Riga is Latvia’s capital and largest city located at the mouth of the River Daugava on the Baltic coast.
Whether you visit for a weekend getaway or plan to stay longer to discover the city’s hidden secrets, you’ll find a pleasant Old Town, diverse restaurants and interesting architecture including Art Nouveau structures and wooden buildings.
Riga’s Old Town (Vecrīga) is part of a UNESCO World Heritage listed area, and a lovely place to ramble through via pedestrianised streets. Start at the Town Hall Square where you can see many magnificent buildings such as the House of Blackheads and the Museum of Occupations, then head to a caféteria on the square by the Dome Cathedral.
Situated in an old apartment that was previously home to a distinguished Latvian architect, the Musee Art Nouveau showcases Art Nouveau interiors and style across many interior rooms. Staff are dressed in period costume to enhance the experience; don’t miss the video explaining the influence of Art Nouveau on Riga’s buildings.
Located close to the Old Town, the KGB Building at 61 Brivibas Iela is a fascinating if somewhat grim place to visit. A former prison, the building details the Soviet influence on Latvia and you are guided through the rooms used for interrogations, torture and executions. Arrive early as there is one English-speaking tour per day at 10.30am otherwise access to various parts of the museum are restricted.
Go shopping with the locals for fresh vegetables, fruit, meat or fish just south of the city canal at the Centraltirgus Market (Central Market) that are set in old Zeppelin hangars. Each hangar has a different themed product, for example fish hangar, and there are plenty of free tasting samples on offer.
Go up the tower of St Peter’s Church where you’ll be rewarded with city views. We recommend going on a fine day for the best vantage of the city.
Jump on board a wooden canal boat or riverboat berthed near Bastion Hill for a scenic trip on the Riga Canal that takes in the sights of the Old Town and left bank.
Saulkrasti is a small township on the east coast of the Gulf of Riga, just 46 kilometers east of Riga city. Here you can roam the expansive sandy beach, photograph pretty churches or hike through pine forest along marked trails.
Rundāle Palace is a spectacular 18th century Baroque palace, one of only two that were built for the Dukes of Courland, situated 81 kilometers south of Riga. The palace has changed ownership many times over the past centuries, and fell into disrepair from war damage and neglect but has been extensively restored and is now one of Latvia’s important tourist attractions where the gardens and palace interior serve as a museum.
One and a quarter hours west of Riga is the rural town of Kandava. It’s a perfect day trip from the bustling vibe of Riga and attractions include the Kandava District Museum (with historical and ethnographic displays about the region), a scenic stone bridge and Rumene Manor (an 19th century Neo-Gothic manorhouse) with landscaped gardens, hotel and restaurant.