More often than not, when we are abroad and when we say that we are from Latvia, people don’t know where it is. However, if they have heard about Latvia or if they have been to Latvia, all of them know about Riga. It’s a beautiful city that I would love to visit one day, they say. And for me it’s easy to understand why. Because Riga really is a beautiful city.
Read on to learn more about Riga! And why you too should visit Riga one day!
Sharon Gourlay | Where’s Sharon?
Riga is the biggest city in the Baltics, and it would be hard to skip this city on a Baltic country adventure and not just because it is in the middle of Tallinn and Vilnius. It has many attractions and is just a lovely place to hang out. We spent a week in Riga and it wasn’t enough.
What we loved most about Riga was that the central Old Town was not just beautiful but it felt more real than many of its counterparts in Europe. It wasn’t as filled with tourists and had many Latvians going about their daily lives.
There isn’t just the Old Town either. There are also areas with Nouveau architecture to explore, the Central Market, nearby Jurmala and other places to check out. We really loved just hanging out in Riga even when we didn’t do much at all. The other thing to love about Riga is that it’s very budget friendly. We were able to enjoy great food, attractions and stay in a central apartment for less than 80 euros a day for our family of four. A bargain!
Kate & Mark | Vagrants of the World
Riga surprised us even though we had no preconceived idea as to what to expect. What we found was a city with a fresh, progressive vibe set against a whimsical backdrop of fairy tale streets, astonishingly beautiful art nouveau architecture and large leafy parks. A modern and fresh cafe and bar scene and some of the best restaurants in Europe.
The Old Town with its skyline of storybook spires is a medieval maze of galleries, museums, markets, and no end of restaurants, cafes and bars. Head to the other side of town to the local market located in a series of old Zepplin hangars. Like that’s not cool enough, you can grab a fantastic seafood lunch at a great little restaurant inside the fish market.
During the summer months, Riga serves up an endless buffet of festivals allowing one to savour the best of the arts, culture and cuisine. We spent a wonderful day at the annual Riga Beer festival. Set in a large leafy park, one could sample the best traditional and craft beers as well as incredible local cuisine. Riga has a certain style about it that sets it apart from other cities we have visited.
Megan Starr | MeganStarr.com
I could name a thousand reasons to visit Riga, but one of my favorites, particularly as a food and culture lover, is Miera Iela. The street exudes coolness and ingenuity, which can be found in the shops, tea houses, and other establishments located there. Every time I visit this street (which has been every time I travel to Riga), I stumble upon a completely new experience. I have had amazing Armenian food there (which, sadly, has since moved to the Art Nouveau district of Riga), craft beers for days, and never tire of the street art on and around Miera Iela.
While a lot of Miera Iela targets the creative mind and hipster community, my very favorite thing about the street has nothing to do with the businesses there but instead the smell of the street. It smells like CHOCOLATE. The Laima factory is located on Miera Iela and depending on the direction of the wind, you are almost guaranteed to get a heavenly whiff of the stuff.
I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where you can enjoy a craft beer, gaze at street art, listen to local tunes, and smell chocolate. The experience is pretty perfect.
Sebastian Cuevas | Between Distances
Why should you go to Riga? Because of its rich culture!
Latvia is a country with a lot to offer, and in terms of culture it’s one of the most interesting places in Europe. Folklore plays a huge role in Latvian culture, and that’s why it’s so unique. You will encounter lots of manifestations of it when you visit Riga, from pre-Christian pagan symbols to traditional woven art and folk songs.
In my own experience, the most remarkable, important, and heartwarming thing about that is that locals will be really happy to tell you about their culture and traditions—which I though was very special and even reminded me of Latin America.
Riga is also a multicultural city. This Baltic capital changed hands several times over the centuries: The Teutonic Order, the Swedish and Russian Empires, and the Soviet Union (among others) all left their imprint on the city. This is mostly visible in the city’s architecture, which displays several influences and styles—from red brick Gothic to Socialist Realism.
Experiencing a new culture is one of the joys of traveling, and nowhere in Europe have I encountered such an enthusiasm to share one’s traditions with visitors like I did in Riga—and that’s why the Latvian capital is one of my favorite cities in the world. Read more about my time in Latvia!
Ruben Arribas | Gamin Traveler
I’ve been to Riga a couple of times and I can definitely recommend staying in the city when you are traveling around the Baltics. Main reasons I’ve been coming back here are: meeting amazing local people, delicious food and great scenery.
Riga is a great city with beautiful architecture, both old and also more modern – Art Nouveau. It´s a great place to walk around during the day, while visiting landmarks, museums and parks. And if you like architecture, there are no doubts this is your city to visit. It’s also surprising how great the night life is in Riga. Into history? Then Riga, my friend, is definitely your city.
One challenge, though, is that learning words in Latvian can be difficult. But since people in Latvia are naturally nice and accommodating, it’s not a problem and you can also make friends easily.
Food in Riga is good. My favorite drink in Latvia is Kefir (almost like Ayran, yogurt beverage mixed with salt) which I had every morning in Riga. Speaking more about the local dishes, they are usually cooked with pork, potatoes and cabbage – these three are always a must in Latvian meals!
Victoria Ade-Genschow | The British Berliner
You might not have ever heard of Riga, but surely you’ve seen pictures of elegant men and woman strolling arm in arm on the tiny streets of Riga, nourished by Russian glamour, and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards! I went to Riga for the very first time last year, and I was awfully impressed, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s why:
- It’s a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks, live music and celebration as well as being a medieval city that has been preserved with traces of its religious and Romanesque past.
- OMG, the architecture is impressive! Everywhere I looked was a spectacular piece of art from each and every era – art nouveau, Romanesque, gothic, and baroque.
- Riga is romantic as it still has the feel and look of centuries past. Thankfully, you can skip across the cobbled streets without the fear of getting your head chopped off!
- Riga is still pretty unknown, very Eastern Europe, and not on the backpacker / tourist run. It’s pretty cheap and is never going to break the bank. In fact, if you’re looking to go to the other Baltic States, you either have to go through Riga, start in Riga, or end in Riga!
5. You can eat like royalty – food is that cheap, you should!
I really liked Riga. It’s lovely. It’s old. It looks absolutely gorgeous. If you’re looking for the next best European city that’s safe, quiet, and away from the tourist throngs, you’ve found it!
Heather Hall | Ferreting Out the Fun
Why I think everyone should visit Riga?
Riga, Latvia is a very special place. With the world’s largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings, the city is a veritable architecture museum. But it’s the Latvian people that bring it to life. Locals sing and dance – often in traditional costumes – at festivals throughout the year.
Gardeners turn city parks into colorful landscape paintings while talented chefs work wonders with high quality local ingredients. Stage performers delight audiences at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet. Artisans fill the shops with beautiful and unique handicrafts you won’t find anywhere else. I adore Riga and know that everyone who visits will, too!
Ying Tey | The Tiny Wanderer
It’s hard to sum up all the good reasons why one should visit Riga. Riga’s known for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture, but more than that, the mysterious cobbled pathways around the old town seem to always lead to somewhere interesting! Teeming with life and vibrancy, you’ll find bars, beer gardens, cafes and eclectic boutiques everywhere.
I’m also very surprised to see well-designed cafes with fancy menus but at very affordable prices. Everything, from transport and food to accommodation and even Opera tickets, are very affordable. Most of all, locals are generally friendly and helpful when we needed help with navigating the city.
Loved Riga and can’t wait to go back!
Visiting Riga anytime soon? Read this before traveling to Riga!
If you still have some questions about traveling in Latvia, check out our other articles about Latvia!
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.