I was interested in what to expect in Riga as it’s the largest city of the three Baltics – and my snow capped time in the city was chilly but pleasurable as well.
As I do in many cities I visit, I began my stay in the city with an Old Town walking tour. In this tour, we explored much of the reconstructed Old Town – much of the original structures were bombed by the Nazis – and learned a bit about the city’s history.
One of the most famous building structures in Riga is the Three Brothers, two of which I captured below. The Three Brothers are significant in Riga as the houses together form the oldest complex of dwelling houses in the city, each representing a different period of development in construction. The houses are located at addresses 17, 19 and 21 Maza Pils Street, respectively. The Gothic-style building in 17 is the oldest dating from the late 15th century, while 19 is from the mid 17th century. 21, on the left, is a narrow Baroque building from the late 17th century.
I also did the Riga Alternative Walking Tour which takes you outside the Old Town into the city center and to the Central Market. While it definitely is worthwhile to see outside the Old Town area – the Old Town is rather compact – I found the narrative of this tour to be a bit negative. It was a mix of presenting historical information, but also discounting the historical value of the Old Town and mocked the Art Nouveau area of the city.
After walking tours I’m usually ready to eat, so both days I went to Lido restaurants. Lido is a cafeteria style restaurant with hearty Latvian food at reasonable prices, with a few locations in Riga. The most visitor frequented one is in the Old Town, but there’s two in the city center that are larger and offer more options.
It snowed quite a bit during my stay in Riga, so one of the days I escaped the cold by heading up to the Skyline Bar on the Radisson’s 26th floor. The Skyline Bar provides views of the Old Town on one side, and the city center on the other.
Another way to escape the cold – or just grab a meal or have a wander is with a visit to Riga’s Central Market. Located near the bus station, the Central Market is hard to miss as its housed inside former zeppelin hangars, with an open-air area as well. I popped in one day for an afternoon pastry – for which I paid €0.21! The market is not very touristy, so its a good place to go to see where the locals shop.
Another famous site in Riga is the House of the Blackheads. The original building was erected in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. The structure was bombed by the Germans in 1941 (quite ironically), but was rebuilt in the late 1990s.
Lastly, one of my favorite experiences in Riga was two nightly visits to Ala Folk Club. Ala Folk Club is a restaurant with Latvian cuisine and live music nightly. The first night I visited there was a jazz band, and the second night was Latvian traditional music as well as dancers who danced along! The food – I opted for the chicken roulade the first night and traditional Latvian meat balls the second night – was simply delicious. If you can, I would recommend making reservations as even on weekdays they were completely full.
Have you been to Riga? Would you want to go?
- Old Town walking tour: Leaves daily at 11AM from St. Peter’s Church. The tour is free but don’t forget to tip!
- Alternative Riga walking tour: Leaves daily at noon from St. Peter’s Church. This tour is also free, but don’t forget to tip!
- Where I stayed: I stayed at the Naughty Squirrel Hostel in Old Town Riga. The common area was very social and a great place to meet people. I booked a single private which was spacious and had a comfy bed for €30/night.