An aerial view of Riga in Latvia

Six reasons why you should visit Riga, Latvia

Lauren Allen

Contributing writer

Planning a trip to Riga? Here are some of our top picks...

Stay: Grand Poet Hotel and Spa by Semarah

Walking tour: Riga Old Town

WWII site: Salaspils Memorial Ensemble

Food tour: Latvian food tasting at the Central Market

Day trip: Sigulda and Turaida

The Latvian capital of Riga is a beautiful city to explore. However, it seems to fly under the radar compared to popular cities like London, Paris and Milan. Not many people seem to know about the city, which means that by travelling to Riga, you’ll have a larger chance of checking out the main hotspots with fewer crowds. 

If you’ve never heard of Riga or haven’t considered visiting, there are many reasons why you should. As well as a charming old town, Riga boasts great nightlife and some of the most impressive architecture in Europe.

There are also some fantastic options for day trips, making it easy to explore beyond the capital city. Here are six reasons to visit Riga as soon as possible.

The House of the Blackheads and historic buildings on the square in Riga, Latvia

1. Riga has a picture-perfect Old Town 

One of the best things about travelling to European destinations is the photogenic old towns. Riga is no different! If you ask me, checking out the old town of Riga is one of the must-do things in the city. 

In fact, Riga's historic centre been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to the part it has played in many historical occasions in Latvia. With such an impressive history, the world heritage status is well-deserved. You'll see for yourself once you finally get to visit! 

Across Old Town, you can expect to see picture-perfect cobble-stoned streets and colourful buildings (some of which date back to the 13th century). Some of the most impressive buildings in the city's old town are The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary and The House of the Blackheads. The Three Brothers, which consists of three unique buildings, are also worth adding to your itinerary.

A popular Riga cocktail, the Black Night Dancer, made with balsam and cola

2. You can find some fantastic nightlife in Riga

Another great reason to visit Riga is to make the most of its amazing nightlife! Like many destinations in Europe, the city has a thriving scene that is well worth checking out. Although it's a hit with stag and hen parties thanks to cheap booze, there is also a large selection of upmarket cocktail bars in Riga if that's something you prefer! 

Riga's Old Town is one of the most convenient places for a night on the town as so many of the top bars and clubs are within walking distance of each other. It's also a great spot for a night out thanks to its variety of cosy bars, trendy establishments and rowdy nightclubs. No matter what kind of night out you are looking for, there is something for you in Riga.

Some of the coolest bars in the city are Cloud Nine and Thirsty. Black Magic is also a must-visit as it's well-known for its selection of Black Balsam cocktails - A traditional Latvian drink that you need to try whilst in the country. 

Thanks to its relaxing atmosphere and array of tasty chocolates on offer, Black Magic is perhaps the finest place to grab a drink after a full day of sightseeing in the Latvian capital. It offers a much more unique vibe than the rest of the bars in Riga.

Old buildings in Art Nouveau style on Alberta Iela street. Riga, Latvia

3. Riga has impressive architecture

If you’re a fan of architecture, you simply must book a trip to Riga. With an impressive display of art nouveau architecture, Riga is home to some amazing buildings. The city's structures and churches are truly remarkable and provide a unique glimpse into the city’s history. 

If you want to see the very best architectural gems in the Latvian capital, you need to head outside of the old town. A must-visit place to admire the architecture in Riga is Alberta Iela Street. This particular street is busting at the brim with art nouveau influences which means that buildings here are adorned with stained glass windows, statues, mosaics and ornate details. 

The street is known for being the most well-preserved street of art nouveau architecture across the whole continent of Europe. If you want to discover more about this remarkable street, head to the Riga Art Nouveau Museum. Here you can learn more about the architects who designed these buildings as well as what the interiors look like.

Colourful buildings in Riga, Latvia

4. There are fewer tourists in Riga 

Before my recent trip to Riga, I was quite surprised to discover that many people seem quite unaware of the city. Despite being a European capital, several people I spoke with had never heard of it. 

Because of this, you’re bound to see fewer tourists if you decide to travel to Riga. Compared to other European gems such as Rome, Lisbon and Athens, you’ll see barely any travellers as you explore the city.

This makes it easy to visit attractions, take photos with no other people and grab a table at popular restaurants. This is highly convenient and, in my opinion, one of the very best reasons to visit Riga.

Snow on the Christmas Markets in Riga, Latvia

5. Riga is beautiful at Christmas

Did you know that Riga has a unique festive history? Legend has it that the world's first decorated Christmas tree was displayed in Riga Old Town way back in 1510. While there may be some disagreement from some of the other Baltic states, it's still a pretty cool story.

Nowadays, Riga's Town Hall Square is home to a beautifully decorated tree each year, making it a popular destination during the festive period. During this time, Riga holds plenty of activities for travellers to make the most of. 

In addition to the Christmas markets (which typically run from late November to Early January) and decorations, you can also get involved in traditional Latvian holiday events. These include attending Christmas-inspired performances at the Latvian National Opera or enjoying a cup of warm mulled wine at a local cafe. 

The city's vibrant nightlife scene is also a must-see, with many bars and clubs hosting unforgettable Christmas-themed events. Whether you're looking for a festive family-friendly experience or a night out with pals, Riga has something for everyone at Christmas time! This means that if you’re a big fan of Christmas, you may want to book a trip there this December.

Turaida Castle and gardens in Sigulda, Latvia

6. You can explore more of Latvia from Riga

To truly appreciate what a country has to offer, I always recommend travelling beyond the capital city. This gives you the chance to delve deeper into the culture, explore the countryside and get to know the country beyond the tourist hotspots. 

From Riga, there are many incredible places just a short drive or train ride away. This makes it easy to explore more of Latvia. Here are a few places to consider:

Firstly, you could plan a trip to Sigulda. This picture-perfect village is just an hour away from central Riga by car or you can do an organised day trip. If you’re travelling via public transport, you can get there in less than 90 minutes. 

Dubbed the "Switzerland of Latvia," Sigulda offers jaw-dropping scenery and an array of activities to enjoy. Once you’ve had your adrenaline fix, take a wander through the Gauja National Park. Here you can check out the hiking trails, caves, and even a historical castle. This is a must-see spot for the more adventurous among you. 

Another option when it comes to day trips from Riga is the beach town of Jurmala. Situated just 30 minutes away from the city by train, it’s one of the most convenient options. This coastal destination is known for its great beaches, making it an ideal place to relax and soak up the sunshine. 

Once you’re done chilling out, stroll down Jomas Street. Here you can check out several restaurants, cafes and shops. If you’re looking for a bit of culture, check out the Dzintari Concert Hall, which hosts concerts and events throughout the year. Overall, Jurmala offers a great mix of relaxing vibes, unique history and cultural experiences - making it a perfect day trip from Riga.

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Lauren Allen

Author - Lauren Allen

After jumping on a plane to Barcelona back in 2016, Lauren has been obsessed with solo travel. After travelling all over Europe, Canada, USA and Morocco, she loves inspiring other women to crush their fears and explore the world without the need to rely on others. 

Last Updated 4 August 2023