Latvia and the Baltics’ largest city, Riga is a blend of Nordic history, food markets, beer and countryside.

Treading the line between tradition and modernity, Riga is effortlessly cool and has a quintessential European aesthetic, with colourful architecture, photogenic skylines, and sparkling waterways.

Must sees for free

One of the most renowned sources of Art Nouveau architecture, walking around Riga reveals a rich assortment of awe-inspiring buildings. With over 800 buildings in the style, Elizabetes iela provides some of the most jaw-dropping examples.

Latvia’s national library, known as the 'Castle of Light', is housed in Riga. Based off an old legend of a castle sinking into a lake, the building sits on the edge of the Daugava river, it houses 4.1 million books and other media. It also allows visitors, you just need to get a wristband at the desk, before you can wander most of the hall surrounded by an extraordinary amount of history and stories.

Though possibly just the story of legends, Riga has claimed the title of the world’s first Christmas tree. It’s said that a guild of merchants in the 14th century were known for their twice-yearly celebrations and that, one day, they placed a decorated fir tree in the middle of the town to dance and cheer around, before lighting the whole thing on fire. They documented the whole thing, which is why it’s believed to be the first documented Christmas tree. Though we don’t burn our decorations to the ground any more, the place where the tree once stood, complete with commemorative plaque, can be visited at Riga’s Town Hall Square.

Riga's Christmas tree

Top sees for a fee

After a personal collection got out of hand, Doctor Kirill Babaev bought a second home to house his many, many hats. Now, in a quiet apartment, across five halls divided by region, see over 400 authentic hats from cultures around the globe. The World Hat Museum asks for only a €4 entrance fee, and an optional €12 English-language tour. You can even try some of the hats on.

For a €10 guided tour fee, for a more somber experience, you can visit The Corner House, an exhibition housed in the former Latvian headquarters of the KGB. With a tour of the old cells, the dark history of the Soviet and German National Socialist regimes is explored in a respectful way; the museum’s mission is to ‘Remember. Commemorate. Remind.’

Founded in 1912, Riga Zoo is the oldest in the Baltics. The entrance fee is only €7 for adults, and the zoo is home to 90 species of animals. In the summer, there are even daily feeding shows where you can learn more about the animals.

Getting around

Riga has a number of public transport services, including trams, trolleybuses and buses. They also have night transport options, and multi-trip passes or multi-day passes available. More information can be found on their website.

Riga architecture

Eating out and going out

Five pavilions of vegetables, dairy, meat, fish and gastronomy make up the Riga Central Market, with an outdoor area with stalls and stands, the Night Market and Round the Clock Farmers’ Market. Alongside the fresh food, you can also find prosecco, pizza, craft beer, gastro hot dogs, ramen, and much more. It’s open Monday-Saturday 8am to 6pm and Sundays 8am to 5pm and you can find it in the centre of the city; near the old town and next to the International Bus Terminal and Central Railway Station.

Riga Central Market

Riga’s tourist board recommend you try brunch in the city. The Innocent Cafe was the first to begin Riga’s brunch tradition and offers boozy drinks, set-price buffet brunches, desserts, pizza, and a regular lunch menu.

For a touch of decadence, try the Skyline Bar. Housed on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Latvija Conference & Spa Hotel, the bar offers breathtaking views, signature cocktails, and an Asian tapas menu.

Riga bars at night



Luxury:Hotel Bergs offers 37 designer suites, a penthouse events space, and the option of a luxurious Executive Penthouse Suite. Elizabetes iela 83/85. From £106 per night.

Mid-range:Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel boasts a Nordic sauna, restaurant and bar, and the option of connected rooms for families. Elizabetes iela 73. From £62 per night.

Budget:Hilton Garden Inn Riga Old Town offers a central location, casual steakhouse, and seasonal summertime terrace. Grēcinieku iela 25. From £48 per night.

One of the many quaint streets in Riga

The facts

Currency: Euros (€) £1=€1.13

Time zone: GMT+2

The flight: 2hrs 55mins direct with Ryanair from £50 return.

Best time to visit: April and springtime have the cheapest flights, but summer allows for warmer climates and an ability to take full advantage of the outdoor bars and terraces.

Visas, injections and precautions: None required.