Things you have to do when visiting Riga, Latvia
Riga is Latvia’s capital city, set just at the mouth of the Daugava river on the Baltic Sea. It is considered a cultural centre that is home to both historical and modern architecture and has the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. With delicious cuisine to sample and so many old city streets to explore, your only problem in Riga will be figuring how long to go for! Here are some things you just have to do when visiting.
Visit Old Riga
The old part of Riga has around 800 years worth of history to explore and is recognised as a UNESCO as a World Heritage site. As you walk through the cobbled and crooked streets you will be able to see all the lingering influences of all the different nations that have once occupied this stunning city.
The narrowest street is Rozena Street; you’ll know it because you will hear some good-natured grumbling in Latvian, as tourists queue up to touch both sides of the streets at once — yes, it really is that narrow! There are churches to visit including St. Peter’s Church tower that is 72 metres high, courtyards to take a break in if you’re tired from exploring, and if you head down Skarnu Street you can pick yourself up a memorable trinket to take home.
Check out the wooden architecture
Riga has several thousand wooden buildings that are still standing and functioning today. They are everything from family homes to businesses and make up an important part of the historic heritage of Latvia. You will want to head to the Grizinkalns, Sarkandaugava, and Kipsala neighborhoods, and also the Moscow section of town to see the best wooden buildings. But Pardaugava, located on the Daugava River’s left bank, is where you will find the most charming wooden structures of all.
Experience the market
Riga Central Market is an incredible place. You have stall upon stall of locally produced fruit on the outer parts along with everything from clothing to electrical goods, aisles dedicated solely to flowers, and plenty more besides. But it is inside the market itself where you will truly be in your element.
There are bakers, fishmongers, and butchers, many of which have samples for you to try. There is a bar where you can rest your weary shopping legs with a glass of beer or wine, and even several places to stop for something to eat. When you’re loaded up with all your purchases there is a taxi stand just outside if you don’t feel like making the five-minute walk to the bus and train station. Remember cik tas maksā? means how much, and lūdzu (please) and paldies (thank you) might come in useful!
Admire the art
The Art Nouveau structures around Riga are like nothing else, and it’s easy to see why so many visitors rave about it. If you are short on time head for Alberta iela, an entire street demonstrating the very best of Riga’s Art Nouveau. It was built in a particularly creative period by an architect named Mikhail Eisenstein. Definitely a man with an eye for detail!
If you haven’t considered Riga before, I can highly recommend it. It’s perfect for a few days away as a solo traveller, or with friends. You are guaranteed to have an amazing time!
It’s always a good idea before you go to a new country to learn some of the local language. At first glance, Latvian looks tough, but it is not nearly as hard as it looks. Resources for learning are not as common as with some more popular languages, if you are just looking to pick a few phrases the Wikivoyage Phrasebook will give you the very basics. Since Latvian is a complex language I recommend a teacher for those wishing to learn beyond the very basics. Language Trainers can provide you with a highly qualified Latvian teacher wherever you are, making this hard language accessible on your own time. Whichever method you choose, give learning Latvian a try, it will make visiting this beautiful city all the more charming!