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24 Best Things to Do in Riga

24 Best Things to Do in Riga

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There are so many wonderful things to do in Riga, Latvia. Whether you are a history buff, a food lover, or an architect buff, there are so many fun Riga attractions worth exploring.

Riga is the capital of Latvia and is located on the Baltic Sea with easy access to other destinations around Europe thanks to its fantastic airport.

If you are planning a longer trip around the Baltics, be sure to check out all of my Lithuania content. I’ve been living in this region for over two years and have plenty to share about how magical it is!

How Many Days in Riga?

You can see a lot of Riga on a weekend trip. If you are planning to visit for a weekend escape, two days are the minimum amount of time to give to Riga.

The best amount of time, if you have it, would be to spend three days in Riga. This will allow you to enjoy all of the best sites, visit some of the museums, and even head to the nearby beach town of Jurmala which should definitely be on your Latvia itinerary.

If you don’t plan to explore another part of Latvia, then 3 days is probably enough time in Riga. It is a very small city and has a great public transportation network. So you can see most of the main Riga attractions as well as a few off-the-beaten-path spots in that amount of time.

Map of Riga Things to Do


What to Do in Riga

These are the ultimate things to do in Riga that you won’t want to miss on your visit to the city.

1. Riga Central Market

Riga Central Market is not only a vibrant hub of activity but also a historical landmark. Built in the 1930s, it is located in five massive Zeppelin hangars, which were originally used for airship construction during World War I.

After the war, the hangars were repurposed into what is now one of the largest and most renowned markets in Europe.

The market offers a diverse range of products, including fresh produce, meats, fish, dairy products, baked goods, spices, flowers, and local handicrafts. It provides a unique opportunity to experience the local culture, interact with vendors, and indulge in traditional Latvian cuisine.

The market spills out into the parking area where you find even more vendors selling produce, clothing, and homewares. It’s well worth coming here if you are planning to self-cater during your trip to Riga and you want some fantastic produce.

I particularly loved the fish hall where you can pick up different types of smoked fish, a popular food in this region of Europe. Grab a loaf of bread from one of the bakeries inside and you have a cheap and delicious lunch to have at one of the city’s local parks.

If you want to learn even more about the market and get a chance to sample some of the different foods available, take a tour of the market. This is a food tour that will help you learn all about Latvian cuisine and food history. Book a spot on the market tour here.

zeppelin hangers at the central market in Riga

Old Zeppelin hangars that are now used as the structure of the Riga Central Market.

2. St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter’s Church is an architectural gem and one of the oldest churches in Riga. Its construction began in the 13th century, making it a significant symbol of the city’s medieval history.

The church’s Gothic spire reaches a height of 123 meters or 403 feet making it the tallest church with a spire in Riga. For a small fee, you can head up into the tower for the best views around the city.

offOver the centuries, St. Peter’s Church has undergone several renovations and restorations, following destruction from fires and wars. Today, it serves as a popular Riga attraction, hosting cultural events and housing an exhibition that explores the church’s history and architecture.

large church with tall spire and three doors at the front.

St. Peter’s Church and its tall spire in Riga.

3. House of the Black Heads

The House of the Black Heads is an exquisite architectural masterpiece located in Riga’s Old Town.

Originally built in the 14th century as a meeting place for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants and shipowners, it became a symbol of the city’s economic and cultural prosperity.

The building showcases a stunning blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles, adorned with ornate decorations and intricate sculptures.

During World War II, the House of the Black Heads was heavily damaged and eventually demolished by the Soviet regime. However, it has been meticulously reconstructed and today it serves as a venue for concerts, exhibitions, and official receptions.

It is now a museum that you can explore to learn more about the Black Heads and the role that they played in Riga.

house of blackheads is one of the best things to do in Riga.

House of the Black Heads is one of the most popular things to do in Riga.

4. Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is a powerful institution that commemorates the period of occupation in Latvia during the 20th century.

The museum highlights the devastating effects of both Nazi and Soviet occupations on Latvian society, portraying the experiences of the Latvian people during this tumultuous time.

Exhibits include personal testimonies, artifacts, photographs, and documentary materials that shed light on the struggles, repression, and resilience of the Latvian population. The museum’s aim is to ensure that the memory of this challenging era is preserved and serves as a reminder of the importance of freedom and independence.

Entry to the museum costs €5 for self-guided exploration and €10 for entry which includes a guided tour of the museum. English tours are conducted daily at 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm.

Swedish Gate in Riga, Latvia with people walking under it.

Swedish Gate, Riga.

5. The Swedish Gate

The Swedish Gate is a historical monument that once formed part of the city’s fortification system.

It was built in the 17th century as an entrance gate in the defensive walls during the Swedish rule of Riga. The gate has a unique design, with a narrow passage flanked by two round towers.

Today, it stands as a reminder of Riga’s past and provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s military history. This is a nice place to enter the old town from as you will go down a nice pedestrian street, come beneath the Swedish Gate, and be able to take a nice photo here as well.

From the Swedish Gate, you are only a few minutes walk to the main plaza and Riga Cathedral.

6. Bastejkalna Parks

This is one of my favorite parks in Riga and where I spent a lot of time relaxing.

The park was created in the late 19th century on the site of former fortifications. You can still see a few small remains of these fortifications.

It features beautiful gardens, tree-lined paths, and a canal that meanders through it. There are also buskers here playing wonderful music throughout the day, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed sitting on a bench here on a sunny afternoon on my most recent visit.

You can enjoy a leisurely stroll, relax on park benches, or admire the numerous sculptures and monuments scattered throughout. Bastejkalna Parks is a tranquil oasis in the city and a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

large monument with blue skies and a pedestrian road.

The Freedom Monument.

7. The Freedom Monument

The Freedom Monument is an iconic symbol of Latvia’s independence and national identity.

Erected in 1935, the monument stands tall at 42 meters or 137 feet and depicts a woman holding three stars above her head, representing the three historical regions of Latvia.

The monument commemorates the Latvian War of Independence and honors those who fought and died for the country’s freedom. 

There is a changing of the guard ceremony here every hour on the hour between 9 am and 6 pm. They do not work if it is hotter than 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) or colder than -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). 

8. National History Museum of Latvia

The National History Museum of Latvia offers a comprehensive exploration of Latvia’s rich history and cultural heritage.

The museum showcases a diverse collection of artifacts, archaeological finds, artwork, and interactive displays.

Visitors can delve into Latvia’s ancient past, its medieval era, the period of foreign rule, and the struggles for independence. The museum has rooms on archeology, ethnography, history, and current events within the country.

Entry to the museum costs €3 or €15 if you would like to have a tour with an English-speaking guide.

art nouveau building with blue skies above, one of the biggest riga attractions.

The Art Nouveau Quarter is a fun place to explore in Riga.

9. Art Nouveau Quarter & Museum

Riga boasts one of the largest concentrations of Art Nouveau architecture in the world.

The Art Nouveau Quarter, particularly the area around Alberta Street, features an array of ornate buildings with elaborate facades, intricate details, and whimsical motifs. It is a testament to Riga’s flourishing artistic and architectural scene at the turn of the 20th century.

The Art Nouveau Museum, located in one of the Art Nouveau-style buildings, offers an immersive experience, showcasing the interior design, furniture, and decor of that era.

If you are interested in this time period and want to see the grandeur on full display, I highly recommend checking out the museum. 

10. Latvia National Museum of Art

The Latvia National Museum of Art is the best art museum in the city and is one of my personal favorite things to do in Riga. With a collection of over 50,000 works of art, it showcases a huge collection of paintings, sculptures, graphics, and decorative arts.

The museum’s collection spans from the 18th century to the contemporary period, encompassing Latvian and international artists. It provides visitors with an overview of Latvia’s artistic heritage, artistic movements, and creative expression throughout history.

Entry to the museum is €6. 

national art museum of riga with large pillars at the front of the entrance.

National Art Museum of Latvia.

11. Take a Walking Tour

One of the best ways to get to know any city, but especially one as compact as Riga, is to take a walking tour. These are our top picks:

  • Old Town Walking Tour: This walking tour covers all of the best architecture and fascinating history of the old town of Riga. The tour is roughly two hours long and explores the main plazas and churches, covering over 800 years of history with a knowledgeable guide. Book the old town walking tour here.
  • 1.5 Hours Walking Tour: A slightly shorter more historically-focused tour, this also takes you around the old town. This is an ideal option for those traveling on a budget with the tour costing roughly €30 per person. Book that 1.5-hour tour here.
  • Old and New Walking Tour: Learn not only about the history of Riga, but also its present and what makes the city such an exciting destination to explore now. This is a 2-hour tour that will take you around the Art Nouveau neighborhood and through the Old Town. The tour guide is a local who knows and loves the city and can share their stories and experiences with you. Book onto the Old and New Walking Tour here.

12. St. Gertrude’s Old Church

St. Gertrude’s Old Church, also known as St. Gertrude’s Church of the German Parish. Most of the masses are in fact, conducted in German.

It was originally built in the 14th century as part of the Riga St. Gertrude Monastery complex.

Over the centuries, the church underwent various reconstructions and renovations, including a major restoration in the 19th century. The church combines Gothic and Romanesque architectural elements, featuring a soaring spire and intricate stone carvings.

Today, it serves as a Lutheran church and hosts religious services, concerts, and cultural events. You can walk into the church if it is open and see the interior for free. Just be sure to respect the quiet of this sacred place.

Orthodox Church in Riga.

The Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Church.

13. Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Church

The Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Church, also known as the Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ, is a magnificent Riga landmark.

It was built between 1876 and 1883 in the Russian Revival architectural style, characterized by its ornate decorations and vibrant colors. The church is adorned with stunning frescoes, iconostases, and a collection of religious artifacts.

Head inside to be wowed by the ornate interior that almost makes the exterior look plain. There are frescos, gilded altars, and high ceilings.

It played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of the Russian Orthodox community in Riga, and it continues to be an active place of worship today.

14. Latvian Academy of Sciences

The Latvian Academy of Sciences, also known as the Academy of Sciences Building or Stalin’s Birthday Cake, is a notable example of Soviet-era architecture in Riga.

Completed in 1956, it was designed in the style of Stalinist architecture, characterized by its grandiose and imposing presence. It was Stalin’s response to the skyscrapers being built in the United States at the time. If you’ve been to Warsaw, you may have seen a similar building there which is also the Arts and Sciences Senter.

The building, with its distinctive tower and elaborate facade, houses the Latvian Academy of Sciences, an institution dedicated to promoting scientific research and academic excellence.

You can go inside the building and take the elevator to the 15th floor. From here, you can take the stairs up to the 17th floor where you’ll find a fantastic viewing platform. The viewing platform sits at 65 meters or 213 feet. 

Entry to the viewing platform costs €6.

Stalin style building in Riga.

The Latvian Academy of Sciences in Riga.

15. Latvia National Library

The Latvia National Library, also known as the Castle of Light, is a modern building that really stands out as you look out over the river from the Old Town. I didn’t know what it was when I first saw it, but I knew I had to cross the river and check it out.

It was opened in 2014 and designed by Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts. The building’s design was inspired by the country’s cultural heritage and folklore, featuring a glass facade that resembles the facets of a diamond.

The library houses a vast collection of books, manuscripts, periodicals, and digital resources, serving as a vital resource for education, research, and cultural preservation. You can simply have a look at the architecture from the Old Town side of the river, but I really recommend bibliophiles make their way to the library to see it both inside and out.

hop on hop off bus.

The double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus in Riga.

16. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Like many European cities, there is a great public transportation network in Riga with buses and trams taking you all over the city.

But they don’t always go directly to the best Riga attractions. If you want to make the most of a short trip to Riga, the Hop-on, Hop-off bus ticket is a fantastic option for seeing all of the best things to do in Riga without wasting any time.

The nice thing about a Hop-on, Hop-off bus is that you get an audioguide. It explains the different places you are passing along the way, and if you see something you like along the way, you can simply hop off and explore on your own for a while before returning to the bus.

Purchase your Hop-on, Hop-off bus tickets here.

17. Lido

If you only eat at one place on your trip to Riga, it should be at one of the many Lido locations around the city. Even better, try them all (I have!).

This is the place in Riga to try traditional food in a relaxed setting at fantastic prices. If you are on a budget or you’re traveling with kids, or you simply want great food, you should stop at Lido for lunch or dinner.

It’s a cafeteria-style restaurant. Grab a tray when you get inside and then choose your drinks before proceeding to the counter. There you can see all of the hot food available. Tell the server (they all speak English) what you would like and they will serve you and hand you the plate. 

There are desserts, salads, and even a pour-your-own-beer section. Take your tray to the final counter where you will pay. Most meals cost under €5 per person. 

craft beer bar with all of the beers listed above the taps.

There are so many fantastic craft beer bars around Riga.

18. Craft Beer Bar Hopping

I am a big lover of great beer. Luckily, Riga seems to be a city that also loves great beer. These are my top picks for fellow beer lovers.

  • Labietis: This is a brewery whose beer you will see all over the Baltics. They have a tasting room right on site where all of their beers are available on draft. There is seating both inside and outside for those long summer days in Riga. The beer is exceptional, the staff are friendly, and the location will take you away from the touristy area and into a more local part of Riga.
  • Alus Muiža: This was probably my favorite overall bar in all of Riga. A small, local spot with a few tables squeezed close together with a few tables that pour out onto the sidewalk mostly to accommodate the smokers. The beer is all from Latvia or within the Baltics. They don’t have a ton of taps, but the beers that are on draught are of a high quality and the prices are very fair (aka some of the cheapest craft beer in the city). 
  • Miezis & Kompānija: If you prefer a spot that has a little bit more style and class, this is your place. Located just on the edge of the old town, it’s the best bar in this region of the city for great beer. There are over a dozen different taps with mostly Latvian beer. There are a few other European beers on draught as well to sample. The setting is modern, the music is a tad too loud, but there are board games available and the staff are very friendly.
Riga cathedral with the dome and spire near the front of the church.

Riga Cathedral.

19. Riga Cathedral

Riga Cathedral, also known as the Riga Dome Cathedral, is one of the oldest and most significant religious buildings in Latvia. It is a Lutheran cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Riga.

The square where the cathedral is located is the meeting place in the city where you can sit back and people-watch all afternoon. There are some beautiful buildings in this part of the city, and of course, the cathedral is one of them.

Its construction began in the early 13th century, and over the centuries, it underwent numerous renovations and expansions. The cathedral showcases a mix of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau.

It is particularly renowned for having once been home to the largest pipe organ in the world. Unfortunately, the organ was lost in a fire in 1547. The cathedral has played a pivotal role in the religious and cultural history of Riga and continues to host religious services, concerts, and cultural events.

three brothers in Riga, one of the biggest things to do in Riga.

The Three Brothers in Riga.

20. Explore Some of the Famous Architecture in the Old Town

In addition to the Swedish Gate, there are a few other buildings around Riga that you won’t want to miss around the city.

  • Cat House: Located at 10 Meistaru Iela in the Riga Old Town, it is named for the two cat sculptures, with arched backs and raised tails that sit on its roof. The story goes that the owner of the house was rejected entry to the Great Guild, so he wanted the cats to be placed with their tails turned towards the house of the Great Guild to snub them.
  • Three Brothers: These three houses together make up the oldest complex of dwelling houses in Riga. The building located at 17 Maza Pils Street is the oldest having been built in the 15th century. The house at number 19 was built in 1646 and number 21 was likely built in the late 17th century.

21. Take a Canal Tour

The canal in Riga winds through the middle of the city with many of the city’s most famous buildings and parks along its shores.

For less than €15 per person, you can hop onto one of the canal boats that goes along the canal and the Daugava River

You’ll receive commentary in English on the different sites including stories and facts about the past and present of many of these destinations. This particular tour is just over an hour on an eco-friendly boat.

Book a canal tour here.

canal through a park with buildings in the distance and a bridge to the left.

The canal in Riga is a wonderful place to explore either by boat or on foot along the paths that run along the waterway.

22. Go on a Bike Tour of the City

If you prefer to stay on land, but you want to cruise through the city on two wheels, this is a fantastic bike tour that takes you all over Riga.

You can explore the old town, cycle along the Daugava River (and spot the National Library!), stop for photo ops, and learn from a knowledgeable guide.

Riga is a very flat city, so worry not if you are not a regular cyclist.

The guides are patient and kind. They will make sure you have a bike that fits your height and comfort level. They will stop along the way to check on everyone in the group. 

Book onto the city bike tour here.

outside of a modern looking castle with white turret.

The back of the Riga Castle which is now home to the President of Latvia.

23. Riga Castle

Riga Castle, also known as the Presidential Palace, is a historic building situated on the banks of the Daugava River in Riga.

It has served as the residence for various ruling powers throughout its history. The castle’s construction dates back to the 14th century when it was built as a fortress for the Livonian Order, a medieval military and religious order.

Over the centuries, the castle has undergone several transformations, including expansions and reconstructions.

It served as the residence for several different rulers, including the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Swedish Empire, and the Russian Empire.

Today, Riga Castle serves as the official residence of the President of Latvia and houses several government institutions. The castle’s architectural style is a blend of Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical elements, reflecting the different periods of construction and renovation.

a church peaking out from the alley of two buildings.

Walking towards St. James’s Cathedral.

24. St. James’s Catholic Cathedral

St. James’s Catholic Cathedral, also sometimes called as St. Jacob’s Cathedral (the translation of the names gets confusing), is an impressive religious landmark located in the heart of Riga’s Old Town.

While it is now a Catholic church, during the Protestant Reformation in 1522, it became the second German-language Lutheran church in Riga. A year later, it became the first Lutheran church in Riga to conduct services in Latvian.

Over the centuries it has passed between the Lutherans and the Jesuits. It has seen services in Swedish, German, and Estonian. In 1923, it was given back to the Catholics for the final time.

Construction of the church began in the 13th century, making it one of the oldest surviving stone buildings in the city. The cathedral features intricate stone carvings, and beautiful stained glass windows.