While in Riga, Latvia’s capital, be sure to spend time visiting with the people and learning about their culture. Enjoy traditional Baltic dishes and modern fine dining restaurants overlooking Old Town Riga. Check out the folk music and art found around the city through museums and churches.
1.Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
To experience Latvia in its former glories, Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum allows visitors to step back in time to when it was founded in 1924. As one of the oldest open-air museums in Europe, guests travel beyond a forest at Lake Jugla to discover old buildings, trinkets, and households from years ago. Learn about the Latvian culture as it has been cultivated and preserved for future generations to witness. The star of this museum is the fisherman’s farmstead, which looks at the tools, clothing, stable, summer kitchen, and bathhouse from a seaside village. Also, a 1,000-year-old boat is on display.
Brivdabas iela 21, Riga, LV-1024, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-994-106
Around for 107 years, Riga Zoo works to educate guests and encourage conservation efforts. Visitors will see over 60 species of animals at the zoo, including brown-nosed coati, douroucouli, capybaras, and South American tapirs. The newest exhibit to the zoo is the African Sahara, which includes the latest inhabitant, the Gelada monkey. Though the exhibition opens before fully completed, the exhibit will continue to expand until it joins with the preexisting giraffe house to combine all the African animals. Riga Zoo continues to introduce some of its species, insects, and amphibians to conservation efforts and publications.
Maze Prospekts 1, Ziemelu Rajons, Riga, LV-1014, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-518-409
This Eastern Orthodox cathedral was built in the late nineteenth century in the Neo-Byzantine style. The Nativity of Christ Cathedral is still in use today, and visitors can attend services with other Orthodox members. If you would prefer to see the history and art of the cathedral, you’ll find many Byzantine style pieces around the sanctuary that have been displayed for over a century. You can also learn about the history of the cathedral, like the fact that Alexander II commissioned it. Today, it is still the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltics.
Brivibas Bulvaris 23, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-212-901
4.Riga Motor Museum
One of Riga’s most impressive tourist sites is Riga Motor Museum, which looks at the history of motor vehicles. In fact, it is the largest museum for antique cars in all of the Baltics. There are guided tours available, but exploring the museum on your own allows for more time to admire the vehicles you prefer. One exceptional exhibit is the cars from the Kremlin, which look at how Soviet leaders didn’t mind splurging on themselves despite wanting equality for all. When you need a break from sightseeing, stop in at the café for a snack, lunch, or a cup of coffee.
Sergeja Eizensteina Iela 8, Vidzemes Priekspilseta, Riga, LV-1079, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-025-888
5.Riga Old Town
© Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com
Riga’s history goes back to the early 1200s. Travel through this historic city admiring the old buildings, Latvian charm, and unique sights. One particular point of interest is Rozena Street, a street so narrow that you can touch buildings on both sides just by outstretching your arms. See the craftsman houses for those who have built up the city over the centuries, and watch your step as you walk along the historic cobblestone streets. Before heading out, do your research to decide which places you’d like to see, such as Riga Castle, Powder Tower, or Konventa Courtyard.
Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-227-444
6.Latvian National Theater
© Latvian National Theater
Latvian National Theater has been putting together performances at this location for over 100 years. As one of the most renowned in Latvia, the theater sticks close to its roots by performing the work of a Latvian playwright at the beginning of each season. With three auditoriums, there are stages of all sizes for performances and other important gatherings. For those who plan to be in Riga for an extended period, there is a popular subscription plan, so that guests can see multiple plays for a much lower financial cost. This also guarantees a seat no matter the performance.
Kronvalda Bulvaris 2, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1010, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-006-300
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One of the most important symbols in Latvia is the Freedom Monument located in Riga. This pillar stands as a respectful reminder of the Latvian War of Independence and all those who gave their lives fighting for that liberty. Built in 1935, this monument is made up of 56 different sculptures together for one sizeable beautiful memorial topped with an obelisk. At the top of the obelisk is a woman holding three stars. Today, an honor guard of two men stands at the foot of the statue to show the respect that it means for the nation.
Central District, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
8.Bremen Town Musicians
© Grigory Bruev/stock.adobe.com
In 1990, the Bremen Town Musicians monument was created by Krista Baumgaertel. While it is based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Town Musicians of Bremen, the sculpture reflects the perestroika and how the people of Latvia went through Gorbachev’s rule. The statue is made of bronze and shows a rooster standing on the back of a cat, standing on the back of a dog, which stands on the back of a donkey. The animals look through a window in the fairytale, but this monument is a satire showing the animals looking through the Iron Curtain.
Kungu Street 3, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
9.Perkons Saule Daugava
Since 2014, Perkons Saule Daugava has been an incredible art piece in the heart of Riga. This mural is the most significant piece of graffiti in the Baltics, and it celebrates Latvia’s culture. It took two men and 1,500 cans of spray paint to put together this 800-square meter piece of art. The two artists who painted this mural were Rudens Stencil and Kiwie, two famous Latvian graffiti artists. This piece of work is based on a 1938 poster for the Latvian Song Festival. The choral festival was the largest in the world, and its theme was Saule Perkons Daugava.
Tallinas Iela 48, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1001, Latvia
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One of the hottest restaurants in Riga is located at Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija. Skyline Bar prides itself on creating food that appeals to all the senses. Skyline uses Korean and other Asian influences to provide fun and unique dishes that will fulfill any appetite. Whether you feel like trying the Kimchi fries, the shredded duck spring rolls, or the salmon tiradito, there are plenty of starters and sides to get your stomach ready for more. Delve into full entrees of Korean fried chicken, beef tataki, or pan-fried shrimps before moving into mango pudding or the six elements of chocolate for dessert.
Elizabetes Iela 55, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1010, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-772-288
Culture and Arts Project NOASS is a floating art museum in Riga. Those interested in visiting the museum can check out the many different venues and exhibits available, such as the open-air cinema, concert stage, and contemporary art gallery. Built in 1998, this arts center has overlooked Old Riga and the docks since its inception. Summertime is when NOASS flourishes, showing the open-air screenings of films and outdoor concerts right on the pier. Feeling a bit peckish? The bar on the terrace is a great place to grab a drink for the show or a quick bite to eat.
AB Dambis 2, Zemgales Priekspilseta, Riga, LV-1001, Latvia, Phone: 371-26-324-433
12.St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Latvia. The church’s steeple is the tallest spot in Riga and is also one of the oldest medieval structures in the Baltics. This church was built in the 13th century and is still used today. All are welcome to visit the church, though there is a small admission fee to cover damages and keep the church in working order. On the viewing platform, guests can see all of Old Riga and the newer modern area, as well as the Daugava River and the harbor.
Reformacijas Laukums 1, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-181-430
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Around twelve square acres of land make up Vermanes Garden. In 1814, this land was named Wohrmann Park but had since been renamed. At one point, Vermanes was a park, where guests could enjoy eating at the restaurant on site or walking the rose garden. In 1881, the city expanded the grounds and turned the park into what is now known as Vermanes Garden. Today, visitors can stroll through exotic foliage, bushes, and flowers. Today, it stands as Riga’s second oldest park and is the location of outdoor concerts and playgrounds for children.
Terbatas Iela 2D, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
14.St. Alexander Nevsky Church
© Yuriy Chertok/stock.adobe.com
St. Alexander Nevsky Church is a relatively newer church compared to others on this list. Groundbreaking of this Orthodox church was in 1820, and in 1862 the belfry was added to complete construction as it is seen today. Inside, visitors are treated to beautiful icons, images, and three porticoes. The gold and red scheme inside lends to the rich history and culture that St. Alexander Nevsky Church brings to Riga. The church is still in use today, and guests are welcome to partake in services. The church also helps within the community, cleaning up, and providing fun outlets for children and teens.
Brivibas Iela 56, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1011, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-283-201
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Victory Park is a constant reminder to the Latvian people of the Soviet era. No matter the opinion of guests, the park has a rich history with memorials that have been the target of violent destruction. Many tours include Victory Park on their itinerary because it is crucial to see the place where many Russians protested and the history of Soviet occupation. On the flip side, the park is a lovely area for strolling the Daugava River. It is over 36 hectares large, so there is plenty of open space to enjoy nature and find peace and quiet.
Zemgale Suburb, Riga, LV-1048, Latvia
16.Latvian Railway History Museum
Just a skip away from Old Town Riga, Latvian Railway History Museum is a stop worth your time while on holiday. Most importantly, Latvian Railway History Museum appeals to all types of guests – children, researchers, and railway enthusiasts. Visit the museum to see a vast collection of locomotives and a scientific archive about railway history. Children programs get kids involved, learning how the railway lights work, and roleplaying the parts of passenger and railway worker. Several excursions include riding antique trains out of Riga to surrounding communities. Railway enthusiasts can get their hands dirty, helping to restore old locomotives.
Uzvaras Bulvaris 2A, Zemgales Priekspilseta, Riga, LV-1048, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-232-849
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What better way is there to guarantee Latvian workers get to their jobs on time? Build a clock for all to see the time! This was the reason for Laima Clock to be built in 1924. Over time, it had shifted purpose to a billboard for candy, an information center during WWII, and finally as a meeting place. In the 1990s, a reconstruction of the clock took place to look as it did when it was first built. However, it was reconstructed again for a cost of 106,000 Euros in 2017 as a 100th-anniversary gift to the Latvian people.
Aspazijas Bulvaris 20, Centra Rajons, Rigas Pilseta, LV-1050, Latvia
More than just a location, Miera Iela is an entire street, as the name suggests (Miera Street, in English). This street was once a forgotten area where tourists didn’t go, and locals just passed through without a thought. Over the past several years, artisans and crafters have upgraded this street to become an artistic destination for all. Today, guests can walk Miera sampling the many bars, cafes, and restaurants or check out the shops and museums along the way. Laima Chocolate Museum is of particular note for discovering the history of this sweet chocolate brand of Latvia.
Miera Iela, Riga, Latvia
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19.National Library of Latvia
More than just a library, National Library of Latvia is the epicenter of library activity for the capital of Latvia. Exhibitions are on display for all who wish to visit. Some sample exhibits include the Early Years of Lithography, Castle of Light and Glass Mountain, and visiting exhibits covering illustrations and Renaissance manuscripts. For visitors looking to find some peace and quiet, several collections at the library can be referenced or taken to reading rooms for quiet reading. Along with themed rooms, there is also a children’s literature center so that kids can get involved in literacy as well.
Mukusalas Iela 3, Zemglaes Priekspilseta, Riga, LV-1423, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-806-135
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The Riga Synagogue is also called Peitav-Shul in Latvian. One of two synagogues in Riga, Riga Synagogue is a place of worship for the Jewish visiting and living in Riga. Jewish communities in Riga date back to the end of the 19th century, and so plans for a synagogue for these worshippers began in 1903. The history of Riga Synagogue is rich and impressive, given that it is the only synagogue to survive the holocaust in Riga. When Latvia was under Soviet rule, Peitav-Shul was one of the only temples allowed to remain open. Today’s guests can admire the traditional architecture and beautiful stained glass inside.
Peitavas Iela 3/8, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-204-022
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© Domini Canes
When looking for a restaurant in the center of historic Old Riga, consider Domini Canes. An outdoor terrace provides a peaceful and beautiful view of St. Peter’s Church on summer days. Once the Baltic weather cools, indoor seats still look out on the church and the historic district. Using local products from the nearby forests and farms, Domini Canes offers delicious farm-to-table selections. Consider starting with the sea scallops in a pea puree before moving onto an entrée like oven-roasted lamb shank served on a pumpkin, carrot, and beer puree. Complete your meal with a decadent dessert, such as the pumpkin and quince marshmallow ice cream.
Skarnu Iela 18/20, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-22-314-122
22.Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
© Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
At Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, diners are entertained five times a week to live folk music celebrating Latvian folk culture. While Latvian folk music is the primary focus, artists from around the globe are welcome. Those who attend a live show may choose to grab a beer or drink and enjoy a simple beer snack, like the beer platter of local cheeses and smoked meats. However, the restaurant features many delicious options, from potato and carrot pancakes to slow-cooked beef cheeks in Valmiermuizas dark beer. Desserts are just as tempting, such as the traditional Latvian meringue tower Cielavina.
Peldu Iela 19, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-27-796-914
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23.3 Pavaru Restorans
© 3 Pavaru Restorans
3 Pavaru Restornas in Latvian for three chefs restaurants. This restaurant was opened by the three chefs the restaurant was named for: Martins Sirmas, Arturs Trinkuns, and Eriks Dreibants. Cooking is not just the passion of these chefs, who love to eat nearly as much as they like to cook. The dishes served at 3 Pavaru Restorans combine classic ingredients with fine dining, such as veal cheeks, smoked brisket, prunes, and a potato puree. Desserts combine sweet and savory items, like cheese selections with honey and jams. Another favorite is rum and apricot ice-cream with olive caramel.
Jacob’s Barracks, Torna Iela 4, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-20-370-537
© Melnie Muki
Meaning Black Monks, Melnie Muki has been serving the people of Riga for years but maintains its dedication to the past. The brick walls of the restaurant are untouched, displaying the beauty of old Latvian architecture, while the meals are well-crafted representations of European favorites. Coconut chicken soup, goulash, Caprese salad, and pork ribs are just a few of the perfected dishes that chef Avivis Auzins prepares for guests. Drinks are also classic favorites, such as Tom-Collins, Bloody Marys, mojitos, daiquiris, and tequila sunrises. A large selection of red and white wines is also available to accompany your meal.
Jana Seta 1, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-29-979-729
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When visiting a country as old as Latvia, you’ll likely want to experience its history to the fullest. One of the best places in Riga to visit for this is Rozengrals Restaurant. With five halls built in an old wine vault that dates back at least to the 13th century. This restaurant serves 150 people at a time and uses Medieval recipes to put guests back in time. Enjoy colorful waiters and cooks, dressed in authentically styled Medieval costumes. Check out traditional dishes like rabbit stew with prunes and cedar nuts or wine-soaked dry fruit with wheat grain ice cream to understand the tastes of these historic peoples.
Rozena Iela, Centra Rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia, Phone: 371-67-220-356
25 Best Things to Do in Riga, Latvia
- Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, Photo: winstyle/stock.adobe.com
- Riga Zoo, Photo: jteivans/stock.adobe.com
- Nativity Cathedral, Photo: BRIAN_KINNEY/stock.adobe.com
- Riga Motor Museum, Photo: ynos/stock.adobe.com
- Riga Old Town, Photo: Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com
- Latvian National Theater, Photo: Latvian National Theater
- Freedom Monument, Photo: Savvapanf Photo /stock.adobe.com
- Bremen Town Musicians, Photo: Grigory Bruev/stock.adobe.com
- Perkons Saule Daugava, Photo: evannovostro/stock.adobe.com
- Skyline Bar, Photo: nazarovsergey/stock.adobe.com
- Noass, Photo: Noass
- St. Peter’s Church, Photo: olezzo/stock.adobe.com
- Vermanes Garden, Photo: Aleksandrs Kosarevs/stock.adobe.com
- St. Alexander Nevsky Church, Photo: Yuriy Chertok/stock.adobe.com
- Victory Park, Photo: Aleks Kend/stock.adobe.com
- Latvian Railway History Museum, Photo: hitman1234/stock.adobe.com
- Laima Clock, Photo: gertbunt/stock.adobe.com
- Miera Iela, Photo: Juulijs/stock.adobe.com
- National Library of Latvia, Photo: sergei_fish13/stock.adobe.com
- Riga Synagogue, Photo: Juulijs/stock.adobe.com
- Domini Canes, Photo: Domini Canes
- Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, Photo: Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
- 3 Pavaru Restorans, Photo: 3 Pavaru Restorans
- Melnie Muki, Photo: Melnie Muki
- Rozengrals, Photo: dima_sidelnikov/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com