Riga Skyline

Things to do in Riga

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A city that offers visitors both rich culture and history as well as modern chic vibes, I believe that Riga is one of the hottest tourist destinations for a city break at the moment.

Riga was one of those locations that we chose to visit on a whim simply because there were cheap flights available and it was somewhere that neither of us had experience of or knew anything about.

We arrived completely in the dark, not knowing at all what to expect.

Sometimes those type of trips are the best, where there’s no pressure and you can just take your own time to explore.

We arrived at the airport in Riga, checked our phone for the best way to get into the city and off we went.

We actually landed in Riga on the weekend of a national celebration so it turned out that all public transport was free, which was a huge bonus and saved us the fare into the city.

Once in the centre it was just a short walk to the Park inn that we would call home for the weekend, so we checked in dropped our bags and set off to explore.

The first thing that we noticed about Riga was the buildings.

Every single building was completely different to the next.

You’d have old wooden buildings that looked like they could have used a new coat of paint twenty years ago right next to ultra modern glass fronted buildings housing upmarket restaurants and furniture stores.

There was no flow to the city and I think that’s what made it so appealing to us.

Buildings in Riga

Riga is a huge mix different cultures all melted together into what can only be described as one of the most unique cities I’ve ever been to.

We spent three fantastic days here just wandering around and I would highly recommend visiting if you’re looking for a perfect winter city break or even a summer city break for that matter.

Traditional Riga Dress
Science Building

Since the majority of tourist attractions are pretty close together, this makes exploring a breeze.

Riga is a relatively small capital city.

Although smaller than most, this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to see and do.

Here’s some of the top tourist attractions to visit in Riga.

House of the Blackheads

Situated in the old town part of Riga, this building was built in 1334 and was used for meetings and banquets held by Riga’s various public organizations.

The building was actually destroyed by bombs dropped during World War II and only recently fully rebuilt in 1999.

Unfortunately when we visited it was actually being renovated, so the front was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin.

  • Rātslaukums 7, Rīga, LV-1050

St Peters Church

If you’re looking to get that iconic view over the top of the city then this is the place to come.

Right in the centre of the old town is St Peters church and inside you’ll find this really dated lift that takes you up to the top floor where on a clear day you can see for miles all around.

The views are incredible and this trip costs very little to do.

We would probably consider it one of the must do attractions for anyone visiting Riga.

Unless you’re afraid of heights, then probably just have a look around the church instead.

  • Skārņu iela 19, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia

Freedom Monument

As you walk down the main street in the Centrs part of the city you’ll spot this large monument right in the middle.

Completed in 1935, this monument was built in memorial of the soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence and is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia.

If you’re spending any time in the city centre, which most people would be, you will probably end up walking past this monument on a daily basis.

Just remember to stop and take notice of it.

  • Central District, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia

The Three Brothers

If you were thinking these were the tale of the three brothers from Harry Potter then you were wrong.

You’ll walk past these houses probably two or three times when looking for them before you actually realise they are there.

Or at least that’s what happened to us.

Hidden away down a side street are these three buildings side by side that make up the oldest complex of houses in Riga, with each of them demonstrating the different styles of houses created during different periods in the history of the city.

Number 17 is the oldest and dates back to the 15th century.

19 dates back to 1646 and the newest building, number 21, from the late 17th century.

You can’t enter these buildings, so probably won’t be at this place for long, but it isn’t out of the way and is worth going past to check out.

  • Mazā Pils iela 17, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
The Three Brothers

Nativity Cathedral

In my opinion, one of the most impressive buildings in the city.

You’ll spot this just further up from the Freedom Monument on the edge of the Esplanade park and gardens.

Peeking through the trees, are these incredible white and gold ornate cupolas.

During the soviet era, this was actually converted into a restaurant and planetarium, but has since been restored to its former use of an orthodox church.

Be aware that if you do visit here, there are strict dress codes. No shorts and women are required to cover their head.

  • Brīvības bulvāris 23, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Nativity Church
Nativity Church

Art Nouveau District

One of the most unique things about the architecture in Riga is the sheer number of them built during the art nouveau period.

In fact over 1/3 of buildings in the city are art nouveau making it the highest concentration in the world.

With gargoyles and maidens lining all the rooftops and bright pastel colours.

No two buildings are the same and leaves you wandering each street to see what the next building is going to be like.

  • Alberta iela 13, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia
Art Nouveau

Are you considering visiting Riga on your next European city break or has this convinced you to add it to your list?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Need somewhere to stay in Riga?

Check out our post about our stay at the Park Inn by Radisson Residence in Riga. Booking.com

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