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Things to Do & See in Riga, Latvia

Guide to Riga, Latvia: things to do and places to see

We visited Riga in the winter (February 2022) and the weather was really cold. When we arrived it was around -2 and the next day it snowed, leaving a lot of snow on the ground. During the winter you need waterproof shoes (we bought Wellington boots) and loads of layers including gloves and hats.

We went to Riga from London Thursday - Sunday for a long weekend and I think this was more than enough time to explore and see everything the city has to offer.

Here are some of the things we did and saw over a long weekend:

1. Riga Old Town

Riga is full of history and with that comes the historic Riga Old Town. Even if you're not into history, the old buildings are often one of the biggest draw for tourists coming to Riga. Old Town isn't that big and you can easily walk around and see most of the sights in a morning or afternoon. Riga's Old Town is home to some of the most iconic buildings, which I've highlighted below as being something you need to see whilst visiting.

Riga Old Town
Riga Old Town

2. St. Peter's Church (and the view from the top)

St Peter's Church (built in 1209), is the tallest church in Riga and well worth the visit, especially to go up the top to see stunning panoramic views of the city. Inside the church is beautiful and you can spend time looking at the architecture of it, as well as the statues and art that the church contains. They also often have exhibitions and concerts taking place in there.

The church's tower, originally built in the 15th Century (and rebuilt a few times after), offers one of Riga's best views of Old Town, the Daugava River and Riga Bay. We didn't pre-book tickets, we just went in and bought them there (they were 9 EUROS per person). Each ticket allows you entry to the church and also up the tower which you get to by a lift inside the church. We didn't stay up the top of the tower for long because it was freezing cold and windy, but we loved being able to see the whole city covered in snow from above.

St. Peter's Church, Riga

3. The Golden Domes of Riga

This is the oldest Orthodox Church in the Baltics and it is worth going to look at whilst in Old Town because the architecture and colours of the building really are stunning. We didn't go inside, but I think there is an option to if you wanted to see it.

The Golden Domes of Riga
The Golden Domes of Riga

4. Riga Central Market

Go to Riga Market to experience all the foods Latvia has to offer under one roof. Situated just outside of Old Town, this market is the largest in Europe and the building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are so many market vendors selling everything from pastries to pickled vegetables and smoked fish to biscuits. Even if you aren't hungry, it's a great place to visit to soak up Latvian culture and see the cuisine.

Riga Central Market

5. Daugava River

The Daugava River runs through Russia, Belarus and Latvia. When visiting Riga you can't miss it running alongside the city. During winter the river was partly frozen and the ice patterns across the water were stunning. Walk over the bridges (Akmens Bridge is one) to experience the river.

Daugava River

6. Mežaparks National Park

Just 15 minutes outside of Riga, this National Park is a quiet escape from the city. We got an Uber taxi as the snow was really heavy and we couldn't face walking in the cold to reach it. We spent a couple hours here and it was deserted because of the snow, but it was really stunning and the lake (Ķīšezers Lake) was frozen which made it so picturesque.

Getting back, we tried to get a taxi but really struggled as there were no Ubers out the way. We ended up getting the tram which goes from just outside the park and it was so easy and extremely cheap, taking us back to the centre of Riga in about 20 minutes.

Mežaparks National Park
Mežaparks National Park

7. Ķīšezers Lake

Visit this lake in the Mezaparks National Park. It's massive and during winter it's frozen making it beautiful to look at. There is a cafe by it, that was open even in the winter.

8. House of the Blackheads

Situated in Old Town, this famous landmark is one to see in Riga. House of the Blackheads was built in the 14th Century and now it is a museum that hosts many events. We didn't go inside, but it's worth looking at it from the outside as the architecture is beautiful.

House of the Blackheads
House of the Blackheads

9. Kronvalda Park

This is the oldest park in Riga and the city canal runs through it. Situated in Old Town it's a nice place to take a walk away from the main part of the city.

Kronvalda Park
Kronvalda Park

10. Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church is situated just outside of Old Town (about a 15 minute walk). What makes this church iconic is its brightly coloured green and blue 'onion' shaped domes, it really stands out amongst the other surrounding buildings.

Holy Trinity Church, Riga
Holy Trinity Church, Riga

11. National Library of Latvia

A library isn't often on my list of things to do on holiday, but I'm glad we visited the National Library of Latvia. The library sits on the opposite side of the river to Old Town and can be visited by travelling across the Akems Bridge. The library's external design is an asymmetrical triangle topped with a jagged crown that you can see from the other side of the river. The interior design is that of sloping glass and I would recommend going inside to see it for yourself as it is free entry.

National Library of Latvia
National Library of Latvia

12. Visit the Spa at The Wellton Riverside Spa Hotel

In the basement on this hotel lies an impressive spa with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, plunge pool, herbal steam room, Turkish steam room and sauna. You can pay for entry into the spa and use all the facilities for around 30 EUROS for adults. They also have massages and body treatments you can buy (around 50 EUROS), which I recommend booking in advance as they can get busy. They also have the option that you can book a private Jacuzzi room for groups.

The spa is a great place to go whilst visiting Riga but some things I need to add. They allow children in to the spa which if you are trying to relax, may not be that enjoyable as they are allowed to bring pool floats and make a lot of noise. The swimming pool is quite cold, they really could make it warmer especially in winter. They also hire out a private room with a jacuzzi for groups, however whilst we were having our massages, a group were being so loud with music which we could hear through the walls and they did very little to tell them to be quiet, which was disappointing.

13. Do a Tasting Menu

There are some amazing restaurants in Riga and quite a few of them do tasting menus with wine pairing. Coming from London, visiting Eastern Europe allows you to try really good food at a cheaper price. Doing a tasting menu (usually around 6 small courses with a glass of wine each course), means you get to try a few local dishes. We went to Restorans 3 which was outstanding but has sadly closed since we visited.

Restorans 3 Riga

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