Last month Ryanair had one of its many sales with cheap flights to different destinations (mostly around Europe). Usually, it is difficult to find cheap tickets for a weekend getaway where you don’t have to take extra days off (holidays are a commodity nowadays) but this time we were lucky. One of the destination on my “to go” list ever since I went to Tallinn was just that, a perfect city break for the weekend. So let’s go back to the Baltic!
Until we got to Riga and started walking through the Old Town, I didn’t realise how much I missed city breaks! In the 2.5 days we walked loads, saw loads and were absolutely dead by the end of the day. Our feet killed and we fell asleep almost as soon as we got into bed. But guess what? I found those 2.5 days of city exploring more relaxing than our 4 day trip to Lanzarote where we chilled by the pool all day reading books.
It’s just shows that there definitely are different types of travellers and not every trip/location is suited to everyone. Some people love 2 week all inclusive beach holidays where they hardly ever leave the hotel except for a day trip here and here, some love going completely off the track and getting lost in mountains or rainforests, some love quick getaways/city breaks and some love exploring anywhere they go.
So what is there to see in Riga? The majority of touristy things is centred around Old Town and is all pretty much walking distance, but there are a few good spots a bit out of the centre worth visiting (all accessible with public transport). I’ll cover those in another post.
Cobbled streets, narrow alleys, picturesque facades and cosy cafes and restaurants – you can easily find a space exactly to your liking.
The Old Town of Riga (Vecriga) reminded me very much of Tallinn but, surprisingly, also Zagreb. This is probably down to the fact that for most of the history (from 13th to 19th century), Riga developed as a Germanic town so architecturally it is pretty similar to Zagreb centre and other towns in continental Croatia. It is also mostly dominated by churches.
Check some of the most visited attraction in Old Town below:
House of the Black Heads at the Town Hall Square – you can go inside as well if you’d like but we tried not to go into too many museums.
St Peter’s Church – mostly for the panoramic view from the tower but also for the Bremen Town Musicians statue
Riga Cathedral – situated on a little square so there’s a bit more open space around it. I found the statues surrounding it amusing
Gunpowder Tower that houses the War Museum.
Cat House – I love the story behind this house! It tells of its Latvian owner who was denied membership in the powerful Great Guild. He got pretty pissed off with this so to show his displeasure, he built two cat sculptures on his roof with their butts facing the Guild and their tails straight up to finish the insult. Just in case I have to mention, there are the 2 Guild buildings right next to the Cat House.
Livu Square is a square you will probably walk through without knowing its name. But it will stick out in your memory. It has a small green space with bushes of wild flowers. It is surrounded by charming buildings that house a few bars and restaurants with big terraces where you can enjoy a drink or some local delicacies in the Latvian sunshine. Or cuddle up under a blanket and heater to enjoy the crisp fresh air.
Checking out Old Town won’t take you long, a few hours max. That means you have more than enough time to stretch your legs and see what what else Riga has to offer.
Latvia has some delicious sweets for all of you out there with a sweet tooth. Lucky I was on my sweet food cravings while we were there, there were so many cakes to try 🤤! Best place to grab some delicious local bites and sweets for a bargain is the Central Market. If you are not into food but more into war buildings, Central Market is inside five pavilions constructed by reusing old German Zeppelin hangars. It is absolutely huge so take some time to go around. Unfortunately, we only saw 2 pavilions out of 5.
Walk off all the food you have eaten by walking down the green paths of Bastejkalna Park and enjoy several statues, the Freedom monument and the National Opera house. Walk further down the Brivibas boulevard and gaze upon the golden domes of the Nativity of Christ Cathedral or pop into the nearby Vermanes Green park for some more statues 😀 (loads of statues in Riga!)
If you are into art, you might wanna walk up to Alberta Iela. The whole street is lined by Art Nouveau buildings and there is also The Art Nouveau Museum you can visit. There’s a few cafes and bars that keep in line with the theme.
On TripAdvisor you can see more places reccommended to visit, like the KGB Building. Museum of Occupation of Latvia or the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum but we haven’t visited any of those.
Riga sits on the banks of river Daugava, which means – river cruises! We went for an hour long sunset cruise, just before our plane and it was a nice way to round up our trip. The cruises last about an hour and are €15 pp. It’s a good way to see the city from the river and watch the rays of the setting sun cover Old Town in gold.
If you like being around water and going on boat trips, find some time and get on one of the boats.
Tips to stay on lower budget:
- buy a 3 day public transport pass. It costs only €10 and can be used on buses, trams and trolleybus for as many trips as you want. You can also use it on the bus from the airport.
- if you want to have some local food but not spend loads of money, eat at Lido. It’s a chain of canteen style restaurant scattered all over town. The food is pretty good (varies by restaurant) and you can have a 3 course meal for less than €15.
- don’t forget your water bottle and refill it wherever possible! Each plastic bottle comes with an extra 10c on the price as it is single use plastic. You also can’t just ask for a glass of water in a cafe/restaurant as they will bring you a bottle and charge you.
- the public transport is a great, fast way to get about the city so if accommodation in the town centre is too costly, don’t be afraid to look a bit further away from Old Town. With the 3 days ticket, it won’t cost you loads in bus fares either.
Riga really is a perfect town for a quick city break. I found that three days are enough to see all the major attractions and still have time to visit a few museums and chill with a cup of coffee (or a pint of local beer). If you’re looking for your next quick get away, give Riga a try, you won’t regret it!