Not sure even what to expect? Let me give you a very short introduction.
Riga is an old city, dating back to 1201. The old town of Riga has quite a few well preserved historical buildings, which mkakes it into a really beautiful place. More than half a million are living there. It’s a big city (bigger than Amsterdam and Paris), but it’s also monocentric city, so you don’t really need to move around too much to get things done.
For many Riga is the only place they visit in Latvia, but I urge you to go and see more of Latvia.
Many of the most beautiful places are reachable in one day. And some of them I have mentioned also in this article as day trip ideas. But now let me tell you what, in my opinion, are some of the top things you can do in Riga!
Top Things to Do in Riga
1. Go for a Stroll in Riga Old Town
Riga Old Town is beautiful. Apart from being the most central area of Riga, I will also add that it’s the prettiest one, too. Around 1 kilometer long and wide it’s a great place where to wander around for a while. And it doesn’t really matter, whether it’s a sunny day or it’s raining, is it winter or summer, morning or evening. It’s clearly one of the top things to do in Riga and something you can do at any time. And thanks to all the history and beauty around you it doesn’t really get boring.
If it does get boring – go to some of the many cafes, bars or restaurants scattered all around you. Or head somewhere else. You are in the very heart of the city, and from here you can get everywhere.
2. Head Over to St. Peter’s Church Tower and Have a Look at Riga from Above
When there is such an option we always try to get somewhere higher to look at the place, where we are, from a different perspective. Situated in the old town, St. Peter’s Church is one of the few places in Riga, from where you can get a nice panoramic city view from above. Admission fee, though, is high for Riga – 11 euro. But, well, you aren’t doing it every day, right?
For some time already it’s among the top 10 things to do in Riga also on Tripadvisor (as voted by users).
Open from Tuesday until Sunday.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: For travelers to Latvia we recommend World Nomads Explorer Package!
3. Drink a Coffee (or Dine) at d’Arte Terrace
Dine with a great view. d’Arte Terrace is an Italian restaurant situated on the roof of the Galleria Riga shopping mall, only a few blocks away from the Riga Old Town.
Alternatively – you can go there just to have a look at Riga from above. The terrace is publicly accessible for free.
4. Go and Check Out Riga Central Market
Just next to the Riga Old Town is Riga Coach Station, and next to coach station – over the canal – Riga Central Market, one of the Europe’s biggest outdoor markets. It’s definitely not a place, where to shop for quality clothes or shoes, but go there if you need vegetables, fruits, meat or fish. Most of that there is fresh and comes from local farms.
And even if you don’t want to buy anything, go there just to soak in that special atmosphere, in a way mix of Western and Eastern European cultures.
If you want to buy quality goods, Stockmann Shopping Centre is just around the corner. And Origo – a cheaper alternative – as well. And, well, then there is Galerija Centrs shopping mall in the Riga Old Town and Galerija Riga – 10 minute walk away.
5. Relax on the Bench at Daugava Promenade
You can’t miss river Daugava when you are in Riga. It flows through Riga separating the city into 2 parts. One big part of the riverside in the central part of Riga is suitable for walks. I would highly recommend you to head to the part on the left from the Riga Railway Bridge (if you look at river Daugava and Riga Old Town is behind you).
Riga Railway Bridge is an arch railroad bridge, clearly visible from a distance.
6. Shop at Latgalite Flea Market
Like I told you – Riga is monocentric. Everything is close to each to other. And Latgalite flea market or as it’s locally called Latgalīte is next to Riga Central Market. Some 15 years ago it was a pretty dodgy area, now things are better. Though, it may still shock you. In Latgalite you can buy all kind of things, from old vinyl records, second hand bicycles and war relics to iPhones.
Be careful with the latter and all the expensive stuff in general – they might be stolen.
7. Go on a Short Boat Trip (Canal or River)
If you want to choose one, my vote goes for a canal boat trip. Because I like city canals. And here in this situation it means you’ll see both – canal and river Daugava. It’s surely one of the top things to do in Riga. Of course, things can change. So if you really want to see both – canal and river, ask about the route the boat is going to take before buying the ticket. River boat trips start from the riverside opposite Riga Old Town, but canal boat trips – from the Bastion Hill, on the opposite side of old town.
8. Go Kayaking in Riga
Are you ready for some exercise? Then don’t take a boat trip and go kayaking. You’ll have a chance to see all the same things, and from yet another perspective. There are several options you can find online. I can recommend you to go with Luzumpunkts or Laivinieks. Oh, and yes, you can also go on a night kayak tour in Riga, several companies are offering it.
9. Walk the Albert Street – Riga’s Art Nouveau Gem
It’s not the only place in Riga where you can spot Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, but it’s clearly among the best and it’s just a short walk away from the old town. Beautiful, charming and unique historical buildings are waiting for you to come and look at them. Experts call this street Riga’s Art Nouveau gem.
10. Visit Agenskalns
Agenskalns is an old neighbourhood of Riga, with houses mainly built in the late 19th – early 20th century. Interesting place because of its well preserved historical architecture. Few of the most notable places: Agenskalns Market, Latvian Railway History Museum, Kalnciema Quarter and Victory Park. Speaking about Kalnciema Quarter, lately it has become a very popular place and many cultural events are being organized there.
Agenskalns is located on the left bank of Daugava – the opposite side to where all the other already mentioned places are.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: For travelers to Latvia we recommend World Nomads Explorer Package!
11. Go to Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia
What was life several centuries ago in Latvia like? How do the houses looked back then? How do people were dressing? What did they do and how did they live? Answers to these questions you will find out in this museum.
12. Learn More About Latvia’s History at the KGB House, File No.1914/2014
About some of the darkest times of Latvia’s history, to be exact.
Starting from 1940 (from the Soviet occupation) this building was Soviet political secret police – KGB’s – headquarter in Latvia. People were being tortured, both physically and psychologically, and killed there. And it was also used as a prison. Now you have a chance to walk through the same corridors, rooms, interrogation chambers together with a knowledgeable guide and learn more about something people back then feared even to think about.
Watch this video made by Made of Journeys to learn more about this place:
13. Visit Laima Chocolate Museum
Mmm, that’s a tasty experience! Learn more about chocolate and try some of the best at the museum operated by Latvia’s biggest confectioner Laima. Go there if you are traveling with kids. And go there, if you are alone, too.
Another cool museum in Riga – Riga Motor Museum. In this recently renovated museum you can see quite a few antique motorized vehicles.
14. Have Fun at Livu Water Park
Opened to visitors since 2003, Livu Water Park (in Latvian Līvu Akvaparks) is the biggest water amusement park in Latvia and one of the biggest in Northern Europe. There are more than 20 different slides, more than 10 pools, few saunas, cold pool, salt chamber and several jacuzzi in the park. As well as cafe and bar in the pool.
Learn more about Livu Water Park and how to get there from Riga on their website!
15. Chill Out at One of the Riga’s Parks
Riga is a green city. Many parks are dotted throughout the city.
Some of the best and most popular ones are Vermanes Garden Park, Mezaparks, Kronvalda park, Bastion Hill, Victory Park and Lucavsala. The latter actually is an island on the river Daugava, about 5 kilometers away from the Riga Old Town. You can get there using city bus.
16. Go to Mezaparks
Mezaparks is one of the greenest and most prestigious neighborhoods in Riga. One big part of it is a park, also called Mezaparks (Mežaparks). Translated literary Mezaparks means forest park. And that’s exactly what it is – a big forest turned into a park. Great place for walks, cycling, roller skating and swimming. Lake Kisezers is located there as well. And Riga Zoo is just at its beginning, next to the tram and bus stops.
Getting to Mezaparks: take a tram 11, from somewhere in the city center, and go until the stop called Mežaparks, it’s the one before the last stop. Journey from the old town takes about 40 minutes.
17. Check Out One of Riga’s Quest Rooms
Or maybe not just one, because there are more than a few. Just google “Riga’s Quest Rooms”!
What is a quest room? It’s an adventure game, where players should solve a series of puzzles, using only logic and teamwork, in order to win the game and get out of the room.
18. Go and Fly at Aerodium
Aerodium is one of the world’s leading companies manufacturing vertical wind tunnels, and they are from Latvia. Not surprisingly they have installed one wind tunnel in Latvia as well. And you can fly there. It’s not exactly in Riga, but close to a nearby town called Sigulda. And still accessible within an hour using public transportation or car.
To book a flight and find out how to get there, check out their website!
19. Invite Your Friends for a Paintball Battle
Paintball or laser paintball, also called laser tag? You can do both in Riga.
20. Go Ice Skating
Visiting Latvia during the winter, chances are pretty high you’ll notice at least a couple of public ice rinks. Often these can be used for free. You only need to rent a pair of skates. As I suppose you will not be traveling with yours. If you don’t see one and you want to go ice skating, ask someone!
There is one ice skating rink every winter by the Lido Restaurant – 76 Krasta Street, Riga.
21. Try Latvian Cuisine at One of the Lido Restaurants
Lido is a restaurant chain in Latvia. And if you want to try Latvian cuisine it’s one of the best places, where to do it in Riga. You can’t go wrong ordering just anything. However, if you need some ideas, I can recommend you to try: grey peas with speck, mashed potatoes with cottage cheese and herring, soup solyanka or some of the cold soups, pilaf (plovs).
22. Go to the Beach
In Riga you are always less than an hour bus ride away from the beach. Baltic sea is easily accessible using public transportation. And there are buses running from Riga city center all the way to the sea. So you don’t even need to change a bus. But don’t forget that Latvia is a Nothern European country and so you can’t really go swimming in autumn or spring. But if you are traveling to Riga in summer it would be a shame not to visit the seaside.
Two of the nearest beaches to Riga are Vecaki and Vakarbulli. Riga city bus number 24 goes to Vecaki, number 3 – to Vakarbulli. Buy the ticket in advance! Or even better, if you are planning to do something more than just going to the beach, buy a 24-hour ticket!
23. Go Paddleboarding or Wakeboarding in Riga
Paddleboarding and wakeboarding both are activities you can do close to the Riga city center.
Riga Wake Park is the place you are looking for, and it’s on the Lucavsala island. Only 5 kilometers away from the Riga Old Town. Public buses are going there or you can also walk there.
See it’s location on Google Maps!
24. Cycle from Riga to Jurmala
And another sporty activity to do in Riga – what about a cycle to the beach? Jurmala is another great option, if you want to go to the beach from Riga. It’s actually the best option, if you want to do something more than just lie on the sand and sunbath. There are always some restaurant or cafe not too far away. It’s also the most popular resort city in Latvia.
And you can get there by bike in about 2 hours. Simply following the Riga – Jurmala bikeway. It’s about 30 kilometers long ride one way. In case you change your mind and don’t want to cycle back, you can always take a train back.
Where to get a bike? Rent it. Look for Sixt public bicycle rental stands! This bicycle rental company is one of the best ones in Riga.
25. Go on a Day Trip to Sigulda or Cesis
Or visit both of these tows if you have enough time.
If that’s just a walk around the city for a couple of hours (these towns aren’t big), that you are interested into, then you can even manage to visit both of them in a single day. Leave Riga with the first bus or train and go to Cesis first, as it’s further away! Walk around there for a few hours and take a train to Sigulda. Both of them are in the same direction, and you will be passing through Sigulda, when going to Cesis by train.
You can also take a bus. But if you are traveling to Sigulda by bus, note that not all of the buses are actually entering the town. Some stop on the highway, 2 kilometers away from the town center.
Are you looking for some more things to do in Riga? Need a guide? Check out these tours and this list of activities!
Do you have some questions about traveling to Latvia? Need some more recommendations about things to do in Riga or in Latvia? Do not hesitate to contact us!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.