In more than 800 years of its life, Riga has sprawled from a small settlement on a riverbank to a lively, vibrant, multi-layered metropolis. The capital of Latvia is the largest city in Baltic states and one of the most important culture and finance centers in Northern and Eastern Europe. Guests who visit Riga by either air, land or sea find themselves in a city where many different periods of its history are still palpable and coexist in streets, architecture, languages, cuisine, traditions and, most importantly, people. The picturesque old town with its Medieval buildings and magnificent churches, the splendid Silent Centre district with the most dense collection of exquisite Art Nouveau buildings in the world, the Central Market, the National Library building, the Moscow district and the riverside promenade are just a few of the many attractions that tourists and other guests of the city tend to fall in love with. While the majority of Riga's most important sights are in a walking distance from each other and are included in most guided tours, a few places worth visiting require taking a bus or a tram. Riga has a good public transport system with buses, trams and trains, and taxi services are competing to provide the cheapest offer.
Whether you are looking for architecture treasures, museums, fine dining, nightlife or culture and art, out city has plenty to provide. Here is a local's pick list of eight must-see, must-visit and must-do places and activities that would satisfy almost any taste.
Situated outside the city center, the vast open-air museum is easily accessible by public transport and taxi. It explores and reanimates the lifestyles of the ancient Latvian tribes before the crusader conquest, providing an authentic experience of a time long gone but still cherished in the people's collective memory.
The Latvian National Museum of Art offers a journey through its rich collections that encompass visual art from the early modernity to contemporary art. The main building near the Esplanāde park was reconstructed in 2015 and now hosts six permanent exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, as well as three exhibition halls for temporary shows.
Of all the various tourism services accessible in the city, Riga Culture Free Tour is the one that most completely combines quality with democratic approach. Competent local guides take you through the Art Nouveau district, the city center and the Old Town in about two hours. The tour happens every day and starts from the Rainis monument in Esplanāde park at 12:00. And, yes, it really is for free! (Though tips are appreciated.)
Just outside the Old Town, the Central Market is a sight to behold even from distance. It is situated within five large pavilions that used to be zeppelin hangars before World War I. Now under these ominous roofs one can seek the best local foods to bring home or enjoy a gastronomic experience on sight.
To those seeking the high culture, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet house will not let you down. A two-minute walk from the Monument of Liberty, this elite institution hosts daily performances of classic and contemporary operas and ballets with many international stars often playing the leading roles.
“Ala” means “cave” in Latvian, and it's hard to deny that – a door in the old town leads you into a basement, and suddenly you find yourself in a large, bright cavern-like hall with an endless supply of variety of local beers, meaty foods, cheerful people and ethnic singing and dancing until the morning light.
This little gem is visited only by the lucky ones, for it almost seems that it's trying not to be found. An English language bookshop, a cafe and a community club – all within a few square meters hidden in some courtyard. A peaceful haven where one can rest, read a book and have a glass of wine after all the crowded tourist attractions.
If you really want to enjoy what the locals enjoy, go to the “Lido” food and entertainment center. A three-storeyed, wooden windmill is actually a large food court that offers a variety of Latvian dishes for democratic prices. A perfect place for family time: after filling your bellies with cottage cheese, potatoes and herring, you can go and digest it all in the children's theme park situated nearby.
We hope this gave you an insight about Riga and places that have to be visited while you spend your time in Riga.
The tour is happening every day at 12.00 a c'lock from Rainis monument in Esplanade. The tour goes through art nouveau district, park lane, a little bit of old town and finishes at Freedom monument after two hours.
We will be glad if you chose our tour as an introduction to our beautiful city Riga.