Find out why you should visit Riga

A Short And Sweet Stay In Riga

If a cancelled flight always resulted in spending a couple of days in a lovely city, then I’d wish my flights got cancelled more often. When I booked our trip to Northern Europe, the plan was to fly to Helsinki, with a 6 hour layover in Riga, enough to get out, wander a bit in the Old Town, buy a snowglobe and catch the next flight. It all changed when I received an email from Air Baltic, informing me that the flight was cancelled so we were faced with a choice: book another night in Helsinki or stay one night in Riga, either way we would fly at an ungodly hour (3:50 AM). Naturally, we decided to add another city to our itinerary and I don’t regret the choice for a second, since Riga is so charming that it’s impossible not to love. If you’ve never visited Riga but are curious about it, here’s how I spent two relaxing days in the capital of Latvia.

What to see in Riga

Since our hotel couldn’t check us in until 2 PM and we were there at 7 AM, we decided we couldn’t sleep in the lobby so we set out to explore the Old Town which was right at the hotel’s door step. A UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll fall in love with it even on a gray Sunday morning when the only people on the streets other than your friends are drunk British tourists. Yes, I’m speaking from experience πŸ˜‰ “A 2 GB card is enough for a couple of days in Riga, right?”, I thought to myself. WRONG, because each building is more beautiful than the other and I spent a lot of time capturing all the interesting details and managed to fill up that card by noon on the first day.

In Old Riga, you can see the stunning House of the Blackheads, built in the 14th century (and reconstructed in 1999) for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild of unmarried merchants. Basically a bachelor, club, right? There’s a funny story behind it, although there are two houses, only the one on the right was originally the guild,Β  but since a merchant wasn’t allowed to be part of their club, he built an almost identical house right next to it, out of spite.

 

Right next to the House of the Blackheads, you can go up the tower of St Peter’s Church for a bird’s-eye view over Riga. On a day with clear blue sky the view is absolutely gorgeous, but sadly it was a little cloudy when we went and since it’s closed on Mondays, we couldn’t postpone it. You don’t have to worry about climbing a million stairs, since there is an elevator that will take you right at the top.

You can wander around the Old Town and admire the Art Nouveau buildings or you can go to the Albert Street (Alberta iela in Latvian) and see some gorgeous works of art and even a museum dedicated to this architectural style. You’ll run out of superlatives when you see the details on the buildings from this street. πŸ˜‰

For a taste of the daily life in Riga, you can go to the Central Market where you will find everything from oven mitts, to amber jewelry or traditional food. You can buy all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, I couldn’t resist those tasty summer berries! Yum!

Riga is a city that’s best explore on foot or taking a walking tour, but if you have limited time, your best bet is to wander around and see the symbols of the city (such as the Freedom Monument) or charming corners (such as the Esplanade Park or the City Hall).

Where to eat & drink in Riga

DSC_0128_1

When you need to wander around for 6 hours after a sleepless night, coffee is the only solution. Luckily, I knew a great cafe,Β Rigensis, and we waited in front of it for 20 minutes until it opened, but once we were inside, we were in awe: they had so many different pastries and cakes, we couldn’t decide what to get. So we bought everything! πŸ˜€ I don’t want to spoil it, because a full review will be coming soon, but if you only have time for one place, this should be it.

DSC_168 (38)_1

I was buying amber jewelry when I heard a live band singing pop covers at the Egle restaurant and I went to check it out. With an imminent rain, I decided to find a table there, especially since their prices were quite good considering it was right in the heart of the Old Town. The food however surprised me. It was SO good! While my friends all ordered burgers, I decided to try the fish with mashed cauliflower and ratatouille, it was probably the best thing I ate the whole trip. We all liked it so much that we went back the second day as well. Seriously, do not skip the ratatouille, my mouth is watering just by thinking about it πŸ˜‰

DSC_0170_1

If you haven’t visited the St Peter’s Church Tower, then you should make time and go for a cocktail at the Skyline Bar at the top of the Radisson Hotel. If you go at noon when it opens, you have the whole place to yourself and you can choose whichever table you like best for a breathtaking view. I recommend the Clavis Riga cocktail, made with Black Balsam, a traditional Latvian strongΒ black currants liqueur. A lot of people don’t like it, but we have some similar traditional drinks in Romania, so I quite loved it (even bought a couple of bottles as souvenirs! πŸ˜‰ ).

Where to stay in Riga

DSC_168 (17)_1

Since it was for only one night, we figured we should stay right in the Old Town and that we can afford a nice place, so we booked a room at Wellton Old Riga Palace Hotel. With €60/night for a double room, it may not have been the cheapest option in Riga, but the room was nice, the location was excellent and the breakfast had everything you could have wanted and something extra, definitely better than the ones that followed. Besides, you can book a room with a massage, spa or sauna package. πŸ˜‰

Although it’s a small city, I would happily return any time in Riga because I am sure I would discover charming new parts I didn’t see before. Is Riga worth visiting? Absolutely, 100% YES! I promise you will be convinced the minute you step on its cobblestone streets in the Old Town.

Have you ever been to Riga?

You may also like

  • How cute is Riga, right? I had such a great time there almost exactly a year ago. SOOOO much food and drink (including a great burger with pineapple and guacamole, and OMG THE BLACK CURRANT BALSAMS). But Tallinn blew my mind even more πŸ˜‰ …. just saying!

    • I loved the black balsams!! πŸ˜€ Your posts have definitely convinced me to go to Riga, but I was the impression you liked Riga more than Tallinn. Don’t tempt me, I saw how easy it is to get there from Riga, haha.

      • I had a crazy fun time with Linda in Riga – so that definitely colored the experience. But I probably liked Tallinn a bit more visually and culinarily.

  • Lucy Dodsworth

    Riga looks so pretty, love those old town buildings – hope to get out there next year so thanks for the tips!

    • I’m sure you’d love Riga, it’s a small town and you can spend a few relaxing days without rushing from one place to another to fit everything in.

  • Liz

    Your pictures are amazing! Riga looks beautiful and a nice city to get stuck in after a cancelled flight. I am a fan of cobblestone steps and church spires so this looks like a place I would go. Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Liz! I loved wandering on the streets of Riga, the architecture is gorgeous! πŸ™‚

  • Aperture Of My Soul

    Riga looks fabulous with its architecture! A 2 GB card would not be enough. haha Definitely would like to visit there one day! I love markets and seeing all the spices on display. Spices are one of my favorite thing to buy on a trip. Thanks for a great peek into Riga!

    • I love spices too, but this time I settled for some adorable oven mitts with foxes πŸ˜€

  • Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe

    Vlad, Riga does look so beautiful, I’m sure I’d fill my card in no time too. You won me with the architecture, but good food as well, I’m in.

    • I’m not sure which I like the most, the architecture or the food, I had such a nice time in Riga it’s hard to pick just one thing.

  • I’ve never heard of Riga, but now that I know it looks so beautiful! I love little villages like this and I think planning to see a new city is always a great choice when having that option you had!

    • Glad I could make you interested in Riga πŸ˜€

  • I bet many people would love to have their flight cancelled if they had the opportunity to check out the stunning architecture of Riga and eat the delicious food!

    • I was upset about the cancellation for like two seconds, before I saw the choices for the new flight, haha.

  • Isn’t it fun when a bad thing has a good outcome? They should have paid for your hotel stay because they cancelled the flight… Ha, ha, ha, wishful thinking! Those small airlines don’t give you a glass of water for free. Riga looks so beautiful! I’d love to visit it.

    • I haven’t even thought about it, because while they’re Latvia’s flag carrier, they’re also a low cost company so I wasn’t expecting anything.

  • Wow! What a lovely change of plans! Your photos are amazing by the way… What camera/lens do you use?

    • Thank you! My camera is a Nikon D3100 and the lens I used for most of the photos is an all-around Sigma 18-250, perfect for travel. πŸ™‚

  • I love Riga especially the Central Market housed in the old hangar. I also love when an annoyance (cancelled flight) turns into an opportunity! Thanks for sharing your experience #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • I loved the Central Market, although it was a bit of a slippery slope to spending all your money πŸ˜€

  • contented traveller

    What beautiful photos of Riga, Certainly you have inspired us to visit. Serendipity!

    • Thank you for reading, I’m happy you’ve liked the photos.

  • Sarah Ebner

    I’ve heard such good things about Riga – the Old Town in particular sounds so worth visiting. Glad your delay ended up being so beneficial!

    • Riga has one of the most beautiful Old Towns I’ve seen, it’s definitely worth a visit or two πŸ™‚

  • Wow! It looks almost like a fairytale!!! Definitely going to put Riga on my list of places to visit!

    • I’m glad I could convince you to put Riga on your list πŸ˜€

  • Amanda & Brian

    It looks like such a charming town and the architecture seems so detailed and amazing. Love how colorful the city is from your birds-eye view from St. Peters Church. Thanks for the introduction of Riga, we now have a new city to add to our list!

    • It looks even more colorful under a blue sun, but you can’t control the weather. Hope you’ll like Riga when you visit it πŸ˜€

  • I think I would enjoy making changes because of a cancelled trip when a city like this is involved. The city looks so beautiful. I would also like to experience the market and the food. The descriptions of the food sound very good. Can wait to read your food related posts!

    • I’ll probably have a post about food next week, didn’t have time to finish it this weekend πŸ™

  • Natalie Tanner

    What a lovely place. I love the story about the 2 houses..those types of tidbits are my favorite!

    • I loved it too, these are the ones that I usually remember πŸ™‚

  • What a beautiful city. The food sounds and looks amazing too.

    • Everything about Riga is great indeed, I’m happy I got a chance to visit πŸ™‚

  • I’ve heard good things about Riga but your photos make it look spectacular! I don’t think I’ve seen such ornate facades in Vienna, Warsaw, or Krakow! I really have to plan to go there some time! (And yes, I know what you mean about drunken tourists. There were plenty of those in Krakow as well when we visited there this summer.)

    • It seems like I always find drunk tourists wherever I go, I don’t get them at all! Speaking of Krakow, I’d love to go there!

  • Victoria@celebratetheweekend

    I loved Riga when I visited it as a student from Moscow. the old town and the food were “delicious”. I hear from everybody that has not changed and eating out is very affordable.

    • I was surprised by how affordable it was to eat right in the Old Town, you don’t see this too often.

  • Riga looks beautiful especially those buildings! I’m a sucker for architecture and intricate details, so I’m sure that I would shoot a thousand photos in one day!!

    • I love photographing architecture details so it’s no surprise that in one day I took more photos than in other cities in three days. πŸ˜‰

  • Wow, the buildings in old town look amazing! I love when unplanned trips turn into great discoveries. If only ever flight delay turned into something great!

    • I’m happy I had a chance to relax and see Riga, but I don’t know if a flight cancellation or delay will turn out so well again, haha.

  • great pictures of Riga, sounds like 2 days is the right amount of time to spend in Riga
    monday escapes 17

    • Thank you! Yes, 2 days is enough to get a taste of Riga, but I’d love to go back again.

  • I am dying to check out Riga! Your pictures are stunning! Too bad your flight got cancelled, but you couldn’t have asked for a lovelier town to get stranded in for a day or two! πŸ™‚ #MondayEscapes

    • Thank you, I hope you can visit Riga soon, it’s a very lovely city πŸ™‚

  • Wander Mum

    You have totally sold Riga to me! I have never been but it looks stunning. Not a bad result to come out of a cancelled flight. #mondayescapes

    • Yay, hope you’ll love Riga as well πŸ˜€

  • Ahhhh your photos, they need no words! Amazing.
    I am dying to go to Riga, and as I trust your opinion very much, I am convinced it is definitely worth it. I already noted down the cafe and restaurant names, just in case πŸ˜€
    The hotel sounds nice, another one to note down!!
    Ps: love your new title font!!

    #MondayEscapes

  • Ahhhh your photos, they need no words! Amazing.
    I am dying to go to Riga, and as I trust your opinion very much, I am convinced it is definitely worth it. I already noted down the cafe and restaurant names, just in case πŸ˜€
    The hotel sounds nice, another one to note down!!
    Ps: love your new title font!!

    #MondayEscapes

    • Thank you, Allane! I’ll soon have a review for a lovely cafe in Riga πŸ˜€ I’m happy someone noticed and commented at the new font πŸ˜€

      • You’re welcome πŸ˜€ yess I noticed as soon as I opened your page!
        Cafe in Riga sounds awesome!!

  • Wow, gorgeous photos! I didn’t know Riga is such a wonderful city! Thanks for enlightening me:)

    #MondayEscapes

    • I’m happy you liked it, hope you’ll love Riga if you do visit. πŸ™‚

  • Funnily enough, my friend has just got back from Riga and loved it – she spent 3 nights so a little longer but she really sang Riga’s praises. From you photos it looks just the place I would love to visit. And I would do the same buy all the pastries and cakes in the cafe!

    • Hope you do visit Riga, I’m sure you’d love it πŸ˜€ Just be careful with Monkey and all those delicious cakes πŸ˜€

  • Svetoslav Dimitrov

    Riga looks amazing – the pearl of the Baltics, isn’t it? I haven’t been there, but, judging by your amazing photos, I will definitely put it higher on my list.

    • I haven’t visited any other Baltic countries so for now I’ll agree that it’s the pearl of the Baltics. Who knows, maybe I’ll love Tallinn even more. πŸ˜‰

      • Svetoslav Dimitrov

        Hehe, right. I have heard Tallinn also has its unique charm (as any other city, probably.

  • that first photo is wow! what an amazing square! I should put Riga on my list:)