“I knew Riga was beautiful but I didn’t know it was this beautiful.” These were my thoughts just after 3 hours in the Old Town of Riga. The capital city of Latvia is such a beautiful neat city which should be part of any Europe itinerary.
I was lucky enough to spend 3 (and a half) days in Riga, the Pearl of Baltic Sea, and wrote down my highlights to inspire you for your next city break.
Day 1 – Explore Riga
Old Town of Riga
The very first thing you should do in Riga is walking in the Old Town. The important sights are all in a relatively small area which makes it easy to visit them all in one day. I needed approx. 8 hours, walking leisurely including breaks for snacks & drinks, but haven’t visited any museums.
I started at the House of Blackheads (my favourite building of all). Stay in front of it for a while and imagine how the unmarried merchants once partied here with style. Then I visited St. Peter’s Church and went up to the tower for fantastic panoramic views of Riga (admission fee: 9€). I sad hello to the Musicians of Bremen and walked through Convent Seta to reached Liv Square where the Great and Small Guilds and the cute Cat House are located.
Then I went to the very hearth of Old Town to see Riga’s Dome Cathedral. From here I walked to the Powder Tower, which houses today the Museum of War. Then I passed by St. James’ Barracks, the longest building of Riga and touched the Old City Walls for a bit of history.
I walked through the Swedish Gate and listened to the women playing zither. I turned right to the cute narrow Troksnu Street and found Latvia’s Parliament Saeima. After passing by St. Jacob’s Church I finally found the famous Three Brothers, the medieval houses. After countless attempts of capturing these there historical buildings in one good picture and gave up at the end, I walked to Riga Castle and finished my Old Town tour at Daugava River.
Around Pilsetas Canal
Riga is not only about its Old Town. Other beautiful neighbourhoods of Riga are also worth exploring. Luckily I caught the first sunny and warm days of the year and like everyone else made the best out of it.
If the weather allows you should also take time to lay down for a while in the green areas of Bastejkalna Park along the Pilsetas canal. I walked up the Bastion Hill for an overview of the whole park and followed the canal to find the majestic Freedom Monument. Near by I checked the time at the retro Laime Clock, a clock tower named after the famous Latvian chocolate brand.
Behind the Freedom Monument, around Alberta, Elizabetes and Strelniku streets my jaw dropped after seeing the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau Architecture. And finally, just before it got dark (around 22:00 or later in summer) I visited the gold shiny glamorous orthodox church Nativity of Christ Cathedral and observed the prayers in the church.
After coming back to Riga from my day trips I used the time to walk in the area near to Central Train station, where the Central Market is located (which however was closed after 6pm) and had a closer look at the huge impressive gothic building of Latvian Academy of Science, which reminded me of the tower in the movie Ghostbusters. I took a walk on the Stone Bridge over Daugava River to enjoy the panoramic views of the city from the other side.
Day 2 – Day trip to Jurmala
Lucky me that the weather was gorgeous so that it was clear that I’d go to the beach, especially because Riga is practically located directly at the Baltic Sea. It was lovely to feel the fresh sea breeze on my face and I had a fabulous day playing with water and sand. It felt like vacation during vacation.
The train ride from Riga’s Central Station takes only 30 minutes and costs only 2,73€ return. I got off in Majori, took a long walk at the beach till Dzintari and walked back the road through the residential area. I fall in love with all these cute wooden villas.
Train from Riga to Jurmala (Majori) departs every 30 minutes. Check the schedule in the homepage of Latvia Railway.
Read next: Day Trip to Jurmala
Day 3 – Day trip to Sigulda
Only one hour drive away you can find yourself in the beauty of Gauja National Park to have a day in the nature hiking around. The train from Riga to Sigulda costs only 3,71€ return.
I visited the medieval Sigulda Castle (admission fee 2€), then took the cable car to Krimulda (7€ one way / 12€ return). I went to Gutmanis Cave and felt the love in the air thanks to newly wed couples and a couples celebrating their 25th anniversary of marriage. After drinking “holy” cave water, I finally reached Turaida Castle (admission fee 5€). I climbed up to the tower to enjoy the beautiful views of the Gauja National Park.
Read next: Day Trip to Sigulda
Tip: If you have no power to walk from Krimulda to Turaida Castle, consider hiring a golf cart with a local guide. You can find them at the station where you get off from the cable car. The drive from the cable car to Turaida Castle via Gutmanis Cave costs 6€.
From Turaida Castle you don’t need to walk all the way back. You can just take the bus line 12 for 0,50€ back to the train station of Sigulda. Check when the last bus from Turaida is at the ticket office. From Sigulda to Riga you can either take again the train or the bus (2,50€).
Check the train schedule from Riga to Sigulda and vice versa here and pay attention to different schedule during weekends and public holidays.
Getting from/to Riga International Airport
From Riga International Airport to city centre the drive takes about 15-20 minutes. I think the most convenient way is with the mini shuttle bus (5€ per person), to avoid (possible) taxi scams, when you’re new in town. The mini shuttle buses wait in front of the arrival hall E. If you arrive later than 7pm make sure you make an online reservation.
From Riga’s City center to the airport you can either take the bus line 22 opposite the Central Station or hire a taxi which would cost about 10-12€.
Well, the city center of Riga itself can be explored easily by foot. Two times I caught the bus to get to the train station quickly. The max. 5-10 minutes drive costed 2€ which appeared to me a bit too expensive for such a short distance.
Eating & drinking in Riga
Obviously there are countless bars, cafés, restaurants for every taste. I chose locations where I could listen to live music while having my dinner and couple of drinks afterwards. If this is also something what you are looking for I could recommend Ala Folkklubs (Latvian folk music) and Trompete (jazz music). Both are located opposite to each other, near to House of Blackheads, in Peldu iela.
Where to stay in Riga?
I would recommend to stay in or near to Old Town to avoid long way back to hotel after exploring the city the whole day. I stayed at PK Riga Hotel in the Art Nouveau neighbourhood which was only 10-20 minutes walking distance from the Old Town and Central Station.
For more insights I recommend Lonely Planet's Travel Guide for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which include chapters for Riga, Jurmala and Sigulda.
Don't forget to check my Pack List for useful travel items. By buying products or booking accommodation with these links you'll be supporting my blog without paying anything extra. Thanks already ❤️
Pin it for later!
Share it if you like what you read ❤️