Top Ten Things To Do In Riga
There are seemingly a million things to do in Riga. From a morning exploring the city’s Old Town to an afternoon chilling out in one of the Latvian capital’s many cosy cafes, to a night out at the city’s world-class opera. But you don’t need us or anybody else to help you enjoy these simple and well-known pastimes. As the Latvian capital continues to develop, an exciting array of unique and exciting activities are now available to those in the know. We bring you our list of the top ten things to do in Riga…
1. Miera street
While Riga’s Old Town is the main magnet for foreign tourists to Latvia, locals and those in the know tend to gravitate to other – shall we say – cooler corners of the city. Miera iela (which fittingly translates as Peace Street) is Riga’s funky, hip, and definitely bohemian corner of the city. Miera iela is home to a number of cool coffee shops, tea parlours, hipster bars, and alternative art shops, as well as the famous Laima Chocolate Factory & Museum. Nearby is the Tallinn Street Quarter (Tallinas kvartāls). The Quarter is buzzing in the summer when the abandoned buildings are transformed into trendy bars and clubs, with the huge central courtyard also hosting street food sellers and crowds of excited young partygoers. One great activity to try out is a coffee masterclass. Renowned local baristas teach participants about coffee brewing techniques and how to make that perfect cup of coffee. Your morning coffee will never seem quite the same again after this experience.
2. Cocktail masterclass
You might not know it but Riga is renowned for its skilled cocktail makers, who often star in international competition. Visitors to Riga can join craft cocktail making classes where the city’s world-class bartenders teach you some of their cocktail making skills and tips.
You can, of course, consume your afternoon’s work when you have finished!
3. Central market tour and food masterclass
Riga Central Market is the biggest central market and bazaar in all of Europe. A visit here during your stay in Latvia is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Latvia! One reason why Riga Central Market is so popular with visitors is that much of it is housed inside five former German Zeppelin hangars, dating back to the 1920s. Inside the hangars, you will find hundreds of traders selling fresh fruit and vegetables from the Baltic countryside and beyond as well as a remarkable array of milk products, bread, nuts, fish, and meat. The hangars also house a brand new food court Pavillion known as ‘Centralais’, where visitors can enjoy falafel, oysters, craft beer, Thai soups, as well as traditional Latvian dishes. Central market tours also include food masterclasses!
4. Beer tasting and beer district
Craft beer is becoming all the rage in Latvia as it is in many of Europe’s cooler cities. While Latvians don’t consume as much beer as their German and Czech counterparts, per capita beer consumption in Latvia is greater than it is in the UK and the Netherlands, and ranks as one of the highest in all of Europe. Latvia has centuries of beer-making traditions and in both the 19th and 20th centuries had regionally renowned breweries. The Riga Beer District is home to three breweries and a number of craft beer bars and shops where you can try IPAs, Stouts, Wheat Beers, and a weird and wonderful selection of hybrid beers. A beer district tour is one of the top ten things to do in Riga, and includes visits to breweries, the city’s top craft beer bars … and. of course, lots of beer tasting! There are also plenty of delicious snacks along the way to keep you tied over!
5. Art Nouveau district tour
Riga has the world’s premier collection and density of Art Nouveau architecture. Incredibly, Art Nouveau buildings account for around one-third of all buildings in central Riga! Back in the second half of the nineteenth century, Riga was one of Europe’s booming cities. And at the turn of that century experienced an almost doubling in its population size in little over a decade, making it the fifth most populated city at the time in the whole of the Russian Empire. The city was dripping with money as it attracted businessmen from all over Europe and beyond, and hundreds of Art Nouveau buildings were constructed each and every year for two decades. With hundreds of incredible buildings to explore, located all over the city, the best way to experience the Latvian capital’s architectural gems is on an Art Nouveau district tour, which also includes visiting inside an Art Nouveau apartment and a trip to the Art Nouveau museum.
6. Black balsam factory and truffle masterclass
Of all the products produced in Latvia, Rigas Black Balsams is arguably the country’s most famous export. What is Riga Black Balsam? It is a traditional Latvian balsam dating back to 1752. This distinctive alcoholic tipple consists of 24 natural ingredients including birch buds, berries, ginger root, and nutmeg. A visit to the Black Balsam factory should be on your top ten things to do in Riga list! As well as its famous Black Balsam, the factory also produces world-famous Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya vodkas!
7. Sunset/Sunrise SUP or Kayaking (Lucavsala, Zaķusala, Andrejsala)
Enjoy a completely different perspective of Riga from the water by joining a sunset or sunrise kayaking or SUP trip on the Latvian capital’s Daugava River. A guided 7-kilometre trip takes visitors along the city’s canal and out onto the river that winds its way through the heart of Riga. The natural light is at its best and most dramatic at sunrise and sunset, providing stunning vistas of Riga’s UNESCO World Heritage medieval Old Town, and other districts beyond. Stand up Paddle Boards (known simply as SUPs) are proving even more popular than kayaking, with both options available to guests. This not-to-be-missed Riga tour also takes in the Latvian capital’s islands – Lucavsala, Zaķusala, Andrejsala – which almost all foreign visitors to Latvia never get to experience.
8. Mežaparks – “Mežakaķis”
Mezaparks is a wonderful forest park, located on the edge of Riga, full of atmospheric forest trails and well-kept cycle paths. There is even a gorgeous lake here with a beach and waterside cafe. Mezaparks (literally ‘forest park’) is also home to the Mezakakis adventure park: acres and acres of zip lines, bungee trampolines, and forest canopy walks. The park operates from May to September and is a magical forest adventure for kids and adults alike.
9. Riga Code game
Riga Code game is on our list of the top ten things to do in Riga. This fun team game invented a few years ago, takes on the form of a mission to track down a spy before he or she leaves the country. Not only is it a great way for groups of people to experience a fun adventure together but it’s also a fantastic and interesting way to discover the Latvian capital. The Riga City Code Game can be played in a geo-based format on your tablet or phone, with the Latvian capital transformed both into a board game and your playground for the day!
10. Riga from above
Anyone who has spent any time in the Latvian capital will tell you that Riga is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. But to get the very best out of this Baltic city and enjoy perspectives others rarely do, we suggest getting up high and personal and seeing Riga from above. Fortunately, unlike most other major cities in the world, Riga’s stunning cityscape is not dominated – and some might say spoilt – by high rise concrete and glass. This means the handful of high rise vantage points that do exist offer incredibly rewarding views of the Latvian capital. Among these Riga from above highlights are the quirky Academy of Sciences building, the 120-metre steeple of 15th century St Peter’s Church, and the ‘Skyline bar’ on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Latvija Hotel. You will be astounded by some of the views of the city you will see. It is a form of exploration that reveals much about the city you could never understand or appreciate by spending all your time in Riga at street level. We recommend joining a Riga from above tour as the city’s vertiginous highlights are located some distance apart from one another, and with limited opening times.