Riga
· ·

The 12 Best Things to do in Riga For First-Time Visitors

Hidden away in the heart of Europe, Riga, the capital of Latvia, often goes unnoticed amidst the continent’s more renowned cities such as Paris, London, Barcelona, or Rome.

In my opinion, that’s a real pity because, on my recent trip, Riga pleasantly surprised me with its diverse range of attractions and an abundance of things to do.

In this blog post, I share with you everything Riga has to offer, all based on my personal experiences. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the charm of Riga, but watch out, you may not be able to escape it!

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking.)

12 Things to do in Riga That Guarantee The Best Time!

1. Visit The Town Hall Square & The House of The Blackheads

Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Riga is to visit the Town Hall Square and the House of the Blackheads.

Located in the heart of the Old Town, the Town Hall Square is a vibrant and historic place that showcases the city’s rich heritage.

The picturesque square is surrounded by colorful, centuries-old buildings and features the iconic Riga Town Hall, a magnificent Gothic building.

Best Things to do in Riga For First-Timers

Just a stone’s throw away from the Town Hall, you’ll find the House of the Blackheads, another striking architectural gem.

This elegant building, with its intricately decorated facade, was originally a guildhall for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants and shipowners.

Today, it serves as a venue for cultural events and exhibitions. Moreover, it’s possible to go inside and explore its interiors. A ticket costs only €7 and can be bought online.

Tours you might find interesting:

2. Enjoy a Great View From St. Peter’s Church

Another awesome must-do activity in Riga is to enjoy a breathtaking view from the top of St. Peter’s Church.

Not only is it possible to visit this medieval church from the inside, no, but you can also head to the top of its bell tower to have an epic 360-degree view of the city.

St. Peter's Church Riga

And you know what’s the best part of it? There’s no need of climbing hundreds of stairs as it’s often the case. Instead, you take an elevator that goes all the way to the top!

As soon as you leave the elevator, you’ll be greeted by an incredible panorama of Riga’s charming rooftops, the Daugava River, and the surrounding landmarks, providing an unforgettable perspective of the city’s beauty.

Best Things to do in Riga
View From St. Peter's Church

Unfortunately, the entrance to the tower is not free and with €9 somewhat expensive. In my opinion, the price is worth paying tho since the tower truly offers the best view of Riga!

3. Take a Stroll at Bastejkalns Park

Taking a leisurely stroll at Bastejkalns Park is another experience not to miss in Riga. Located near the city center, this picturesque park offers a serene escape from the bustling urban environment.

Bastejkalns Park is known for its gorgeous bridges, captivating sculptures, and charming fountains, which add to the park’s tranquil ambiance.

As you wander along the park’s charming pathways, you’ll be enchanted by the lush greenery, colorful flowerbeds, and a scenic canal that runs through the entire park. It’s also possible to join a Riga Canal Sightseeing Tour.

Best Things to do in Riga
Bastejkalns Park

The park is particularly beautiful during spring and summer when the trees are in full bloom and the vibrant colors create a magical atmosphere.

On the square which divides the park into two pieces, you’ll see the iconic Freedom Monument, a memorial to honor soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence.

Adjacent to Bastejkalns Park, there’s also the Latvian National Opera with its grand neoclassical facade that hosts world-class opera and ballet performances.

4. Click a Photo of The Famous Three Brothers

While exploring the old part of Riga, don’t miss the opportunity to take a photo of the famous Three Brothers.

These three adjacent houses, each representing a different architectural style – Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque – tell a visual story of Riga’s architectural heritage.

Three Brothers in Riga

The oldest of the three dates back to the 15th century, while the other two were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The intricate details and colorful facades truly make for a great composition in any photo!

5. Stop By The Impressive Riga Cathedral

Just a stone’s throw away from the Three Brothers is the cathedral of Riga, one of the largest medieval churches in the Baltic region.

With its towering spires and striking Gothic architecture, the magnificent religious building is hard to oversee and a real feast for the eyes.

Inside, the cathedral lures with an awe-inspiring interior including beautiful stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and ornate decorations.

After admiring the stunning building, make sure to hang around a bit at Dome Square, a central gathering place with charming cafes, and other historic buildings.

It’s an ideal spot for people-watching, relaxing on a bench, or enjoying a cup of coffee!

Tours you might find interesting:

6. Try The Traditional Riga Black Balsam

No visit to Riga is complete without trying the traditional Riga Black Balsam. Although it doesn’t taste very pleasant, in my opinion. 😀

Riga Black Balsam is an iconic Latvian herbal liqueur that has a rich history and is deeply ingrained in the local culture. It comes in different flavors such as classic, cherry, or currant.

Made from a secret blend of 24 different botanicals, including herbs, roots, berries, and spices, Riga Black Balsam offers a unique and distinct flavor that is both bitter and sweet.

You have the choice to try it neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a cocktail in one of the many bars and restaurants that proudly serve Riga Black Balsam. You can also find bottles of this beloved liqueur in local shops to take it home as a souvenir.

I tried it neat as a shot and also mixed into a fruity cocktail but neither liked any of it. I guess it’s just not my taste, but maybe it’s yours? 😉

7. Have a Coffee at The Cutest Café

Riga is full of lovely cafés but there’s one that really stands out: Parunāsim kafe’teeka.

I stumbled upon it completely by coincidence when I spotted a sign next to the Three Brothers saying “the most romantic café in old town“. I’m a sucker for gorgeous cafés so of course I had to check it out!

The entrance to the café is located in a small, picturesque backyard with an outdoor seating area.

Parunāsim kafe'teeka in Riga

Inside, there’s a cozy atmosphere with dimmed light and various vintage furniture, giving it the “romantic” ambiance Parunāsim kafe’teeka boasts with.

It’s self-service which means you need to order before sitting down. The café offers a large selection of different coffees and homemade cakes. Unfortunately, they don’t have vegan pastries but they do have plant milk for the coffee!

I ordered a Latte Macchiato with oat milk and chose a seat at the window on the upper floor of the two-story building. The prices are a bit on the more expensive side but you don’t only pay for the coffee but for the ambiance as well.

After all, it’s the most romantic café in Riga!

8. Spot The Black Cats on Cat House

Did you know that cats are the unofficial symbol of Riga? You’ll find them on numerous tourist souvenirs and the main reason for this is the Cat House, an iconic Art Nouveau building adorned with two statues of black cats.

Legend has it that the wealthy merchant who owned the Cat House was denied membership in the Riga Tradesman Guild, a prestigious merchant association.

To show the guild what he thought about them, he placed the statues with their arched backs and raised tails, facing toward the Great Guild, as a symbol of his protest.

Cat House Riga

Today, the building gained status as one of Riga’s most iconic landmarks so while exploring the charming streets of the Old Town, be sure to look up and locate the playful feline statues atop the Cat House!

9. Try to Find The Swedish Gate Without a Map

Nowadays it is easy to find your way around even in unfamiliar places. You simply enter the location where you want to go into Google Maps the app will guide you there.

That’s it.

But have you tried finding your own way, without using Google Maps or a good old folding map?

If not, now is the time to explore the streets of Riga entirely on your own on your expedition to find the famous Swedish Gate. And nope, I won’t give you a hint!

Tucked away in the old town of Riga, the Swedish Gate is the last remaining gate from the old city walls and thus holds significant historical importance.

Best Things to do in Riga For First-Timers

Looking for the Swedish Gate without a map is truly one of the coolest things to do in Riga. It allows you to truly immerse yourself in the city’s hidden corners and who knows, maybe you stumble upon unexpected surprises along the way!

Tours you might find interesting:

10. Admire Art Nouveau Buildings on Alberta Street

Undoubtedly, most of the main sights in Riga can be found in the old part, however, there’s a street about one kilometer north of Old Town which is absolutely worth visiting.

I’m speaking of Alberta Street, an iconic street that is surrounded by stunning Art Nouveau buildings on both sides.

Alberta Street Riga

Simply stroll along the street and you’ll be captivated by the ornate facades, intricate decorations, and exquisite details that define the Art Nouveau style.

With flowing lines, floral motifs, and imaginative sculptures, each building seems to tell its own story through its design.

Best Things to do in Riga

11. Visit The Stunning Nativity of Christ Cathedral

Just a 15-minute walk from Alberta Street, you’ll find the Nativity of Christ Cathedral, a majestic Orthodox cathedral.

The exterior of the Nativity of Christ Cathedral is truly a sight to behold. Its striking golden domes, delicate carvings, ornamental elements, and decorative motifs add a sense of opulence to the cathedral’s exterior.

Nativity of Christ Cathedral in Riga

The use of vibrant colors, particularly the rich blues and golds, further enhances the visual appeal.

Inside, you’ll be greeted by a display of stunning iconography, beautiful mosaics, and ornate decorations.

12. Plan a Day Trip to Jurmala

Last but not least, don’t miss out on planning a day trip to Jurmala from Riga.

Located just a 30-minute train ride from Riga, Jurmala is known for its pristine sandy beaches, charming wooden architecture, and relaxing seaside atmosphere.

Whether you’re seeking a tranquil day of sunbathing, a refreshing swim in the Baltic Sea, or a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, Jurmala offers a picturesque setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

The area is also full of inviting cafés, restaurants, and spas, providing ample opportunities to indulge in delicious cuisine and wellness activities.

Jurmala Beach

Tours you might find interesting:

As you see, there are tons of amazing things to do in Riga, although it’s one of the smaller European cities.

So, when are you planning your trip to Riga?

Check out:
A Perfect Day Trip to Jurmala From Riga
6 Simple Reasons Why Riga is Worth Visiting


Like it? Pin it!


Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources:

Flights: I prefer using CheapOair or Skyscanner to book flights. The destination everywhere feature is perfect for finding some cheap deals!

Accommodation: Booking.com is my favorite site to find some great hotel deals. I do love staying at a local place as well, thus I book an Airbnb every now and then.

Travel Insurance: There are many reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without one. I use the simple and flexible one from SafetyWing that protects me against unforeseen events.

Tours: I love taking tours to explore destinations like a local. My favorite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Camera Gear: I use a Nikon D5300 camera with an 18-105 mm and a 10-20 mm wide-angle lens to take my photos.

Similar Posts

14 Comments

  1. On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Latvia and would definitely want to spend some time in Riga. The architecture would certainly send us wandering around town. And we do love when there are great parks and outdoor spaces in a town. It will be fun to try the Riga Black Balsam in different flavours too!

  2. I had a chance to visit Riga at a younger age and immediately wanted to return older with friends, you have reminded me about how amazing this city is, perhaps it’s time 🙂

  3. Lina, your detailed guide to Riga is fantastic! Your vivid descriptions bring the city to life. Thanks for igniting my curiosity about Riga’s hidden corners!

  4. I feel like Latvia is often overlooked by travelers, but I’ve heard so many amazing things about this country. I still haven’t visited yet, but it’s on my list and your post has just inspired me to go there as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I only spent a short weekend in Riga but loved the city. Definitely would like to come back. The good news is, the city is quite small so it is actually possible to see all the highlights in one long walk

  6. Riga’s town hall is among the most beautiful town halls in the world! I would also like to visit the Art Nouveau Buildings on Alberta Street. Absolutely stunning!

    Thanks for sharing your things to do in Riga. I’ve never heard about it and now I’m adding it to my list for my trip to Europe next year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *