Riga, Latvia was the starting point and the ending point of our roadtrip through the Baltics. A number of European airlines offer convenient connections to Riga and it’s the perfect city for a short city break. It’s recently been adjudged the European of Culture and it sure lives up to that claim. Here are some of our favourite things to do, see, and eat in the capital of Latvia:
Accommodation in Riga, Latvia
We wanted to choose a special place to stay in Riga as we were celebrating Vid’s birthday there. So we picked the decadent Gallery Park Hotel Riga. The hotel is a refurbished XIX century mansion, so it’s tough to shake off the feeling of having stepped back in time. The building is bedecked with ornate chandeliers and original artworks bought from auction houses around the world. Rooms boast of vintage furniture, Persian rugs,Bvlgari toileteries, and velvet drapes. Try to choose a room in the old wing. The rooms in the new wing are modern and spacious but lack the old-worldly charm of the original rooms.
I’m not the biggest fan of sprawling breakfast buffets, so I loved the à la carte breakfast. On the subject of food, the hotel also houses one of Riga’s most famed fine-dining restaurants – Renommé. We tried a number of traditional Latvian delicacies at Renommé including black herring tartare canapés on a buttery tart crust, freshly-baked rye bread, and Latvian aspic meat. But my favourites were the flavourful salmon tartare, served in the dainty glassware and Latvian wind cake on a bed of strawberry soup. Gallery Park is for you if you’re on the lookout for a quiet, intimate, and elegant stay in Riga.
Top Tip for choosing accommodation in Riga, Latvia: Gallery Park Hotel is just a short walk away from Riga’s Old Town. We found this extremely convenient. Choose a hotel depending on your budget but make sure you’re in close proximity of the Old Town. If you’re driving, make sure you choose a hotel that offers free parking. Parking costs in downtown Riga can be astronomical
What to do in Riga, Latvia
- Walk around the Old Town : There is no better way to kickstart your time in Riga than by walking through the Old Town, laden with historical and archeological gems. Enjoy an evening stroll through cobbled alleys. Start at the Town Hall Square and set the tone for your trip to Riga by dining in one of the al-fresco restaurants that dot the streets of the Old Town.
- Take a Bike Tour : We opted for a bike tour to explore offbeat areas of Riga and spent a gorgeous afternoon cycling through parks and monuments and suburbs forgotten by time including Moscow Street, Riga’s Jewish Ghetto and cemetery, Old believers’ church, and the 1905 Soviet War monument. The bike tour offers a bit of a crash course about Riga’s history – a fun day out!
- Explore Art Nouveau Architecture: Did you know Riga’s unique Art Nouveau buildings led to its inclusion on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You’ll spot floral motifs, masks, braids, and maidens’ faces on the facades of many buildings as you walk around Riga. If you’re interested in exploring Riga’s Art Nouveau scene keep a look out for Albert Street and Elizabeth Street. A few important buildings include 2 buildings, 10a & 10b designed by architect Mihails Eizenšteins at Elizabeth Street (Elizabetes Iela) and the building of the Riga Latvian Society House at Merķeļa iela 13.
- Drive to Kemeri National Park: The countryside surrounding Riga is stunning to say the least. You will spot berry farms and woodlands almost as soon as you leave the city. If you’re in Riga for more than 2 days, we recommend renting a car and driving to the Kemeri National Park. Spend your morning walking around woodlands and lagoons. Take the bog walk and when you’re exhausted, find a picturesque picnic spot.
Where to go in Riga, Latvia
What after you’ve explored the Old Town and crossed all the recommendations found in most articles on Riga. Go off-the-beaten path and discover these gems for yourself:
- The cultural Spikerie Quarter: Riga’s Spikerie Quarter is just a fifteen minute walk away from the Old Town, yet very few tourists make it there. It’s the artsy hub of Riga and there’s always something fun going on in the area – plays, concerts, performances, exhibitions – you name it!
- Bohemian Andrejsala: Another bohemian area that is often ignored by tourists, Andrejsala is one of Riga’s secret hangouts. It’s graffiti-laden lanes are home to experimental art studios and underground bars. Andrejsala is right next to the harbour, so it’s perfect for a walk on a sunny day.
- Hipster Miera Iela : Riga’s hipster mecca, Miera Iela aka Peace Street, gained popularity when it was adjudged Europe’s most hipster area. Personally, I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But that doesn’t stop it from being great for a day out in Riga. It has some great cafés, a sprawling chocolate showroom, and a couple of gritty bars as well.
- Historical Kalnciems Quarter: Visit Kalnciems Quarter on a Saturday to see Riga’s famed wooden houses and pick some local produce at its Farmers Market.
Food & Coffee in Riga, Latvia
Here are some restaurants and cafés we loved in Riga 🙂
- We loved Rocket Bean Roastery and Cafe in Riga’s hipster mecca Miera Iela. It’s industrial vibe and freshly-roasted coffee beans will seduce you within seconds. This one is for speciality coffee lovers and coffee geeks!
- Another bohemian cafe on Miera Iela is Dad Cafe. This experimental oasis is home to art exhibits, indie gigs, and much more. Its vintage ambience and live music is perfect for a laid-back snack in the city.
- If you want to splurge on a special meal, then we’d recommend Renommé restaurant which has won several accolades for serving traditional Latvian delicacies with a contemporary twist. We opted for an intimate meal at Renommé on Vid’s birthday and loved it. Try the freshly-baked rye bread, Latvian aspic meat, and Latvian wind cake if you make it there.
- If you’re in the mood for a picnic then Baltic Supermarkets have a great array of fruits, salads, cheeses, and breads. We loved Rimi supermarket’s salad bar where you can make your own salad and pay by weight.
- Biking is intrinsic to the culture in Riga. No wonder, bikes pop up everywhere – even at restaurants! If you’re fond of quirky eateries, stop by at MIIT Cafe, which serves delicious speciality coffee. The cafe is decorated with bike parapharnelia and vintage bunting – it’s hard to go wrong at MIIT.
Packing for Riga, Latvia
Bring a picnic blanket and mosquito repellent if you intend to rent a car and explore the surrounding countryside. Pack smart casual clothes for your city break in Riga. Hop over to our article on Packing for a roadtrip in the Baltics for some ideas and fashion inspiration.
Love the sound of Riga? Plan an epic road trip around Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia
Love city breaks? Read our guide to the fairytale city of Tallinn
7 thoughts on “Baltic Road Trip: A Guide to Riga, Latvia”
Riga sounds lovely and definitely somewhere that I would love to visit one day. Stunning pictures as usual.
Thanks Jemma 🙂 Riga’s absolutely perfect for a city break
Loving your pictures. This post is making me want to book a holiday.
Thanks a ton 😀 It’s never a bad time to book a holiday!
My friend keeps asking if we can head to Latvia but I was not convinced until this post. Parts of it reminds me of Lithuania and other parts reminds me of Poland but it still holds its own and looks lovely
Hey Anosa – you should totally visit Latvia. If you want a relaxing weekend away with your friend, then look up the spa town of Jurmala in Latvia. It’s just a 15 minute drive from Riga and makes for such a great holiday 🙂