800 years of turbulent history, vibrant nightlife and an underlying hum of music, Riga is a fascinating city with some incredible tales to tell.
Holidays to Riga
The largest city in the Baltic States, Riga is famous for its rich heritage, medieval old town and spectacular array of Art Nouveau buildings. Its status as European Capital of Culture in 2014 proves that it is more than just history and architecture however.
By day the city offers countless fascinating corners to explore, with museums and historical sights to suit every interest, beautiful stretches of parkland, river cruises down the mighty Daugava, and even beaches a short day trip away.
By night, the city truly comes alive and is a hedonists dream, although that’s not to put off anyone looking for a more sedate evening. Music is key to the city, and their opera in particular is world class. Bars, cafes and nightclubs line the streets, and the bargain prices make it impossible not to have a fun-fuelled evening well into the early hours.
Summer is June to August with July being Riga’s hottest, and sunniest month with averages of 17°C and 12 hours of sunshine a day. However, their summers can get far hotter than this with 30°C temperatures not unheard of.
Given its location in Northern Europe it’s no surprise that winter temperatures are bitingly cold. February is the coldest month with -5°C averages, whist Dec and Jan are both typically below 0°C. May to September are your best bets if you want temperatures over 10°C as a minimum, but bear in mind that spring and autumn can still be surprisingly chilly so it’s a good idea to pack lots of layers.
In fact, the phrase four seasons in one day can certainly be applied to Riga’s climate so you’ll probably want an extra jumper, a brolly and a pair of sunglasses in your bag regardless of when you come.
Things to do on holiday in Riga
As is typical of Europe’s many wonderful cities, Riga offers all manner of interesting ways to pass your days. Here’s just a taste to give you some ideas of how to spend your time here…
History & Sightseeing
Anyone interested in history and architecture will be in seventh heaven in Riga. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town is perfect for a relaxing stroll during the day, where you can appreciate the quaint beauty of the cobbled streets set against majestic gothic spires, with stunning river views thrown in for good measure.
Not to be limited to just one fabulous historical site however, there is also the magnificent city centre which is one of the world’s richest examples of Art Nouveau architecture with over 800 buildings bearing this decorative and romantic style.
Given its fascinating history it’s no surprise that there are countless sites worth a visit, however some of the more noteworthy would have to be Riga Cathedral – the largest place of worship in the Baltics, St Peters Church which dates back to 1209 and has the added benefit of an observation platform from which you can enjoy spectacular citywide views, and Latvia’s national shrine; the Freedom Monument.
Art and Culture
In order to truly understand the history of this fascinating country, head to one of the many fantastic museums. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is dedicated to the Nazi and Soviet rule of the country and shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in this part of their history. The Riga Bourse Art Museum and the Riga Art Nouveau Museum are both worthy visits, and the Latvian Ethnographic Museum is a fabulous open-air reconstruction of traditional Latvian life.
Want to fully submerse yourself in Latvian culture? Then you need to enjoy some of their music. The renowned Latvian National Opera Company regularly perform in the capital, and the Riga Opera House is a sight to behold in itself. There are also regular classical concerts in the Old Town’s various churches, and theatre performances that will keep you well entertained of an evening.
Although plenty to keep you busy in Riga itself, it also has the benefit of being easy to plan and enjoy daytrips out into the stunning Latvian countryside.
53km from Riga is the beautiful town of Sigulda. Incredible natural beauty, fairy-tale castles, adventure sports to get your heart racing, and world famous outdoor music festivals, this is a place well worth a visit.
For those who fancy a bit of relaxation, Jurmala is a brilliant day trip. Just 25km from Riga, it boasts a beautiful 26km sandy beach, spa treatments based on its natural curative resources, one of Latvia’s most popular summer concert halls, and for the kids – Liva akvaparks; the largest water amusement park in Northern Europe.
If you fancy letting your hair down at night you’ll be pleased to hear that Riga nightlife is amongst some of the best in Eastern Europe.
For a more relaxing tipple the Old Town, with its huge selection of bars, cafes and pubs is a perfect spot to enjoy an after dinner drink, particularly in the summer when you can sit outside and soak in the atmosphere of the medieval town. All across the city you will find all manner of drinking establishments however, from British style boozers to swanky cocktail bars.
And for those hoping to party into the night? Not a problem. There are all manner of clubs in Riga, from the classier Nautilus to the slightly cheesier Club Essential. The most famous in town however, is Pulkvedim Neviens, and you’ll find this brimming full of people and with a fabulous atmosphere most nights of the week.
Riga is also a hot favourite for stag do’s, so there are plenty of establishments geared towards this.
As the most vibrant of the Baltic cities, Riga is home to an abundance of restaurants so whether you fancy sampling the local cuisine or something international, you’re bound to find many appealing eateries.
Latvian cuisine is a typically Eastern European hearty fare - think pork, potatoes, dumplings, and lots of cabbage! If you fancy something a little lighter, sushi restaurants are two a penny, Aleks at Hotel Justus is one of the best fish restaurants in town, and Fat Pumpkin can make you feel truly virtuous with its delicious vegan menu.
If you’re looking to splash out, Bergs at the Hotel Bergs is undoubtedly one of the best. A fusion of Latvian and Western European, it’s been compared to a Michelin star restaurant, although that honour has not ‘yet’ been bestowed.