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Riga is the capital of Latvia. With its 700,000 inhabitants, it's the largest city in the Baltic States and home to one in three Latvians. Part of many empires throughout history, each of which has left its mark on the city, today Riga is a city with many faces.


There are many administrative districts in Riga; however, almost all tourist attractions, historic buildings and hotels are contained within the borders of Centra rajons (made up of the Old town and Centrs), which is relatively small and walkable and include the attractions that Riga is famous for. However if you have already seen those, the outer districts do have their own draws too.

Riga's districts
The old town, entirely listed as a world heritage site, is the primary draw for visitors and many of the city's most prominent sights are here. The car-free streets and alleys are lined with restaurants, bars, shops and hotels.
Centrs, just northeast of the old town, is the commercial centre of Riga, famous for its Art Noveau architecture, parks and boulevards. It is also a place to go to for nightlife and hotels; the high-rise Hotel Latvija (which doubles as a landmark) with its Skyline bar on the top floor offers both.
Outer East Bank
Further out on the eastern bank, you have an opportunity to see some more rural attractions including Mezaparks with the city’s zoo. It also includes the district of Maskavas forstate with Jewish heritage and the impressive central market just outside the old town.
The West Bank of Daugava offers nice parks and beaches, 18th and 19th century wooden architecture in Agenskalns, the tallest tower in the European Union and includes Riga International Airport.


Alberta street contains many examples of exquisite buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century

Riga is famous for its world heritage listed old town (Vecrīga) and city center (Centrs), in which over 800 buildings — a third of all buildings — are of the Art Nouveau (aka Jugendstil) style of architecture and thus Riga is one of the best destinations to see this architectural style. Chiefly built in the first years of the 20th century, many of Riga's Art Noveau buildings were created by ethnic Latvian architects as opposed to earlier buildings in the city . The Art Nouveau style involves intricate building facades, with carvings of flowers and mythological creatures, and ornate doorways and windows.

A considerable part of the old town was either destroyed by fire or destroyed by the Germans in World War II but many old buildings were also spared. The old town was a draw of the city during the Soviet times and it received protected status in 1967. The damaged parts, most notably the House of the Blackheads, were restored in the late 1990s, mainly to make Riga more attractive as a tourist destination. Another thing that attracts visitors, especially young adults, is the lively nightlife and discount airlines that offer cheap flights to/from much of Europe.

Riga is bisected by the river Daugava. Old (medieval) town is in the center of the city on the east side of the river. It is surrounded by a ring of ~19th–early 20th century architecture including the Art Noveau buildings described above, followed by a mix of private 2-floor house districts (many also pre-WW2) and Soviet-era 5-18 floor apartment districts. Especially near railroad lines they are interspersed with industrial plants from different eras; some of them already from the Imperial Russian time.


Riga was founded in 1201 by Albert of Bremen as a port city and a base to conquer and convert the native Livonians to Christianity, a goal that was achieved in 1206 after a battle in Turaida during the Northern Crusades. Riga developed as the major trade hub of the area during the peak of the Hanseatic League in the 13th to the 15th centuries and was ruled by the Archbishop of Riga. The Reformation reached Riga in 1522, which ended the Archbishops' power. In 1621, Riga became part of the Kingdom of Sweden, although it maintained a great deal of autonomy. In 1710, an invasion by Peter the Great of Russia ended Swedish rule and cemented Russian influence on the city.

Latvia declared its independence on November 18, 1918, although it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Riga became the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic until Latvian independence in 1991.

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, visible in some of the architecture of the city. The Germans were forcibly evicted after the Nazi occupation of 1941-44.


The official language of Latvia is Latvian; however, in Riga, the majority of the population speaks both Latvian and Russian and speaks predominantly Russian at home. English is widely spoken by younger people and by people in the tourism industry. German is also commonly spoken by tour guides.

Get in[edit]

View from the waiting room at Riga International Airport

By plane[edit]

Riga International Airport is dominated by the national carrier, Air Baltic, who offers low-fare connections to major cities around the Baltic Sea region and throughout Europe

1 Riga International Airport (Starptautiskā Lidosta Rīga in Latvian) (IATA: RIX) is located 10 km southwest of Riga. The airport serves approximately 5 million passengers per year.

Most flights to/from Riga are operated by the discount carriers Air Baltic, Ryan Air, and Wizz Air.

There are designated areas in the airport where smoking is allowed.

To travel between the airport to the city:

  • Bus 22 and Minibus #222 run between the airport and the old town, with a stop near the central bus and railway stations and Minibus #241 runs between the airport and Esplanāde, at the north end of the old town. These buses operate as any other public transport in Riga; see Riga#Get_around for more information on riding the buses. The journey to the old town takes 30-40 minutes. The last buses leave the airport at 0:05, or 23:40 on Saturday, Sunday, and holiday. The bus stop is located opposite the entrance of the terminal. There is a ticket machine at the bus stop or tickets can be bought at the Narvessen shop near the TGI Friday's at the departure level in the airport. Note that day and multi-day passes are not valid on the minibuses.
  • 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 makes fixed stops at several hotels near the airport and in the old town so it may be more convenient than Bus 22.
  • Baltic Taxi runs taxi service from the airport to the centre for a fixed price of €15 if booked online or via metered rates if paid to the driver. Service to the old town takes 15 minutes.
  • "Red Cab" Taxi offers metered taxi services from the airport. A journey to the city center costs approximately €12 and the ride takes 15 minutes, depending on the traffic. Wheelchair accessible mini vans are available but must be pre-ordered.
  • Personal Minibus offers airport transfer for groups. The price of €8 per person (6 person minimum) also includes guide to meet group with a 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 €8.50/h. The ride to the centre 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. 2 Riga's main bus station is located just outside the old town.

  • Ecolines - operates service between Riga and most major cities in Europe.
  • Eurolines Simple Express - operates service between Riga and most major cities in the Baltics, as well as a few other European capitals. Buses to Tallinn cost €13 and buses to Vilnius cost €11.
  • Eurolines Lux Express - More legroom than Simple Express service & free coffee. Buses to Tallinn or Vilnius cost €15-28. Buses to Saint Petersburg cost €35.
  • Flybus - Service between Riga and the airports of Kaunas and Vilnius. More expensive than Simple Express so only useful if you want a direct connection to the airport.
  • PolskiBus - Operates daily buses to/from Warsaw, Tallinn, and Vilnius.

By ferry[edit]

The port of Riga has regular ferry connections to Stockholm

Tallink Silja Line operates a ferry service every two days between Stockholm and Riga, with a landing at 3 Rīgas Pasažieru termināls‎ near the old town. The journey with M/S Isabelle takes 17 hours. Tickets for a day in Riga cruise for one person (6½ hours on shore in Riga) begin at €37. Regular round trips begin at €117.

By train[edit]

The main railway station, 4 Rīga Pasažieru‎, is south of Centrs and east of the old town and with good public transport connections to all parts of Riga. Latvian Railways operates service to many cities in Latvia, including the suburbs of Riga, as well as a few cities in Russia, Belarus, and Estonia. 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, with the exception of tickets to Moscow and Saint Petersburg which can be issued as e-tickets in both directions.

Trains depart for the 16-hour overnight journey to Moscow daily (except New Year's Eve) at 16:45 with an additional train departing at 18:10 from May to September. The overnight trip costs €36-205 depending on service level.

Limited trains operate between Riga and Valga, Estonia. From Valga, connections can be made to other cities in Estonia including Tallinn. However, it is much easier to travel to Estonia by bus.

By car[edit]

Riga has good road connections with Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus. Riga is on the Via Baltica and ~300km from both Tallinn and Vilnius. Note that in the city center, you have to pay a fee for public parking which varies depending from distance to center. Parking in the garage of the Olimpia shopping center (Āzenes iela 5, Kipsala) is free.

Get around[edit]

By foot[edit]

Vecrīga is comprised mainly of rounded cobblestone streets that may be hard to walk on if you are not wearing proper shoes. Outside of Vecrīga, most streets are paved with asphalt, although some smaller streets may be unpaved. Sidewalks are predominantly concrete everywhere. Vecrīga is best explored on foot. Due to the neglected drainage system, the streets may be flooded during heavy downpours.

By public transport[edit]

The "retro" tram in Riga
Schematic map of the tramway network in Riga
Modern low-floor Skoda trams are the mainstay of the Rigas Satiksme tram fleet

The city-owned Rigas Satiksme operates 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 €2.00 during at all times if paid onboard to the driver (cash only, exact change preferred) or €1.15 for bus/tram/trolleybus/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. A 5 ride ticket costs €5.75, 10 rides are €10.90, and 20 rides are €20.70. Also available are tickets for 2 trips for 2 people costing €4.60 and 2 trips for 3 people costing €6.90. Unlimited ride 24-hour cards cost €5.00, 3-calendar-day cards cost €10, and 5-calendar-day cards cost €15. 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 are numbered 1-55; trolley bus lines are numbered 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.

By bicycle[edit]

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. The cost is €0.90 per 30 minutes, with a maximum of €9 per day. Alternatively, ask your hotel if they provide bicycle rental.

Downtown Rīga has a lot of cobblestone roads, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Bike lanes/paths do exist but are not always marked clearly. On main roads, you may occasionally end up finding yourself on the wrong side of a guardrail.

By taxi[edit]

The best way to hire a taxi is to use the online phone app Taxify, which allows you to see the rates being charged, time to pickup, enter the destination, and pay with the credit card that is linked to your account.

If you hail a random taxi on the street, be aware that the taxi may not follow the most direct route and may use a meter rate that will significantly overcharge you.

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, traffic can be extremely slow, especially on the bridges, and parking in old town can cost up to €10/hour.

Drunk driving[edit]

Driving drunk is considered a serious law violation. Besides high fines and a 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 0.05 g/dL. There are plenty of police patrols and it is very common to be stopped for an alcohol test.

By boat[edit]

Boat service is available during the months of May to September from/to Jurmala. The boats stop in Riga stop near the Stone Bridge (Akmens Tilts), which is right next to the House of Blackheads/Riga Tourist Information Centre, in the old town. The trip costs €15-20 and takes 2.5 hours, which is obviously much slower and more expensive than train service.


The view northeast over the Vecrīga from St. Peter's Church
Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles

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

The areas usually most interesting to tourists are the Vecrīga and the area around the nearby Freedom Monument. However, Old town is not the only place worth visiting. Very old and well preserved city districts unvisited by tourists are Agenskalns and Tornakalns, just over the Stone bridge.

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.

Organized tours[edit]

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 center sights as well as 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.

Many private companies offer organized tours of Riga. Options include bike tours, Segway tours, pub crawls, hop-on-hop-off bus tours, walking tours, and tours focused on a certain aspect of Riga - away from the touristy old town. Riga Free Tour operates a free city walking tour that departs everyday from St Peters Church at 12:00. Look for a yellow suitcase.


Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles

If you're interested in classical culture, head to the National Opera in the Old town to enjoy opera or ballet or to the Koncertzāle Ave Sol a little further north. The city has several pleasant parks, notably around the city canal and further north into Centrs. Another interesting park is Mežaparks in the north of the city with beautiful old villas and Riga's Zoo.

Adrenaline Sports[edit]

Riga and its surroundings are popular destinations for adrenaline sports, which can be booked online, from most hostels and hotels, or from any local travel agent. The activities generally include transfers to/from your accommodation and all necessary supplies. Popular activities include bobsledding, AK-47 shooting (€40), bungee jumping from a cable car, scenic flights, canoeing, kayaking, go-karting, golfing, paintball, husky dog sledding (€40), indoor skydiving (€60), and driving a 4x4 off-road.

Festivals and events[edit]

  • Easter (Lieldienas). Egg fights!
  • Count of May (Maija Grāfs), Spīķeru laukums. Medieval festival. Takes place annually in mid-May.
  • Jāņi. On June 24, Latvians celebrate the summer solstice with the midsummer festival called Jāņi. Before the celebration, flea markets are held in many places.


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.

Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles

Don't go to the souvenir shops, instead buy items like amber and wool mittens and socks in the central market or throughout Vecrīga 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.

Like in other cities around the world, you can find shopping malls in the suburbs along most major thoroughfares. While not attractions in themselves, they may come in handy especially if you get around by car; you can buy things you need on your trip, some Latvian specialties to bring home or have a quick meal there.


Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles

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 in vogue.

The most central districts Vecriga and Centrs are the places to go for the widest selection of restaurants, though there are certainly also places to eat elsewhere in the city. There are a couple of local restaurant chains that have eateries in many different parts of Riga:

The Lido Restaurant complete with a windmill
  • Čili PicaSeveral locations (One near the Freedom Monument, another on the ground floor of the Stockmann mall near central station). Cheap but good pizza.
  • Fontaine Delisnack3 locations including Teātra iela in the Vecrīga +371 67 250 250, e-mail: . A 24-hour diner with an extensive menu, this restaurant chain is popular at all hours of the day and night. Try the large CB Burger for €5! Free delivery for orders over €25, otherwise there is a €3 delivery fee.
  • 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.


Bar scams in Latvia

Latvia is home to a number of fraud/extortion scams in bars, run by the local mobs. A common scam, which targets men, begins by having someone you meet randomly coax you into a bar. Upon buying a drink, you will be presented with a bill for as much as €100. If you can't pay with cash, 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 €100 price listed. If you refuse to pay, the exit door will most likely be blocked by a large bouncer. The trick to avoiding this scam is not to enter a bar recommended to you by someone on the street. Below is a list of bars/clubs in Riga known to conduct this scam. Many are strip bars or locations of prostitution rings. These shady establishments change their names often to escape lists like these and continue extorting unwitting travelers, so use your judgment when entering a bar, or check reviews of the establishment online before entering.

  • 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.
  • "Burlesque Club" (formerly "Roxy Klub" and "Babylon") - Kalku 24; located near the entrance to Vecrīga on Kalku street.
  • "Livu Krodzins Bar/Pizzeria" (formerly “Lord’s Pub”/“Groks Pub”/"Royal Pub")—Kalku 22; located next door to Burlesque Club.
  • "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.
  • "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”.
  • "Golden Dolls Night Club" (formerly “Zephry Bar” or "Kapsula Bar") - Aspazijas bulvāris 32
  • Mademoiselle Cigar Club” – Valnu street; located in Vecrīga across from “Lounge 8”.
  • Nobu Sushi” - Grecinieku 28; located in Vecrīga.
  • "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
Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles


Black coffee in Latvia is traditionally served unfiltered and quite strong in small cups. If you are used to filtered coffee, you may want to have a "white coffee" (with either milk, whipped milk or cream), or you want to have a glass of water on the side. Coffee "to go" has become increasingly popular, and many of the coffee chains offer coffee served in paper cups with lids.

In addition to the independent coffee shops listed in district articles, several international coffee chains such as Double Coffee, Coffee Inn, and Costa Coffee, have locations in Riga.


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 Vecrīga will charge €2.00-3.00 per beer and bars outside of Vecrīga will charge €1.50-2.00 per beer. A specialty liquor is Riga Balsam, which is an acquired taste.


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


Individual listings can be found in Riga's district articles

Hotels and hostels in general offer free WiFi and many have computer terminals. Almost all accept credit cards.

Unsurprisingly the largest concentration of hotels are in and around Vecrīga. For budget accommodation, head to the eastern half of the old town and the surroundings of the railway station. Upscale hotels are to be found in the core of Vecrīga and around the Esplanade Park in Centrs.

Stay safe[edit]

Alcohol consumption in Riga is high and bar fights are relatively common. It is wise to be level-headed and not escalate a situation.

See the info box in the Riga#Drink section regarding common bar scams in Riga.

The Russian Embassy in Riga at night



Go next[edit]

The Baltic states are compact and virtually all of the region is within 300 km of Riga, at least as the crow flies. All of Latvia and a large part of what Estonia and Lithuania has to offer is doable as a daytrip if you have a car. However, larger cities listed below do have several days' worth of attractions.


Jurmala's beaches are just around 20 km from Riga
  • 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, has many wooden and brick Art Nouveau buildings; includes the largest former secret military town Karosta, fortresses and a fantastic white soft sand beach.
  • Jūrmala - seaside resort that was popular amongst citizens of the USSR (the word literally means seaside or beach in Latvian).
  • Valka (Valga) - a town located on both sides of the Latvian-Estonian border.
  • Salaspils - a former German concentration camp site 15 km southeast of Riga.


  • Tartu - a student town accessible from Riga by direct bus.
  • Tallinn - the capital of Estonia; a 5-hour bus trip from Riga.
  • Pärnu - a beach town with old wooden houses, little more than halfway to Tallinn.



  • Stockholm - accessible via direct ferry from Riga; 17-hour journey

Routes through Riga
Ventspils  W Tabliczka E22.svg E  RēzekneMoscow
KaunasBauska  S Tabliczka E67.svg N  SaulkrastiTallinn
KaliningradJelgava  SW Tabliczka E77.svg NE  SiguldaPskov

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