Riga

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The House of Blackheads in Riga's Town Square.

Riga is the capital of Latvia, the largest city in the Baltic States, and the second-largest city of the Eastern Baltic. It holds about half of the country's population.

Understand[edit]

Riga is experiencing a new Renaissance as the capital of Latvia, and many large-scale restoration projects on old buildings have made Riga one of the most attractive cities in Europe. The historic centre of Riga is a UNESCO World heritage site. Most famously, Riga is home to the largest concentration of Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) architecture in the world. Riga has become an increasingly popular destination for Europeans drawn by its old town, its historical importance, and its reputation as having one of the most sparkling nightlife scenes in Europe.

History[edit]

Riga was founded in 1201 by Albert of Bremen as a base for the Northern Crusades. It developed as the major trade hub of the Eastern Baltic during the high days of the Hanseatic League, ruled by the Archbishop of Riga. The Reformation reached Riga in 1522, which ended the Archbishops' power. After the fall of the Hansa, Riga became a part of first the Swedish and then the Russian Empires, before becoming the capital of independent Latvia in 1918. Riga remained as the capital of Latvian Socialist Soviet republic throughout the Soviet period, and emerged in the 1990s as the capital of newly-independent Latvia.

Germans have inhabited the city since its establishment by Albert, and throughout most of its history Germans were the elite while Latvians remained a lower class. Their position as the elite continued through the Imperial period of Riga. As such, much of the architecture in Riga has been heavily influenced by Germany. The Germans were forcibly repatriated after the Nazi occupation of 1941-44.

Much of Riga was bombed during World War II and the ruins were mostly left to decay until independence, when the government, realizing the tourism potential, began to invest in reconstructing and restoring the old buildings. Because of this, Riga has one of the most complete old towns in Europe.

Talk[edit]

The official language is Latvian, but in practice Riga is a bilingual city with Latvian and Russian as the main languages: 50% of the people are native speakers of Latvian and 50% of Russian, and the vast majority is bilingual. English is widely spoken by younger people and by people in the tourism industry, and also by some older people. German is also quite prevalent, but English is a much safer option in order to be understood.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Riga International Airport (Starptautiskā Lidosta Rīga in Latvian) (IATA: RIX) is located 10km southwest of Riga.

Riga airport has splendid smoking terraces: a large glass shelter in front of the main building (upper level), adjoining the police station and used also as bike parking, and a smaller terrace after security checks, open without a roof.

The following airlines offer service from/to Riga International Airport:

To travel between the airport and the city:

  • Bus 22 runs between the airport and the old town, with a stop near the central bus and railway stations. The bus runs every 10 minutes during rush hour and the journey to the old town takes 40 minutes. The bus stop is located opposite the entrance of the terminal. There is a ticket machine at the bus stop. See Riga#Get_around for more information on riding the buses.
  • Airbaltic Airport Express operates minibuses to the city center costing €5 per person. These run every 30 minutes but only take 20 minutes to get to the old town. This bus also stops at several hotels near the airport, so it may be more convenient than Bus 22.
  • Baltic Taxi runs taxi service from the airport to the center for a fixed price of €14 if booked online or slightly more if paid to the driver. Service to the old town takes 15 minutes.
  • Riga Limo is an English language limousine, bus and taxi service that provides affordable airport transfers and other transportation services in Riga and Latvia.
  • Personal Minibus offers airport transfer for groups. The price of €8 per person (6 person minimum) also includes guide to meet group with greeting sign.
  • Regular Taxis can be expensive if a meter is used and a fixed price is not negotiated. Charges are as follows: €2.10 for embarkation plus €0.70/km; waiting costs €8.5/hour. The ride to the center takes 15 minutes.

By bus[edit]

There are international bus connections to anywhere in Europe, including frequent service to Tallinn and Tartu in Estonia, and Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania.

By ferry[edit]

Tallink, operates a daily ferry service between Stockholm and Riga. Prices start at €28.

By train[edit]

Latvian Railways operates service to many cities in Latvia as well as a few cities in Russia, Belarus, and Estonia.

Trains depart for Moscow daily (except New Year's Eve) at 16:20 ('Latvijas Express') with an additional train departing at 18:10 from May to September ('Jurmala'). The overnight trip takes 16.5 hours and costs €121 for a bed in a 4-bed cabin if the ticket is bought at the train station. The cheapest ticket for this train costs €36.

One overnight train bound for St. Petersburg ('Baltija Express') departs Riga daily at 18:50. The train takes 13 hours and costs €107 for a bed in a 4-bed cabin if the ticket is bought at the train station. The cheapest ticket costs €30.

Trains operate between Riga and Valga, Estonia. From Valga, connections can be made to other cities in Estonia including Tallinn.

It's also possible to travel to or from Vilnius, but it requires a train change in Daugavpils.

You can book tickets online via the Latvian Railways site up to 45 days in advance, but tickets must be collected from a station in Latvia. The exception to this is international tickets to Moscow and Saint Petersburg which can be issued as etickets in both directions.

Get around[edit]

By foot[edit]

Streets are mostly asphalt, with Old town and some random streets being cobblestone; some smaller streets outside the city center may be unpaved. Sidewalks are predominantly asphalt everywhere. Riga's Old town is best explored on foot, especially since it is not very large. Cobblestones, where present, are round rather than flat, so comfortable shoes are recommended. Be advised that due to the neglected drainage system, there have been around 2-3 times last year, when especially heavy downpours have caused a couple of central streets to be flooded approximately to ankle level for several hours each time.

By taxi[edit]

Taxis are reasonably-priced but you should be careful, as they may not necessarily follow the shortest route to your destination, especially if you appear to be new to the city. Occasionally, taxi drivers will try to overcharge you, but the majority are honest, courteous and very helpful. Many drivers speak a few words of English.

Always watch the meter, because some drivers cheat customers by increasing the price by pressing a button on the meter. If in doubt, take the check at the end of your ride, write down the number plate of the taxi, and call the number on the taxi to complain.

By public transport[edit]

Rigas Satiksme[edit]

The city-owned Rigas Satiksme runs the trams (street-cars), buses, minibuses, and trolleybuses. They all use the same e-ticket system called e-talons. A single fare covers a ride on any one route independent of the distance - i.e. a transfer requires payment of 2 fares. However, if you enter a vehicle with the same route and in the same direction within one hour, your ticket is still valid and will not be charged again. The Rigas Satiksme website provides a great interface for planning a trip within Riga.

Single fares are €1.20 during the day/€1.50 at night if paid onboard to the driver (cash only, exact change preferred) or €0.60 for bus/tram/trolley bus trips/€0.70 for minibus trips if a reloadable e-talon card is purchased in advance from a ticket office, vending machine, press kiosk, Narvesen shop, or other location listed on the Rigas Satiksme website. 24-hour cards cost €2.50, 3-day cards cost €7, and 5-day cards cost €8. Multi-ride tickets are also available. A 5 ride ticket costs €3, 10 rides are €5.70, and 20 rides are €10.80. Also available are tickets for 2 trips for 2 people costing €2.40 and 2 trips for 3 people costing €3.60. The cards all are activated by using the yellow device in the vehicles. Note that you must activate all cards every time that you enter a vehicle. The Riga Card allows the holder to travel free on public transportation.

Tram lines are numbered 1-11, bus lines 1-55, trolley bus 1-27. Minibus lines have numbers 200-280. Night buses are numbered N1-N10. While the numbers are similar, the routes are completely different - i.e. bus #2 is totally different than trolleybus #2. Tram numbers on stops are identified by "Tr", buses (not trolleybuses) by "A". Stops are marked by a blue rectangular sign with a stylized white image of the vehicle and lists the numbers that stop there. Timetables and stops of the route are also usually posted at stops and are fairly accurate. Note that bus routes are marked "A", but tram and trolley bus routes are both marked "T" on timetables, except tram timetables should have red background for the "T" letter and trolley bus—yellow. With the exception of minibuses, the vehicles include an LCD screen with next stop information.

Trams are generally the fastest public transportation apart from trains. Although they are on street level and the rails are not physically separated from the rest of the traffic, in all but the busiest rush hours they have the right of way. Minibuses are smaller and thus more maneuverable than buses and trolley buses, making them the second-fastest mode of transport.

Latvian Railroad[edit]

There are several railroad lines running through the city, and Latvian railroad runs electric trains that connect the very centre of the city with suburbs and nearby towns. If you know where you need to go, it may be quite convenient to use a train, as they all go from the single central terminal and are by far the fastest public transportation mode. However, the trains run much less frequently during winter and the railroad system is not integrated with the city public transportation, so in some occasions there are no tram/bus stops near a train stop in the city. See more about trains in the Latvia article. Ticket prices for trains within city limits are comparable to other city public transportation modes, but they do vary with distance travelled.

By bike[edit]

Cycling is popular in Riga.

SIXT Latvia operates self-service bicycle rentals at numerous bicycle stands across the city. The service is available to both residents and guests of Riga. You must have a mobile phone to register, but registration is free. The bikes have 3 speeds and lights, but no helmets. Cost is €1 per hour, with a maximum of €9 per day. Alternatively, ask your hotel if they provide bicycle rental.

By car[edit]

There are several car rental offices in Riga airport as well as in other parts of the town. You can even rent a cheap Soviet style car. However, be that parking in old town can be paid only by SMS and the cost can reach up to €10/hour. Take into account that on working days the traffic in and around the center may be very slow, in particular congestion is usually present on the bridges over Daugava. Allow plenty of time for driving. Driving drunk is considered as a serious law violation. Besides high fines and seized driving license one may easily end up serving 10–15 days in an administrative arrest Maximum alcohol contents in the blood must not exceed 0.5. There are plenty of police patrols and it is very common to be stopped for alcohol test.

By boat[edit]

All the boats stop near the Stone Bridge (Akmens Tilts), which is right next to the House of Blackheads—the Riga Tourist Information Centre, in the old town. During summer the following boat transport is available:

  • Boats between Riga and the beach city of Jurmala leave Riga at 11 am daily. Cost for adults is €15 one-way, €22 return.
  • Boats that tour up and down Daugava river.
  • Boat that goes to the Riga Zoo, located in Mezaparks district once or twice a day. (Not sure if this still operates)

See[edit]

The view southeast from St. Peter's Church in Riga's Old Town

Riga is divided into two parts by the river Daugava. Old (medieval) town is in the centre of the city on the east side of the river. It is surrounded by a ring of ~19th–early 20th century architecture, followed by a mix of private 2-floor house districts (many also pre-WW2) and Soviet-era 5-18 floor apartment districts, with an occasional factory (especially near railroad lines). The term "centre" loosely refers to quite a large area around Old town limited by the river to the west, the railroad lines to the east and south, and without a definite boundary to the north.

The areas usually most interesting to tourists are the Old Town and the area around the Freedom Monument, located nearby.

A walking tour is by far the best way to see these two districts. The tourist office, located inside the House of Blackheads, offers both guided tours and free pamphlets, complete with detailed descriptions of many buildings, for independent walks. These walks cover the old town and the nearby city centre sights as well as heading out to view the Art Nouveau district. It's all pretty small scale so it's easy to do each of these in around an hour, or linger and read every detail in the booklet - in the absence of any signs or plaques around the city the booklet gives you an insight to what you are seeing. Private companies also operate tours. If you want to get away from the 'touristic areas', alternative tours on bike and on foot are also available, as well as a free city tour that runs everyday from St Peters Church at 12:00. Look for a yellow suitcase.

The Riga Card, which costs €16-€26, has discounts for museums and some tourist attractions.

The residential areas outside Riga center are largely made up of gray apartment blocks built in the typically Soviet style. These areas are nearly identical to those all over Eastern Europe. However, they do give an idea of how the vast majority of the people in Riga live and of the history of the area.

Old Town[edit]

The Old Town (Vecrīga) is both a place of historical tourism sites, as well as the centre of night-life for locals. The area around Old Town is mostly built between 1860 and 1914 and has many buildings that resemble Berlin, Paris, or Rome. Many Soviet-era movies set in Western Europe were filmed here as the buildings can make the city pass for a city in Western Europe.

  •    Triangula Bastion11 Novembra Krastmala 17. 9:00 – 22:00. Modern building with an excavated fragment of historical Riga fortification wall system which protected medieval Riga city from attacks from war ships. Also Triangula Bastion has the best view terraces in Riga. Free entrance.
  •    Town Square and surroundings.
    •    Statue of Roland (In the center of the Town Square).
    •    House of BlackheadsKalku iela 1 (+371) 67044300. The House of Blackheads is where the merchants-to-be had their guild. Part of this building is the tourist information office, the rest is a fascinating museum. The upper levels house grand ballrooms while the basement has a wine cellar and several exhibits relating to trading in Riga. €3, €1.50 students.
    •    Town Hall. Pretty to look at, but not open for visitors.
    •    Museum of the Occupation of LatviaStrelnieku laukums 1 (+371) 67212715, e-mail: . This noticeable and austere black building is clearly out-of-place. In the Soviet days, this housed a museum to the Red Riflemen, a group of Latvians who volunteered for the service to Russia during the Russian revolution of 1917. Now it houses a museum of Latvia's time under both the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Very long, but very moving – essential for anyone interested in the history of the USSR or Nazi Germany. Outside the building away from the town square stands the Soviet-era Monument to the Riflemen. Free.
    •    St. Peter's ChurchSkarnu iela 19 (+371) 67229426fax: +371 67211375. St. Peters Church, dating to 1209, is Riga's oldest church. Besides its ensemble of architecture, the church has an elevator to the tower from where you can see all of Riga (service not available on Mondays). €3.
    •    St. John's ChurchJana iela 7. 10-17 Tu-Sa. A smaller, less spectacular church near St. Peter's. There is a nice altar inside, and unlike most Riga churches, this one is free. The altar is from the Renaissance period and depicts the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The ceiling is from the Gothic period, and has 5 separate vaulted compartments. There is also a huge pipe organ, and many stained glass windows. This church dates back to the mid 1200s.
    •    Porcelain MuseumKalēju iela 9, e-mail: . 11-18 Tu-Su. Covers the history of porcelain in Riga through the 19th and 20th centuries. €1.5, €0.75 for children, free under 7.
    •    Sun MuseumKungu iela 1 (+371) 67225587, e-mail: . 10-19 daily. A definite contender for Riga's weirdest museum, this one covers the history of sun mythology and its role in Latvian culture. €3 Lats, €1.5 Lats for students, children free.
  •    The Big GuildAmatu iela 6. Housed the guild of the tradesmen, who would join after being a member of the Blackheads (see House of Blackheads). Home to the Latvian Philharmonic, but you can't just walk inside. It's the exterior that's worth seeing though.
  •    The Little GuildAmatu iela 5. Another pretty building just behind the Big Guild, this one housed the craftsmen's guild. Like the Big Guild, you can't go inside except for a performance.
  •    The House of the Black Cat (Next to the Big Guild). This building (also housing a pub of no particular note) is most famous for the two statues of black cats on the roofs. The legend has it that a disgruntled tradesman who was not accepted into the Big Guild, built this house and put the cats on it with their tails pointing towards the Big Guild, thus expressing his scorn.
  •    Wagner Concert HallVāgnera iela 4. Wagner once lived in Riga, on the street now named after him. This hall where he performed occasionally holds concerts.
  •    St. Jacob's Catholic ChurchKlostera iela 2. Dating to 1226, this is one of the few Catholic churches left in Riga. At one point, it housed one of Riga's first schools. Free.
  •    Riga Castle (Rigas Pils) (Near the Northern boundary of the Old Town). The castle itself is fairly uninteresting, but it houses the following two museums:
    •    National History Museum of LatviaPils Laukums 3 +371 67223004fax: +371 67220586, e-mail: . 11-17 W-Su. The History Museum is interesting, however there is little English (Every room has its exhibits summarized on a single plaque). However, the museum does give a very good idea of Latvian history, and will give you a good understanding of the area. Admission: €3, Camera fee: €7.
    •    Museum of Foreign ArtPils Laukums 3 +371 67226467. 11-17 Tu-Su. The less interesting of the two museums: this is just a standard art museum. Admission fee: €3.5; Camera fee: €0.75.
The Dom Cathedral in central Riga.
  •    Cathedral Square and surroundings (Doma square).
    •    Riga Cathedral (Doma cathedral), Doma Laukums 1 +371 67227573. Dating to 1207, it is one of Riga's symbols. The 6768-pipe organ inside is particularly spectacular. Besides the organ, however, the interior is rather spartan, and may not be worth the entrance fee. (Currently, even the organ is being restaurated, though).
    •    Museum of the Barricades of 1991Krāmu iela 3 (+371) 67213525. 10-17 M-F, 11-17 Sa. Covers the dramatic events that occurred in the tumultuous final year of the USSR, when Soviet authorities sent troops into Riga to overthrow the elected Latvian government. Free.
    •    The Three BrothersMazā Pils iela 17, 19, and 21. 9-17 Tu-Th, 9-16 F. The oldest dwelling houses in Riga. One of them has a small architecture museum inside, along with changing exhibits about Latvia.
    •    Museum of the History of Riga and NavigationPalasta iela 4. May-Sep: 11-17 daily, Oct-May: 11-17 W-Su. Actually 2 museums plus a number of special exhibits, though you pay one price. Like the National Museum, English translations are limited to plaques summarizing rooms, but here you can also pick up pieces of paper describing some of the exhibits. Both of the main museums are quite interesting, and they provide a good idea of what Riga was like in the past. €5 plus more for photo permission.
    •    Latvian Parliament (Saeima), Jekaba iela 11. A rather plain building housing the Saeima, Latvia's parliament. It has had a number of uses--including as a Soviet-era museum. Currently not open to visitors
    •    Arsenal Museum of ArtTorna iela 1 +371 67357527. Apr-Sep: 11-19 Tu-Su, Oct-Mar: 11-17 Tu-Su. Riga's premier museum for modern art.
    •    Swedish Gate (Between Torna and Aldaru iela). The last remaining gate from the old city walls.
  •    Powder Tower & City Wall (Northwestern end of Old Town). The following attractions are here:
    •    Museum of WarSmilsu iela 20 +371 67228147. May-Sept: 10-18 W-Su, Oct-Apr: 10-17 W-Su.
    •    St. Jacob's BarracksTorna iela. The primary attraction here is the last remaining stretch of city wall directly opposite the barracks.
  •    Latvian Photographic MuseumMarstalu iela 8. Contains photos of Latvia since 1839, with focuses on the World Wars and 1905 Revolution. €1.5.

Around the Freedom Monument[edit]

Daugava river and central Riga
The Laima Clock with the Freedom Monument visible in the background
  •    Freedom MonumentBrivibas iela 1. One of Latvia's national symbols. It was erected during the first independence and surprisingly never taken down by the Soviets (although laying flowers at its feet was forbidden). The statue of a woman holding three stars at the top of the monument represents Freedom embracing Latvia's regions.
  •    Laima Clock (just south of the Freedom Monument). Laima is a Latvian chocolate manufacturer and means good luck in Latvian. The Clock is a traditional meeting place for people in Riga.
  •    Mentzendorff HouseGrecienieku 18. W-Su: 11-17. Former residence of a wealthy merchant built in 1720, now a museum dedicated to life in Riga in the 17th & 18th centuries. €1.7.
Scary Art Nouveau designs in Riga.
  • Art Noveau Buildings. Alberta and Elizabetes streets (iela) are the best place to see the creations of Art Nouveau architect Eisenstein, famous of his splendid style. Other Art Nouveau buildings can be seen in the area around the Freedom Monument, including the embassies on Raina Bulvaris and on Strelnieku iela.
  •    BastejkalnsBetween Raina Bulvaris and Basteja Bulvaris. A small, pleasant park surrounding Brivibas Bulvaris. Sites in the Bastejkalns include a Chinese and a Japanese building, and the Bridge of Love over the Pilsetas Canal. The Bridge of Love has several locks on the railings put up by recently married couples. There is also a memorial to the two people killed here in the tumultuous events of 1991.
  •    Esplanade Park (a block from the Freedom Monument). Designed by Georg Kuphaldt, who was expelled by Germany in 1915 as a spy because he had a telescope in his garden.The following attractions are here:
    •    National Museum of Art. Houses many works by Latvian artists.
    •    Riga Orthodox Cathedral. The Orthodox Cathedral was erected during Russian rule for Russian residents. In contrast to its relatively plain exterior, it is spectacular on the inside, but be aware that shorts are not allowed. free.
    •    Kobe Clock (Western corner of the park). Donated by Riga's sister city Kobe in celebration of anniversary of restoration of independence.

Other sights[edit]

  •    Andrejsala. An artists' island is starting to emerge behind the passengers port a short distance north from the Old town.
  •    Riga Central Market (Centrāltirgus) (right next to international bus terminal, 2 min walk from Central station or Old town). Different hours for different parts, see website for info. Noticeable for its huge hangars, built from parts of actual zeppelin hangars bought for the market in 1920. The market has also a large open-air area. It deals mostly in fresh food and is a good place for fresh local fruit and vegetables, especially during summer. There are stalls that sell cheap clothing and accessories. It is especially beloved by Scandinavian tourists coming via ferry for its cheap cigarettes, most of which are speculated to be contraband.
  •    Maskavas forštate (Moscow Suburb). A district with old wooden houses and other sights.
    •    Choral Great SynagougeAt Gogola and Dzirnavu iela. Mostly in ruins as the Germans burned it down on July 4, 1941 with 600 people locked inside. There is a memorial to 400 Latvians who saved Jews during the Holocaust dedicted on July 4, 2007.
    •    Russian Orthodox Church of the AnnunciationGogola iela 9.
    • Grebenshchikov ChurchKrasta iela 73. An Old Believers' church.
    •    Jesus Church18 Elijas iela. An unusually-designed Lutheran church.
    •    Latvian Academy of SciencesAkademijas laukums 1 +371 67225361. Balcony: May-Sep: 9-20 daily. Built in 1953, this building is often called Stalin's Birthday Cake because of its austere and ornamented design. The 17th-floor balcony is open to visitors for a fee of a couple of lats.
  •    Mežaparks (Take Tram 11). Forest Park is a pleasant park area on the outskirts of Riga. There are large, gorgeous residential houses once inhabited by Riga's prewar elite during the summers. They were largely let go during Soviet times but many are now being refurbished, repainted, and brought back to their original glory.
    •    Riga ZooMeza Prospekts 1. The Riga Zoo is small, but fairly popular. €4-6.
  •    Riga Motor MuseumEizensteina 6 (8km from the old town; take trolleybus 14 or 18 to Gailezers Hospital, then walk 500m). 10-18 daily. Contains former vehicles of Stalin, Kruschev, and Brezhnev. €1.5.
  •    Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum (Latvijas Etnogrāfiskais Brīvdabas Muzejs), Brivibas 440 (take the A2(E77) to the east out of Riga or take bus N.1 or Tram 1, 3, 6 (but from the tram there is a 2 km walk)),  +371 67994106fax: +371 67994178, e-mail: . The Museum is in Jugla, near a lake of the same name. There are many traditional Latvian countryside houses collected in a forest/park and exhibitions inside them about the traditional things. The employees are often dressed in the traditional Latvian costumes, creating a nice atmosphere.

Pārdaugava[edit]

Left Bank of Riga is less frequently visited by tourists. The following attractions are there:

  •    Ķīpsala (Cross the Vanšu bridge over the Daugava). An island with Nordic dwelling architecture, solitude, and delicious sights of Riga over the river Daugava.
  •    Riga TV TowerZaķusalas krastmala +371 67108643. A 368 meter-high tower built of concrete and standing on three legs. It has an observation deck at a height of 97 metres. The inexpensive tours feature a tour guide but don't depend on the guide speaking much English!
  •    Āgenskalns (Take Tram 2, 4, or 5; bus 21, trolley bus 9). A very picturesque historical part of Pārdaugava, in 19th century it was a district for mansions and manors, some of which still remain (although bereft of any grounds), and some were replaced by slightly newer early 20th century residential architecture of wealthy middle and upper class. Many embassies were located there pre-WWII.
    •    Victory Monument (Uzvaras piemineklis) (Get off the tram at the second stop after the bridge over the Daugava). A splendid example of high Soviet art and the biggest occupation-era monument in Latvia. If you've never seen a Soviet monument before, you should really check this out.
    •    Railway MuseumUzvaras bulvaris 2 - 4 +371 67232849. 10-17 Tu-Su. Exhibits several collections of Soviet rolling stock.
    •    Theatre Museum (Eduard Smilgis Museum of Theatre), Eduarda Smiļģa iela 37/39 (tram #2, stop Eduarda Smiļģa iela),  +371 67611893. 11-18 W-Su. Located in the eccentrically designed and furnished pre-war house of a former director of Riga Daile Theatre and one of the key figures in Latvian theatre of the 20th century. €0.70-3.
  •    Riga Aviation Museum (At Riga-Spilve International Airport). 9:00 - 18:00. Bored at the airport? Check out the Riga Aviation museum, which contains several rare aircraft. €5.

Do[edit]

  •    AK-47 ShootingBiekensalas 6 (+371) 26576166. Real Gun Shooting Packages for groups from 5 persons (includes transfer, guide, ear protection, targets and bullets). from €40.
  • Bungee Jumping. Bungee jump from a cable car 45 m high over a scenic river in the national park outside of Riga.
  • Scenic Flights over the Old Town.
  • Segway Tour of Riga +371 2208 4613, e-mail: . A Segway guide will zip you around Riga's Old Town and parks, showing you all the sights from Riga Old Town, Art Nouveau district, Central Market, Spikeri district, Kipsala peninsula, Āgenskalns and Kalnciema Quarter. From €45.
  • Husky Dog Sledding +371 2208 4613, e-mail: . A great winter activity, hang onto the reins as your dog team pull you along a 5km track through the snow and ice. Four trained huskies will be your engine for this amazing thrill. Weather dependant. From €40.

Buy[edit]

Russian Language School of Baltic International Academy Scam


Russian Language School scams are extremely common in Riga. One such school that has cheated foreigners is Russian Language School of Baltic International Academy Lomonosova Street 1/4 - 308. They take money for intensive classes and then when they are unable to offer them will not refund one's money. They have several classes for free for locals meeting only a few hours a week. The only good reviews are from the locals or people living in Riga who got free classes.

Don't go to the souvenir shops, instead buy items like amber and wool mittens and socks in the central market or throughout Old Riga in little stands. You might haggle and get good prices for souvenirs.

During the Christmas season there is a small Christmas market in the main square of old town which offers lots of festive fare and hot wine.

  •    Taste Latviashopping center 'Galerija Centrs', 4th floor +371 67104540, e-mail: . Open from 10.00 to 21.00 all week. Despite the slightly misleading name, Taste Latvia is a "Latvian fashion concept store", selling mostly clothes, but also accessories and items for the home, such as wooden kitchen and cooking utensils, hand-made ecological candles, and other items. The items are all from contemporary Latvian designers. If you want to take home some contemporary Latvian design, Taste Latvia is one of the best places to look.
  •    Konventa SetaBehind St. John's Church. A former convent courtyard that now contains several touristy shops.
  •    Central Market (Centrāltirgus), Centrāltirgus 1. 8-17 daily. This striking building near the central train station began life as an airship hangar in the 1930s, but is now an excellent place to buy fresh produce, meat, dairy, and the occasional counterfeit goods, though these have been mostly eradicated. The market is actually quite non-touristy but very good for souvenirs. There are lots of small cafes scattered around the markets that serve up cheap local eats.
  •    Galerija IstabaKrišjāņa Barona iela 31. Nice local artwork can be found here. There is also a small cafe/bar on the second floor with a nice, laid-back atmosphere.
  •    StockmannJanvara iela 13 (Near the train station),  (+371) 67071222fax: +371 67071254. 1st Floor: Mo-Sa 9-22, Su 10-22, 2nd Floor: 10-21 daily. The Latvian branch of the Finnish department store chain.

Eat[edit]

Riga, as the most vibrant and cosmopolitan city of the Baltics, offers countless opportunities to sample both local cuisine and international favorites. Latvian food can be hearty, using a lot of potato, cabbage, beef, pork and fish. A diversity of foreign cuisines is also available -- sushi restaurants in particular are currently in vogue.

Budget[edit]

  • Čili PicaSeveral locations (One near the Freedom Monument, another on the ground floor of the Stockmann mall near central station). Cheap but good pizza.
  • Ķīpsala Island Student Cafeteria (Ķīpsala Island). Several sets of home-like food are offered in a cozy atmosphere.
  • Lido. A network of 8 restaurants offering decent hearty Latvian food, including desserts, at good prices. The restaurants are either cafeteria-style or feature English menus. The following resturants are in the Lido network:
    •    Lido Entertainment CenterKrasta iela 76 (Take Tram 3, 7, or 9 to Krasta masīvs),  (+371) 67504420fax: +371 67241168. Main Restaurant: 11-23 daily, Express Restaurant: 13-23 daily, Beer Cellar: 18-24 MON-FRI, 12-24 Holidays, Playroom: 17-22 MON-FRI, 12-22 Holidays. The wooden building features three floors of dining, a built-in wooden windmill, and a small amusement park outside. The ground floor and basement operate cafeteria-style. There is a huge choice available, including a variety of soups including borscht and the Latvian cold beetroot soup, as well as kebabs, breasts, chicken sausages, fish, red meats. Blinis are another specialty here. Cafeteria: €3.30 for a meat main course and €0.70 for a plateload of roast potatoes. Pancakes for €0.60. Top floor: Buffet for set price of €16.
    •    Alus SetaOld Town. Literally Beer Yard. Serves huge portions of excellent meat and two veg from a grill at the front of the tavern, as well as an excellent choice of Beer. Probably the best value place in town, with two courses easily costing less than €7.
    •    Staburags. Á la carte based and not cafeteria-style. Rustic interior, low prices and large portions of traditional Latvian food. Plays pseudo-traditional Latvian music with synthesized backing.
    •    VermanitisElizabetes iela 65. A fantastic range of Latvian food in "authentic" environment. Fried fish: €3, Salmon steak: €5, Half chicken: €2.50, large side of mashed potatoes or pasta: €1, 500ml beer: €2.10.
  • Pelmeni XLKalku iela 7. Russian-style dumplings filled with whatever is available. Cafeteria style. Pay by the weight. €5.
  •    Smilšu PulkstenisKalku iela 7. Cheap & tasty Latvian food.
  •    VarzobRatslaukuma iela 1 (J-2) +371 67211332. Uzbek food. The plov is an excellent choice, as is the Shashlik and Lagman.

Mid-range[edit]

  •    13 KresliDome Sq. Still going from Soviet times - 13 Kresli (13 chairs) has grown a bit, but is excellent, especially for tea and snacks
  •    Aleks @ Hotel JustusJauniela 24 (+371) 67212416. 12-24. One of the best fish restaurants in town. Champagne Glass: €7, Bottle of Philipe Brugnon 1er Cru Rose: €47.
  •    Alus OrdenisRaina bulvaris 15 +371 67814190. Serves rural Latvian food for an eminently reasonable price. Try pork shanks or bull testicles!
  •    Cafe Grill Bar/Stork's Nest PubKaleju iela 14-16, e-mail: . A jewel of a restaurant/bar with all the comforts of the USA/UK, serving both Latvian and American food The walls are decorated with American/English memorobilia and there is a large plasma TV showing English or American shows and sporting events.
  • Double Coffee (various all over Riga & Majori). Not just a coffee cafe like Starbucks, but a wide range of teas & coffees + other drinks plus an wide range of food - both Latvian & international. Excellent for lunch or a snack. Reasonable prices too.
  •    Juffin's 12Aldaru iela 10 (+371) 67224271fax: 67224272, e-mail: . 11-23. Serves European and Oriental international food and has an extensive wine list.
  •    Café OsirisKrisjanis Barona iela 31. An artsy cafe with a cool interior, fireplace and pancakes worth killing for. While there, drop by Gallerija Istaba for another cup of coffee or beer, and make sure to check out some of the artwork sold downstairs.
  •    Sweetday CafeTirgoņu 9 (old town). Coffee house that serves freshly homemade cakes. It has a great cozy atmosphere, and the best service in town. The owner is Inese, speaks Latvian, English, Spanish, Russian and a bit of Dutch.
  •    Traktieris (Russian: Трактиръ), Antonijas iela 8. For a Russian experience, try out Traktieris. Huge servings, great food, loads of vodkas to try out, and a Russian troubadour for entertainment. Few tourists.
  •    Vecmeita ar kaķiMazā Pils iela 1. This restaurant and bar is a more upmarket option than Lido, serving very good Latvian food.
  •    GardeniaGrecinieku iela 28 (City centre, Old Riga),  (+371) 67224650fax: +371 67359749, e-mail: . 12-24. Enjoy Mediterranean and European cuisine at this re-established, cozy, and elegantly casual restaurant. €5 and up.

Splurge[edit]

  •    RozengrālsKramu iela. An authentic medieval restaurant in a real medieval basement in the Old Town. Serves tasty medieval foods and beverages.
  •    VincentsElizabetes iela 19 (+371) 67332634. Mo-Fr 12-23, Sat: 18-23, Su: Closed. If you're splashing out try Vincents Restaurant which compares favorably to any up market western restaurant at half the price. €29.
  •    BergsElizabetes iela 83/85 (Hotel Bergs). The restaurant of the hotel Bergs may be just about the best that Latvia has to offer. The food can be described as a fusion of Latvian and Western European cuisine. Menus are seasonal, and the ingredients always fresh - meaning sometimes not everything on the menu is available. With impeccable food and service, it is a wonder this place has not yet received the first Michelin star of any restaurant in Latvia.
  •    PinotGrecinieku iela 26. The restaurant next to the Museum of Latvia occupation offers a continental take on Baltic food. Menus are seasonal - check the website for the latest. The wine list is extensive, and the staff speak Latvian, Russian and English reasonably well. Menus are in all three languages. about €60 per person with one drink.

Drink[edit]

Bar scams in Latvia

Latvia, and Eastern Europe in general, are home to a number of fraud/extortion scams in bars, run by the local mobs. A common scam, which targets men, begins by coaxing you into a bar, where most often a girl will strike up a conversation with you and convince you to buy her a drink. You will then be presented with a bill for several hundred Lats. Don't worry, the bar will take credit cards - or you might be forced to withdraw money from their handy ATM. If you ask, you will even be presented with a menu and the price listed. The trick to avoiding this scam is not to enter a bar recommended to you by someone on the street or, if you do, insist on seeing the price of a drink in writing. If not, leave immediately, although this may not be possible if the exit is being blocked by a large bouncer. Here is a list of bars/clubs in Riga the U.S. Embassy specifically warns against visiting (and bars all embassy personnel from visiting):

  • Foxy Lounge” - Terbatas 2; located below the “Fashion Café” in the basement of the “Vegas” casino at the corner of Terbatas and Merkela streets near the flower market.
  • "Babylon" (formerly "Roxy Klub") - Kalku 24; located near the entrance to Old Town on Kalku street.
  • "Livu Krodzins Bar/Pizzeria" (formerly “Lord’s Pub”/“Groks Pub”/"Royal Pub")—Kalku 22; located next door to Babylon.
  • "Enigma" (formerly “Puzzle”/“Pink Panther”)—Kalku 22; also located next door to Livu Krodzins Bar/Pizzeria.
  • "A13" (formerly "Mary") - Audeju 13; located on the east side of Galleria “Centrs” Mall.
  • DD Bars
  • "Lion Pub" (Formerly “Saxon”) - Laipu 7; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of restaurant “Steiku Haoss”.
  • Doll House” a.k.a “Zig Zag” – Marstalu 12; located to the right of Reformed Church.
  • Bar Fly” - Vagnera 8; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of “Babylon”, “Livu Krodzins Bar/Pizzeria” and “Enigma”.
  • "Kapsula Bar" (formerly “Zephry Bar”) - located near Galleria Center in Old Town, near the youth hostel.
  • Mademoiselle Cigar Club” – Valnu street; located in Old Town across from “Lounge 8”.
  • Nobu Sushi” - Grecinieku 28; located in Old Town.
  • "Angels" - Elizabetes 22
  • "Blow Style" (formerly "Monroe's nightclub") - Skarnu Iela 7, behind Indian Raja.
  • "Hostel Pub" - Teatra street 12
  • "Sonali Pub" - Brivibas street 46

These shady establishments periodically change their names so as to escape lists like these and continue extorting unwitting travelers. The above list was derived from the official U.S. Embassy warnings [3] on this particular scam, which should be used before you travel rather than solely relying on the list above which may well be outdated.

For your own safety, you should not patronize any of these locations. Many are strip bars or locations of prostitution rings. Consider yourself warned.

Cafes[edit]

  • Double Coffee. International chain of coffee houses/restaurants based in Riga. Free wifi card. 10% service charge is added to the bill.
  • Coffee InnAudēju 15, Tērbatas 7, Kaļķu 28. Hot or cold coffee, with all kind of flavours. Also delicious, huge cookies, muffins, cakes, sandwiches, etc. Basically Coffee Inn is Latvian version of the Starbucks.

Bars[edit]

Riga is a major nightlife destination for tourists and bars here are often open later than those in other European cities. On average, bars in Old Town will charge €2.00-3.00 per beer and bars outside of Old Town will charge €1.50-2.00 per beer. A specialty liquor is Riga Balsam, which is an acquired taste.

  • Aussie Backpackers Pub43 Valnu Iela (Down the Dzirnavu street near to the),  371 67223406. 10.00-02.00. Riga’s first Aussie pub promises to provide plenty of authentic down under atmosphere, but thankfully without any stuffed koalas, Fosters beer posters or, God forbid, any portraits of Paul Hogan. Spread out across three floors, the pub offers 12 local beers on draught for affordable prices served from a bar that’s actually an old VW combi van. Live bands play frequently in the basement and if the cheap happy hour prices are too much for you to handle you can always crash at its hostel upstairs.
  •    Betty Page Cocktail BarDzirnavu iela 28 (near the Alberts Hotel). 10.00-04.00. Inspired by the notorious Bettie Page and pin-ups from the 1950s. With fun music, delicious kitchen and nightly happy hour for cocktails (17.00-19.00) it is a great choice for evening ease off. In the backstage there is cozy Cigar Lounge for those who enjoy good cigar, or just want to hide from the world.
  •    Cuba Cafe15 Jauniela +371 67 22 43 62. Cozy bar, DJ in the evenings (who mimes!). Cuba cafe is lways crowded. Girls don't need ID's, bartenders don't check them, gives you wrong change. 2 for 1 drinks during happy hour (17:00-19:00).
  •    Kafejnica SKAbeneAlksnāja iela 14 (Corner of the Albert square). Well known place for the locals who just want to escape the pretentious bars of the Old Town - if you just want to meet some new friends and have a drink - just go to Skabene. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they have darts tournaments. Music varies from old-school Jamaican ska to 80s hair rock to psychedelic funk. During summertime you can sit outside or ask for a snooker table to challenge the local pros.
  •    KarakumsLāčplēša iela 18. Fun bar with TV and dance room. Pizzas for sale. Beer: €1.50.
  •    Kiwi BarSkarņu iela 7 (Old Town). Sports bar with karaoke nights.
  •    LeningradKaleju iela 54. A bar with a retro Soviet interior of assorted communist relics and furniture. The beer might not be as cheap as it was in Gorbachev's time, but for Old Riga the local Brengulis and Czech Kozel are remarkably affordable. The beefy bartender with the shaved head and trimmed beard looks like Lenin on steroids.
  •    Mojo Cafe BarPils 7 (+371) 29 65 30 03. Interior of red and yellow walls, wooden furniture and a chill out section in the back with couches, a record player and TV all circa 1970. Summer terrace. Mojitos, Caipirinhas: €5; Lāčplēsis beer: €2.5.
  •    Skyline BarElizabetes iela 55 (On the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel). Just perfect view at sunset. Finding a table next to the windows might be difficult after 23:00. Beer: €3-4; Wine: €4-5; Cocktails: €6-9.
  •    Route 66 (U.S. Bars) (Along the canal, north of Kristina Valdermara). A dirty grungy bar with skinny waitresses and loud heavy metal. Weekends feature live local bands. No cover charge, local beers and mixed drinks..

Clubs[edit]

Riga is known for a sparkling nightlife. There is a difference in style between 'Russian' clubs and 'Latvian' clubs.

  •    El DivinoSkolas iela 2. Many famous international DJs play here.
  • FolkKlubs AlaPeldu 19 (Old Town). Huge beer selection, folk dancing, live music performances, and great authentic food.
  •    PulkvedisPeldu iela 26. A trendy place popular with a younger crowd. All of the barmen are very good and the speed is superb. The basement offers techno-ish and/or alternative sounds. Upstairs which is the busiest area with a mix of pop/dance occasional rock music. It is a very busy place on Thurs/Fri/Sat and is closed on Sunday. Entrance: free + face control. Beer: €2.50, vodka orange: €4, vodka coke: €3.60, Cocktails: €6-9.

Sleep[edit]

Budget[edit]

Camping[edit]

  •    Riga City CampingRietumu iela 2 (near the center, on an island on Daugava River),  +371 67065000 / 67067519. Open May 15 - September 15. Nice facilities. Person €3-4, tent €4.5-7, camper €10-13 depending on season..

Hostels[edit]

  •    Doma HostelSkunu iela 16 (+371) 67213101. Clean, small, safe, cheap, and in a great location. Not the best place to hang out though. They seem to run a nail salon out of the common room during the day, and the kitchen is the size of a closet. They do have free coffee and tea though.
  • Red Nose Hostel14 Jana Iela. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. €12-19.
  • Riga Style HostelAlfreda Kalnina street 4 - 11. On a top floor of a 100 year old historic building. €8.50-14.
  •    Teddy Bear HostelVecpilsetas iela 3 (+371) 67229250. Small and quiet hostel in the Old Town. €6-12.

Mid-range[edit]

  •    Apartment Hotel RigaBrivibas iela 196. Apartments on Riga's main street. Every apartment has either two separate beds or one double, as well as a washing machine, television, gas ring, air conditioner, refrigerator, and set of dishes. €25 and up.
  •    Dodo HotelJersikas iela 1 (10 min from old town by tram.). Modern rooms with shower, WC, flat-screen TV, and hairdryer. Free Wi-Fi. French owned. Double: €32.
  •    Hotel EdvardsDzirnavu iela 45/47 (+371) 67439960fax: +371 67439959, e-mail: . Opened in September 2008, cosy, family-run hotel in the heart of Riga, in a renovated 19th-century building. €46-56 for single.
  •    Hotel Westa (formerly Backpackers Planet), Negu iela 5 +37167226232fax: +371 67221841, e-mail: . The rooms are clean, private, safe, spacious, and have private bathrooms. Located next to a market for food and clothing. Dorm bed: €14; Double: €32.
  •    Krisjanis and Gertrude Bed & BreakfastK. Barona iela 39 (in the wooden house diagonally opposite the Barona shopping center, entrance from Gertrudes iela),  (+371) 67506604fax: +371 67506603, e-mail: . Homely, popular with artists and musicians, city centre, free Wi-Fi, en-suite rooms. Single: €30, Double/Twin: €40, breakfast included.
  •    Metropole HotelAspazijas bulvaris 36 (+371) 67225411fax: +371 67216140, e-mail: . Not quite as centrally located as some other hotels, but still quite near Old Town. All rooms have satellite TV, minibar, and WiFi. €93 and up.
  •    Primo HotelNometnu iela 62 (+371) 67454571, (+371) 25888777fax: (+371) 67454572, e-mail: . Modern 3 star hotel, free parking, cable TV, WLAN internet, only en-suite rooms. Single: €35/€45 (Low Season/High Season); Double/Twin: €40/€50 (Low Season/High Season), Family Room: €70 (up to 4 persons), breakfast €5 extra.

Splurge[edit]

  •    Hotel BergsElizabetes iela 83 +371 67 77 0900fax: +371 67 77 0940. An internationally regarded hotel that opened in 2003 located in the heart of Riga. €180 and up.
  •    Hotel Centra RigaAudeju iela 1 (Tram to 13.Janvāra iela),  +371 67 226 441. The service here is spectacular, and the management has a habit of upgrading people for no extra charge. Flat-screen TVs, minibar, and free WiFi. In a historic building. €80 and up.
  •    Hotel de RomeKalku iela 28 (+371) 67087600fax: +371 67 087 606, e-mail: . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Mostly a business hotel, but this Kolonna hotel also has rooms for splurging tourists. Amenities include free wifi, safe, minibar, and satellite television in every room. The hotel also has a guarded parking lot (which requires a surcharge) and a fancy restaurant at the top. Small pets are allowed. €142 and up.

Stay safe[edit]

In general Riga is a quiet and safe city where you are unlikely to have any trouble.

When visiting bars and restaurants make sure you know the price before you order and keep track of your spending, so no cheating is possible. Beware of scammers who strike up conversations out of the blue and invite you to visit their favorite club or bar; this is often a favorite way for the fraudsters to rob the foreigners, and the police are unlikely to help if you get scammed.

US embassy has issued travel advisory for clubs and bars in Riga which are involved in crimes against foreign clientele. For the whole report please read this page from US Embassy (includes a list of establishments involved). See the infobox near the Drink section for a common scam run in Riga.

Cope[edit]

Embassies[edit]

  • Greece GreeceElizabetes str. 11, Appt. 5 +371 6735-6345, Emergencies:+371 2009-3089fax: +371 6735-6351, e-mail: . 09:00 - 17:00.
  • Icons-flag-ie.png IrelandAlberta iela 13 +371 6703-9370, Emergencies:+371 6703-9370fax: +371 6703 9371.

Go next[edit]

  • Sigulda - a resort town just over an hour from Riga by train, featuring a wooded river valley containing forest walks, cable car, bobsleigh track, and three castles, all of which is manageable as a day visitor on foot.
  • Ligatne - a small picturesque town deep in the forest between Sigulda and Cesis, ideal base for a visit to both tourist centres. Just over an hour from Riga by car or train. Attractions are forest walks, tethered ferry, and disused Soviet bunker.
  • Liepaja - city on the Western coast of Latvia, (capital of music and culture, fantastic white soft sand beach)
  • Jūrmala - a seaside resort that was popular among citizens of the USSR (the word literally means seaside or beach in Latvian.)
  • Valka
  • Tartu, Estonia
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Pärnu, Estonia
  • Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda in Lithuania.
  • Stockholm, Sweden - You can take a ferry there
  • Salaspils - a German concentration camp near Riga
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