Art Nouveau architecture, interesting history, great food, shopping, relaxing spas & fun activities. This baltic gem has it all.
Where To Stay In Riga
There are plenty of things to do in Riga. But more than anything else, the city is famous for it’s many spas – which makes it the perfect destination for a calm and relaxing weekend. Spa hotels are all over this capital so there are many amazing options to choose from, most of them are very affordable too. As we were three people traveling together we wanted our own apartment instead of getting a hotel room. We quickly landed on this super affordable apartment at AirBnb for our weekend stay. The standard was great and all of the sights were within walking distance from the apartment. It was a huge bonus that our host was extremely helpful since our flight got delayed for hours and we got to Riga late, so I can highly recommend Linda’s apartment.
Sightseeing In Riga
One of my favorite activities while traveling is simply to walk around my destination and observe. Look at the sights, listen to local people chat in their native language, take it all in. Riga is the perfect city for that as it’s centre is intimate enough that most major sights are within walking distance of each other. Bonus points for all the stunning architecture surrounding us at all times in this lovely city! Some of my favorites include:
Old Town Riga
Old Town Riga is the historical center of the city. With it’s narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful Medieval buildings it is truly the most charming area of the Latvian capital, and I doubt it is possible to visit Riga without stepping a foot within Old Town. Here you’ll find several restaurants, cute little gift shops and looooads of other tourists. A definite must-see, however.
If you want a great view of Riga from above, you should visit St Peter’s Church in Old Town. This lovely church from the 1200s has a complicated history and it’s 123 meter high tower has been rebuilt several times. Although it was freezing cold at the time, we had an amazing experience getting to the top and enjoying the breathtaking view of the city below us. There’s something special about seeing a new city from above, isn’t it?
Another picturesque spot in Old Town Riga you shouldn’t miss is The House of The Blackheads. This beautiful building was built in 1334 as a venue for events held by public organizations in Riga. Like many other historical buildings in this city, House of The Blackheads was destroyed by bombs during World War II, but was fully rebuilt in 1999. This is probably the most known location in Riga and is frequently seen in travel guides and on social media. Such charming buildings, can’t even imagine how much time an effort people have put into these wonderful creations.
A Stroll Along the Canal
Between Old Town Riga and the newer Central Riga it’s hard to miss the towering Freedom Monument – known as Milda among locals. It has been the central landmark of Riga since it was unveiled in 1935, and was constructed as a memorial to those who died in Latvia’s struggle for independence. The park surrounding the Freedom Monument is called Bastejkalna Park and is a real gem worthy of a visit. Through the park runs Pilsētas kanāls, a city canal that once protected the medieval interior of Riga from invaders. If you follow the canal northwest, you’ll eventually reach Kronvalda park too – another lovely city park. Although somewhat quiet and colorless during our visit in winter, I can only imagine the lush beauty of these parks the more colorful seasons. You can even go kayaking at night in the canal.
Art Nouveau Architecture
Riga is quite proud of their Art Nouveau architecture, or jugendstil, and with good reason: More than a third of the city’s buildings are examples of this beautiful and detailed design form. One of my favorite streets in Riga includes Alberta Iela, where nearly every building is in Jugendstil. I also enjoyed Elizabetes Iela and Strēlnieku Iela in the same area, so I recommend you get yourself a coffee to go and stroll these wonderful streets. If architecture really floats your boat, you should pay a visit to the Riga Art Nouveau Museum at Alberta Iela 12, and make sure you check out the lovely shop Art Nouveau Riga across the street in Strēlnieku Iela 9.
Where To Eat in Riga
If you’re only eating out one night in Riga, this is the place you should choose. Frankly, if I could, I would dine here every night. Seriously. Even my brother loved this place and he is the most picky eater on this planet, so that says a lot. You should try their oven-roasted lamb shank served with red wine–poached beets and carrot purée, yuum. Their prices weren’t bad for a place this nice either. Check out their menu and get a reservation here. Address: Skārņu iela 1
Lidojosa Varde – The Flying Frog
We found The Flying Frog through TripAdvisor, and immediately fell for their laidback vibe. Their interior is fun and different and everyone is welcome here. The prices are very budget friendly without compromising the quality of the food, which is perfect for students or families visiting Riga. Absolutely worth a visit. Psst! Make sure you try their frozen mango daiquiri, soo yummy. Address: Elizabetes iela 31 A
You guys, words cannot express how much I fell for this place. We found this spot through TripAdvisor as well, and payed it a visit while checking out the Jugendstil in Strēlnieku Iela. They have the cutest interior with the perfect amount of eccentric, exciting soviet dishes you should try, and the most adorable cups for their delicious coffee. The perfect lunch break for your art nouveau sightseeing trip! Address: Strēlnieku iela 9
6 Things To Do In Riga
As Riga offers a lot of various activities, it is a suitable choice for a relaxing spa weekend with your loved one, a lovely and budget friendly trip with your kids, or an adventurous weekend with a group of friends. There are plenty of things to do in Riga and I’m sure anyone can find something for them. Here are a few of our picks:
1. Relax At A Spa
Riga is famous for it’s many spas and you can find spas in all price ranges. I haven’t tried any myself, but I suggest looking up prices and reviews on TripAdvisor before you book appointments.
2. Go Shopping
Riga is known for being a great city to shop in. I had imagined loads of independent boutiques and cute vintage shops like in Tallinn, but they were few and far between so we usually ended up in chain stores like Pull&Bear, Bershka and Zara. As we don’t have those stores in northern Norway I wasn’t complaining at the time, I just had higher expectations I guess. But shopping is different for everyone, so who knows, you might love it! The malls we frequented was:
- Galerija Centrs: A mall in the middle of Old Town where you can shop at different stores; from H&M to Calvin Klein. Address: Audēju iela 16
- Alfa Centrs: This huge center is a 35 minute tram ride outside of Riga. They have stores like Bershka, Pull and Bear, Promod, Mango and Zara. (Tram no. 1 to the Alfa stop). Address: Brīvības 372
- Stockmann: If department stores are more your thing you should visit this 4 floor one called Stockmann. I’m not a huge fan of department stores myself, but I kind of liked browsing in this one. Address: 13. janvāra 8
3. Join The Locals At Rīgas Centrāltirgus
Shop fresh and local food at Rigas Central Market! It is known as one of the largest marketplaces in Eastern Europe both in area and number of visits. Approximately 80-100 000 people shop there every day, which is incomprehensible for a small town girl like myself. Even if you don’t buy anything it’s still a fun thing to check out when you’re in the area.
4. Pauls Stradins Museum For History Of Medicine
A medical museum is maybe not the obvious choice for everyone, but discovering unusual and untraditional museums is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. Because of my choice of education it’s only natural that a medical museum would gain my attention, but my travel squad enjoyed the experience as well! Or at least that’s what they told me.. So maybe you will too? Address: Antonijas 1
5. Go To A Shooting Range
My brother arranged for us to go to a shooting range where we got to fire with different types of guns. Although I was a bit skeptical at first, it was actually a very fun experience. Depending on what you want, there are different shooting packages you can choose from. Included in ours was free transportation from/to our apartment, safety training and en English speaking shooting instructor. We got to try a 12 Gauge shotgun, AK-47, Magnum 44, Glock, Heckler & Koch USP, and a few other ones. It was really interesting to learn about the different guns and trying them out.
6. Experience Escape Rooms
Escape Rooms are the perfect activity for any type of travel. Unfamiliar with the concept? Well, you basically get locked up in a room and have 60 minutes to find your way out of there. SO FUN, you have to try it. We chose this SAW themed room in Riga and it’s hands down the best Escape-experience of mine yet. Obviously I can’t reveal much, but lets just say you get blindfolded and cuffed in a replica of the bathroom from the SAW movie.. I was SO SCARED and SO EXCITED, I’m sure I could have fueled a small nuclear factory with my heart rate alone.
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I hope you got some ideas on what to do on your trip to Riga. It really is a lovely city and I recommend everyone to visit at least once in their life.