Riga City Guide
Few European cities are as quaint and homey as the Latvian capital. Riga is a fantastic mixture of ancient architecture, serene beaches and vibrant modern entertainment. Contemporary festivals, city-wide cultural events, as well as international dining and shopping offers, are only some of the many things visitors can expect to find in this compact and chilled-out city.
Sightseeing in historical Riga
The Old Town of Riga has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO and is the most popular spot for sightseeing tourists. With its cobbled streets and rows of period houses, all painted in different colours, this quarter is a real charmer. Many of the historic buildings have been beautifully preserved in their original state while others have been faithfully restored after getting destroyed during WWII. The beautiful Town Hall, the Nativity of Christ Cathedral and St Peter's Church are among some of the most famous landmarks.
The oldest surviving stone houses in the Old Town are known as the Three Brothers. Centuries ago the three quaint homes belonged to merchants and craftsmen. Today one of them houses the Museum of Architecture. Another striking historic building is the House of the Blackheads which boasts an ornate façade and lavish interiors. Built as a banqueting house for Riga's medieval merchants' guild, today the house hosts cultural events, concerts and exhibitions.
The New Town is the other historical quarter in the city. Although much younger than the old town, it is just as breathtaking. The main attraction here are the ornate Art Nouveau houses built in the early 20th century. Stroll down the streets and admire the façades elaborately decorated with stucco figures and ornaments.
A leisurely stroll around the Old and the New Towns is quite enjoyable in itself, but if you book a tour with a local guide, you can also learn about the heritage of the city and the people who have inhabited it over the centuries. When you get tired, grab a bite at one of the many open-air cafés and restaurants at Dome Square – if you come at dinnertime, you can also enjoy live music at some establishments.
Modern attractions and entertainment
Not all is history in old Riga. Take a stroll down Miera Street, a favourite hangout for hipsters, and while in the area pop into the Laima Chocolate Museum. Opened by the largest chocolate producer in the country, the museum offers insight into chocolate making and is also a great stop for sweet treats. Later on, check out the exhibitions at the Arseals Gallery, which specialises in modern and contemporary artworks by local artists, or watch indie and art films at the K. Suns Cinema.
For a shopping spree head to the Bergs Bazaar, the retail quarter of Riga where both international and local brands compete for your attention and money. Make sure to save some energy for the evening, too. A plethora of hidden, underground bars and cosy, traditional breweries, make Riga a great city to explore even after dark. Lots of venues offer live music along with meals and drinks, so your entertainment is guaranteed.
When you get famished, you have plenty of choices. From Japanese and Middle Eastern to Italian fare, there are restaurants in Riga serving food from all over the world. Of course, it would be a shame not to sample traditional delicacies and when it comes to regional fare, a popular choice would be one of the LIDO restaurants. This local chain specialises in Latvian cuisine and beers brewed on-site. Foodies will also find the Riga Central Market a real delight to explore. Located a stone's throw away from the River Daugava, the market is the best spot for browsing a variety of locally grown foods and freshly caught seafood as well as exotic ingredients from distant lands.
A short stroll from the Central Market will take you to the Spikeri Quarter. Its 19th-century brick warehouses have been transformed into restaurants, offices and cultural venues hosting music, theatre, cinema, dance and fine art events throughout the year. The quarter is especially lively during annual festivals. As for the latter, some of the events that make it worth visiting Riga include the Riga City Festival, a maritime parade of tall ships, and the White Night Festival, a city-wide event that includes a variety of happenings ranging from concerts to installations. The Night of Museums and the Riga Restaurant Week are also worth checking out.
On the outskirts of Riga, you can find kilometres of white sandy stretches flanked by pine forest. This is not a Mediterranean destination, so it's hardly surprising that these beaches are crowd-free and serene. The water and sand are safe and clean, and while you might not catch much of a tan you can enjoy a very relaxing day out. Riga simply offers you a city and a beach break in one!