Five Of The Best Things To Do In Riga

Riga is both effortlessly cool and elegantly rustic. I didn’t plan anything before I arrived, but here are 5 things I stumbled onto and am so glad I didn’t miss!

With a lively and effortlessly cool atmosphere, Latvia’s capital, Riga is the largest city in the Baltics.

Founded in 1201, the city has a rich history, with the old town listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Unlike Estonia’s medieval fairy-tale town of Tallinn, Riga is entwined with more modern architecture, and diverse local culture.

Here are 5 things you should do if you visit the Latvian capital

 

Riga

 

1. Stay in the Art Nouveau Area

Riga’s Art Nouveau district is full of beautiful, intricately detailed buildings and trendy restaurants, cafes and shops. Street names to look out for include Strelnieku iela, Dzirnavu iela and Alberta iela. 

The best eateries I found were Mr. Fox for breakfast,  PiraniJa for pizza and board games, and Burga for excellent value drinks, burgers and traditional dishes.

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Riga
“Labor omnia vincit” – work conquers all!

2. Explore the Old Town: Vecrīga

On the east side of the Daugava River, this UNESCO world heritage site is full of beautiful churches, colourful buildings and many pedestrian-only streets to wander down.

Some of the more famous buildings include  St Peter’s Church, the Cat House and the Building of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, And then there’s the statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and proclaimed to grant wishes if you touch the animals of the statue!

Riga old town

Riga town square

 

3. Walk Through the Beautiful Parks

There’s nothing quite like a morning walk or jog through a foreign land! Riga provides plenty of stunning parks, centered around a gentle winding river.

Riga ParkRiga ParkRiga Park

 

 

4. Enjoy Riga’s Markets

Just out of the city is the wonderful produce and handicraft market Kalnciema Street Market.

Full of a huge variety of delicious, cheap local food, this is a must for any foodie. The market is open 10am – 4pm on Saturdays and is a 40 minute walk across the river from Riga’s Old Town.

If you want a market a little closer to the Old Town then head to the Central Market. With over 3,000 stalls covering 72,000 square meters, this is Europe’s largest market! To top it off, the market is housed in old German Zeppelin hangers which are now World Heritage listed. The central market is open daily from 7am – 6pm.

Riga Market

Market food
Quail eggs so many different ways… fried on skewers, picked in soy sauce, used in liqueur, meringue and quail meat jerky!
Market food
Oven baked doughnuts with natural colouring like blackberry or spinach… yum!
Riga's Central Market
Riga’s Central Market

 

 

5. Take in the View of the City From Above

There are several locations throughout Riga where you marvel at the layers of history below, whilst also getting your bearings of the somewhat chaotic city.

St. Peter’s Church offers views from near the top of it’s 123 meter tower for 9€. A little expensive compared to other touristic attracions in Latvia.

Vertigo Bar, at the top of a cinema complex in Forum offers discount cards for 2 for 1 cocktails. A cheap and wonderful way to watch the sunset over the spires of Riga!

Skyline bar on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel also has reasonable drink prices and an unparalleled views.

The Academy of Sciences Building was by far my favourite place to view Riga from above. It has a decidedly Accidentally Wes Anderson look about it, and the building itself is as spectacular as the view from the top of it’s 17th story.

Riga Skyline

The Academy of Sciences Building
The Academy of Sciences Building

The city from above

An Alternative Day Trip From Tallinn: three interesting sights

While Tallinn’s old town provides an enchanting time-warp, if you’re visiting Estonia and want to get out of the city to see an alternative side of the area then here are a few lesser-known options. As each place is quite far from the next, you will either need to hire a car for the day or join an organised day tour. I decided to do a day trip with Traveller Tours and had a wonderful experience.

1. Keila-Joa Manor House and Waterfall

Built by a German aristocratic family on banks of the Keila river in 1833, the neo-gothic manor house and surrounding walking paths provide a beautiful place to relax on a sunny day.

Just up stream you’ll find a wide waterfall- touted as Estonia’s most romantic. In winter the waterfall often freezes over, creating a beautiful icy curtain.

 

Keila Waterfall
Keila Waterfall

2. Padise Abbey and Manor house

In the 14th century, monks who had been dispossessed from their Latvian Dünamünde Abbey founded this Cistercian Monastery. Over the years it became a fortress and then a country house in the 18th century. Now, abandoned ruins are all that remain.

Like most places in Estonia, you have free reign to explore the site, including the musty dirt-floor cellars and high tower, reached by old wooden and stone steps.

Padise Abbey

Padise Abbey

 

3. Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu quarry was formed in the late 1930s, with prisoners from nearby prisons used in the excavation of limestone until the 1990s. To stop flooding, groundwater was pumped out during the quarry’s operation. However, after it’s closure the water built up to form a lake, submerging part of the utility buildings and machinery.

The quarry is not accessible to the public as it is now private property. However, tour companies do offer diving and kayaking in the lake during summer, and day tour options in colder months. By far my favourite alternative site!

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Finnish Summer Cottages: The Perfect Escape From City Life

Everything about Finnish summer cottages screams relaxation and rediscovering what is important in life. Families often spend all summer at their cottage and then sporadic weekends during the year. Some even choose to live there permanently.

Often nestled in the woods beside a lake, the cabins usually have no running water or mod cons. However, in typical Finnish style, there’s nearly always a sauna. This combination of simple pleasures and lack of modern technology helps to truly relax and unwind.

Here’s a taste of what to expect from a weekend away at a traditional Finnish Summer Cottage

 

Summer Cottage by a Lake

Lake Views

Usually summer cottages are found by pristine lakes

Access to a sauna is critical, as is a jetty to jump into the lake between sauna sessions!

Lake side jetty with sauna in background
The sauna house in the background and a jetty for cooling off in the lake

 

Good food shared together is another key part of the cottage experience

 

Shared dinner at the summer cottage

Summer cottages are just one of the things to love about Finland. For more reasons to visit check out this post.

Relaxing by the lake at the summer cottage