Riga is Latvia’s capital and the geographical centre of the Baltic States. Riga is the 3rd largest city in the Baltic area after Stockholm (Sweden) and Saint Petersburg (Russia). The city is located at the river Daugava not far from the Gulf of Riga. In the 14th and 15th century Riga was one of the most important trade centres of the “Hanseatic League” and was granted special rights to transport goods to the East. Still today Riga is very attractive when it comes to business opportunities and activities. Furthermore, it is an important transport junction with a harbour, the international airport and a developed road and railways network.
It is famous for its art nouveau buildings, generous constructions and a well-preserved city centre. It is highly developed in its education system and has a great cultural value and therefore can be seen as the backbone of Latvia’s economy as well as the biggest centre for education and science. Every year numerous exhibitions, conferences and cultural events take place in Riga and contribute to the city’s international reputation.
Riga and Latvia Country code is +371
Q. Where is Riga?
Riga is Latvia’s capital and the geographical centre of the Baltic States. The city lies on the right side of the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the river Daugava.
Q. How old is Riga?
A. Riga was established around 1201, although settlements around the city date back much further
Q. What is the local language in Riga?
A. Latvian Is the national language but many people speak Russian as well as English also widely spoken
Q. How big is Riga?
Located on the River Daugava, Riga covers an area of over 307 square kilometres.
Q. How many people inhabit it?
This city on the Baltic Sea is home to more than 702,891 inhabitants (July 2011).
Q. What currency is used in Riga?
A. Since 01/01/2014 the main currency of Latvia became Euro. Previously it was Lat (1 Lat = 1.4 Euro). For more information about money and currency in Latvia and Riga take a look at our Latvian Money and Currency section
Q. When is the best time of year to visit Riga?
A. All year! Sun or snow, it is always good to visit
Q. Who lives in Riga?
A. Riga is a cosmopolitan city with many Latvians, Russians and other nationalities living there
Q. Do Latvians like to sing?
A. Latvians love to sing! You will be hard pushed to find a Latvian who does not sing!
Q. Is Riga safe?
A. Riga Is safer than most European cities but always be aware of scams when travelling anywhere
Q. Can I drink outside in Riga?
A. Drinking in public Is a crime so stick to the warm bars and cafes to enjoy your drinks
Q. Can I smoke inside bars in Riga?
A. No you can’t smoke in bars in Riga, unless they have smoking rooms
Q. Is Riga Part of the EU?
A. Since 2004 the Latvian Republic has been a member of the European Union
Q. Do I Need a Visa to visit Latvia?
A. EU citizens do not need a visa. Other nationalities should check
Things to See
Q. Anything in Riga what shouldn’t be missed?
Plenty! Riga has lots of great things to see and do. These include St. Peter’s Church and tower in Old Town. Make the short elevator trip up to the tower’s viewing platform and once you step outside you’ll be able to see stunning views of Old Town, the Central Market, the Daugava River and much more. The church interior is pretty impressive in itself.
Make sure to check out the Latvian National Museum of Fine Art on Kr. Valdemāra. This impressive gallery is housed in an early 20th century building which was purposefully built to serve as an art museum. Here you’ll see over 52,000 paintings and sculptures by Latvian, Baltic and Russian artists.
If you’re up for a trip outside the city centre, head to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum close to Lake Yugla. It takes about 15 minutes by taxi and the museum is well worth the trip. From the homes of fishermen, potters and peasants to animal dwellings and religious structures, this open-air museum is home to around 118 different buildings brought here from all over Lativa. Spread across 80 hectares of breathtaking countryside, you can just wander around and take in the natural beauty while learning about Latvian life in days gone by.
Q. On average how much does it cost to get into Riga’s top museums?
A. Most of Riga’s museums charge an entry fee, however their price is quite insignificant.
Q. After all that culture, say I want to hit the shops. Where should I go?
A. You’ll find some great shopping centres in the city centre. These include Origo, Galerija Centrs and the Stockmann department store. Throughout all these multi-level centres there’s an excellent mix of local and international brand names, as well as a wide variety of products.
Q. How about opening times for Riga shops?
A. Apart from the smaller shops, or those in suburbs, which will normally close on Sundays, most of the main stores and shopping centres in Riga are open 7 days a week, and normally from 10 am to 10 pm. 24 hour mini-markets and chemists can be also found in Riga.
Q. How about some attractions outside of Riga?
Even though it’s located outside the city itself, the Bobsleigh Track in Sigulda is on of Riga’s most popular attractions.
Q. What’s so great about it?
What’s not to love about speeding down 1,420 metres of icy track at over 100 km/h? Groups of three rush down the track accompanied by a bobsleigh expert. If that heart-stopping, adrenalin-pumping experience isn’t enough, you can also try out the frog, where you navigate a track on your stomach as you watch the ice whiz by.
Q. Where are most of the bars found?
There are lots of great bars and clubs scattered throughout the city. For the biggest concentration of top-notch venues, head to Riga’s Old Town area.
Q. Do I need to carry my ID with me when going out?
Like most countries, it’s best to carry some kind of ID with you, like say a photocopy of your passport. However, you probably won’t be asked for it here.
Q. Where would you recommend?
Up on the 26th floor of the Reval Hotel Latvija on Elizabetes you’ll find the Skyline Bar. Here you can sip on a cocktail while enjoying incredible views of Riga. If you can, try and get one of the window-side seats at dusk, where you can sip your drink and watch as Riga lights up beneath you. Also, make sure to check out the bathrooms, where you’ll be able to see some of the best views of Old Town.
For something a bit different, go for a drink in a Mad House on Kaļķu. A stone’s throw from the Freedom Monument, it has both a top location and a great atmosphere. Inside, you’ll find an eclectic mix of kitschy designs. The booths to the left as you walk in are reminiscent of rooms, and one has a really cool faux-window complete with drapes and a cityscape just outside. Over on the other side of the substantial bar island you can chill out at one of the many table with a drink. There’s a dance floor down the back and the place can get pretty packed with people shaking a leg to the dance tunes preferred here.
One of Old Town’s favourites, Cuba Café is a boho bar with a cool atmosphere and a great drinks menu. Popular with a youngish crowd, this bar lives up to its name with lots of Cuban bits and pieces scattered around, as well as lively Cuban music cranked up on the bar’s impressive sound system.
Q. Anything else I need to know?
Before you order a drink in Riga’s bars, ask what the price of your tipple of choice will be. That way you’ll be able to avoid places that try to charge visitors more.
Q. Is there anything to do that doesn’t include alcohol?
Of course! Along with a number of great live music venues, Riga also boasts the impressive Kino Riga, located on Elizabetes. Before you hit the theatres inside, make sure to check out the amazing art work outside the building. Instead of the standard movie posters, here you’ll see hand-painted versions of these ads. Inside, the classy décor matches the arty and indie movies shown.
Q. Is it expensive to eat out in Riga?
It’s not. In fact you’ll be surprised at how much you get for your Lat here. Reasonably-priced three course meals aren’t hard to come by and you’ll also see a number of places doing great value lunch specials too.
Q. Where is the best selection of restaurants in the city?
Throughout Old Town, as well as in the Art Nouveau district around Elizabetes street, you’ll find a wide variety of eateries.
Q. Are international cuisines well represented?
They are! From Italian pasta dishes to American-style burgers, you won’t have a problem finding somewhere in Riga that serves international dishes.
Q. Any places you’d recommend?
Take a short tram ride out to the LIDO Recreation Centre on Krasta. Spread over three floors, it’s a great choice if you’re looking to try out some traditional Latvian food without breaking the bank. You can choose from over 500 different dishes that make up the bountiful buffet. Traditional dishes such as grey peas, along with many other Latvian offerings, can all be sampled.
Another great option is K|I|D* on Pulkveza Brieza iela. From its funky interior, which features an open kitchen with a well-stocked salad bar, to its friendly staff, this spot is definitely worth a visit. Pastas, salads, meat and fish dishes and much more are all on the menu here.
Charlestons or Čarlstons on Blaumaņa is a great spot for lunch. It offers great value soups and salads, as well as large and delicious pizzas. You won’t be waiting long for your food; however, if you have short attention span and you’re sitting in the front part of the restaurant, you can keep yourself amused by creating your own works of art on the brown paper tablecloths with drawing materials provided on each table.
Q. What times do restaurants close?
A. Most restaurants in Riga open until at least 11pm, with many others serving food into the wee hours of the morning.
Q. Anything else I need to know?
A. For the best fresh ingredients, as well as a huge selection of tasty pastries and cakes, check out the Centrāltirgus or Central Market. This extensive affair opened in 1930 and is located inside old-school zeppelins. Vendors offer a huge selection of foods from fresh fish to dried fruits.
Q. Which bus do I get from Riga Airport to the town canter?
A. Bus 22 runs regularly from Riga airport and takes you to the town centre with a stop by the Stockman Shopping centre next to the Old Town
Q. How many different modes of public transport are there in Riga?
A. Riga has a number of different forms of public transport. These include trams and trolleybuses. Trams run on 11 routes across the city, while the trolleybus network encompasses 20 routes. Services operate daily from 5.30am to 11.30pm. When entering a tram, you can get a ticket from the driver. However, an electronic smart card system is also in the works.
Q. Will I need to use public transport at all?
A. Well, even though a large number of attractions are concentrated around Riga’s Vecriga (Old Town) area and can be reached on foot, you will need to use public transport during your stay, especially if you want to visit some of the popular places outside the city centre.
Q. Anything else I need to know?
A. Taxis are a quick and relatively cheap way of getting around Riga and can be picked up throughout the city. Once you hop in, make sure to ask the driver the approximate cost of the journey before you head off.
Q. I am planning to travel to Russia from Riga. What is the best way to get there?
A. Riga has a direct railway connection with Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. Train to Moscow departing every day at 16:45 and at 18:35 to Saint-Petersburg. You can either book tickets online or buy tickets on Central Station in ticket office.
Sources used: tobook.com, wikipedia.org, inyourpocket.com, rigathisweek.com, meeting.lv