This baltic gem has it all. Art Nouveau architecture, interesting history, great food, shopping, relaxing spas & fun activities – there are plenty of things to do in Riga.
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Places 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.
- The Pullman Riga Old Town: Always wanted to stay in a 5-star hotel for a reasonable price? Here’s your chance. The Pullman is an incredible hotel in the middle of Old Town, definitely stay here if you can.
- Wellton Centrum Hotel & SPA: Gorgeous new hotel with its own spa. Great location in the middle of Old Town with everything you need is right outside your door.
- Grand Poet By Semarah: Lovely hotel a few minutes from Old Town. Comes with a gym and spa and has unique decor.
- Ibis Riga Centre: Ibis hotels always have amazing value, and this one is no exception. Impeccable quality, great location and fun interior for an even better price.
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.
Psst! Here is a $54 discount if you’re new to Airbnb.
15 Fun Things To Do In Riga
The Latvian capital is a suitable choice for a relaxing spa weekend with a loved one, a lovely and budget friendly trip with your kids, or an adventurous weekend with a group of friends. There are lots of fun things to do in Riga and I’m sure anyone can find something they love. Here are 13 of my best suggestions:
#1. Enjoy A Walk In The City
Trust me – you’ll enjoy yourself tremendously just by walking around the city, observing the sights, listening to local people chat in their native language, take it all in. Riga is the perfect city for walking 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 you at all times!
#2. Relax At A Spa
Riga is famous for it’s many spas and you can find spas in all price ranges. In addition to the hotel spas mentioned above, we suggest:
- ESPA Riga: Probably the most well known spa experience in Riga. Perfect for families, a group of friends or as a romantic date for couples. Definitely worth a visit!
- Body Therapy by Titov: Titov is number one on TripAdvisor for a reason. Enough said.
#3. Explore 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. Old Town is a definite must-see and it’s a great experience to walk around exploring on your own. However, if you want to explore the full potential of Old Town Riga you should consider doing a walking tour. I especially recommend it for history buffs like myself – there is so much to learn about Riga.
#4. See The House of The Blackheads
A 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.
#5. See Riga From Above
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?
#6. Join The Locals At Rīgas Centrāltirgus
Shop fresh and local food at Riga’s Central Market, 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.
What makes this market even cooler is that it’s located in old german Zeppelin hangars (the four round and identical building structures in the photo above)! If you or someone in your travel squad are somewhat of a foodie you may also benefit from doing a guided food tour at Riga’s Central Market.
#7. Try The Legendary Riga Black Balsam
No visit to Riga is complete without tasting Riga Black Balsam. Seriously, the locals will not let you leave the country before you try this legendary drink. Okay maybe they will, but you should still try it! Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian herbal liquor. I found it to be simultaneously bitter and sweet and I personally liked it a lot. You’ll find it all over the city, I honestly don’t think you could miss it even if you tried.
#8. Go Shopping
One of the most popular things to do in Riga is shopping. 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! The malls we frequented were:
- 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
#9. Visit 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
Read more: Here.
#10. Learn About Riga’s Soviet Past
You can’t visit a former USSR state without learning a little bit about the country’s history, can you? The best way to learn is from an experienced local guide on this 3-hour walking tour.
#11. Experience Riga’s City Parks & 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 also experience the canal with a guided boat tour.
#12. Go On A Road Trip To Lithuania
Take advantage of Latvia’s close proximity to Lithuania and go on a road trip! After only 1.5 hours on the road you’ll cross the border, and after a total of 3.5 hours you’ll find yourself in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. There are a ton of beautiful sights along the way. You can either rent a car and go by yourself or book a guided tour like this one, that will show you places like Rundale Palace, Bauska Castle and The Hill of Crosses on your way to Vilnius. Spend a day or three exploring before flying back home, or return to Riga first.
#13. Admire The Beautiful 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. You can admire the beauty in several ways:
- ON YOUR OWN: Get a coffee to go and stroll the wonderful streets Alberta Iela, Elizabetes Iela and Strēlnieku Iela. Make sure you check out the lovely shop Art Nouveau Riga at Strēlnieku Iela 9. If architecture really floats your boat you should also pay a visit to the Riga Art Nouveau Museum at Alberta Iela 12.
- A WALKING TOUR: Learn from the experts by booking a walking tour with an experienced guide. Book here.
#14. 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.
#15. Have A Blast In Captivity: Visit An Escape Room
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. This was my absolute favorite of things to do in Riga and I cannot recommend it enough.
Places 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
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I hope you got some ideas on things to do in Riga. It really is a lovely city and I recommend everyone to visit at least once in their life.