Having seen quite a few countries by Eastern Europe and my first trip to the Baltics last year, I’ve grown quite fond of that part of Europe so it’s no surprise that my recent adventure landed me in Riga, Latvia!
I had an image of Riga in my head before we visited which did not disappoint when I arrived. For smaller countries, I love visiting when there is something on like a summer festival or Christmas market as it gives you that little bit more to do over a weekend and adds a little magic to the city. The Christmas Markets in Riga have been hailed on the internet for being the best, more under rated markets in Europe. Having been to Bruges last year I can’t say that they entirely compare, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t still lovely to visit!
So, if you are thinking of visiting Riga in the future here are a few things that you can do:
House of Blackheads
The House of Blackheads is situated in the Old Town of Riga. The original building was erected during the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners and foreigners in Riga. Despite the historical facade the building was actually reconstructed from 1995 to 1999 after being bombed by the Germans in 1941 and then the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. The building was bombed to a ruin by the Germans on June 28, 1941 and the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. The current reconstruction was erected from 1995 to 1999 by Valērij Kargin the president of Parex Bank.
St. Peters Church
The Tower of St.Peters Church in the Old Town of Riga boasts the best views of the city. The tower, which has a €9 entrance fee is probably once of the best activities to do while you are in Riga. The more than 130 meter tall Gothic tower was completed in the 15th century but unfortunately collapsed in 1666. The tower saw many other tragedies throughout it’s lifetime being burned down twice, once by lightening and once during World War II. Thankfully during one of the most recent renovations they included an elevator in the build that brings you up 72 metres, making it one of the easier church viewing points I have visited in Europe!
Art Museum Riga Bourse
The Art Museum Riga Bourse stores the largest collection of foreign art in the Baltic States. Spread across numerous floors (accessed by a very grandiose and beautiful staircase!) the museum boasts collections of paintings, porcelain as well as a large collection of oriental pieces – known to be the largest collection of oriental art in all of Latvia!
Admission is €3 for their permanent exhibitions, but you might get lucky and visit during one of their special exhibitions they hold throughout the year. Opening hours are 10am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed fully on Mondays. Between the architecture along with the art collections it’s definitely worth popping in off the main square for a look. We spent roughly an hour here, so it doesn’t take too long out of your day either. Find out more about the museum here
Art Nouveau Region
The Art Noveau region in Riga is very quirky, and a must do if you are wandering through the city for a weekend. The architecture in this area is absolutely breathtaking and if you are looking for something a little different then make sure to stop by the Art Nouveau Museum in this area. The art nouveau staircase at the entrance of this building is worth visiting for alone – and you don’t have to pay to get as far as it! It’s stunning spiral up several floors among decorated ceilings is really beautiful, and possibly one of the nicest you will ever find. The museum itself has a €1 admission fee and is honestly, way out of my depth! I didn’t really understand the collection on show but it was an interesting walk around at least.
While not applicable to everyone visiting Riga, if you happen to be visiting in December then the Christmas Markets are a must! While there is plenty more that the city has to offer, the markets are really something magical. Located in several areas around the city – the most impressive is in Doma Laukums and Liva Laukums. The cobbled streets, christmas lights and aroma of mulled wine will fill the air as you wander through the markets, really filling you with Christmas Spirit! I found in comparison to Bruges there weren’t as many stalls to buy little presents and trinkets (that I was interested in, I suppose) but there were plenty of food and drink stalls to keep you occupied and happy. If you are looking for a cheap break for the Christmas markets I would 100% consider travelling to Riga as it’s something different and full of festive feels.
The nightlife in Riga is definitely worth staying out for. While it doesn’t compare to the likes of Barcelona, there is still something for everyone. We only went out properly on the Saturday night where we visited three different locations – all very different to one another! Nemires is a small bar in the central district with craft beers on tap and a rock/indie vibe to the music. One One is a house/techno nightclub with a €10 entry fee. It really doesn’t kick off here until well after midnight which we didn’t know when we waltzed in the doors at 10pm! But if you are a fan of Techno then this is the place for you. We headed on to De Flou once we realized that One One wasn’t the place for us. De Flou is a small hip-hop nightclub with no entry fee the night that we visited. It is open Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays from 12am to 6am so it’s the perfect spot to go for a dance if you are looking for a late night party.
Apart from that we sadly didn’t visit many other bars so my knowledge of the rest of the nightlife isn’t stellar. There are plenty bars scattered throughout the city though, so make sure to research ones that you think you would like before you go.
So, Would I Recommend Riga?
For a short weekend, I think that Riga is the perfect destination. I don’t think there is quite enough to sight-see for a long weekend/bank holiday but for a Friday-Sunday break you will have more than enough on your plate to keep you occupied, and flights go direct from Ryanair. It’s cheap, cheerful and the food and drink is great too. The best part is that it’s something different to your standard weekend away in central Europe. The vibe of the city is really cool, it’s somewhere you wouldn’t usually see yourself ending up and if you are a fan of architecture then you will really, really love Riga.
Have you ever been to Riga? Or is it somewhere you could see yourself visiting?