Riga is Latvia’s capital and its largest city with a population of over 640,000. Riga’s medieval Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its charming cobblestone streets, art nouveau architecture, beautiful river views and Gothic spires, making it a must-see European city. The pedestrian-only Old Town has many shops and restaurants and is home to much of Riga’s entertainment scene.
When is a good time to Go to Riga?
Riga is lovely anytime of the year; the summers are beautiful with average temperatures in the low and mid 20’s Celsius, spring and fall are in the low teens, while during the winter months, the temperature is generally single digits. Each season has its own charm, and in many ways is a fairy-tail city, once called the Paris of the East.
Many will say the best time to visit is in the summer between June and early September, when the streets are bustling with people and activities. We went in early September, the weather was beautiful and there was plenty of activity in the Old Town, but not overcrowded.
Best Things to do in Riga
There are a tremendous number of exciting things to do, from visiting historical sites to cultural attractions. There are tours available, however we are explorers and always do so on our own. Here’s a list of local attractions we really enjoyed.
Town Hall Square
The Town Hall Square features the House of Blackheads, a gorgeous building with an elaborately decorated façade, with St. Peters in the background.
St. Mary’s Dome Cathedral
St. Mary’s Dome Cathedral is a prominent feature of Riga’s skyline and a must see. It’s construction dates back to the year 1211 and houses one the world’s biggest organs where Latvian organ players and well as guests from other countries participate in concerts.
St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church is a Lutheran church and a masterpiece of Riga’s skyline. The tallest church in Riga is around 800 years old and where you can get a fantastic panoramic view from the rooftop. Definitely worth a visit!
Like most monuments and landmarks that symbolize the lands freedom from its oppressors, the Freedom Monument is a tall structure with a proud lady standing atop the column with three stars in her hand, one for each of the three regions of Latvia and is a symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia.
The Riga Centraltirgus (Riga Central Market) is Europe’s largest market, housed in five pavilions that used to be German Zeppelin hangars and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are more than 3,000 stands in the market, and each hangar is dedicated specific food groups such as meats, vegetables, fish, dairy. Surrounding the hangars, there are also many stands selling clothing, flowers, fresh produce and more.
Latvian Academy Of Sciences
A mesmerizing building, the Latvian Academy of Sciences is the official science academy of Latvia. As if the view of the gorgeous building itself was not enough, the academy has an observation deck on its 17th floor! The building design has become known as Stalinist architecture.
The Pilsetas Kanals is Riga city’s old moat. It once used to protect the city from invaders. Today, the area surrounding the moat has been transformed into a beautiful park.
Latvian National Museum of Art
Even if museums are not your thing, it is worth visiting this one. The building itself is a piece of art, when you enter the first thing you see is the beautiful stair case. Make your way through the museum and don’t forget to visit the 4th floor, with its glass floor. You will also find the “Instagram Window”, one of the most Instagrammed places in Latvia!
If you’re a foodie like we are, take full advantage of some of the Riga’s sensational restaurants. After Latvia emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, Latvian food has taken the spotlight, and in 2017, Riga was named a European Region of Gastronomy.
While all the restaurants we went to were wonderful, we have to mention 1221 Restorans. The food was not only amazing, but it is also one of the most photographed and Instagrammable buildings in Riga.
More to see
As mentioned earlier, we love to explore and with Riga’s narrow cobblestone streets, there was plenty to see. We ventured down narrow alley ways in Old Town and came across pubs and restaurants and some of the most amazing buildings and archways which made for great photography.
There are many more interesting things to explore and experience; the above are merely some of our highlights.
How many days do you need to visit Riga
Riga is a great city. Architecturally, the Old Town and the Quiet Centre, sometimes referred to as the Art Nouveau District, are superb and we enjoyed strolling through and exploring both. A comfortable visit to Riga can be achieved in about 3 days assuming that you’re reasonably active as there are many things to see and do.
Is Riga Safe for Tourists?
Riga is no more dangerous than other European cities, and like everywhere else, you should take reasonable precautions like you would at home. Don’t flash your wallet and money, don’t go with strangers, and stay out of areas that are less than desirable. We felt quite safe in Old Town, even while out later into the evening.
Getting Around Riga
Getting to the Old Town by taxi takes about 15 minutes. While any taxi service is now allowed to service the airport area, it was recommended to us that we select one of two trusted taxi companies: Baltic Taxi (green color) and Red Cab (red). If you’re staying in Old Town, you can easily walk to all the sights and if you’re planning a day trip to one of the surrounding areas, Old Town is quite close to the Riga Central Train Station.