Riga is a relatively small city packed with quirky things that you could spend months exploring. It’s the biggest city in the Baltic states and a growing hub for travellers from EU countries thanks to cheap flight connections. They come for affordable vacation opportunities and are blown away by what they see. As they traverse the city streets, gothic townhouses melt into chich, Art Nouveau homes and are quickly replaced by austere, concrete blocks.
Because of the city’s many faces, it’s hard to capture Riga’s essence in a catchy slogan. Its streets may appear dead and quiet at night, but turn around the corner, and you’ll find a cellar pub packed to the gills with young folks. The city’s population is youthful, and you’ll see people well into their middle ages having fun in these crowds. They’re constantly working to bring fresh ideas to their hometown in the form of restaurants, pop-ups and exhibitions. There are plenty of things to do in Riga that suit a huge variety of interests.
- Riga, Latvia
- 20 Things To Do In Riga
- 1- Visit The Old Town
- 2- See The House Of The Blackheads
- 3- Taste Latvian Food On A Budget
- 4- Catch A Sports Match
- 5- See Riga’s Art Nouveau District
- 6- Learn About Art Nouveau Architecture
- 7- Visit The Biggest Bazaar You’ll Ever See
- 8- Take A Spa Day By The Sea
- 9- See The World…In Hats
- 10- Visit Local Churches
- 11- Taste The (In)famous Black Balsam
- 12- Enjoy Riga’s Quality Pub Culture
- 13- Wander The Many Parks And Green Spaces
- 14- See The National Library
- 15- Pay Respects To The Viktor Tsoi Memorial
- 16- Go To An Event At Spikeri
- 17- Escape The Touristy Center For Some Wooden Houses
- 18- Visit Stura Maja
- 19- Visit The National Art Museum
- 20- Catch Breathtaking Views Of The Baltic Sea
20 Things To Do In Riga
1- Visit The Old Town
Downtown Riga has one of Europe’s finest old towns.
It’s home to a wide range of colourful pieces of medieval architecture crowding over narrow, cobblestone streets.
You can see the development of the city’s architectural style best by seeing the Three Brothers.
They’re a group of three tenement houses, some of the oldest in the city, built in three different periods of development.
If you’re backpacking, there’s a good chance your hostel or Airbnb is located in the old town.
You’ll find plenty of things to do at night when the museums close, as the area is a party hub.
People crowd into huge, underground pubs at night like Ala Pagrabs. Don’t worry– there’s space for everyone in these huge beer cellars!
Only in Riga for a short time? Consider a walking tour to get the essence and history of the place.
The Three Brothers are located at Mazā Pils iela 19, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia. Ala Pagrabs is at Peldu iela 19, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
Recommended tour: Classic Old Town Walking Tour
2- See The House Of The Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads is one of Old Riga’s most defining buildings and a drawcard for visitors.
This manor gives a glimpse into the city’s past as a trade hub.
Built in the 14th century, the house was a meeting place for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, a merchant guild in Latvia, Estonia and Northern Germany.
The building was tragically destroyed in WWII, but fortunately, it has been restored to its former glory.
You can visit the place and admire the rooms once occupied by the most prominent businessmen in the region.
Fun fact: Look for a plaque on the ground in the square outside. It claims that, in 1510, the first public Christmas tree in the world was erected here.
The House of the Blackheads is at Rātslaukums 7, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia. Skip the line and book your tickets here.
3- Taste Latvian Food On A Budget
Finding authentic local food in many European cities is not easy and Riga. If you don’t know where to go, you’ll end up in touristy spots with high prices and just average food.
Riga’s old town is littered with places like that, but there’s one saving grace.
A small restaurant chain called Lido is a great place to try local food for low prices.
There are a few locations around town, so it’s usually less than 10 minutes away on foot.
They serve dozens of wonderful dishes, soups, salads, and desserts cafeteria-style, so just point to what you want, and you’ll be eating in minutes.
Whatever you get, save room for their rye bread pudding. Yes, you read that right. It’s one of the most unique Latvian treats, and you can find it at Lido. If you’d like to try a few places, this culture and food tasting tour is great.
4- Catch A Sports Match
Latvia exports a lot of basketball and hockey players, but plenty stay and fill club and national team rosters on the home front.
They’re the two most popular sports in the country, and clubs amass huge followings of dedicated fans.
When visiting Riga, you can catch a local match from the comfort of a pub or get the real deal in person.
Riga Dinamo is the local hockey club. They once competed internationally in the KHL but currently play other Latvian teams in the OHL.
VEF Riga is the team to follow for basketball. The nine-time Latvian Basketball League champions are a local favourite.
Book a ticket if your visit coincides with a national hockey or basketball team match.
All games, including club or national, hockey or basketball, occur at Arena Riga.
Check their calendar to see what events are coming to town.
Arena Riga is located at Skanstes iela 21, Vidzemes priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1013, Latvia.
5- See Riga’s Art Nouveau District
Art Nouveau is a style of architecture and design that originated in France at the beginning of the 20th century.
It quickly spread to other European countries, with quirky, new buildings popping up in traditional neighbourhoods.
Riga was one of the cities where the style got a strong foothold, and designers built hundreds of buildings in this way.
You can find decadent facades all around the city, but to find the most immersive spots, visit Alberta Iela, a street not too far from the old town.
Here, you’ll see pastel-coloured buildings with stone faces, animals and patterns poking out of them.
The best Art Nouveau houses are located at Alberta iela 12, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia. This Art Nouveau walking tour will make it easy for you to explore.
6- Learn About Art Nouveau Architecture
In the same neighbourhood as the Art Nouveau homes, you’ll find a museum where you can learn about the style and its significance in Riga.
You’ll learn about the historical context which led to the explosive growth of the style in the city.
Riga came upon prosperous economic times at the turn of the 20th century and invested in beautifying the city.
The museum is also a guide to the best examples of the style outside the city centre, so you can save locations and go hunt them down on your own.
Finally, you can learn about prominent designers in the city as the museum commemorates their work.
The Riga Art Nouveau Museum is at Alberta iela 12, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia.
7- Visit The Biggest Bazaar You’ll Ever See
Riga’s Central Market is one of the biggest in Europe. They sell just about everything you need and have plenty of things to offer visitors.
If you’re staying in Riga longer, it’s a great place to pick up fresh produce, meat, cheese and more.
Browse the stalls spread across several former hangars and find local beers, spirits and fresh baked goods.
Look for homely little restaurant stalls offering local and Russian dishes for extremely low prices.
If you’re taking a bus out of the city early in the morning, chances are it’ll pick you up in front of the market.
Come early to get some piping hot samsa from one of the many Uzbek bakeries in the market.
The Riga Central Market is at Nēģu iela 7, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
8- Take A Spa Day By The Sea
Jūrmala is a town close to Riga but the landscape is different as it’s situated on the Baltic Sea coast.
It’s famous among older generations as a highly-sought sanatorium town in the Soviet Union.
Families from all over would take their hard-earned vacation time at one of the town’s spa resorts, some of which are still in operation.
There are also a few new ones with more modern facilities.
Prices are quite affordable compared to resorts in Western Europe, with room prices as low as €30 per night.
Spa Sanatorium Belorusija is a beautiful example of one of their old sanatoriums that are still running today.
You can book an all-inclusive package or just a few hours at the spa.
Spa Sanatorium Belorusija is located at Bulduru prospekts 4/8, Jurmala, LV-2010, Latvia. The Soul of the Baltic Sea is a relaxing tour of Jurmala’s beaches and nature.
9- See The World…In Hats
If you want to explore the world but don’t have the money, this museum has got you covered.
Ethnic Museum “The World of Hat” is a gallery of traditional hats from around the world.
These hats come from around the world, including places like Spain, Kyrgyzstan, The Congo, Cambodia, and even Latvia.
Each hat has a story about how it’s made and its purpose.
They often have religious importance or are worn in special ceremonies or holidays.
See the museum’s collection online and plan your visit.
Ethnic Museum “The World of Hat” is located at the inner court, Vīlandes iela 7-12 entrance from, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia.
10- Visit Local Churches
The city has several beautiful churches.
You can find several orthodox Christian churches in the city and countryside, but in the old town, there are many Catholic and Protestant churches too.
The old town is especially exciting for this because you can see the different styles based on denominations and the periods in which they were built.
Don’t miss St. Peter’s Church. You’ll notice it from its tall, centred steeple.
A few streets over is St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, an entirely different place with a lovely red brick exterior and pointed steeples.
Venture out of the old town a little bit for some newer but equally impressive religious architecture.
The Nativity of Christ Orthodox Church stands mighty over one of the main boulevards with its big, gold dome.
There’s a park nearby from which you can admire the church’s exterior.
St. Peter’s Church is located at Reformācijas Laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
St. Saviour’s Anglican Church is located at Anglikāņu street, Anglikāņu iela 2, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
The Orthodox church is located at Brīvības bulvāris 23, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
11- Taste The (In)famous Black Balsam
There’s a special alcoholic drink made in Riga that you may want to try but it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Riga Black Balsam is a local spirit that dates back to the 1750s.
Back then, it was used as a cold and flu remedy, and legend has it that it once cured Catherine the Great, who fell seriously ill on a visit to Riga.
The drink is made from dozens of different herbs that, when combined, make this thick, black liquid.
It’s extremely bitter and isn’t consumed straight.
The beauty of balsam is that it can be used in many ways.
Latvians mix it into hot beverages like tea or blueberry juice in the wintertime. Some even drizzle it over ice cream. There’s no wrong way to have it.
Nearly every bar, supermarket, and convenience store in Latvia sell black balsam.
They’ve even made new flavours like coffee and cherry, but get a 100ml-sized bottle for your first time just to make sure it’s the right drink for you.
12- Enjoy Riga’s Quality Pub Culture
Like many Central and Eastern European cities, Riga has gained an unfair reputation as a party heaven.
Tourists come to the city in droves on €15 Ryanair flights and go wild in the old town’s pubs with prices considerably lower than back home.
British stag parties pop off around the city in certain months.
You have plenty of options if you fancy getting a drink in Riga but prefer to avoid parties.
Head out of the old town, and you’ll find dozens of cozy little places where locals spend their evenings.
Taka Alus bars is a nice place to start with its wide selection of drinks and quiet, inviting atmosphere.
Go a little further down the street, and you’ll find Labietis, the premier craft brewery in Latvia.
They have a big taproom where you can try their beers for good prices. They also have a minibar in the Central Market.
Taka Alus Bars is located at Miera iela 10, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1001, Latvia. Labietis is located at Aristida Briāna iela 9a, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1001, Latvia. You may also like this beer and cider bike tour.
13- Wander The Many Parks And Green Spaces
Riga has a super warm, inviting atmosphere despite chilly temperatures most of the year.
That’s thanks to the ample green spaces the city has allotted over the years.
They’re lovely places to walk, sit and take a break from sightseeing.
One of the most prominent spots is Bastejkalna Park, which runs along the Pilsetas Canal outside the old town.
You can easily spend an hour walking up and down the park’s length, the trails spill over into the even bigger Kronvalda Park.
If you have some more time in Riga, head to Meza Park.
It has several acres of forest trails, fields for picnics, cemeteries, and a memorial complex.
Here is the site of Mother Latvia, a huge statue dedicated to the national matriarch.
Meza Park is located at Aizsaules iela 1b, Ziemeļu rajons, Rīga, LV-1005, Latvia. You may like this sightseeing tour by canal boat.
14- See The National Library
Most attractions and city life are on the eastern banks of the Daugavs river.
However, from anywhere along the river, you’ll notice a peculiar, pointy building on the west side.
That’s the National Library, also known as the Castle of Light.
The library’s name carries a lot of significance, as the “castle of light” is a recurring theme in Latvian literature.
It represents culture and knowledge lost in society during dark times such as war, disease, or occupation– things that Latvia has become all too familiar with over its history.
The castle is meant to be “rebuilt” and with it, the knowledge and culture will be passed on after these dark times.
The library is a relatively new addition to the Riga skyline, having first opened in 2014.
Most of the library is open to the public. Check their website for the most current information.
Go inside if you have the chance–it’s one of the country’s most impressive pieces of modern architecture.
The Castle of Light is located at Mūkusalas iela 3, Zemgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1423, Latvia.
15- Pay Respects To The Viktor Tsoi Memorial
Out in the countryside, barely a 40-minute drive from Riga, is a shrine to a Russian rock icon.
Viktor Tsoi, singer-songwriter and frontman of the band Kino, met his untimely death in a car accident in this spot in 1990.
Tsoi cleverly worked around the Soviet Union’s censorship and made some of the boldest music of his contemporaries.
New generations are still discovering his songs and their messages of peace and living a life of simplicity.
Big artists like Metallica have paid tribute to Tsoi by covering his songs.
The memorial is on the side of the road in the country.
It’s not big, but there’s a statue of him plus a plaque with some info about him.
You’ll probably see flowers and photographs left by superfans before you.
The Viktor Tsoi memorial is located at P128, Sēmes pagasts, LV-3110, Latvia.
16- Go To An Event At Spikeri
Back in Riga, a lovely public space hosts tons of free events.
It’s called Spikeri, and it’s located near the Central Market.
The government recently refurbished the space and hosts everything from conventions to street festivals and summer concerts.
They also host outdoor flea markets where you can find anything your heart desires.
Hundreds of vendors set up little tables full of knick-knacks, books, and one of the best vintage clothing selections in the whole city.
Nearby, you can visit the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum, which tells the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of Latvian Jews.
The location is especially significant, as it’s on the site of the former Jewish Ghetto. Join this half-day Jewish history tour to find out more.
Spikeri is at Maskavas iela 8, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
17- Escape The Touristy Center For Some Wooden Houses
The diverse list of amazing architecture that marks Riga’s city streets is seemingly endless.
From medieval tenements and palaces to huge concrete blocks and Art Nouveau facades, it’s impossible to pinpoint one quintessential local style.
You’ll notice yet another addition to the list if you leave the city centre.
Riga (and the rest of Lativa) is full of wooden houses of all shapes, sizes, and colours.
Some are well-kept and brightly coloured, while others look haunted.
They look especially striking and out-of-place in Riga because they look like someone’s summer cottages in an urban area.
You can find lots of these houses in nearby Jurmala, but in Riga, go to the area around Turgeneva 17, a famous street art installation.
Turgeneva 17 is located at Turgeņeva iela 17, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia.
18- Visit Stura Maja
On Brivibas Street lies a peculiar house that looks like most buildings in the area.
However, this place is known as Stura Maja (or “The Corner House”) and was the headquarters of the Latvian KGB.
Thousands of suspected enemies of the state passed through these doors, and many never came out.
The site of interrogations, beatings, and sham trials led to the incarceration of countless innocent people.
These days, the house is open to the public as a museum.
Visitors can learn about how KGB officers questioned suspects and elicited forced confessions.
Stura Maja is located at Brīvības iela 61, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia.
19- Visit The National Art Museum
Latvia’s National Art Museum is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.
The fifth-floor building is home to a massive collection of the country’s artists.
While there are a fair amount of Neoclassical pieces, the bulk of the collection focuses on artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Temporary exhibits usually showcase modern art by local artists, such as the amazing sculptures of Lea Davidova-Medene or the still-life paintings of Imants Lancmanis.
Browse exhibits and see ticket info on their website.
Latvia’s National Art Museum is located at Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia. The two-day hop-on hop-off grand tour will get you there.
20- Catch Breathtaking Views Of The Baltic Sea
Riga is just out of reach of the sea.
You may feel close to the water as you feel a gentle breeze and hear seagulls overhead.
However, the coast is still a couple of miles away.
There’s no public transport to this area, but a taxi ride will be reasonably priced if you don’t have a car.
Choose which side of the river you want to be on wisely. There are no bridges, but both sides have points of interest like parks, lighthouses, and abandoned fortresses.
The Eastern river banks have a lot of abandoned Soviet military infrastructure and a small public beach.
This area is located at Saivas iela, Ziemeļu rajons, Rīga, LV-1030, Latvia.