city breaks, latvia, riga, travel

15 Things to do in Riga

March 1, 2016

Visiting Riga and stuck on what to do? Here’s my list of the top 15 things to do.

1. Visit Old TownThere’s so much to see in Riga’s Old Town. Take a lift up to St Peter’s Hall’s viewing platform and look out at the sights of Old Town from above. If you prefer to stay on the ground, take a walking tour or wander around by yourself and see what you can see. Be sure not to miss the House of Blackheads, the Cat House, the Riga Cathedral, the Swedish Gate, Dome Square, the Powder Tower and Riga Castle.

2. Go bobsleighing in Sigulda

Daytrip from Riga to Sigulda and try out this winter sport. Sigulda has one of the only Bobsleighing race courses built for tourists in the world. By bus or tram, Sigulda is one hour from Riga and the public transport is reliable. It is a beautiful town with plenty of scenic trails and extreme sports. Don’t miss out on this picturesque town if you’re in Riga for more than a few days.

3. See the Art Nouveau DistrictRiga has one of the biggest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe and even have an entire street dedicated to this kind of design. Don’t miss out on the Art Nouveau District and make sure to check out the museum while you’re there.

4. Central Market Don’t pass up the change to visit the biggest market in Europe. This is the place to stock up on cheap fruits and veggies (grown in Latvia!) or try some unusual pickled treats.

5. Latvian Academy of ScienceFor an alternative, cheaper view of the city, head up the Latvian Academy of Science to the viewing platform and look out at the glorious views of Riga.

6. Nativity CathedralVisit the largest Russian Orthodox Church in Riga but make sure you abide by the dress code. Women must cover their heads with a scarf (they’ll be provided if you don’t have any) and don’t take pictures inside. Despite these rules this Church is full of gorgeous colours inside and definitely worth seeing if you have the chance.

7. Vermanes Garden

Relax in the tea room, picnic on the grass or people watch by the various sculptures and fountains in the second oldest public garden in Riga.

8. Berga BazarHang with the locals amongst the quaint boutiques, wine bars and cosy cafes. Berga Bazar is one of the hippest, coolest places in the city so don’t miss out.

9. Visit a museumRiga has a number of cool museums to visit including the Latvian War Museum, the Museum of History and Navigation, Latvian National Museum of Art, Art Nouveau Museum and the unmissable Museum of Occupation.

10. Try Black Balsam

As soon as you get off the plane you’ll be greeted by slogans like “If you’ve not tried Black Balsam, you haven’t been to Riga!” and although I don’t usually buy into that kind of commercialised malarkey tricking tourists into alcohol consumption, I have to admit trying Black Balsam was… interesting. Originally produced as a medicine, Black Balsam is a potent vodka mixed with an unusual combination of herbs and spices. The original flavour tasted like a mixture of bleach and nail varnish remover so for a milder, more fruity taste, I’d recommend trying the blackcurrant flavour.

11. Hang out in a coffee shopRiga is one of those cities where you could quite easily waste a day lounging around in a coffee shop, watching the world from the window. For the best coffee in the city, visit Miit and make sure to grab one of their vegan snacks whilst you’re there.

12. Visit the Moscow District

See one of the poorer areas of Riga with it’s wooden houses and deteriorating art nouveau architecture and the Jewish ghetto where 29,000 Jewish people were forced to live after World War 2 ended. Although this might not be the most cheery visit it’s an interesting insight into the lives of locals.

13. Freedom MonumentThe Freedom Monument is a national shrine where people place flowers to remember those deported in Soviet times. There are also honour guards who watch the statue and change every hour from 09:00 to 18:00.

14. Daytrip to Jurmala

No matter the weather a daytrip to the beach at Jurmala is always appropriate. Half an hour from Riga and fifteen minutes away from the airport, Jurmala is a beautiful seaside resort with plenty of green spaces and parks with gorgeous wooden buildings.

15. Flower MarketRiga has a thing for flowers. Head to Tērbatas to see Riga’s biggest flower market. Even if you don’t buy anything it’s a beautiful sight to see and smells amazing.

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  • Reply Natalie Tamara March 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Ahh I loved reading this! It’s been a good ten years since I last visited Riga so I imagine it’s changed a bit but it’s such a lovely place 🙂 I’d completely forgotten about black balsam… it’s definitely an experience!

    • Reply LauraCawley March 9, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      I loved my recent visit to Riga so I’d definitely recommend visiting again!

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