Things to do Riga – Riga Sightseeing & Travel Tips
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After visiting the beautiful capital of Estonia- Tallinn, we were really excited to continue our road trip to the west. This first stop was Riga, the biggest city and the capital of Latvia. We have been searching for top things to do in Riga in the Internet and found some interesting informations about this city. It is situated at the Baltic Sea and approximately one third of Latvians live there. Don’t think Riga is a big city though- the population of it is less than 700,000 which is similar to Las Vegas in the US or Phuket in Thailand. Just to compare- it is 1⁄4 of Rome and 1/10 of Washington, DC.
Despite of its size, Riga has a lot to offer to the travellers. Amazing art nouveau buildings, rich history, delicious food, and beautiful nature are things that we love about this city. After spending there more than a week, we have gathered all the informations together and created this things to do Riga guide. You will find here all the informations you need to spend an amazing time in the capital of Latvia, including best places to stay in Riga, must visit tourist attractions, recommended Riga excursions, and more!
What to see in Riga?
Top things to do in Riga #1
Latvian Academy of Sciences
The building of Latvian Academy of Sciences looks very familiar to us. It has typical Soviet design and architecture, exactly the same like Palac Kultury in Warsaw or State University in Moscow. It’s one of the top things to see in Riga.
The reason why it is worth to go there is the observation desk situated at the 17th floor. For 5 euro you can get the top of the building and take some amazing panoramic photos of Riga.
TIP: Even though Latvian Academy of Sciences is one of the best places to visit in Riga, go there only when the weather is good. You won’t see much from the top of the building in the cloudy day, so it will be a waste of time and money.
Riga things to do #2
The Three Brothers
The Three Brothers are the most beautiful buildings that we have seen in Riga. They are connected and each of them represents different architectural style: Dutch Renaissance, Dutch Mannerism and Baroque.
It is only the legend that they were built by the three brothers- it is impossible. The oldest dwelling house was built in 15th century and the youngest in 17th. It is believed though that they were built by the members of the same family.
TIP: This point of interest is one of the top places to visit in Riga. After taking the photos of Three Brothers, be sure to get inside and visit the Latvian Museum of Architecture which is one of the best museums in Riga!
Top things to do in Riga #3
Riga Town Hall Square
The Town Hall Square is quite small but really lovely! It is one of the most popular Riga sights. You can find there a Tourist Information Centre, famous Blackheads House (unmarried German tradesmen living in Riga), Town Hall, The Statue of Roland and the new Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
So many attractions in just one place! When the weather is good, you can see musicians playing beautiful songs at the Town Hall square. The atmosphere of this place is incredible and can’t be compared to anything else in Riga.
TIP: Visit the Tourist Information Centre and get the free map of the city. Riga sightseeing is so much easier when you know where to go!
Book your Old Town Riga Walking Tour here.
Top things to do Riga #4
Central Market is a truly local place! It is situated very close the Old Town, and it should be a part of every Riga itinerary. You can buy there literally EVERYTHING- food, clothes, shoes, cigarettes and more.
The prices are very low and you can always bargain to make it even lower. Central Market is a truly local so it’s better to explore it with Latvian. You will have a chance to try traditional Riga food, drinks, and visit the secret places of the market.
Book your Central Market guided tour online here.
TIP: There are many pickpockets at the Central Market. Be sure to keep your money & documents in the safe place.
Riga things to do #5
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Church is beautiful, high and monumental. It is one of the best tourist attractions in Riga but still we felt ripped of. Paying 3 euro to get inside the sacral building is just too much. And 9 euro to get to the tower is ridiculously expensive.
It wasn’t worth this price. So our advice is to go there, take some photos from the outside and don’t bother getting inside the church.
TIP: With the Riga Travel Card (you can buy it online or at Riga Tourist Information Centre), you get 50% discount for visiting St. Peter’s Observation Platform.
Top things to do Riga #6
Nativity of Christ Cathedral
Nativity of Christ Cathedral is our favourite church in Riga. It is situated on the outskirts of the Old Town but it is really worth to go there. It is the largest orthodox church in Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia).
The cathedral looks beautiful both from the inside and from the outside.
TIP: Nativity of Christ church is quite close to the Freedom Monument.
Riga things to do #7
The Freedom Monument is one of the the top Riga places to visit, as it’s arguably the most important monuments in the city. It was built in memory of the soldiers who died in the battle for independence, less than hundred years ago. It is considered as the symbol of free, independent and sovereign Latvia. What’s beautiful, there are always two soldiers there who are protecting the monument. It’s the metaphor & the sign that the government and army will always guard the independence of Latvia.
TIP: Be sure to visit the Freedom Monument at the full hour between 9am and 6pm to see the guards changing.
Top things to do Riga #8
Riga Cathedral & Dome Square
We absolutely love the Dome Square. It is a vibrant place, full of cafes, restaurants and people. It is perfect to visit both during a day or at night.
The main attraction of the Dome Square is Riga Cathedral that is one of the top places to see in Riga. It is the landmark of the city, built in 13th century.
TIP: Dome Square is the best meeting point in the city. It’s where likely that your Riga city tour will start there.
Top things to do in Riga #9
Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum
Ghetto is not a fun place… But it is still worth visiting! This Riga museum was established in memory to all the Jews that were killed by Nazis during World War II. Going there is arguably one of the best things to do in Riga.
TIP: Visiting Latvian Holocaust Museum and Ghetto is one of the free things to do in Riga. There is no admission fee but the donations are more than welcomed (suggested amount is 5 euro).
Top things to do Riga #10
Riga has nice river and canals that go through the most important places in the city.
River cruise is a must do in Riga, and an amazing idea to spend a relaxing time . There are many Latvian companies that offer river cruises: you can take them during a day but also in the afternoon to watch the sunset.
TIP: Take your camera! You can take photos of Riga from the completely different perspective.
Book your Riga cruise online here.
Riga Travel Tips
Don’t know how to get to Riga? Check out best direct flights to Riga.
|Best time to visit Riga||April-October|
|Riga taxi app||Taxify (click for the first free ride). There is no Riga Uber.|
|Riga taxi number||+371 20 008 500|
+371 60 008 383
+371 22 330 330
|Car rent Riga||Find the best here|
|Money exchange Latvia||At the airport or anywhere in the city. Use Multicurrency Card to reduce the fees.|
|Travel insurance Latvia||Buy online with World Nomads|
|Riga tourist map||Available here.|
Be ready for the changing weather.
Riga is situated at the Baltic Sea, so the weather in the city can change really fast. The sun may be shinning beautiful and then suddenly it may start raining.
It is good to always have a raincoat with you, just in case.
Find the best places to eat in Riga
Check out this post about best restaurants in Riga.
Recommended Riga Tours
Riga Walking Tours
If you are looking for some thrill, and want to experience Riga nightlife in the same time, consider joining a ghost tour.
Arguably the best option is to take private old town Riga walking tour with organ music concert.
Skip the lines and book your Riga walking tours online here:
Riga food tour
If you want to taste the best food in Riga, get to know the Latvian culture, and be taken to the truly local places, join Riga food tour. You can mix it up with sightseeing, combine with beer tasting or focus entirely on food.
Riga food tour online here:
Riga bus tour
If you are, just like us, a lazy traveler, join Riga sightseeing bus tour. You will be taken to all the important points of interest in the city. It’s up to you whether you will stay in a bus for the entire time, or leave to explore the specific tourist attraction.
Skip the lines and book your Riga bus tour online here.
Best Day Trips from Riga
Riga to Jurmala
If you want to relax on the beautiful, long, white-sand beach while in Latvia, there is no better place to go than Jurmala. It’s located just 40 minutes driving from Riga, so it’s a perfect destination for a day trip. You can easily get there by Riga public transport (more info here), or book one of the private tours from Riga to Jurmala.
Riga to Tallinn
It will take about 4-5 hours to get from Tallinn to Riga and vice versa, no matter if you are traveling by car or Riga Tallinn bus. Even though the distance is not that close, this day trip from Riga is still worthwhile.
Tallinn is absolutely beautiful! The capital city of Estonia has an amazing Old Town, and its medieval architecture is completely different to the one in Latvia.
It’s better to stay in Tallinn longer than for just one day but if your time is limited, a day trip is doable. You need to take an early morning bus from Riga to Tallinn, to be there before the midday. After few hours of sightseeing, take a bus back.
There is no direct Riga to Tallinn train, so if you want to use the public transport, your only option is bus.
Book your Riga Tallinn bus online here.
Riga to Tartu
Tallinn is not the only place worth visiting in Estonia. The second biggest city, Tartu is beautiful as well. There are many things to do in the city, including wandering around Old Town, visiting Estonian National Museum, and seeing the iconic Kissing Students fountain. The easiest way to get there is taking Riga Tartu bus or travel by car.
Book your bus from Riga to Tartu online here.
The third of the smallest Baltic states, Lithuania, is definitely worth visiting. It’s pretty subjective but in our opinion Vilnius is simply more beautiful than Riga. In contrary to Tallinn and Riga, it’s located on the mainland, far away from the Baltic Sea.
You will need about 4 hours to get from Riga to Vilnius. If you leave Riga at night / early in the morning, you will have enough time for Vilnius sightseeing, and coming back to Latvia in the same day. If you want to use the public transport, the best is to take Vilnius Riga bus. There is no direct Riga Vilnius train.
Book your Riga to Vilnius bus bus online here.
Even though you can organize this day trip by yourself, it’s so much easier to join guided tour from Riga to Vilnius. You will have a chance to visit the famous Hill of Crosses on your way.
Book your Vilnius Riga online here.
Riga to Kaunas
Kaunas is Vilnius’s little brother, it’s the second largest city of Lithuania. There are plenty of things to do there, including visiting the castle (the photo below), wandering around the old city, and Ninth Forth. Driving there is very easy. If you prefer traveling by public transport, take a bus from Riga to Kaunas. There is no direct train between these two cities.
Book your tickets for bus Riga Kaunas online here.
Where to Stay Riga?
Riverside Hotel Riga is the lovely 3-star hotel, situated only 15 minutes from the Old Town. You will find there everything that you need: comfy bed, good WiFi and the parking. The breakfast is delicious and the staff will make you feel like home.
Check out latest prices for Gallery Park Hotel & Spa–> here.
Riga spa hotel
If you like boutique, luxurious hotels, consider staying at Gallery Park Hotel & Spa (our full review here). It’s located in the heart of the city, and it’s a must-stay for all the history and art lovers. There are many Riga activities around, so you will have everything you need at your fingertips.
Check out latest prices for Gallery Park Hotel & Spa–> here.
Riga airport hotel
If you are looking for hotels near Riga airport, check out Sky High Hotel Airport. It’s a cozy and budget friendly place, located right next to the airport, you can easily walk there.
Check out latest prices for Sky High Hotel Airport–> here.
Disclosure: We want to thank Riverside Hotel, and Gallery Park Hotel & Spa for complimentary stays. All opinions presented in this post are honest and our own.