Latvia’s capital city, Riga is a hotbed of history, culture and Art Nouveau architecture. From Gothic spires to medieval meeting places, a stroll through Riga’s Old Town feels like a journey back in time. Yet beneath the storybook surface you’ll find a forward-thinking nightlife, contemporary art galleries, converted army barracks and an experimental dining scene to explore! Positioned on the Daugava River, Riga is surrounded by natural beauty. Take a short jaunt out of town and you’ll find wild blueberries, lush forests and the white sands of Jurmala, a popular beach resort.
Riga’s perfectly preserved Old Town has earned a rightful place on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its meandering cobbled alleyways, half-timbred homes and Gothic stonework. Although parts of the city were destroyed during WWII, buildings have been restored to their former glory and structures like the 13th century Old City Wall still stand. There’s a fabulous collection of Art Nouveau architecture in Riga as well, many of which were designed by Mikhail Eisenstein – don’t miss the flamboyant Stockholm School of Economics! Take a look at the historic Freedom Monument, and pay a visit to the Central Market to sample local delicacies.
You’ll find taxis readily on hand at the pier (negotiate prices in advance), but there’s also a public transport system that’s pretty easy to navigate! Choose from trolleys, trams, or buses to get into the town centre, with tickets available from onboard conductors. The city centre is only two tram stops away from the ferry terminal, with a range of tram numbers offering service including numbers 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 all heading in the right direction! Get off at the Nacionala opera stop and you’ll be right in the heart of the city.
Europark operates a secure parking facility right next to the port. It’s open 24 hours a day, with prices starting at 12 euros for each 24-hour period. It’s best to prepay for your parking, but you can also pay on the day either via SMS mobile phone payments or with coins. Do you need longer term parking? You can pay for contract cards lasting anywhere from seven days to a rolling monthly plan. There’s also public parking available within downtown Riga, but it’s generally easier to explore on foot if you’re just there for the day.
Latvia went through some hard times during the Second World War and its aftermath, which is vital to understanding modern Riga. You can learn all about it as well as the battle for independence at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, housed in a Soviet-era building. Another worthwhile museum is the Open-Air Ethnographic Museum, featuring real-life farmhouses and churches from a century ago.
A favourite day trip for locals and tourists alike is Jurmala Beach, tucked away just an hour outside of town. Pull up a wooden sun lounger on the sandy beach, try your luck in the glitzy casinos or enjoy freshly caught seafood with a view.
Take a trip to the top of St Peter’s Church to admire the view from its spires, overlooking the medieval cityscape below. The church was founded by Germanic crusaders in 1209, making its interior well worth a look.
Do you fancy another scenic outing? Make your way to Kipsala, a charming island marked by its historic wooden houses and cute waterfront restaurants offering views across the river to Riga’s Old Town.
Try the local liqueur called Riga Black Balsam (or pick up a bottle to bring home). It’s made from berries, ginger, linden flowers and valerian root and distilled to a mega-strong 45% proof!