Riga is one of the largest cities on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It stands not only at a geographical, but also cultural, cross-roads. Visitors from the east and the west alike can find suitable recreation, entertainment and impressions here. It’s no wonder that Riga has been declared the European Culture Capital of 2014. From magnificent cathedrals to fresh food markets and opera to a one-of-a-kind car museum, Riga has everything for a memorable visit. This inspiring city will make you smile!
TOP 10 must-see in Riga
1 Timeless charm
Steeped in over 800 years of history and recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Old Riga is the heart and soul of Latvia’s capital. Many nations have helped build this unique place, and famous figures from Peter the Great to Richard Wagner have spent time here. Magnificent churches, architectural masterpieces like the House of Blackheads, romantic cobblestone lanes, squares bursting with summer life and much more await you.
2 Shopping on a grand scale
For a shopping experience like no other, head to Riga’s Central Market. One of the largest markets in Europe, the vast territory is dominated by five zeppelin hangars filled with cheese, fish, smoked meat, honey, fresh fruit and vegetables and lots more superb seasonal produce. The atmosphere is friendly and filled with local colour.
3 Lady liberty
Latvians have struggled hard for their country’s independence, and the sacrifice and triumph are summed up in one magnificent work of art in Riga. Unveiled in 1935, the Freedom Monument has also played a major role in the country’s subsequent tumultuous history. The ensemble by sculptor Kārlis Zāle depicts the nation singing, working and fighting for liberty, crowned by a beautiful girl holding aloft three stars.
4 The art of the city
Riga experienced its golden age in the early 20th century just as Art Nouveau architecture was coming into fashion, and so the city has one of the world’s richest collections of this exuberant style. There are over 800 amazing Art Nouveau structures throughout the city, but the greatest concentration is on Alberta iela, a street largely built in a flurry of creativity by a single architect, Mikhail Eisenstein.
5 A treat for eyes and ears
The birthplace of stars from dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov to diva Elīna Garanča, Riga is a city with a musical soul. Nowhere is this better showcased than the Latvian National Opera and Ballet, a magnificent neo classical building dating from 1882 in the heart of town. Attend a performance, take a guided tour behind the scenes, and on a sunny day relax by the Opera Nymph fountain and enjoy the beautiful opera gardens.
6 Heavenly sounds
Almost as old as Riga itself, Doma Cathedral is the spiritual heart of the city. With construction begun by Riga’s first Bishop Albert in 1211, it has been a work in progress ever since, with Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and even Art Nouveau elements in one harmonious whole. The interior holds many works of art, and the adjacent Cloister Garden displays intriguing artefacts from Riga’s history. And don’t miss a performance on the famous organ, built in 1884 and still considered today to be one of the finest instruments in the world.
7 It takes a village
You don’t have to travel far in Riga to escape the urban bustle. Located right on the city’s doorstep, the Open Air Ethnographic Museum is a luscious lakeside park where fine examples of vernacular architecture from all over Latvia have been lovingly preserved. Step back in time by visiting peasant homes, workshops, windmills and priceless treasures like the richly ornamented Usma Church.
8 Drive into history
Just reopened after an extensive facelift, Riga Motor Museum will bring joy to the whole family. Located beside a racetrack in suburban Riga in a building resembling the front of a car, the museum houses many magnificent examples from motoring history, from Model T Fords to vehicles once owned by Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Kids will love the interactive displays.
9 Talk to the animals
Founded in 1912, Riga Zoo is the oldest in the Baltics and one of the loveliest in Europe. Set on the banks of Lake Ķīšezers, it is home to a diverse range of mammals, birds and reptiles. Kids will love the petting zoo, and the steamy Tropical House will keep you warm all year round. A visit to the zoo is perfectly combined with a stroll around Mežaparks, the heritage garden suburb next door.
10 Picture perfect
The Latvian National Museum of Art is a wonderful venue for discovering Latvia’s artistic heritage through both permanent and visiting exhibitions. And fresh from a major reconstruction, the building itself is a work of art to be savoured. Built originally in 1905, the grand neo Classical structure is a seamless blends the original grand columns, sweeping stairs and impressive murals with post-modern elements like a light-embracing glass cupola, observation deck and transparent storage areas, so you can literally see the art behind the scenes.
TOP restaurants in Riga
Thanks to a creative and enthusiastic generation of chefs, there are now numerous world-class restaurants in Latvia serving exquisite local and international cuisine. It’s high time to treat your taste buds at one of the top 10 restaurants in Riga!
Elizabetes iela 19, Rīga, LV-1010
The restaurant “Vincents” has become one of the most popular destinations of gourmets in Northern Europe and it is well known far behind the borders of Latvia.
Kalēju iela 3, Rīga, LV-1050
The first association with this restaurant: fish and fish dishes. Very many dishes from fish. Only produce grown in Latvia is included in the meals. The motto of Restorāns 3 is the taste of nature.
COD Robata grill bar
Tērbatas iela 45, Rīga, LV-1011
COD is the first robata grill restaurant in Latvia. The restaurant offers authentic Japanese cuisine with elegant contemporary additions. The central element of the menu – robata grilled dishes – highlights the essence of the Japanese cuisine and takes to a magnificent flavor trip to the east.
Tērbatas iela 2, Rīga, LV-1050
The Bibliotēka N°1 restaurant is located in the beautiful Vērmanes park in the heart of Riga. Chef Māris Jansons has created a unique “library” of contemporary Latvian cuisine, in which seasonal products of the highest quality are combined with high-level modern cooking technique and a relaxed holiday atmosphere.
Elizabetes iela 22, Rīga, LV-1050
Additionally to the classic menu, the restaurant Entresol offers 11 “knapas” – very different, small portions, hot or cold, both mild and spicy. Thus, already during your first visit to the restaurant you will be able to indulge in flavor diversity. Entresol has been created with the aroma of its motherland – France, which gives it cozy and relaxing atmosphere.
Skārņu iela 6, Rīga, LV-1050
The menu of Muusu is based on the classics of Europe providing also space for bright interpretations, seasonal accents and respect for the local goods.
Dzirnavu iela 31, Rīga, LV-1010
The Riviera restaurant’s menu combines Italian, Spanish, French and Greek culinary tastes, which are complemented by a specially designed selection of favourite Mediterranean wines.
Andrejostas iela 4, Rīga, LV-1045
The restaurant KOYA (translated from Japanese – shed) was created in a former technical building in the port of Riga, in Andrejsala near the Daugava river.
Jēkaba iela 24, Rīga, LV-1050
The atmosphere of the restaurant EQUUS is created by its open kitchen, where guests can observe dish cooking in the Josper charcoal oven. The basis of the menu is a combination of the Latvian classic and the Scandinavian cuisines. Snacks and delicacies as well as popular Spanish tapas are also offered.
Valkas iela 7, Rīga, LV-1010
The restaurant Ferma provides you with an opportunity to enjoy the local produce – dry aged Latvian beef, wild venison, Baltic salmon, shrimps grown in Latvia, as well as the Latvian culinary heritage.
Where to party?
Riga is not a small city – it’s just that everything is so close! Forget about long drives (and pricey taxis)! You can still attend several hot party venues in the Old Town all in one night by covering short distances on foot. Some of Riga’s bars are set in former factories, warehouses, music schools and other buildings that were originally built for other purposes. It’s definitely worth checking out Aristīda Briāna Street where several bars and clubs are located, including a craft brewery! Likewise, we recommend you visit Kaņepe Culture Centre, Chomsky, and Rasols. Did you know that there is a bar in Riga where you can also have your beard trimmed? Look out for Vest! We have a bar that is housed in one of the most impressive baroque architectural monuments in Riga – Latvia’s 1st Rock Café! You may be happy to know that there are clubs in Riga that are LGBT-friendly. Try Golden! Spoil yourself and order a Clavis Riga – the city’s special cocktail – at Skyline or Star Lounge – the bars are located on upper floors of hotels, offering a magnificent view of the city. Put on something special and go to some of the city’s more glamorous clubs. For instance, the Coyote Fly club has a terrace with a view of Vērmanes Park, and First has a terrace with a view of the Daugava!
Should you sense any hunger pangs after the night out, rest assured – even during the night you will easily find a place in Riga that serves chips, kebabs and burgers. You may want to visit Fontaine Deli Snack, Pica Lulu, Lauvas nams…Nightclubs in Riga cater for ages 18 and up. Likewise, alcoholic beverages are sold to persons age 18 and older. There is no entrance fee at most clubs and bars, or the fee is largely symbolic.
Getting to Latvia
Latvia is easy to reach to travellers from both West and East. Choose what transport suits you best – a plane, train, bus, car, or a ferry across the Baltic Sea. Travelling to Riga by aircraft is easy and fast – there are direct flights to Riga provided by airports in European capitals and business hubs, as well as from Russia, Israel, Turkey, etc. Or you can take a bus – there are buses travelling to Latvia from European countries, Russia, and Belarus. Travellers from Russia and Belarus can also reach Latvia by train. Finally, ferries sail to Latvia over the Baltic Sea. Whether you travel alone, with your family or friends, be it for business or pleasure, there is always a solution best suited for you.