Enjoy what’s great about Riga – the history, the adventure, the warm welcome you get, the good food, wonderful beer and good-time vibe. And just bear in mind, like many Eastern European cities, Riga has a lot of rules. Be a good guest and you’ll have a great time.
Riga at a glance:
- The biggest of the Baltic cities, it’s the capital of a country that shares a border with Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Belarus for a unique snapshot of Eastern Europe
- Expect pleasant, sunny weather and temperatures up to 20° between May and September
- Sub-zero temperatures from December to March make the city and surroundings exciting for extreme activities – just remember to wrap up warm
- Sup on Black Balsam, the city’s thick, black and ancient local drink – the exact recipe is a secret, its potency is not
Riga Old Town – beer gardens and lazy summer evenings
The Old Town is where you’ll find some of the city’s most interesting bars, cafés and restaurants and between May and September their beer gardens are where you want to be. Street musicians play until late into the evening, the gentle Baltic breeze cools the air and even if you’re not a diehard romantic, it’s virtually impossible not to be just a little bit enchanted.
Central District - a local look at Riga
The majority of architecture in Riga’s Central District is Art Nouveau. The buildings are stunning and the intricate and immense carving and sculptural detail might be a bit sinister in places but it’s it’s always breathtaking. The streets to look out for are Elizabetes, Alberta and Strelnieku. But, if you want a more contemporary, cheaper and less touristy side to Riga the Central District does that too. It’s where you’ll find the huge Central Market – it’s so vast they do guided tours. The independent shops are fascinating and very Eastern European exotic. And restaurants, cafés and bars here are relaxed and friendly with wonderful local food and prices.
Central Market – join the crowds for a snapshot of an immense Riga institution
Selling everything from pickled cucumbers and pig’s snouts to lace and embroidery, this is Eastern Europe’s largest covered market and attracts upwards of 80,000 visitors every day.
Best pubs in Riga:
Endless promotions, Ladies Cut Price Cocktail Nights, a legendary karaoke and all the beer brands you know and love – a bit of a party pub for sure.
Aussie Backpackers Pub
Guest DJs and live bands in the basement, wild and wonderful events programme and the only pub in Riga to have 12 different local beers on tap – it’s almost like a challenge.
You can’t miss Donegans, there isn’t a bit of ‘The Oirish’ this place doesn’t cover, from the hearty and fantastic pub food to the free-flowing stout and shamrocks everywhere. Some say it’s Riga’s best pub.
Riga’s first Irish pub and sports bar. Firm favourite with roaming stag and hen parties but the line-up of beers on tap and the great promotions could tempt you to stay put.
Moloney’s Irish Pub
For loud, lively and raucous live sports on TV and different promos every day head for Moloney’s. Weekends good for big crowds and live music.
Best bars in Riga:
Cocktails served at 26 storeys high with views over the Central District’s Art Nouveau rooftops. Go at the weekend for guest DJs and fantastic sunsets.
Part sports bar, part 1950s cocktail lounge, Betty’s is all about unwinding and just seeing where it goes. The food’s brilliant, you can watch sports on TV backstage and Cocktail Happy Hour runs every night from 5pm to 7pm.
B stands for Balsam, the traditional local drink and the basis for many of the famous and inexpensive cocktails in this cool, three-storey bar. Take it easy though. Balsam’s strong and can sneak up on you.
Best clubs in Riga:
Long-running Riga favourite with six themed bars, three dance floors and a broad mix of sounds and regular guest DJs. Girls get free admission so expect to find quite a few of them in there.
The weekends are full-on for this house/techno club. The crowd’s young and good looking and if you come with friends before 1am you get in free (it’s only €7 if you miss curfew).
Riga does Studio 54 decades down the line. The clubbers are an older mix and mainly Latvian but the energy’s good and it’s a real Eastern European experience.
Radio Bar Nightclub
Riga does bars-come-clubs with a relaxed feel, guest DJs or live music and a dancefloor. They’re usually quite small and not open every night. Try Radio Bar to see if you like a Riga twist on traditional clubbing, it’s one of the best.
Same idea as Radio Bar but with some really good promos and 2-4-1 cocktails every night between 5pm and 7pm.
Food: eat like a local:
Traditional Latvian food is designed to keep you warm, so it’s hearty and delicious. Try the Piragi, pastry stuffed with bacon and onions or breaded pork chops known as Karbonade. And if you need a salad ask for Rasols. It’s salad – but heavy on potato, eggs, bacon, sausage...fantastic.
One of the best restaurants in Riga, Vincents’ modern European take on fresh, local ingredients is faultless. It is expensive, but unforgettably good.
Hearty, cheap and very traditionally Latvian, there are eight Lido restaurants in Riga and they’re well-loved with good reason. Buffet style is usually the way and some have English menus too.
Need a high-energy hit? Hit dADa for noodles and all the trimmings. You pick your sauce, fill a bowl with your choice of veg, meat or seafood and noodles, hand it to the chef and it arrives back at your table cooked perfectly in minutes – great value.
Ala Folk Klub
Traditional food, local beer and folk music all in an underground cellar, it doesn’t come more Latvian than that. Locals like Ala Folk Klub, always a good sign.
If you can’t get through the day without caffeine pick up your fix at Coffee Inn and add some of their delicious cakes, muffins and pastries to your order. It’s like a Latvian Starbucks – only better.
Best time to visit:
It’s not a huge surprise that Riga is stunning in winter. It’s Latvia, so all that snowy wonderland stuff comes as standard and it’s beautiful and only perfect for extreme activities.
Trams, buses and trolley cars are the way to get about Riga by day and into the early hours of the morning. They’re cheap, easy to use and you can save by buying tickets in advance for up to 20 journeys or up to five days of city travel.
If you’re using taxis, use Baltic Taxi (the green ones). They’re safe, reliable, friendly and you won’t get scammed – being given change in Lithuanian currency instead of Litas, meter hikes and roundabout routes.
Riga Daily Bike Tours are also a fun way to see Riga’s historic landmarks and get a bit of exercise. The tours take off twice a day (noon and 3pm) from the Town Hall Square, they last just over two hours and your bike is included in the price.
Like any major European city, Riga has pickpockets. The Central Market, between the bus station and the Old Town and along Valnu Street are favourite haunts. Take the usual precautions and pay attention in crowds or narrow spaces, like doorways.
A honey trap is a popular local scam. Attractive young women invite unsuspecting men into expensive bars, order up drinks then disappear, leaving the man to foot the huge bill. Some strip clubs run a similar racket and prey on lone males, so stay in a group.
And finally, Latvian coins are worth five times more than Lithuanian coins, if someone asks you to help them out and exchange coins for a bank note, check the change.
Thank you = paldies
Yes = ja
No = ne
Hello = sveicinati
Cheers = prieka