The decision to fly to Riga was, to be honest, very spontaneous. We had a few rainy and not very promising weekends ahead of us and what better way to escape it all? We were browsing the internet when we came across a super bargain: a weekend trip to Riga! 💗
Unfortunately, our trip to Riga didn’t get off to the best start, as our flight was delayed by 5 hours, so we didn’t arrive in Latvia’s capital until Friday night and just fell into bed tired. 😴 In return, we were treated to a breathtaking view from our hotel Bellevue Park Hotel Riga, and an excellent breakfast the next morning. So the annoyance of the previous day was gone in a flash and we could finally get going!
Walking tour through the historic Old Town 👣
If you travel to Riga, you definitely can’t miss a visit to Riga’s Old Town. It is THE highlight of the city and resembles a huge open-air museum full of beautiful well-preserved buildings from the times of the Hanseatic League, Communism, Gothic, and Art Nouveau. You will discover Russian and Scandinavian influences everywhere. Altogether, this makes the old town incredibly exciting, so that it has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and was also named European Capital of Culture in 2014.🏅
Be sure to stroll through Riga’s historic center, through the cobbled streets, across the town hall square, and treat yourself to a hot drink in one of the many cozy cafes. For a leisurely walk through Riga and the Old Town, you should allow about 2 to 3 hours. The old town is quite manageable and you can easily drift around. To be honest, we wandered through the streets quite haphazardly, but sometimes that’s exactly what makes it fun because you get to know the city on your own and have the opportunity to discover hidden things. Otherwise, you can orientate yourself well on the most important sights of Riga.
We started our tour at the Stone Bridge that crosses the Daugava River. From there, in just a few meters, you are at St. Peter’s Church, Riga’s highest church. ⛪ Surprisingly, not far from the church, there is a bronze statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, which was given as a gift from the partner city of Bremen.
Keeping to the left, you will reach the Gothic House of the Blackheads on the Town Hall Square. It is the jewel of the city and impressed us with its richly designed red facade of the brick building. 😍 If you look closely, you will discover a whole row of city coats of arms of the Hanseatic cities of Riga, Bremen, Lübeck and Hamburg.
Just drift north from there, and you’ll next reach the Riga Cathedral and finally the Three Brothers, Riga’s oldest houses from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Along the river you will also find the Riga Castle, to which you can take a short walk. It is the seat of the President of Latvia, so unfortunately you can’t visit it.
Tip: Warm up near the cathedral in the romantic cafe Parunasim kafe’teeka. The cafe is so lovingly and quaintly decorated, really to fall in love. 💕 During our visit, there was no drink menu, but a nice waitress who offered us the drinks of the day. We had winter mulled wine creations that were totally delicious. Absolutely worth a visit! 🍷
Last but not least, you should pay a visit to Swedish Gate, the only preserved historic city gate, and the Powder Tower. From the nearby park with Bastion Hill you have a good view of the tower and also of the imposing Freedom Monument, the landmark of Riga. The column on the Great Square rises more than 30 meters into the sky and is a popular meeting place for the people of Riga. 👫
Tip: For a great view in the warm, head to the Skyline Bar at the Radisson Blu Latvija. It’s located right behind the Freedom Monument and also takes you past the pretty Russian Orthodox Cathedral. We enjoyed the view with a drink and ended our evening there with candlelight and twinkling street lights. Surely it is not one of the most favorable viewpoints but just special. 🕯✨
In the belly of Riga – the Central Market 🍖
Foodies take note: you are looking for regional Latvian products? Then be sure to stop by Riga’s Central Market, the so-called belly of the city. Riga’s largest and most important food market is housed in five historic Zeppelin halls and is located about a 15-minute walk from the Old Town. Each hall has its own focus: vegetables 🍅, fish 🐟, meat 🍗, dairy products 🍯 , and cheese 🧀. You can spend hours here sampling your way through Latvian goodies at unbeatable prices. I am a pudding lover and have also tried the fresh pudding cakes there – mmmmh heavenly! 😍
Tip: Speaking of sweet treats, Latvia’s largest confectionery manufacturer Laima is also headquartered in Riga. You’ll notice the small chocolate stores and especially the big clock at the Freedom Monument every now and then. The delicious chocolates are perfect for a sweet souvenir, don’t you think? 🍫
In the evening: pub crawl 🍺
Riga is a food lover’s and night owl’s paradise, with plenty of restaurants and bars offering super tasty food and drink, all at reasonable prices. 💰 The perfect start is at Folk Klubs Ala Pagrabs, a mix of bar and restaurant near St. Peter’s Church – good craft beer, great food, and a terrific atmosphere in the vaulted cellar. We had traditional meatballs with sauerkraut and Latvian peas in a loaf of bread – exceptional and very tasty! 👌
Next stop: the Shot Café, there is a huge selection of shots and cocktails here, so just try through the menu or ask the nice waitresses for a recommendation, definitely worth a visit.🍹
Last but not least, the I Love You Bar 💗, honestly I was a bit skeptical about what to expect with that name 😅, but we had a really fun time at this bar.
Tip: Be sure to try the national liquor Black Balsam in one of the bars, because if you haven’t tried Riga Black, you haven’t been to Riga! (…that’s how Latvians say it. 😏) The nice bartender at I Love You Bar introduced us to the different flavors of the herbal liquor. Our favorite is the Black Currant variety, which we also bought as a souvenir.
Riga Summary 🏰
The Baltic pearl is perfect for a short weekend trip and definitely worth a visit. Riga has a lot to offer for both foodies and culture-loving travelers. Have you got a taste for Riga or are you curious about the rest of the Baltic States? You are also welcome to check out my tips for Estonia’s capital Tallinn.