The Freedom Monument, or "Milda" (as the locals call it), towers gracefully between the Old Town and the city. The 42-metre tall statue is a symbol of Latvia’s freedom and independence. The honour guard changes shifts every hour, on the hour, from morning until evening.
The so-called Powder Tower, the last remnant of the 13th-century wall that once surrounded the heart of Riga, now hosts a war museum. The aim of the museum is to reveal to the public the complicated military history of Latvia, with a special emphasis on the 20th century, during which the Latvian people had to win their independence twice.
The Latvian president Andris Bērziņš lives in one of the wings of this yellow 14th-century castle, situated by the mouth of the Daugava River in the harbour area. The castle has been rebuilt several times throughout the centuries, and its architectural style is a charming muddle of different architectural époques. Several art museums are housed inside of it.
Dome Square is the largest square in Riga Old Town where various public events are often held. Made of seven streets, it includes several monuments dating back to the 19th and 20th century. The square has a marked point where you can stand and see all three golden cockerels on top of Old Town's churches.
Riga Motor Museum is an absolute bliss for car lovers. The museum displays Western as well as Soviet cars and motorcycles, topped with wax dolls of the old Soviet party leaders. The new exposition tells fascinating stories about unique vehicles, renowned individuals and important milestones that helped to shape world’s automotive history.
An absolute must for visitors to see is the labyrinth of cobbled streets in the Old Town. This live open-air museum is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walk along the winding streets goes past over 150 historical and architectural monuments, the oldest from the 13th century. Do not be afraid to get lost in the narrow alleys, it is part of the experience.
Located 30 minutes away from the city centre, this open-air museum offers visitors a great overview of Latvia's country life and architecture. Check whether buildings inside are open for visiting, as they may be closed during cold seasons. You may explore the museum on your own, or through a guided tour.
Alberta Street is the Art Nouveau epicentre of Riga, as magnificent historical Art Nouveau buildings are located along the entire length thereof. Eight of them have been recognised as architectural monuments of state significance.This street is an open-air museum in itself - a UNESCO world heritage site that is not to be missed.
Right next to the Latvian Opera House is Vermanes Park - a beautiful and tranquil retreat from the city's busy cobbled streets. With its picturesque little bridges and lush greenery, the park is a great place to visit at any time of day. Take a boat ride along the canal, take a look at the plentiful statues inside or visit the tea house.
For an insight into Latvia's past and the activity of the Soviet Secret Service police in the country, take a guided tour around the former KGB headquarters building. It commemorates those who were unjustly convicted and murdered and those who suffered and died during the repressions and deportations.
One of Baltic States best chefs (Chef Eugene Ponomarev who received a Bronze medal in Chefs Competition 2010) offers traditional Latvian cuisine in a historical and romantic surrounding. The restaurant’s design is a classic Riga retro, ideally for guests wishing to enjoy intimacy and quietness. One can fully enjoy a quality rest here – a relaxed conversation with friends, listening to quiet music, observing fishes playing in the water tank or looking at the paintings.
This is a very popular restaurant in the Old Town. The cuisine from different parts of the world makes the lunch very enjoyable. The lunch menu usually contains 6 different dishes, one or two salads and a mini snack wrap. The atmosphere is really nice and the owners are very attentive patrons.
This bar might as well feature on the pages of Latvia’s best design magazines. Mute is an establishment that places Riga firmly among cutting-edge European capitals. Coffee and seasonal, local produce are served by expert baristas in an airy grey space with natural lighting and an indoor garden.
First and foremost a bar known for its original artisan cocktails (such as the must-try "Black Balsam") B-Bārs serves non-typical bar food of top-notch quality worthy of a fine dining establishment.The B-Bārs was opened in 2004 and is located in the heart of the historical centre, near the Dome Cathedral. It is a stylish and trendy cocktail bar with a chic designer interior.
This Irish pub is a big hit among sports fans - the many flat screens in the main seating area broadcast football and Formula-1 events, while the quieter second floor filled with sport-related memorabilia makes for more of a chit-chat setting. Don't miss the garden terrace during the summertime.
With its old VW van used as a bar, the pub is simply irresistible for the hip young crowd. The Aussie theme here is present, yet not kitschy - everything in moderation. If moderation fails you, however, feel free to crash at the hostel conveniently located upstairs. Oh, and feel free to bring your own food!
Centrs is Riga’s oldest and best-known department store has successfully cast off its old Soviet label of empty shelves. Recently renovated, the department store offers trendy cafés and shops, upscale prêt-a-porter boutiques, and a more-than-full grocery store in the basement.
Another upscale shopping complex is the Berga Bazars, just outside the Old City, housing a range of fine specialty shops such as boutique Emihla Gustava, where exquisite chocolate sweets are handmade and packed in exclusive gift boxes. Hugo Boss and Armani have just opened their first boutiques in the galleria.
The high-quality, six-storey department store Stockmann has the usual fashion, electric appliances and other items for the home, but also houses a huge selection of tableware, the biggest cosmetics shop in Riga and, best of all, the Stockmann supermarket and delicatessen store in the basement. A lunch break with Latvian pancakes and tea can be enjoyed on the shopping complex’s top floor.
What started as a small outlet selling Vans turned into a hip hangout spot when the store was complemented with a coffee shop. It now still offers a wide array of men's (and women's) clothing and footwear, as well as a quiet place to enjoy a coffee break looking out on the town.
This Latvian record shop has something every music store in the world could use - its very own bar. UPE is a favourite haunt of opera lovers, Latvian composers, diplomats, musicians and melomaniacs. And last, but definitely not least, the store boasts an eclectic offering of music DVDs and Latvian films. Have a drink and flip through the many records.
Robert's books is a small English-language bookshop started by The Economist's former journalist Robert Cottrell. He brought to life what he envisioned as a perfect book store - a place where great minds meet and find food for thought. Feel free to bring in your old books and exchange them for a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
A cute little store in the heart of Old Town that specializes in honey and bee-derived products all made by the members of one enthusiastic family. You might be surprised by the treasures these walls guard - unique varieties of flavored honey, cosmetics and souvenirs are just some of the items on sale.
Riga International Airport/Lidosta is located 8 kilometres away from the city centre. Bus n.22 to Riga Central Station leaves from a spot behind the airport car park every 10-30 minutes from early morning. The journey takes around 30 minutes and tickets can be purchased from the driver. www.rigassatiksme.lv/en In addition to the regular bus, there is also a shuttle bus which connects the airport with many hotels. www.airbaltic.com A taxi ride takes about 10-20 minutes from the airport to the city center.
Latvia can be visited visa-free for up to 90 days by citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, UAE and most countries in America. If you are unsure whether or not you need to apply for a visa, we recommend contacting the embassy or consulate in your country. International (non-Schengen) travellers need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of their intended trip in order to enter the Schengen zone. Citizens of Schengen countries can travel without a passport, but must have a valid ID with them during their stay.
The best time to visit the Baltic States is late spring or summer, when there’s usually fine, warm weather to stroll around the cities and make significant forays into the great outdoors. Temperatures cool down rapidly from mid-September onward, although autumn can be an extraordinarily beautiful season to visit Latvia, with the golden brown leaves of deciduous trees contrasting with the dark-green pines.
Riga has a good tram system that runs through the Old City, as well as bus, trolleybus and taxi bus routes. During night time, several tram and trolleybus routes run once an hour. Rīgas satiksme offers tickets for all means of public transport in the city. You can buy an e-ticket that is valid in all public transport vehicles.