There are only a few places I would prefer to other places. Every destination has something special and is in its own way unique. (obvious) And because the Baltic states are unduly undervalued, I have a TravelGuide Riga edition today with some tips on how to get the most out of a weekend in the Latvian capital.
In Latvia, around 2.3 million people live on an area the size of Germanys Bavaria (+12.5 million inhabitants). Actually, that's not much, which you also notice in the streets. Even if it's the most beautiful September day, the roads aren't crowded. There are some tourists, but not as many as you might expect from other destinations. Therefore, even at the weekend or in the high season, there isn't that much bustle in the city, that you become uncomfortable.
Arriving in Riga
With the bus line 22 you can drive in from the airport to Riga city center. The e-tickets at the machine are 1.15 euros per trip. If you buy the ticket from the driver, you have to pay 2 euros. These prices also apply to all bus rides in Riga. The ticket from the machine can then be devalidated in the bus. It is also possible to book several trips on this e-ticket, if you know, that you prefer to travel by bus instead of running around. Everything about tickets you can find here in English.
Ofcourse, you can take the taxi to Riga city center, but it's a lot more expensive. You also see more from the city, when you take the bus. Think about it. The bus takes about 30 to 40 minutes. The taxi is ofcourse a bit faster.
Good to know: The public transport timetables in Riga / Latvia are somewhat special. If a bus arrives at 10:20, it does not mean that a bus arrives at 11:20. The timetables sometimes have no traceable rhythm and it is best if you take a picture on arrival, to know the return times. Here is an example of what departure times to Majori (s.b.) looks like: 7:56, 8:33, 9:02, 9:20, 9:54, 10:54, 11:28, 12:16 ... etc.
Accommodations: Hotel, Hostel, Apartments
As with public transport, in Latvia you do not run into expenses if you want to sleep comfortably. You can, but the student budget is enough for more than the 12-bed dorm in a creepy hostel in an area you wouldn't enter at home. If one rummages through the large accommodation portals, you quickly notice that a lot of the accommodations look quite new and are also highly rated.
I do not know what Riga looked like before 1990's independence and before the EU accession in 2004, and if there is a connection, but I think it's almost impossible to end somewhere really bad.
My tips: While browsing for hotels and hostels I'd missed last year, I came across a hotel in the middle of the Art nouveau district, where I would probably check in on a next Riga visit. The Elizabete Design Hotel* is within walking distance of museums, parks and other sightseeingspots.
At our hotel, a hostel is connected. The Gogol Park Hostel is located just outside the old town, but still so close that you can reach all the sights in a shot walk. The review of the Gogol Park Hotel can be read here on the blog. (German only - Mail me, if you have further questions)
Nobody is starving in Riga and there is certainly something for every type of diet. The market halls are definitely worth a visit. Each hall offers a different kind of food, from meats and cheeses to nuts and all sorts of drinks. Tomatoes for a euro the kilo and melons from which you could eat a week. The food comes fresh from the surrounding agriculture and is sold daily from 7 clock there.
Adress: Nēģu iela 7, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
But the restaurants and bars can be found in every corner of the old town. Tips from me are the Raw Garden (now New Beginnings) and Fat Pumpkin. There you get really delicious vegan / vegetarian cuisine and this partially gluten free. Further information can be found in the respective blog post (German only - Mail me if you have any questions).
Adress Fat Pumpkin: Grēcinieku iela 11, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Adress Raw Garden: Skolas iela 12, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia
Day 1: Exploring Riga
Now that the basic things are settled, let's get to the root cause of why you should come to Riga. Visit the city. Explore a corner of Europe you probably didn't even have on the screen at first sight and would like to think back to it after your visited. Promise... If you don't feel like exploring the city on your own, you should consider the concept of the Free Walking Tour. There, a local guides you through the city, explains, tells stories and gives an insight into the life in the city. In the end, you give as much as the tour is worth to you.
Especially in the old town you can get lost really quick, if you are strolling without any plan and that is also desirable at this point. If you let yourself drift and simply stroll through the small cobblestone alleys, you will not only feel like you went to the last century, you will also find a new highlight around every other corner. Small shops, creepy backyards or even the view of beautifully restored houses from the past centuries.
"I wish these cobblestones could talk." It is hard to imagine what these old buildings must have seen. One of the oldest buildings dates from the early 14th century and is the "House of the Blackheads". Although it suffered badly during the war, it was renovated, restored and rebuilt in the late 1990s.
Spots in old town Riga:
- St. Petri Church (Impressive overview of old town - 9 Euro)
- Bremer Stadtmuskanten (Right next to the St. Petri church)
- cat house
- The Three Brothers
- and much more ...
Pro Tip: Work youself first through the old town, even if Riga itself was not crowded in September, it is more comfortable at middays outside the old town.
Above all, however, it is always important to look up. It could be that you are being watched.
The Bremen Town Musicians and the Iron Curtain.
Bremen is the twin city of Riga.
Around the old town, many green areas and parks were created on the old city wall. The moat is still there.
Freedom Monument Rigas
The three stars represent the three historical regions of Latvia.
Of course it is not possible to visit everything in one day, also the interest is different and the procedure to explore a city. Nonetheless, Riga is best known for its impressive architecture from different eras.If you are completely unimpressed and have nothing left for history, I would advise against flying there.
- Natural History Museum (2 Euro)
- National Museum (free)
- War Museum (free)
- Holocaust Museum (free) (German nly)
- Occupation Museum (exhibition: free, guided tours of the cellar: 5 Euro)
- Observation Decks
- Academy of Science with an observation deck (5 Euro)
- TV-Tower (4 Euro)
- Drinks with a View
- Skyline Bar - Elizabetes iela 55, Riga 1010
- Art Nouveau Areas
- Alberta Iela
- Elizabethes Iela (Nr. 10b)
- Market halls (s.a.)
- Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral (at least from the outside an eye-catcher - from the inside a matter of taste)
Day 2: Let's have a little adventure
To the Sea:
Majori is part of the Jurmala area and is located at the Baltic Sea. Especially for the interminable beach, the area is very popular not just at locals who live there.
But what makes this little town so special are the many old and beautiful Art Nouveau wooden houses. A lot are still very well preserved and get you directly into another century.
Here you need half a day to explore.
How to get there: The drive to Majori takes about half an hour and costs you 1.40 euros for the round trip. If you book the return directly with, you even get a discount.
Gaujuk National Park is the oldest and largest national park in Latvia. The name was given to him by the river Gauja.
There is something for every nature lover in the park. Castles and palaces, an open-air museum and fascinating caves and stone walls. Without a plan one shouldn't go there, because their offer is huge. Further information can be found here.
Here you should plan well one day. Maybe it's something for those who got well timed fights.
How to get there: Gauja National Park is located a bit further out of Riga and can be reached from the main train station. The journey takes about 80 minutes and costs 1.90 euros.
About the Salapils Memorial I have recently published an article.
The Memorial was built on the site of a former concentration camp. It is impressive but also rather oppressive standing there in the middle of the forrest with the cruelty happend there over 60 years ago in mind.
Here you should plan well half a day.
How to get there: The Memorial can be reached by bus and a half an hour walk. The ticket costs 1.15 euros per trip, if you buy the ticket from the driver, then 2 euros per trip.
Get all the spots I metioned
All points I mentioned here as well as some extra ones I have summarized in the map below. I'm a huge fan of Google Maps and usually plan all my trips there. If you have a Google Account and are logged in, you can click the little star next to the headline of the map and all my tips will show up directly in your Google Maps map.
I need your help:
If you have any other tips that are missing and should definitely be added, just let me know.
I've been working on this thing a good month now. Infos, pictures, map and everything still somehow appealing in a nice layout with a plugin, which hates me ... Not fun. But is this kind too much? Not enough? Too much drivel? What comes up short?
I need opinions!