Top things to do in Riga for every kind of traveller

6 min

Wondering what to do in Riga? Lux Express gives you the lowdown on which places you should make a priority on your next trip to the Latvian capital.

With a population of 630,000 Riga is the biggest city in the Baltic states. Naturally, for a capital city of this size, there are bags of things to see and do, especially if you have the latest inside information from locals.  

Riga for foodies  

When it comes to food, the first place on your to-visit-list should be Riga Central Market, the biggest central market in the whole of Europe. The core of this incredibly fascinating bazaar is five former German Zeppelin hangars which date back to World War One. Today, they are used as buzzing food pavilions, full of produce from home and abroad.

It is unlikely you will ever have seen such a dizzying choice of milk products, vegetables and fruit in your entire life as are being traded in the hundreds of outdoor market stalls and inside the gargantuan pavilions! Meat, fish, nuts, and aromatic spices are some of the other prominent goods being sold inside the pavilions, while outdoors everything from shoes, jeans, and flowers are on sale!

Kalnciema Quarter - quirky and local

Have a stroll around the Kalnciema Quarter on the opposite bank of the river Daugava. It is located a 30-minute walk from the city center. The area is home to quirky food stalls and classy restaurants. It also hosts some excellent music events, as well as a regular farmers’ market.

In Kalnciema Quarter, you'll be sure to eat like a local. You'll find yourself surrounded by 18th and 19th-century wooden houses, lovely people and great smells. In addition, the district is popular among artisans since many designer shops, architect's studios are located there, alongside with the popular art market.

Explore exciting variety of tastes in the Agenskalns Market, which is the oldest market on the left bank of Riga. Here you can find up to 116 food stalls with fresh fruit and veggies but also 106 fish and meat stalls for everyone's taste. However, the food is not the only reason to visit the Agenskalns Market - The Art Nouveau architecture is represented by the building itself.

Galleria Riga - dine with a view

For a unique dining experience with a gorgeous view, visit the top floor of Galleria Riga shopping center where you will find a delightful concept bar and café Herbārijs. Food, drinks and cocktails inspired by the plant kingdom. A laid-back ambience, evergreen hospitality and a literally heavenly view. 

D’arte Terrace is a relaxed universe ready to host you day and night offering sophisticated food, extensive drink list and highest quality hookah. If you want to enjoy a grilled meal, 67 Grill&Lounge restaurant will be the perfect choice. BBQ chicken, pork ribs, grilled burgers, steak, coctails and a sophisticated wine list will please your taste buds.

Interested in traditional Latvian food? We know a place!

In addition to open-air markets and innovative dishes, you can find some of the best local restaurants in Latvia to try out.

Rozengrāls offers traditional cuisine in a medieval environment. You'll be surrounded by candle lights and great smells that will make your mouth water. Another great option is to head to Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs. The restaurant is located in a wine cellar and the menu consists of homey comfort dishes. In the Folkklub, you'll have the option to try Latvian meatballs and local rye bread pudding. You won't leave disappointed, that's for sure!

Located in the Old Town, Province is an authentic Latvian restaurant that needs to be visited at least once during the trip. You'll feel at home as soon as you step through the doorway. Their creamy pea soup will make you see peas in a whole different way, even if you're not a fan.

Sports in Riga

Riga offers a surprisingly rich choice of sporting events and venues for visitors. Dynamo Riga plays in the Kontinental Hockey League, arguably the world’s most competitive hockey league after the NHL. This means you can enjoy the amazing atmosphere of 5000 or more fans lapping up the hockey and free-flowing beer, as pretty cheerleaders encourage their heroes at Arena Riga for the visits of teams such as Dynamo Moscow and Jokerit Helsinki.

Basketball fans can enjoy European club competition as well as internationals with the Latvian team currently ranked 27th in the world.

Motor racing enthusiasts should not miss out on a visit to the Bikernieki motor racing track on the edge of Riga when there is an event. The track dates back to the 1950s and is the only permanent motor racing track in Riga, located in the middle of a gorgeous pine forest and hosts both international and domestic events.

Football fans will have no problem catching a game between March and November with the Latvian Premier League featuring three clubs from the Latvian capital. Another 55 league clubs play in Leagues 1, 2, and 3 (regional), so there are always plenty of games to catch in Riga from Spring to late autumn.

Latvia’s most important waterway is the Daugava River, cutting a swathe through Riga before flowing out into the Gulf of Riga. Arguably the best way to enjoy the river is on a sunrise or sunset Stand Up Paddle Board! Guided tours start from Riga’s charming city canal before venturing out into the Daugava and the islands beyond. And if you don’t fancy a SUP then you can do the same tour by kayak!

Other sports that you can enjoy include rugby, beach volleyball, and winter sports such as ice skating, bobsleigh at nearby Sigulda (one hour away), and skiing and snowboarding on Zagarkalns’ 14 slopes. Visitors of Riga can also try their hand at kart racing, bowling, horseback riding, swimming, and shooting while visiting the city.

Music, events and nightlife in Riga

World-class opera, ballet, and classical music concerts are not only affordable but performances are numerous, and tickets are usually fairly easy to get your hands on at short notice. The Great Guild, Small Guild, and Riga Cathedral are in Riga Old Town, while the magical Riga Opera House is a two-minute walk away.

Opera in Riga

The Latvian National Opera and Ballet (LNOB) is the main opera house in the capital. Seeing a show in LNOB is one of the main things to do in Riga for music enthusiasts. The origins of the place date back to the 1700s. It presents around 200 shows in a season with nearly 600 performers. As one of the top things to do in Riga, you should definitely add LNOB to your list as soon as possible!

Arena Riga

Many international mainstream music artists appear at Arena Riga throughout the year. It is an indoor venue used for concerts and sports games. You can find a whopping number of 11,000 seats in the arena, as it was built to host the 2006 IIHF World Championship.

Many international mainstream music artists appear at Arena Riga throughout the year. For dance music events and nights out with Riga’s cool young things, you are best to venture beyond the Old Town, with Tallinnas Quarter, a former ambulance depot, one of the coolest current hangouts. Hidden courtyards and hipster-inspired bars are all the rage in Riga. Current popular party spots include Vest, Gauja, and the excellent KKC.

Alternative bars in Riga

In case you enjoy dance music events and nights out with Riga’s cool young things, you are best to venture beyond the Old Town. Tallinnas Quarter, a former ambulance depot is one of the coolest current hangouts in town. Hidden courtyards and hipster-inspired bars are worth it all the rage in Riga.

Different Culture Center or Kaņepes Kultūras Centrs is located in the old town of the capital with an accepting and bohemian vibe, as well as coffee and cocktails. The open-air area hosts live performances and hipstery parties. It is one of the best places to come after work to chill and relax with open-minded people.

Bufete Gauja is a retro bar with Soviet-style furniture in a 19th-century house. Over the years, the bar has become one of the most popular local hangout spots in Riga. In addition to local dishes and nostalgic music, you'll find an affordable selection of drinks and even board games to play with a group of friends or family.

Labietis Brewery is a publicly known secret spot. Yep, you read it right!  If you step down the stairs, you'll find an underground content venue. In addition, it hosts a food joint and a hipster club and one of the coolest breweries in the area. Finding the Labietis might be difficult at first but don't give up! Once you walk through the small gate, you'll be opened up to a new world of beer tastes.

Clubs in Riga

Kaļķu Vārti

Kaļķu Vārti is widely known among the locals. The club, located in the Central region in a historical cellar, has a chilled laid-back vibe. It has been open for more than 14 years and is perfect if you want to spend the whole night dancing. It offers mainstream sing-along hits, a rooftop terrace, and an energetic vibe.

ONE ONE

If you're looking for more of a stylish party, ONE ONE is the place to go. The alternative club is located in a hidden courtyard in the Miera Street area. The place puts emphasis on finding the best artists and DJs, so you can always expect good music. If you're lacking ideas for what to do in the evening, ONE ONE is a place you should consider.

Autentika

If you're not into mainstream parties, Autentika might just be your cup of tea. Created for the bohemians, the place is located in an old abandoned brewery. Discover new music and meet free-spirited locals. The indie club opened only in 2016 but has grown fast to be one of the most favourite clubs for locals and tourists. In addition to being one of the most laid-back clubs around the town, it also offers a good variety of local beers as well.

Piens

Another local gem Piens has been welcoming the hipsters of Riga since the mid-2000s. It is located a short walk away from the Old Town and is as always packed with artists, journalists, and musicians. Piens, meaning "milk" in Latvian, is decorated with retro furniture and unique design elements. In addition, they serve cheap meals and great local drinks.

Omas Briljants

Riga is famous for its time-traveling bars and Omas Briljants is no exception. Let your inner Michael Jackson free and dance until the early hours or grab a beer with your friends by the bar. Although the place is popular, don't worry about the space - the club is spread out on two floors!

Nature in Riga

You are never far from nature in Riga. The centre of the city was painstakingly designed to encompass parks and canals, and the River Daugava cuts a swathe through the heart of the city. You can kayak to the city’s islands or jump on a tram to the delightful forest suburb of Mezaparks, which also has a beautiful lake and beach where you can swim or enjoy a coffee.

Mezaparks

If you want to spend some time in nature and don't know what to do in the capital, go to Mezaparks. Although the park is a 50-minute tram ride away from the center, it's a true gem of Riga. Many people even seeing the green area one of the best things to do in Riga.

Here you'll find a beautiful Ķīšezers Lake along with numerous shorter and longer trails for walking, jogging, and mountain biking. Organize a picnic by the lake, sunbathe on Mezaparks beach or jump in for a swim!

You can find numerous asphalted roads for rollerblading, as well! If you travel with kids, take them to the Riga Zoo located right by the park. There you can find around 4000 animals and 500 species. A trip to the Zoo of Riga is a must and one of the best things to do if you want to have a fun day while exploring Riga.

If you're a fan of open-air sports, Mezapark's got a lot to offer. The park has the best disk golf and mini golf options in the city. In the winter, there are skiing trails avaiable for all ages. Have a workout in the open-air gym or go for a run in the forests of Mezapark. In addition, you can callenge yourself in the adventure park and make some unforgettable memories.

Dzintari Park in Jurmala

Jurmala, another popular destenation of Latvia, is just a 30-minute train ride from the capital. There you can find Dzintari Forest Park, an adventure park that offers 5 tracks, both for the brave kids and the adults. Alltogether, there are 74 obsticles on the heights of the trees, the highest of them sitting 12 meters above the ground.

There are pedestrian paths, roller-skating tracks, and cafes at the park, as well. If you look further, you'll find an open air basketball court, a 33,5 meters high sightseeing tower, and a skate park located in the area.

Kemeri National Park

An hour train ride away from the capital, Kemeri National Park should not be missed on your trip to Riga. It is a real treasure of Latvia, offering some breathtaking views dating back roughly 8000 years.

At the national park, you'll find ancient bogs, lakes, forests, and swamps - there's a lot to see. Have a walk on one of the bog trails and admire the flora around you. There's plenty of what to see for animal-lovers, as there's even a trail designed for bird-watching. If you are lucky, you might even get a chance to spot deer, moose, elk, wolves, foxes, wild cattle and horses strolling around.

The great news for nature buffs is that the white sand beaches and gorgeous pine forests of Jurmala are only a 30-minute train journey away. Vaivari is a handful of stops further but you can explore of this delightful spot by yourself.  Not far from here is the otherworldly Kemeri Nature Park, an incredible bog which is traversed by wooden boardwalks, abundant birdlife and can be visited any time of the year!

Art in Riga

Street Art in Riga

There is some fascinating street art in Riga which is a good excuse to set off on an exploration to find it! The massive and incredibly dramatic 800m2 street mural entitled “Saule, Perkons, Daugava” (Sun, Thunder, Daugava) on Tallinnas Street is arguably the most impressive in the city. The nearby Grizinkalns district has other street art worth discovering, as does the waterfront district of Andrejsala, and the down-to-earth Moscow district of the city.

Riga Art Nouveau Centre

For a historical cultural experience, you have to visit the Riga Art Nouveau Centre, located at the center of Riga. The center is the only museum in the Baltics that is dedicated to Art Nouveau Architecture and style.

The museum is representing an early 20th century apartment in Riga, Latvia. At the museum, you can observe the rooms, interior and lifestyle of the era. In addition, you'll have a chance to admire the collection of artworks, paintings and antiques of the host.

Riga Art Space

Rīgas Mākslas telpa, meaning Riga Art Space, is one the best things to do in Riga for contemporary art geeks. The museum is not only famous in Riga, but the whole Baltics. Head to the art space for a dynamic and different cultural experience.

Riga Art Space is also the biggest gallery in the old town and the central area. The multifunctional space offers out-of-the-box exhibitions that change every 3 months. There are no permanent exhibitions, only temporary ones. That means that the museum can be visited over and over again with always something new to see.

In addition to the showcases, the place hosts various concerts, literary nights, theatre shows, and other events that are worth keeping an eye on if you're looking for alternative things to do in Riga.

Latvian National Museum of Art

The Latvian National Museum of Art is a collection of Latvian artworks. Located at the center of Riga, here you can find one of the biggest collections of national art in the capital. At the museum, you'll find more than 52 thousand works of art by various sculptors and painters from the 18th century as well as the present days.

The house of the museum is as beautiful as what is inside of the building. It's considered to be among the most impressive historical buildings in Riga and is worth checking out even if you don't intend on stepping inside.

Riga Bourse Art Museum

Looking for historical things to see in Riga? Here you can find an extensive collection of world art, which is the reason being among the top things to do in Riga. The building was constructed between 1852 and 1855 and at the time, symbolized by wealth.

The museum hosts 6 permanent expeditions. On the fourth floor, you can see artworks from the 16th to 20th century Europe. On the third floor, you'll see 17th-21st century pieces from India, Southeast Asia, Japan, and China.

The Ancient Egypt Chamber with artifacts with thousands of years of age can be found on the same floor. In addition, you can find art from Ancient Greek and Rome and discover old ceramics, sculptures, and numismatics.

There's a lot to do in Riga, Latvia for the aficionados of art. If you still have some leftover time after all the other great art museums, head to Arsenals Exhibition Halls. It's not as popular as the other 4 but should nevertheless be mentioned. In addition to the exhibitions, you can find various cultural and art events at the museum.

History in Riga

Riga is more than 800 years old and is an absolute treasure trove of history. From its UNESCO listed old town to its centuries-old wooden houses, reminders of the Soviet occupation, and the world’s largest ensemble of Art Nouveau buildings, the Latvian capital is a living, breathing museum.

House of the Blackheads

The House of the Blackheads is an architectural treasure from the 1300s. Along with the Three Brothers, it's among the top historical places to see in Riga. After the Second World War, the building was destroyed due to bombing. It was rebuilt in 1999 and now represents various architectural styles from different periods.

The building combines Gothic and Dutch Renaissance style and lets the visitor not only see but experience the history. The House of the Blackheads holds a collection of items that belonged to the Brotherhood of Black Heads. Discover the paintings, interiour, silverware, and armor sets of the 19th century. To find out more, you can take a guided tour of the House of the Blackheads to get an even better picture of the parties and meetings that took place between the walls of the house.

The Three Brothers

History-lovers should not miss the wonderful Latvian Ethnographic Museum on the edge of the city, with almost 100 hectares of traditional Latvian life recreated for visitors. The Museum of the Occupation of Riga, the Corner House KGB building, and Riga Ghetto & Latvian Holocaust Museum offer sombre reminders and detailed history of the twentieth century.

Those wishing to learn more about Latvia’s colourful past should also visit the National History Museum of Latvia, and the Latvian Photography Museum. The Laima Chocolate Museum also offers history in a much sweeter form for visitors of the Latvian capital.

Science & technology in Riga

Latvia recently made world headlines as it unveiled a 6-metre high statue paying tribute to health care workers around the world fighting coronavirus. You can see the statue, which features a female medic with outstretched arms, outside the Latvian National Art Museum. Not far away, is the Zinoo Centre, a favourite with local kids who can enjoy and learn about science through loads of interactive exhibits. Those interested in technology should pay a visit to the fascinating railway museum (next to the National Library) as well as the Riga Motor Museum next to the Bikernieki race track, on the edge of Riga, where the eclectic collection includes numerous vehicles from the Soviet era.

Other Riga attractions and sightseeing opportunities

The capital of Latvia offers you exactly what you need for a real city trip, away from the classic destinations. This includes, above all, great buildings, a rich culture and ideal spots for strolling, discovering and relaxing. These are the most interesting locations to see and visit in Riga - the pearl of the Baltic. Let's go and see what to visit in Riga!

The Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum

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The Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. The museum currently occupies 87 hectares of pine forest on the shores of Lake Jugla. 118 old buildings from all the historical regions of Latvia dating from the late 17th century to the 4th decade of the 20th century have been transported to the museum, constructed and installed. The museum is located in the area of the Old Town of Latgale, which dates back to the 20th century and the second half of the 20th century.

The open air museum is made up of homesteads of Latvian peasants, craftsmen and fishermen. All of them have a permanent exhibition of household and working tools and furnishings reflecting the period, the region and the occupation of the householders. Visitors can also see the farms of the Lithuanian fishermen living in Kurzeme and the Russian Sventkis of Latgale.

The Freedom Monument

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The Freedom Monument measures almost 43 meters and consists of four levels. They all consist of different sculptures - representing the most important historical events. At the top is a 9-metre statue of a young woman with three stars above her head.

But what exactly is the history of this wonderful monument? It has to do with the occupation of Latvia. The first independence between 1919 and 1939 - and the soldiers who fought for it - were honored with the construction of the monument. It even survived the Second World War! So the Freedom Monument stands for independence, freedom and unity.

St. Peter's church

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You haven't had enough of fine architecture yet? Then we have the St. Peter's Church for you. It stands out from the other buildings with its brick Gothic style. It is also one of the oldest buildings in the entire city!

And that's not all. At 120 meters, St. Peter's church tower is also one of the tallest buildings in Riga. You can even climb to the top of the tower! From there you have a fantastic view of the roofs of the Latvian capital and the river Daugava.

Nativity of Christ cathedral

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Another brilliant place to visit is the Nativity of Christ Cathedral! The history of the Cathedral is that it was built between 1876 and 1883, designed by Nikolai Chagin in Neo-Byzantine style. The cathedral is 40 meters high!

In interwar Latvia, the Nativity of Christ cathedral was returned to its original confession in 1921. The cathedral is currently the largest Orthodox church in the entire Baltic States and a must place to visit for anyone.

Latvian National Library

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Even from the outside, the Latvian National Library is a masterpiece: the location on the banks of the Daugava and the gigantic glass fronts around the building make for a unique sight. Not for nothing does the library bear the nickname "Castle of Light". In addition, the building rises 60 meters into the air with 13 stories. You definitely have to take a look at it.

But now let's get to the content of the building - because that's what a library is really all about. For the opening in 2014, they first came up with an exciting idea: The locals were each asked to donate one of their favorite books. In the meantime, the collection of the National Library of Latvia comprises more than 5 million books and other printed media. That's absolutely crazy.

Riga Museum of the History and Navigation

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The Museum of Riga City History and Navigation is one of the oldest public museums in the whole country and also in Europe. It was established as early as 1773 and still displays the history of Riga as well as Latvia. Significant cultural-historical values have their home here and are impressively displayed to the visitors.

If the museums aren't interesting enough: the enchanting Riga Castle is located directly on the banks of the Daugava, was built as early as the 14th century and is the seat of the Latvian President. There is also a museum in the building - even one of the oldest in the city: the Latvian National Museum. Culture and history fans are guaranteed to get their money's worth here!

The Cat house

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The Cat House is another extraordinary building in Riga's Old Town.

Legend has it that a very wealthy merchant lived here and did not belong to any guild, as the Germans would not accept him into one. In order to repay and make fun, the merchant built a house opposite the German guild building, which was taller and nicer. Finally, the Latvian put cats on the roof, with their tails facing the Germans. The Germans were offended and took the merchant to court, but the merchant explained that he could not order the cats around. At last, the Germans relented, accepted the Latvian merchant into the guild, and the Latvian merchant planted the cats with their heads towards the Germans. Give this building a look next time you are visiting Riga.

Bastion Hill

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Bastion Hill is a spacious park on the eastern edge of the Old Town of the Latvian capital Riga.

The site of this public park was used as part of the eastern fortification until 1856 and consisted of earthen ramparts, covered running ditches, bastions and moats in this area. This section of the fortification was assigned to the commander of the Powder Tower.

In the following years, the open area was redesigned by considerable embankments and the construction of the city canal, and connected to the eastern suburb by new bridges. The cataracts, designed as water art in 1898, are a sight to behold and an enrichment of the grounds.

The park has been enriched by other monuments and installations such as the Blaumanis Monument which was erected as early as 1929.

Interested in visiting Riga? Plan your trip with the most comfortable buses in the Baltics with Lux Express. Get your bus tickets to Riga here.

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