Unmissable things to do in Riga, Latvia
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is one of the oldest cities in the Baltic States. It is a real European capital of new art that will undoubtedly charm you.
Few days are enough to visit Riga; however, you’ll need much more to discover Riga’s natural face. Wondering what are the activities and things to do in Riga? If yes, then let’s discover them together!
Top 16 things to do in Riga, Latvia
1. Stalin Birthday Cake
While in Riga, a visit to the Academy of Sciences is a must. More commonly known as Stalin Birthday Cake, this place gives you a 360 ° view of the Latvian capital.
It was planned that a portrait of Stalin would be added to the facade during the academy, but the idea was abandoned to the relief of the Latvians.
However, many hammers and sickles still adorn the academy, very little appreciated by the local population. Today, the building has 23 floors and hosts an academy of science and the famous closet of Dainas made by artist K. Barons.
The closet is located on the 16th floor and represents the originality and folklore wealth of the Latvian people.
2. Origo Commercial Center
For shopping lovers, I strongly advise you to take a little trip to the Origo shopping center. This place is full of shops, restaurants, and cafes.
I suggest you get there late at night. The atmosphere there is very festive, and you can make new friends very quickly. Additionally, the Origo Mall is an excellent place to shop for souvenirs.
3. Winter Solstice Celebration
If you plan to visit Riga in winter, don’t miss the Winter Solstice Celebration. The show is simply magical! During the Winter Solstice Celebration, all Latvians take a break to make a pilgrimage to the country’s sacred places.
In the past, these places were closed to the Soviets. Along the way, you will see druids and shamans, and you will hear beautiful chants accompanied by the sounds of bells and lots of people laughing around wood fires. In short, Winter Solstice-Celebration is one of the best things to do in Riga.
4. House of the Blackheads
Another must-do activity in Riga is exploring the House of Blackheads. Erected in 1344, the House of Blackheads served as a temporary residence for the powerful Blackheads guild. This brotherhood was made up mainly of wealthy single merchants passing through Riga.
Today, the House of Blackheads serves as a temporary residence for the President of the Republic of Latvia. Additionally, the House of Blackheads houses the Tourist Office, a shop, a restaurant, and a historical museum
5. Souvenir Shop (Suvenīri)
Suvenīri is one of the most original and authentic souvenir shops in the world. The store sells a wide range of wood, ceramic, and linen handicrafts. It is easily recognized by the massive statue of the black cat in Riga.
Locals and tourists highly appreciate the products offered by Suvenīri. The products sold there are beautiful, unique and their prices are very affordable. Additionally, these keepsakes are widely used at wedding parties and other celebrations in Latvia.
6. Freedom Monument
Since 1935, the Freedom Monument has been an emblem for the people of Latvia. It is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Riga. The monument was erected in honor of the soldiers who died in action during the Latvian War of Independence. The memorial is the work of the Latvian sculptor Karlis Zale.
The sculptures and bas-reliefs depict the culture and history of Latvia. At the top of the monolithic column is a slender woman lifting three golden stars, symbols of the three historical provinces of Latvia. Additionally, you will find the motto “To the Fatherland, to Liberty “on the plinth.
7. Riga Old Town
The old town of Riga or Vecriga is part of the capital of Latvia, a UNESCO world heritage, and its tourist center. It is one of the best places to visit in Riga due to its pretty unique mix of medieval, Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau buildings.
Riga’s Old town is not very huge; I advise you to explore it on foot and lose yourself a little in its tiny cobbled streets. Additionally, if you want to learn more about the history of the capital’s old town, you can take a guided tour.
8. Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ
Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ is one of Riga’s cult places. In Byzantine style, the cathedral, a symbol of the power of Russia, dates from the 19th century.
The interior of the cathedral is simply magnificent; however, it is forbidden to take photos. Admiring this architectural gem is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Riga, so don’t hesitate to visit it!
9. Christmas Market
If you are going in December to discover Riga’s Christmas Market, I highly advise you the take your warmest clothes! The Riga Christmas market is small but very authentic. It is a cute market where you can buy large Christmas socks, warm handmade scarves, and lots of other goodies.
10. Boat trip along the canal
One of the best things to do in Riga is the boat trip along the canal. Whether you are on your own, with your partner, or children, this is an important activity to do in Latvia. The tour usually lasts 1 hour over the Daugava and on the Riga city canal aboard an ecological boat.
It is also the opportunity to admire the most famous sites of the historic center, including the Freedom monument and the Latvian National Theater while having a good time onboard the boat.
11. National Library of Latvia
The National Library is one of the most exciting and controversial buildings in Riga. The building is located by the river in the district of Pardaugava. Its construction is the work of Gunnar Birkerts, an American architect of Latvian origin.
The inspiration behind its construction comes from the expressionist church, the mountain, and the magical place. Lastly, from the 7th floor of the Riga National Library, you can admire an impressive view of the entire shore, the high Spiers, the bulbs, and the Moscow District.
12. Riga Eiffel Tower
If you do not have the opportunity to visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, know that there is a famous French monument in Riga. It is a relatively free interpretation of the Eiffel Tower.
The construction measures 369 meters and is the tallest broadcasting tower in the European Union. Also, this futuristic building has an observation platform that offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.
13. St. Peter's Church
St. Peter’s Church is one of the most famous buildings in Riga and is definitely worth your interest. It is one of the oldest monuments of medieval architecture in the Baltic States. Formerly, St. Peter’s Church was used for more popular ceremonies and Thanksgiving.
In the church, you will find an elevator that allows you to go up to 72 m and access the observation platform, which offers you a panoramic view over the rooftops of the capital of Latvia.
Additionally, the interior of St. Peter’s Church features pure Gothic decor. The building also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
14. Drink Riga Black Balsam
It would be a shame to visit Riga without tasting the Black Balsam. It is an alcoholic drink developed by a Latvian pharmacist in the mid-18th century. Black Balsam contains around 20 different plants.
The drink contains 45% alcohol, ideal for warming up during the cold periods of the capital. Additionally, be aware that Black Balsam is typically mixed with vodka, coffee, or even tea. Latvians are certainly not lacking in imagination!
15. Night Walk
Another fantastic activity to do in Riga is the night walk. I suggest you start it from the house of Blackheads to the National Library. While walking, you can stroll through Āgenskalns District with its old traditional wooden houses full of charm. Additionally, you can enjoy the magnificent view of the river without being crowded with tourists.
If you want to meet new people or enjoy a lovely night out, there is no better place than Kalku Street. As soon as night falls, Kalku Street turns into a massive nightclub. There you will find several clubs, discos, and bars. In Short, in Kalku Street, the beer is flowing, and the atmosphere is unforgettable!
Riga is undoubtedly a touristic gem in the Baltic region. I highly recommend visiting this excellent destination. Also, let me know what your favorite things to do in Riga are and your experience there. I look forward to reading your comments!