In recent years, Riga has grown in popularity as a weekend city break destination and I can totally see why after spending a fun filled weekend there in December. There is so much to see and most of the sites are in and around the UNESCO protected Old Town and all in easy walking distance of each other, so wrap up well, get your comfortable shoes on and have a read of my 6 reasons to visit Latvia’s stunning capital city.
6 Reasons to visit Latvia
1 Budget Friendly
It’s no secret I love to travel and I try to get away as often as I can, however since I’m usually travelling on a budget I always try to find cheap European city breaks and Riga certainly ticks all the boxes in this regard. Getting there was cheap and easy with Ryanair from Dublin; I paid around €80 for a return flight. There were also plenty of budget accommodation options in the old town, eating out was reasonable and entrance to some of the museums was free.
2 Riga’s Medieval Old Town
Riga’s UNESCO protected Old Town is not to be missed; at times you will feel like you are the main character in a medieval fairytale as you wander along its romantic cobblestone streets and be sure to bring your camera as you will definitely want to photograph the colourful buildings.
There is so much to see around the old town and here is my list of places not to be missed –The Three Brothers, House of the Blackheads, Swedish Gate and the City Walls, Livu Square, Dome Square and Nativity of the Christ Orthodox Cathedral (although it’s not technically in the Old Town).
3 The view from the top of St. Peter’s Church
This is one of the first things myself and my mum did in Riga and it was certainly worth the €7 entrance fee! While it was freezing in December and just about to snow the 360 degree view over the city and the Daugava River was incredible. And, the best thing about visiting the observation tower at 72 meters is that you don’t have to climb up the narrow stairs, you can grab the lift all the way up to the top, which made my mum really happy!
4 Learning about the Occupation of Latvia
Latvia has a long, fascinating and somewhat unpleasant history of occupation which you can learn about in the Museum of Occupation (free entry) located on Raina Bulvaris.
Latvia gained it’s independence twice once in 1920 and again after the break up of the USSR in 1991 and thus freedom is a big deal for most Latvian’s and right in the centre of Riga beside Vermanes Park, you will find the Freedom Monument, dedicated to the Latvian heroes who gave their lives for independence.
5 The Art Nouveau district
I have already mentioned Riga’s beautiful medieval Old Town but it’s beauty doesn’t stop there, as Riga also boasts one the biggest collection of Art Nouveau (or Art Deco) buildings in Europe.
As you wander around the city you will see examples of Art Nouveau architecture everywhere, but to really get a feel for it you need to get over to the Art Nouveau district around Elizabeth St and Albert St, it’s definitely worth a visit. And if Art Nouveau is really your thing you can also pop into the Art Nouveau museum at Alberta Street 12, entrance to the entire exhibition costs €5.
6 Warming up in cosy cafés
We visited Riga in early December and it was cold, very cold and it snowed a lot of the time we were there so finding nice warm cafés was a priority for us and Riga had plenty to choose from. Some of our favourites were All Cappucino near the Art Nouveau district (come here for the perfect instagram shot) and Parunasim (the most romantic café in Riga) beside the Three Brothers.
*7 This is a bonus reason (well 3 bonus reasons), if you are lucky to visit in Winter – Getting the chance to sip Gluwhein as you check out Riga’s famous Christmas market in Dome Square. My mum is a huge fan of Christmas and she really enjoyed the markets. Building snowmen or sledging in Vermanes Park.
Getting the chance to marvel at the beautifully decorated Christmas tree located in front in the House of the Blackheads. It is said that this was the location of the first ever decorated Christmas tree back in 1510 and German merchants visiting Riga in the 16th century brought the tradition back to Germany and it eventually spread throughout the rest of the world.
So now that you have decided to visit Riga here are some tips to help you plan your trip.
Getting there and around
Fly direct from Dublin with Ryanair to Riga airport. Taxi’s and buses are just a short journey (15 minutes) into the city centre from there and once you are in the centre you can get every where on foot. All the major sites are within easy walking distance.
Where to sleep
We stayed in St. Peter’s Boutique hotel on Peldu iela. It was in a great location near St. Peter’s Church and the House of the Blackheads. It was great value, rooms were spacious and breakfast was included. It was also close to some great restaurants and bars.
Where to eat
There is no shortage of great and reasonably priced restaurants in Riga. We are in a variety of places when we were there but we definitely had a few favourites –
Parunasim near the Three Brothers – I know I already mentioned it up above but you need to come here and try some of their delicious homemade cakes!
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs – this restaurant/bar lives up to its reputation. Food was delicious and reasonable priced. However make a reservation, especially if you plan on visiting at the weekend, it can get very busy.
Trompete – I loved this place, it was so chilled and the food was delicious. The staff were also really friendly and helpful, one of our dishes took longer then expected so they gave us a free dessert.
Hope you enjoyed reading my reasons to visit Riga. Have you ever been? What would you recommend? Let me know below.
Thank you for reading!