Turku to Riga
The Latvian capital of Riga is famous for its striking and eye-catching Art Nouveau architecture that leaves a unique and lasting impression. The UNESCO-listed Old Town is juxtaposed with the modern old town, rebuilt in the 1990s after suffering heavy damage during World War II. Riga also attracts nightlife lovers, with its numerous eclectic and lively pubs and bars. Uncover the city’s charms and vibrancy with this Finnair travel guide to Riga.
Sights in Riga
The Old Town forms the backbone of most tourists’ itineraries in Riga, with its interesting architecture and statues. The Art Nouveau buildings are decorated with cats, angels, flowers and monsters; the 19th-century homes are full of detail and it takes more than one glance to absorb it all. Āgenskalns is another beautiful part of the city. Riga Cathedral is an impressive mix of different styles, and the 123-metre-high tower of the Gothic St. Peter’s Church offers sweeping views over the city. Other landmarks include the Freedom Monument depicting the goddess of freedom, Milda, and the Riga Radio and TV Tower, which is the tallest free-standing structure in the European Union. The Museum of Occupation of Latvia, which exhibits Latvian history during the Nazi and Soviet occupation, is well worth a visit. Other museums include the Latvian Photographic Museum, the Museum of War, the Museum of the Barricades of 1991 and the Arsenal Museum of Art. Riga Zoo is often popular with children, and there are several parks where kids can run and play and adults can relax in the green outdoors. Bastejkalns Park is especially pleasant, with its Asian-style buildings and the Bridge of Love with its many love locks. The nearby beaches are perfect for sunny days; cross the Shroud Beach to Kipsala Island and spend a few hours relaxing. Riga’s famous nightlife keeps going until the early hours of the morning and you’ll find many bars and clubs throughout the Old Town. Alternatively, book an evening at the Latvian National Opera.
Things to See and Do Near Riga
- Jūrmala – With a long stretch of white-sand beach, pine trees, dunes and quaint wooden homes, this large Baltic resort town is a great day trip from Riga in the summer.
- Līgatne Nature Reserve – Enjoy hiking, canoeing and wildlife spotting in the summer months, and skiing during the winter. Creatures that call the area home include bison, deer, elk and lynx as well as many varieties of birds.
- Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial Complex – A former Nazi concentration camp and a moving memorial today, step back in time and learn more about the effects of World War II in Latvia and pay your respects to those who perished.
Shopping in Riga
Riga has many small shops that sell an array of items, including traditional woollen socks and gloves as well as products made from amber.
- Riga Central Market – Located next to the international bus station, Riga Central Market is fascinating not only for its wide selection of goods but also for the fact that huge sections of the market have been built using old zeppelin hangars. There’s also a large open area.
- Konventa Seta - This old convent courtyard now has several souvenir shops.
- Stockmann – One of the city’s main department stores, it is part of the large Finnish chain store brand.
Food and Drink
- Potato pancakes – Found in most restaurants throughout Riga, potato pancakes are a popular Latvian dish. They are commonly served with sour cream and a bacon sauce.
- Bread soup – Made from rye bread, dry fruit, sugar, and cream, bread soup is a local dessert.
- Riga Black Balsam – Containing 24 different ingredients, this dark liquor has a distinctive taste. The strong drink is made from vodka with a variety of herbs and other additions.
- Kvass – Another creation made using rye bread, kvass is a sweet drink with a small percentage of alcohol.
Transport in Riga
Public transport in Riga is widely available, and most parts of the city are relatively easy to reach. All methods of public transport use an integrated ticketing system, called e-talons, which makes things fairly straightforward. You can pay for single journeys or a block of trips to be used at a time that suits you. Day passes are also available.
- By foot – The Old Town is easy to explore on foot, but do ensure that you wear sturdy footwear to cope with the many cobbled walkways. Elsewhere around the city, pavements are usually paved and flat.
- By bicycle – Bicycle rental outlets can be found in several areas of the city but helmets are not often provided.
- Boats – Boats can be a pleasant, albeit slow, way to reach Jūrmala in the summer. Services depart from near the tourist information centre.
- Buses, trolleybuses and minibuses – Numerous road vehicles connect almost all parts of the city. Services are frequent. Night buses in Riga are denoted by the letter “N”. You can pay the driver for a ride or purchase tickets from automated machines if you do not have a reloadable e-talon card.
- Trams – Trams are the quickest way of moving around the city. Lines run from one to 11, and routes are completely different to those served by buses.
- Taxis – The cheapest taxis in Riga are those that you order using a mobile app or telephone. Taxis flagged down in the street should use a meter, but the rate is generally higher than you would pay with a pre-booked service.