Riga in Latvia is one of the top cities to visit in the Baltic Countries and here’s a complete list of must-do things to do in Riga to help you plan your trip!
Riga is the perfect city to visit for a quick weekend away or as part of a wider Baltic / Eastern Europe trip.
I really loved my weekend in Riga because it’s such an interesting and historic city with plenty to do, as well as being really reasonable in price! I spent just a weekend in 2 days and 3 nights in Riga and found this to be the perfect amount of time to spend there to fit in all of the things to do in Riga and the top Riga tourist attractions!
Here in this Riga city guide is what I got up to in Riga including the places to visit in Riga, things to do in Riga and where to eat in Riga!
Things To Do in Riga
Discover the places to visit in Riga with rich history, stunning art nouveau architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. From the historic Old Town to unique local experiences, there’s something for everyone in Latvia’s charming capital. Dive into this guide to uncover the top things to do in Riga for an unforgettable visit to Riga!
1. Viewpoints in Riga
It’s always good to visit a city and see it from above, isn’t it? Well, Riga has 4 Awesome Panoramic Viewpoints: St Peters Church, Latvian Academy of Sciences Panorama Observation Deck, Riga Skyline Bar and National Library of Latvia.
St. Peter’s Church
At St. Peter’s Church, visitors can delve into the history of one of Riga’s most iconic landmarks. With origins dating back to the 13th century, the church stands as a testament to the city’s rich past.
The tower’s observation deck, accessible by elevator, provides a breathtaking 360-degree view, capturing the winding streets of the Old Town, the expansive Daugava River, and the city’s architectural tapestry. The experience is both visually stunning and conveniently accessible, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to see Riga from above.
Latvian Academy of Sciences Panorama Observation Deck
The Latvian Academy of Sciences Panorama Observation Deck offers a different perspective, both in terms of view and historical context.
Often referred to as “Stalin’s Birthday Cake” because of its distinctive Soviet-era architecture, the building stands out in Riga’s skyline. Visitors can ascend to the 17th floor, where the observation deck awaits, offering panoramic views of the city and a unique insight into Latvia’s history during the Soviet period.
Radisson Blu Hotel Latvia
For those seeking a more modern and stylish setting, the Riga Skyline Bar is the perfect destination to visit in Riga.
Situated on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvia, the bar features floor-to-ceiling windows, ensuring unobstructed views of Riga. Visitors can enjoy a drink while taking in the cityscape, making it a popular choice for both locals and tourists.
Fancy staying here too?? Check out rates and availability at the Radisson Blu Hotel here!
National Library of Latvia
Lastly, the National Library of Latvia, also known as the “Castle of Light,” represents a marvel of contemporary architecture. Positioned along the Daugava River, the building itself is worth exploring, with its extensive collection of books and unique architectural features.
Various spots within the library offer panoramic views of Riga, including an observation deck, providing visitors with a comprehensive experience of the city from above.
Not only do these viewpoints give awesome views of Riga but they are also really interesting buildings and take you to some great parts of the city. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply enjoying stunning views, Riga’s panoramic spots offer something for everyone, adding a valuable dimension to any visit and are one of the best things to do in Riga.
I have written a full blog post dedicated to these viewpoints which include where they are, prices, and photos from them all – 4 Viewpoints to see Panoramic Views over Riga. Check it out to get all of the details!
2. Riga Old Town
I love a European City with a beautiful Old Town and seeing photos of Riga’s Old Town definitely inspired me to want to visit.
The Old Town in Riga isn’t that big but it’s big enough and perfect to wander around taking any pretty street that you fancy! In fact, I found it quite hard to find my bearing’s in Riga’s Old Town as the streets are quite windy but this just meant that we kept seeing new areas and getting lost here should be on your things to do in Riga!
The architecture here is a delightful mix of styles, from Gothic spires reaching towards the sky to baroque facades adorned with intricate details.
In addition to its picturesque streets and historic buildings, the Old Town is also home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes, providing plenty of opportunities to take a break from your wanderings and soak in the atmosphere. The area comes alive at night, with bars and clubs offering entertainment into the early hours of the morning.
3. Three Brothers Buildings
The Three Brothers buildings in Riga are an iconic set of structures, showcasing the evolution of architectural styles over several centuries. The oldest of the trio dates back to the late 15th century, making it a genuine piece of medieval history situated right in the heart of the city and should be on your list of things to do in Riga!
Each building reflects a different architectural period. The eldest brother, located at 17 Maza Pils Street, is a gothic-style structure with its original facade well-preserved, providing visitors a glimpse into the 15th-century Riga. The middle brother, at 19 Maza Pils Street, displays Dutch Mannerism influence from the 17th century, while the youngest, at 21 Maza Pils Street, features a Baroque façade, marking the architectural trends of the 18th century.
Visitors are often drawn to these buildings not just because of their historical significance, but also due to the legend surrounding their creation. It’s believed that the buildings were erected by members of the same family at different times, adding a layer of personal history to the structures.
4. Latvian Museum of Architecture
The youngest of the Three Brothers houses the Latvian Museum of Architecture, making it a significant stop for those interested in the country’s architectural heritage.
Inside, visitors can delve into Latvia’s architectural heritage through a variety of exhibits, from blueprints and models to photographs and historical documents. The intricate exterior, with its elaborate door frame and gable roof, is a visual treat in itself, capturing the artistic essence of the era.
The museum’s collection includes drawings, photographs, and models, offering an in-depth look at Latvia’s architectural development over the centuries. While it was closed when I went but I would have loved to have visited and seen inside so try and go for me and add it onto your list of things to do in Riga!
5. House of the Blackheads
Closer to the River but still in the Old Town are these 2 impressive buildings House of the Blackheads and the adjacent St. Peter’s Church, both of which hold significant historical value and architectural magnificence, located in the heart of Riga’s Old Town.
The House of the Blackheads was originally built in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Riga. The building is renowned for its stunning Gothic architecture with Renaissance and Baroque elements, showcasing intricate façades, elaborate doorways, and a striking red-brick exterior. Inside, visitors can find opulent rooms adorned with historical artifacts, paintings, and intricate decorations, providing a glimpse into the grandeur of medieval guild life.
Adjacent to the House of the Blackheads stands St. Peter’s Church, one of Riga’s most iconic landmarks. Originally built in 1209, the church has undergone several reconstructions due to fire damage. The current structure, with its towering spire, offers panoramic views of Riga from its observation deck, a must-visit for anyone looking to capture the beauty of the city from above.
Both buildings were indeed heavily damaged during the Second World War, but meticulous restoration work has brought them back to their former glory. The restoration of the House of the Blackheads was completed in 1999, with efforts made to preserve as much of the original structure and artifacts as possible.
They stand as a testament to Riga’s rich history and should be on your list of things to do in Riga. Ensure to check their opening hours and any potential guided tours available to enhance your experience and understanding of these remarkable structures.
Riga also offers a huge amount of tours within and around the city so check out out of these to make your time in Riga even better and more in depth as this city holds a lot of history:
6. Art Nouveau District
Riga is home to quite a large Art Nouveau District which sits just on the Edge of the Old Town. The buildings here as you can imagine are really impressive and definitely worth seeing on the list of places to visit in Riga!
The Art Nouveau style is all about decorative arts, and you can see this in the detailed facades of the buildings in this district. They feature elaborate patterns, curved lines, and images inspired by nature, such as flowers and animals.
These designs were incredibly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Riga has one of the largest and best-preserved collections of Art Nouveau architecture in all of Europe.
7. Riga Art Nouveau Museum
The Art Nouveau Museum, located on Alberta Street, is a great place to start exploring this district. This street is famous for its beautiful buildings, many of which were designed by Mikhail Eisenstein, a renowned architect of that time. Even if you don’t go inside the museum, just walking around the area is like being in an outdoor art gallery.
I didn’t get here but from what I have read I would really recommend going. The Art Nouveau Museum in Riga is indeed a remarkable destination for art lovers and architecture enthusiasts. Located in the heart of the city’s Art Nouveau district, the museum is housed in a beautifully preserved building that itself is a prime example of the architectural style it celebrates.
Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil as it is known in Latvia, was a dominant architectural and art style in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Riga, with over a third of its buildings in the city center designed in this style, is considered one of the best places in the world to experience Art Nouveau.
The museum’s exhibits showcase the intricacies of Art Nouveau design, from furniture and art pieces to everyday household items, giving a comprehensive overview of the style’s impact on both art and society. One of the museum’s highlights is the Art Nouveau staircase, renowned as one of the most impressive in Europe.
Despite not being able to visit it personally, the Art Nouveau Museum in Riga comes highly recommended as a must-visit place in Riga for anyone looking to understand the city’s architectural heritage and the broader Art Nouveau movement.
8. Museum of Occupation
Latvia and the Baltics in general has had a very turbulent history, and a very recent turbulent history at that. Therefore I found this museum really interesting to see how Latvia has been occupied in the last 100 years.
Did you know that on 23rd August 1989 around 2 million people all held hands to create a chain across Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as a peaceful Political Protest??
I would really recommend seeing this museum if you want to get to know the Country a bit more. The museums main location is by the Houses of the Blackheads however when we visited it was in a temporary building near the Freedom monument so check out the website first!
If you’re thinking of visiting all 3 of the popular Baltic Capitals – Riga, Vilnius AND Estonia in one trip, be sure to check out Happy Frog Travels post to the Beautiful Baltic Capitals!
9. Nativity of Christ Cathedral
The Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral, located just a short walk from Riga’s Old Town, is an absolutely stunning church, both inside and out. With its strong Russian influences, it’s easy to forget you’re still in Latvia while exploring this magnificent building.
Built in the 19th century during the time Latvia was part of the Russian Empire, this cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in Riga. It truly stands out with its elaborate exterior, featuring shining golden domes and detailed designs that showcase the incredible craftsmanship of that time.
Despite its beauty and grandeur, the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral has had its share of challenges. There were times during the Soviet era when it was closed down and repurposed. Thankfully, it has been carefully restored to its original beauty, preserving its historical and artistic value for future generations to enjoy.
Nowadays, the cathedral is once again an active place of worship for Riga’s Orthodox Christian community. It also attracts tourists from all around the world who come to admire its architectural beauty and experience the sense of calm that it offers. So, whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or just looking for a peaceful place to reflect, the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral is definitely worth a visit.
10. Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument in Riga is a really important spot that stands for all the tough times Latvia went through to be a free country.
We visited the Museum of Occupation first and then came across the Freedom Monument and I felt it had so much more significance after seeing what Latvia has been through to gain freedom and independence. It’s kind of like seeing the whole story of Latvia’s fight for freedom before seeing the monument that celebrates it.
The monument is right where the Old Town ends and the Art Nouveau District begins, which is a pretty cool area with parks on each side — it’s nice for hanging out or just walking through. There’s also a river that flows right under a nearby bridge, which makes the place feel peaceful.
The Freedom Monument itself is super tall and at the top, there’s a statue of a woman holding up three stars. Those stars stand for the three big areas in Latvia. It’s not just a historic thing; people in Riga still gather around the monument for big national celebrations or just to remember important parts of their history. There are even guards that stand by the monument, which shows that people here really respect it. It’s not just a piece of history, it’s a big part of what Latvia is about today.
11. Central Market
When you’re on your way to check out the Latvian Academy of Sciences, you’ll probably walk by the Central Market in Riga. This place is huge and it’s all indoors. It’s like a giant supermarket, but way cooler because you can see what shopping is like for people who actually live in Riga. You’ll spot some other visitors, sure, but it’s mostly filled with locals who are there to buy fresh stuff like fruits, veggies, and meat.
The market isn’t in the touristy part of town; it’s in an older area that’s not as fancy as the Old Town. Some might say it looks a little worn out or not as rich, but that’s what’s so interesting about it. When you travel, seeing the places where real life happens for the people who live there can tell you a lot more about the place than just the shiny tourist spots.
The Central Market is in these big old buildings which were actually built for airships, which is pretty wild! Walking around there is like a crash course in what people in Riga eat and do every day. It’s definitely worth a visit if you want to see the real Riga.
12. Latvian Academy of Sciences
The Latvian Academy of Sciences building is a super interesting spot in Riga. People call it “Stalin’s birthday cake” because it kind of looks like a big, tiered cake. It was built back in the 1950s when Latvia was under Soviet control, and it’s got that huge, kind of overwhelming style that a lot of buildings from that time have.
This is one of the viewpoints I have recommended above, but even if you don’t go up the viewpoint for any reason you should still walk to the base of the building (via the Central market) to see Stalin’s birthday cake for yourself as its super impressive and daunting and spine chilling, all at the same time!
As you walk there from the Central Market, which is this lively place full of everyday Riga life, the Academy of Sciences is like a stark contrast. It’s a reminder of a time when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union and things were really different. So while it might give you the chills, it’s also an important piece of what makes Riga the city it is today and should be on your list if things to do in Riga!
13. National Library of Latvia
Riga is home to lots of unique architecture and the National Library of Latvia, also known as the “Castle of Light,” is one of these buildings! Positioned along the Daugava River, the building itself is worth exploring, with its extensive collection of books and unique architectural features.
The architecture is impressive from the outside and the inside and it’s one of the good things to do in Riga on a rainy day or in winter when you need to warm up!
Various spots within the library offer panoramic views of Riga, including an observation deck, providing visitors with a comprehensive experience of the city from above.
14. Riga River Cruise
Taking a river cruise is like one of those chill ways to see Riga from a whole new side. The city’s split by this big river called the Daugava, and it’s a major part of Riga’s vibe. There’s also this smaller river that curls around the Old Town, which is pretty cool.
We didn’t have time to do a River Cruise due to the evenings getting dark so early but if you are looking for things to do in Riga in Summer or things to do in Riga in Spring, this activity would be so nice and a great way to see the city from another angle.
You get to see all the old and new buildings, the cool bridges, and maybe even some birds chilling by the water. Plus, the guides on these boats usually have a bunch of stories about the places you pass, so it’s not just about the views – you actually learn stuff too. Whether you’re with your friends, family, or on a date, a river cruise is one of those must-dos for a laid-back but awesome look at Riga.
This Riga Sightseeing Tour by Canal Boat looks good and is good value!
14. Spa’s in Riga
Riga isn’t just about the sightseeing and history; it’s got a cool surprise with lots of hotels having their own spas. When you’re walking around exploring, it’s pretty nice to know you’ve got a chill spa to come back to and just take a break.
There are actually a lot of Spa Hotels in Riga, or at least hotels with spa’s in them which isn’t always common in cities. I stayed in Hotel Mercure Riga Centre which had a nice spa in it but as we were walking around the city we saw a few buildings that were home to spa’s so make sure you set some time aside to just relax!
15. Husky Dog Sledding
If you visit Riga in the Winter you NEED to look into going dog sledding in the Countryside of Latvia! I contacted Red Fox Tours in advance of my trip who were really helpful, they provisionally booked me and my friend in to go out with them but it depended on the weather. Unfortunately, as you can see by my photos, there wasn’t any snow whilst I was in Riga so they contacted me the day before I arrived to confirm we wouldn’t be able to go which was a shame.
I would definitely recommend going if you can and as I had such a pleasant booking experience with Red Fox Tours I would suggest contacting them for things to do in Riga in winter!
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Riga
In Riga, you’re never far from some amazing eats and cool places to grab a drink. The city’s packed with all sorts of spots, from chill cafes hidden down little side streets to lively pubs where the music’s always going. So, let’s dig into where you can get the best food and drinks in Riga.
If there is one place you need to visit in Riga for food and drinks, it has to be Folkklubs! In fact I bet you’ll go more than once. It’s a huge basement venue which goes on and on and on, (you’ll see what I mean when you get there), it is very touristy but it’s also very traditional Latvian which is what draw’s people in.
There’s a great vibe, its really really reasonable in price, the staff were friendly and generally, its great place to visit that can’t be missed in Riga!
Another popular place that I saw recommended on a lot of blogs is Province! It’s a small and cosy restaurant, just a few meters from St Marks Church.
It feels very local especially with its decor, and they offer a large range of Latvian food (although not a large range of Vegetarian options, but thats Eastern Europe all over for you) so I would definitely suggest going here for a good, hearty lunch or dinner. And again, for a great price, as starters were €3.00-5.00 and mains were €5.00-9.00!
I hope this list of things to do in Riga has helped you plan your trip!
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