With its Gothic and Rococo style buildings and narrow streets, cosy beer halls and vintage-style bars, Riga – Latvia’s capital city – is one of the prettiest destinations to explore in Eastern Europe.
Why should you travel to Latvia? First of all, East is cheap. A weekend in Latvia can be a great holiday bargain. It’s very easy to find a nice hotel room for less than €30 per night in Riga’s city centre, and this will probably include breakfast, not to mention the tempting restaurant prices and low public transportation costs. With that in mind, let’s see what Latvia has to offer its visitors.
Founded in 1201, Riga had been a base for German Knights, and was a convenient place for a harbour because of its fortunate situation on the Eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. In more than eight centuries, the Latvian capital has been a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union.
You can sense this while hitting the streets of the atmospheric Old Town of Riga, which is in the heart of the city. The Old Town is very small, so be sure to explore it on foot. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the St. Peter’s Church is one of the main symbols of Riga. Enjoy an amazing interior and a breathtaking panorama view of the city from the 72-metre high church’s viewing platform.
The Dome Cathedral, St. John’s Church and House of Blackheads are also a must-see. The newly renovated Latvian National Museum of Art is one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in Riga, and it’s only been recently opened to visitors. The museum is home to both local and international art, as well as regular exhibitions and cultural events.
Warm yourself up with a cup of coffee leaning against the wall in one of the cosy coffee shops, or grab a beer in any craft beer bar in the Old Town, and discover how modern brewers are revitalising Latvian centuries-old brewing tradition. For those who prefer to keep it trendy, Riga Terrace is truly a unique place on the rooftop of the Riga Plaza shopping centre, located close to the Monument of Freedom.
The variety of cuisine will take you around the world while being cooled by a gentle breeze. You can also lounge at Aqua Luna or Eksports Bar – two glamorous and trending places which are located close to each other in the Andrejsala area, close to the city centre.
Once you’ve explored this cute Old Town, hit the cool and artistic hipster neighbourhood located on Miera Iela, which translates to “Peace Street”. It features art galleries, bohemian cafes and restaurants, cool bars and vintage shops. Enjoy the boho vibes together with underground artists, musicians, writers, private-gallery owners and other local forward-thinking creatives that hang out in this area.
If you decide to postpone your trip to Riga till autumn season, there’s an amazing festival of light held every November. With its video technologies and huge light installations, Staro Riga transforms the city, showing it from a completely different side.