Are you thinking about incorporating a visit to Riga in your next European tour? Maybe you’re thinking of specifically traveling the Baltic countries. Riga, as the capital of Latvia, is an incredible, culturally rich, historically fascinating city. It has everything you’re looking for, as well as some surprises.
Dive in to see 10 reasons to visit Riga!
1. Riga Is the Central Baltic Capital
Riga is extremely well situated for travelers who want to explore this part of Europe beyond Latvia. The middle of the Baltic capitals, it’s four hours in either direction by bus to get to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, or Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city. Of course, you can fly to these cities, too, if you choose to.
You can also visit Stockholm or Helsinki by ferry from Riga, so planning a full exploration of the surrounding region is not a problem at all. Furthermore, with Latvia’s AirBaltic airline having regular connections with major European cities—and, of course, with plenty of other airlines flying out of Riga Airport—you have your choice of destinations about where to go next after your stay in the Latvian capital city.
How easy it is to get in and out of the city if you’re doing a multi-country tour is one of the best reasons to visit Riga for travelers who want to maximize their time and flexibility.
2. Riga’s Art Nouveau Architecture Can’t Be Missed
Riga’s Art Nouveau architecture is one of the most unique aspects of this Baltic city and one of the top reasons to visit Riga. At the turn of the twentieth century, when Art Nouveau was en vogue in the architecture and design world, Riga experienced a construction boom, and the architects of the day put their own spin on this popular style, which incorporates organic, flowing lines as well as plenty of symbolism.
Many of Riga’s best examples of Art Nouveau architecture—hundreds of examples—are still in beautiful condition. Visit the Art Nouveau Museum for a look at its beautiful staircase and a recreation of a true-to-the-era interior or stroll down Alberta or Elizabeta streets for plenty of picture-worthy examples of this century-old style.
3. Old Town Riga Is the Heart of the City
Old Town Riga, or Vecriga, is a major draw for travelers, and it’s a part of the UNESCO-protected World Heritage site that encompasses the medieval center and beyond. It reflects a variety of architectural styles, along with winding streets, impressive churches, and famous squares and monuments. Visitors can stay in Old Town Riga with no problem—plenty of hotels are located here, which gives you the opportunity to step out of your accommodation and immediately start exploring.
You’ll also find a variety of restaurants and pubs here, including those serving typical Latvian food and drink. During holidays, markets and decorations make Old Town Riga even prettier, and you’ll likely see entertainment or be able to participate in activities that are a part of the Riga calendar of events. Exploring the historic center is hands-down one of the best reasons to visit Riga.
4. Nightlife in the Latvian Capital Caters for All
Riga has a lively nightlife to appeal to all tastes and ages, from hipster bars, to dive bars, to modern establishments serving wine and tapas. You can also look for clubs and bars situated in buildings originally built as storehouses, factories, or educational institutions, each with a unique vibe and atmosphere.
5. Riga Is Only 30 Minutes from the Baltic Sea
Riga is only 30 minutes from the Baltic Sea, and the soft sand of the beaches beckon both travelers and locals to the coast year-round. Take a taxi—or the train from the central station—to Jurmala, where wooden buildings, pine trees, and the sea air create the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing break from the city. Go for the day or stay overnight to enjoy the coast in the way that suits you best.
Proximity to the beach is certainly one of the best reasons to visit Riga. While the Baltic Sea stays chilly year-round, a walk along the coast on the off-season or sunbathing during the summer makes vacation feel like vacation.
6. Riga Is Convenient for Day Trips
Riga, in addition to serving as an excellent hub for exploring other countries in the region, is a great home base for taking day trips around Latvia! The day trip options from the Latvian capita are one of the best reasons to visit Riga. Whether your interest is nature, historic towns, or the residences of the former aristocracy, you’ll find day trips that educate, stimulate the senses, or inspire.
Take a bog tour or visit a national forest to clear your head and take in the natural environment. Or if old architecture is more your thing, consider visiting any of Riga’s manor houses. Rundale Palace is a major Latvia attraction because it’s a smaller version of the palaces of St. Petersburg. You can also visit castles in Latvia in places such as Cesis and Sigulda to learn about medieval history or Soviet sites in Latvia to learn about 20th-century history.
7. The Latvian Capital Remains Budget Friendly
Sure, the prices of the Baltic countries keep going up, but Riga continues to be relatively affordable. Stay outside of the old town for the best prices in accommodation and choose restaurants that are not intended for tourists to get the best deals. However, you can still enjoy reasonably priced food and drink, depending on your budget, even in the center.
Taxis and public transportation are inexpensive, with a single ride on a bus, tram, or trolleybus costing you between 1.15 and 2.00 euros. The train ride to Jurmala will cost you only about 1.50 euros! In short, Riga offers plenty of ways to save while enabling most visitors to enjoy everything the city has to offer. One of the best reasons to visit Riga is certainly how easy it is on your wallet compared to many other European cities.
8. Riga Is a Green City
Riga’s green spaces are lush, well-kept areas that beckon readers with books, dog owners with their canine friends, children with bikes and scooters, the elderly out to get fresh air, and photographers with their cameras.
Particularly during the summer months, these well-situated patches of trees, grass, and landscaping create havens from hot weather and the perfect places to park yourself for a brief rest as you discover the city. Fountains, monuments, and flowers give each space its own character.
9. Food and Drink in Riga Is Diverse
Riga has a variety of edible offerings, whether you’re into street food, traditional Latvian food, upscale dining, wine snacks, or something else, and you’ll be able to visit establishments from local breweries to wine bars with carefully chosen menus to those places serving imaginative cocktails.
You’ll be able to descend into medieval cellars to try Latvian potato and mushroom dishes, washed down with the famous Riga Black Balsam liquor, or visit airy and modern restaurants with chefs who excel at seafood, sushi, steaks, or the cuisine of your choice.
Look for Latvia’s 30 Best Restaurants if you’re a foodie interested in tasting the best of the best, and consider patronizing venues that have been recognized by the Baltic Wine List awards for their choice in knowledge, service, and offerings of wine. Food and dining options are one of the best reasons to visit Riga.
10. Riga’s Districts Offer Variety in Culture and Atmosphere
Riga has a variety of districts all with their own distinct personalities. Of course, Old Town Riga has its medieval feel and is heavy with history. However, consider also visiting the Spikeri Quarter, where former warehouses have been turned into concert venues, art galleries, and creative spaces, and serves as a magnet for Latvia’s creatives, designers, and innovators.
Riga’s Quiet Center is an Art Nouveau residential district with sweet little cafes, modern restaurants, and small shops. The Kalnciems Quarter, with its historic wooden buildings, offers a farmers market and various cultural activities.
Riga is one of those cities that continues to show its various facets the more you explore. It will be sure to grab you with one or more of its many charms, no matter what your travel style or your taste in European cities. While many people breeze through Riga on a jam-packed tour of the Baltic countries, Riga is worth staying in and getting to know—you can easily spend several days there or longer without getting bored. Its many advantages for the curious, its urban beauty, and its charms quickly make anyone feel at home. So many reasons to visit Riga exist that it would be a shame to miss this European capital.