and its massive dome and the Livu Square with a multitude of outdoor restaurants (therefore, better to visit it in Summer). As well, don’t miss the Old Riga Vecrīga (on the east bank of the Daugava River).
Stroll down the city canals
Located between the city’s canal belt and the Daugava River, the center of the city is ideal to be explored on the water. The top tourist attraction in Riga is to stroll on one of the tourist boats that will take you around the old town for a relaxing gateway or to rent a paddleboat to venture yourself alone on the canals of the city.
Visit the Central Market of Riga
This crowded and lively place is definitely the main Riga attraction and is the best opportunity for your to get in the heart of the Latvian culture by tasting some of the best local dishes and bring home some delicious souvenirs. The place is known to offer the best of the local products and amongst the little favorites, we count the Latvian rye bread, the birch sap juice (only available in March-April, as the juice is directly extracted from the tree), Latvian eel, and fresh local sauerkraut. This colorful, Soviet-style market is not only one of the most important Riga tourist attractions but also one of the most important markets in Europe and offers the cheapest products in Riga.
Take the height for the best overview
Take some perspective to enjoy some of the best views of the city. Take some altitude to reach some of the best panoramas of the city. Among the best overviews of Riga we count St.Peter Church’s Tower in the Old Town; the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blue Hotel; or the Riga Terrace in the Galleria Riga shopping center.
Try out the Black Balsam of Riga
Whether you like it on rocks or mixed with soda water or soft drink, this strange bittersweet and golden-brown typical Latvian beverage is one of Riga’s top attractions, and you have to taste this herbal liqueur if you want to claim that you’ve been to Riga for your last vacations. You can try it in every bar and restaurant, but you’ll find the best one in the Old Town at the Riga Black Balsam Bar.
Jugenstil and Art Nouveau
Most of the renown of Riga is based on its beautiful Art Nouveau district, sprawling not far from the Old Town. Check out Alberta Street, where you’ll find some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in Europe, or stroll down the nearby streets Elizabetes, Dzirnavu, and Antonijas, all of them gathering true Jewells of the Jugenstil architecture.
Party in Riga
On the weekend, as soon as the sun goes down, the quiet and familial town of Riga turns out to be an unsuspected effervescent and giant nightclub. You’ll find tons of nightclubs or bars on Kalku Street, with on the menu good music, and chill ambiance, but stay away from the strip clubs, as the drunk tourists are the best targets, you could lose there a lot of money.
Get some good local products in the Kalnciema district
Every Saturday, this bohemian district on the other side of the river and away from the crowded touristic areas, hosts a local Latvian farmer market, where you can get the best products of the region, to take home or to enjoy on spot.
Enjoy a relaxing gateway at the resort of Jurmala
Located half an hour from the city center, the seaside resort of Jurmala is the perfect gateway to relax after a few days of exploring the city of Riga. On the menu, long white sandy beaches, good restaurants, and an ambiance of far Niente surrounded by historical wooden architecture. It’s not a mistake if the resort is called the “Latvian summer capital”.
The Occupation museum for a poignant visit
A bit of history to understand the actual context and the multiculturalism of the city is important. This museum relates the story of the foreign dominations that the capital experienced over the last century: the extermination of Jews, deportations to the gulag, purge of nationalists, etc. The visit is poignant.
Rejuvenate at the cave of Gutmanis
The Gutmanis cave is the widest and the highest cave not only in Latvia but in the whole Baltic countries. Its wall also has some treasures to offer, as we find on them some paintings, engravings, and writings from the 16th century. The cave is also considered as having healing powers, so if you are tired after a late night of hitting on the dance floor, go see if the legend is true…
Where to sleep in Riga?
The choices of hotels in Riga is very varied: you can either go to the big hotels like the FG Royal Hotel, the Grand Palace Hotel Riga or the chic palace hotel Bergs, in the Three Brothers district; or on the other hand, you can choose a hostel for backpackers, like Elisabeth’s Youth Hostel (from 7€) or the Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub (from 5€) and the Cinnamon Sally Backpackers Hostel. Between the two a whole range of accommodations between 50 and 80 euros per night. For a very “mitteleuropa” charm, a little “Nouveau riche” but still very affordable for the western tourist, we have the Viktoria, Hanza Hotel (from 35euros), Europa Royale, Grand Palace Hotel Riga and the skyscraper of Reval Latvia.
There you go, enjoy all the charms of Riga Latvia for your next vacation!