Riga is a delightful city enjoying a renaissance as one of Europe’s leading destinations for dazzling architecture and pumping nightlife.
Latvia’s capital boasts a historic old quarter, spacious city parks and a diverse assortment of Art-Nouveau buildings, radiating out on either side of the Daugava River. This is a bewitching city that casts its spell on you and keeps many a traveler here long after they planned to leave.
Things to see and do in Riga
Comfy shoes are the order of the day in Riga unless you are navigating your way over the rounded cobblestones in towering heels en route to a date with some of the best nightlife in Europe.
The city runs an effective tram and bus system but is best explored on foot and the Old Town itself, the medieval center on the East side of the River Daugava, is fully pedestrianized. The area around it boasts plenty of turn-of-the-century architecture, a wonderful example of German Art Nouveau style and is definitely worth exploring at leisure. Start at the tourist information center located in the House of Blackheads, the former Guild of the Merchants-to-be, which houses a fascinating museum. Pick up one of the information pamphlets here with detailed descriptions of independent walks around the city. A more sombre visit to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is a must for anyone interested in gaining an insight into the country´s history and struggles under Nazi and Soviet occupation.
Don’t miss the Freedom Monument, one of Latvia´s national symbols that was erected during the first independence and survived Soviet occupation untouched.
Riga Central Market is located close to the Old Town and merits a visit not just for its selection of local fruit and vegetables, cheap clothing and low-cost (probably contraband) cigarettes, but also for its differentiating architecture: Its covering is constructed from parts of zeppelin hangars bought for the market in 1920.
Latvian food is wholesome and hearty and some of the best examples can be found in Riga. As the most vibrant and cosmopolitan city of the Baltics, it also offers a vast selection of well-executed international favourites.
The city´s nightlife is renowned throughout Europe and offers a mix of Russian-influenced, Latvian and other international bars and clubs. Drinking places stay open well into the early hours and for a late night dance there is a huge selection of clubs to choose from. The best (and most expensive) are located in the Old Town but wherever you are in the city you won’t have to walk far for a shot of Riga Balsam – also popular amongst the large numbers of foreign tourists in Riga’s popular clubs and bars.
Communication in Riga
Riga is a bilingual city where 50% are native Russian speakers, 50% native Latvian and both languages are spoken in equal measure. English is widely spoken amongst the younger generation and by anyone in the tourism industry, as is German. There is a growing demand in Riga for English language teachers, an excellent option for travelers with a suitable EFL qualification to finance a prolonged stay in the city.
Accommodation in Riga is good value and varied and the city is becoming more and more popular amongst Digital Nomads.