I believe that Riga, Latvia is one of the most interesting cities in Europe. There are just so many great things to do in Riga, both classical attractions and more alternative ones, and the city will keep you busy for at least two days. I was lucky to visit Riga a few times, always enjoyed it, and always left the place with a heavy heart.
If you are planning Riga sightseeing and are wondering what to see in Riga this article is for you. A fellow blogger, Marika from Clumsy Girl Travels, has decided to share her favorite things to do in Riga here with me. I’m sure it will help you plan a perfect trip to Riga!
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a city that absolutely surprised me. I never expected to love it as much as I did. Although quite small, I found endless amounts of things to do in Riga, and even after spending a month exploring in the city, I have only just begun to scratch the surface. The city of Riga has stolen my heart, and every time I visit, I always seem to find more and more reasons to love this place.
Table of contents
- 1 Things to do in Riga
- 1.1 Visit St. Peter’s Church
- 1.2 Shop at Central Market
- 1.3 See famous Three Brothers
- 1.4 Visit the Chocolate Museum
- 1.5 Go to the Latvian Academy of Sciences Observation Deck
- 1.6 Learn About Riga’s Jewish History
- 1.7 Visit the Fashion Museum
- 1.8 Visit the Corner House
- 1.9 Go for a day trip to Sigulda
- 1.10 Eat at a Communist Themed Cafe
- 1.11 Have a Coffee at a Hidden Coffee Shop
- 1.12 Visit a Local Brewery
- 1.13 Try Riga Black Balsam at a Witch Themed Cafe
- 1.14 See the Freedom Monument
- 1.15 Visit the Museum of Occupation
- 1.16 Find the Black Cats
- 2 Riga travel tips
- 3 Travel Resources
Things to do in Riga
If you are wondering what to do in Riga look no further. Below you will find all the best Riga attractions.
Visit St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s church is Riga’s most popular view over the city and no question one of the Riga must do. St Peters was erected in the late 15th century and has gone through a collapse, a lightning strike to the tower, and a fire, but it still stands tall, offering people a glimpse into Riga’s past. The inside of the church has a rotating display of local artists that you can check out.
St. Peters tower offers incredible views of Riga’s red-tiled rooftops of the old town and the Daugava River. The cost to visit St Peter’s Church is 9 euros.
Shop at Central Market
This is Europe’s largest market and bazaar. My favorite thing about the market is that it’s located inside old German Zeppelin Hangers (a type of airship) so it’s pretty unique. The inside of the market may seem overwhelming due to the size and how much there is to see. It’s best to just wander through the market and see where you end up.
The market is separated into 4 sections: dairy, meat, fish, and veggies & fruits. Plus, they have tons of stalls selling food to go. If you want to experience some local Riga culture, I recommend visiting the central market.
See famous Three Brothers
Three brothers are a complex of three houses that have been around for centuries. There is a legend that they were built by three brothers, which makes sense! They are the oldest medieval houses in the city and one of the most popular Riga sights for tourists who visit the city. The houses were built when Riga had a close connection with the Netherlands, so the houses have a strong Dutch influence.
Today, the Museum of Architecture is located in the houses, which you can visit free of charge.
Visit the Chocolate Museum
When I visited Riga, I was shocked to learn that Laima, a popular chocolate brand, was produced there. If you love chocolate, I highly recommend a visit to the Laima chocolate museum. Inside, you will find tons of interactive exhibits and included with admission you will get a chocolate candy bar and a chocolate drink.
There are also Laima chocolate shops scattered around the city, so if you can’t make it to the chocolate museum, you can still easily get a taste of Laima chocolate.
Go to the Latvian Academy of Sciences Observation Deck
Also called Stalin’s Birthday Cake due to the stalinese style of architecture, this is another building that offers stunning views of the city. Not many tourists know about this building, so it’s usually pretty empty. The observation deck is located on the 17th floor and costs 6 euros to enter.
Learn About Riga’s Jewish History
Janis Lipke Memorial
Janis Lipke was a hero among the Jewish community in Riga. During World War II, he rescued 40 Jews from being persecuted. He began saving Jews by hiding them with friends who were willing to take them in. As Riga’s situation grew worse, he decided to build an underground shelter where he hid 13 Jews. Today, you can visit his memorial and learn all about Janis, his family, and how they put themselves at risk to save lives.
Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum
This museum tells the story of the Jewish community in Riga. The museum sits on the same spot that the Jewish ghetto once was located. There is a replica of a typical Jewish home from the Ghetto and a replica of a cattle car that you can go inside. It’s mostly an outdoor museum, and it’s free to enter.
Visit the Fashion Museum
It seems like Rigas has a museum about everything, so it was no surprise when I discovered they had a fashion museum. The exhibits are interactive, and showcases the ever-changing fashion styles over the centuries. It’s a pretty small museum, so it should only take you a couple of hours to walk through.
I highly recommend renting an audio guide. There aren’t many descriptions for the items showcased, so the audio guide is a must if you want any historical information.
Visit the Corner House
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Riga and the most haunting, in my opinion. The Corner House was the headquarters of the Soviet KGB, where people were brought in for questioning, brutal beatings, imprisoned, and killed. The only way to visit The Corner House is by taking a tour. Tours are offered in Latvian and English, but tickets can sell out pretty quickly, so it’s best to book online.
The tour is very heavy and emotional but fascinating and informative at the same time. If you have time to only visit one attraction in Riga, I recommend it be this one.
Go for a day trip to Sigulda
Sigulda is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Latvia and a very popular day trip from Riga. It’s only about 2 hours from the capital on the bus. Sigulda is a huge area, so there is a lot to do. The most popular attractions are:
- Turaida Castle: This charming medieval castle is located inside the Turaida Museum-Reserve, which has exhibitions on history of archeology, culture, and art of Latvia.
- Gutmanis Cave: This cave is the biggest and widest cave in the Baltics and is said to be the oldest attraction in Latvia. The most interesting part of this cave is the Rose of Turaida legend that took place here.
- Castle of Livonian Order: This castle will take you back in time to the medieval ages. Although it’s just ruins now, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Sigulda region.
Eat at a Communist Themed Cafe
Leningrad cafe is a pretty unique and fun place to eat. The inside is set up to look like a Soviet-era apartment. There are soviet memorabilia displayed on the walls, and the food is excellent, especially the paprika burger, which comes with a complimentary shot of vodka.
Have a Coffee at a Hidden Coffee Shop
Located down a quiet alleyway sits Parunāsim kafe’teeka: an adorable french inspired cafe with delicious pastries and coffee. The cafe calls itself the most romantic cafe in Riga, and they are not wrong. Inside, there are plush, velvet armchairs and tiny wooden tables illuminated by a single candle on each one.
If you are hankering for some yummy cake and coffee, I suggest checking out this place. Make sure not to walk by it, though. It’s really easy to miss.
Visit a Local Brewery
I love going on Brewery tours in each place I visit. The process of making beer is fascinating, and each country has its own unique way of doing it. I was unexpectedly excited when I learned Riga had a brewery with a self-guided tour called Aldaris.
Aldaris is located about an hour outside of Riga’s center, and you can take a tram there. At the end of the tour, you get a flight of cold, refreshing beer.
Try Riga Black Balsam at a Witch Themed Cafe
If you visit Riga, you can’t leave without trying the local spirit, Black Balsam. It is an acquired taste, and most people don’t like it. It has a very bitter and medicinal taste. In fact, it used to be used as a remedy for indigestion, so it is a popular shot to take after dinner. I actually love it and always bring a bottle home with me.
One of my favorite places to order Black Balsam is Black Magic. This is a witch-themed chocolate shop where they sell Black Balsam cocktails and desserts. They even have a Black Balsam chocolate cake, which doesn’t taste like Black Balsam at all.
See the Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument was built as a memorial for the soldiers who died during the Latvian fight for independence. It has been the central landmark of Riga since it was erected in 1935. Today, The Freedom Monument has two guards that stand at its base. It’s a symbol of freedom, independence, and a reminder of Latvia’s struggle and perseverance.
Visit the Museum of Occupation
The Museum of Occupation is an interesting and important place to visit in Riga. The museum covers 3 occupations, two Soviet occupations and the German occupation. You will read stories and testimonials from people that have lived through those trying times in history, and you will walk away with respect for everyone who persisted and survived.
The museum is free to enter. They have a donation box that you can contribute to if you enjoyed your visit.
Find the Black Cats
The Riga black cats are the unofficial symbol of Riga. They sit perched on the roof of The Black Cat House. There are several legends on how the black cats got there, but the most popular one suggests that the house owner got denied entrance to the great guild, and as payback, he put two angry-looking cats with arched backs on his roof facing the great guild.
Riga travel tips
How to get to Riga
Riga airport is a popular hub in Europe, serving flights to many destinations every day so getting to Riga is rather easy. There are also numerous daily bus connections between Riga and Vilnius (Lithuania) or Tallinn (Estonia).
How to get around Riga
Most of the things to see in Riga are located in the center so you can easily walk everywhere. If you need to get to the destinations further away, there is a good public transport system you can use.
What’s the currency in Riga?
For a few years now the local currency in Latvia is Euro.
Where to stay in Riga
Since Riga is a popular destination in Europe there are many accommodation options to choose from. Here are the recommended ones:
- Budget: Tree House (9.3/10)
- Mid-range: Hotel Edvards (9.0/10)
- Luxury: Grand Palace Hotel – The Leading Hotels of the World (9.2/10)
- and more!
If you would like to go for a Riga sightseeing with a guide here are some of the highly rated tours:
- Riga: 2-Hour Walking Tour in the Old Town
- Riga: Food Tasting Tour of Central Market
- Art Nouveau Walking Tour in Riga
- Riga: 3-Hour Soviet Walking Tour
About the author: Marika is the travel blogger behind the blog Clumsy Girl Travels. She writes about traveling to unique places around the world as well as the struggles of traveling with a hidden disability called Ataxia. You can follow Marika on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter
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