With a vibrant food and art scene thriving alongside its Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Art Nouveau buildings, Riga is getting more appealing by the moment. There’s never been a better time to visit this beautiful, walkable and easy to explore capital city of Latvia.
Here are seven best things to do in Riga:
1. Join a walking tour
Old Riga is a feast for the eyes. This medieval town features narrow cobbled streets, buildings with various architectural styles, historic churches, and a right mix of traditional and contemporary restaurants. When in Riga, you must take a walking tour and visit these points of interest and landmarks:
- St. Peter’s Church
- Pharmacy Museum
- Mentzendorff’s House
- House of the Blackheads
- Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation
- Riga Dome Cathedral
- Riga Bourse Art Museum
- Three Brothers
- Riga Castle
- Latvian War Museum
- Freedom Monument
- Riga Art Nouveau Museum
- Art Nouveau District
- Latvian National Opera and Ballet
2. Photograph the beautiful buildings
Riga offers plenty of beautiful and colorful buildings for photography enthusiasts and those who use Instagram to document their travels. To start off, head up to the tower of St. Peter’s Church and take a picture-perfect shot of Riga’s skyline and Daugava River. And of course the House of the Blackheads, The Three Brothers and the following places for photographs of beautiful buildings:
- Elizabetes iela for art nouveau architecture
- Buildings along Krāmu iela
- Akmens Tilts (Stone Bridge) for shots of the National Library of Latvia at night
- Live Square and the surrounding buildings
- Trokšņu iela, the narrow cobbled street, and historical buildings
3. Visit Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market is located on the banks of the Daugava River, near the Central Railway Station and Riga International Bus Terminal.
The market is housed in military airship hangars built in the 1920s for German-made airships. The military airship hangars were converted into a market in 1930. This massive market has 778,000 square feet and over 3,000 stalls.
There are five indoor pavilions and an outdoor market. The indoor pavilions house different products – vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products, and prepared food. The outdoor market has food stands, fruit stalls, and miscellaneous items, including clothing and souvenirs.
4. Spend an evening at the Skybar
Radisson Blu Hotel Latvia at 90 meters high (296 feet) is one of the tallest buildings in Riga. And the Skybar is located on the 26th floor of this iconic hotel. Step into the glass elevator, and the mesmerizing panoramic view of Riga will begin to appear as you head higher and higher up to the 26th floor.
Get seats at the right-hand side of the bar for the best views of the old town. Enjoy the view, signature cocktails, and Asian tapas menu. Pictured here is Forever Green and the famous mocktail called Jurmala Colada.
5. Enjoy traditional Latvian cuisine
Latvian cuisine has German, Swedish, Polish and Russian influences since the country was under Swedish, German, Polish and Russian rule. Venison, wild mushrooms, garlic, rhubarb, catfish, berries, potatoes, and birch sap are staples of Latvian cuisine. When in Riga, try these dishes and drinks:
- Barley porridge with pork potatoes
- Venison cooked with berries
- Herring with cottage cheese and potatoes
- Rye bread pudding
- Dark rye bread
- Latvian rhubarb wine
- Kvas drink (low alcoholic rye bread drink)
6. Seek out Latvian artists and craftsmen
Pick up a brochure (with a map) on Riga Crafts Road at one of the Tourist Information Center and take the 1.24 miles (2 km) walk into the city. The brochure will guide you to famous Latvian companies that have been around for generations. You’ll get a chance to see craftsmen at work and to pick up souvenirs made in Latvia.
Start at Dzenis Amber Salon on Blackhead’s House, next to the Tourist Information Center. And these are the 10 steps as suggested in the brochure:
- Dzenis Amber Salon – amber jewelry
- Sena Klets – Ethno-designed costumes, traditional fabrics, accessories, dolls, and local souvenirs
- Meistaru Iela – tablecloths, mittens, gloves, ceramics, toys and more
- Hobbywool – knitting kits, traditional mittens, handmade knitwear
- Linen Room – tablecloths, table runners, bed covers, curtains, clothing and accessories
- Etmo – clothing, porcelain, glassware, home accessories and more
- Tines – Knitwear, accessories, and souvenirs
- Upe – Latvian traditional musical instruments, games, toys and records
- Skaista Rota – silver and bronze jewelry
- Medus Istaba – candles, ceramics, honey, herbal teas, and natural cosmetics
7. Sightseeing on a traditional canal boat
Take it easy, join a leisurely one-hour cruise in a traditional canal boat with Riga by Canal Sightseeing Cruise. You get a close-up view of Riga’s iconic buildings, view of Old Town and Riga’s yacht club. You’ll cruise on the canal and out to the Daugava River. Tickets are available onboard. It’s 18 Euro per person, and the cruise starts and ends at Bastion Hill (Bastejkalns) pier, located about 100 meters from the Freedom Monument.