5) Visit Jurmala beach
A 30 minute train journey east of Riga and you’ll arrive at Jurmala. A seaside town with style and character in abundance. If like us, you are visiting during the winter time then a dip in the Baltic water might not be wise but a walk down to the snow and ice covered beach is as interesting experience and the opportunity for snow angels on one of north Europe’s longest beaches is unlimited! If visiting during the summer there are plenty of beach resort hotels and accommodation options for you to choose from.
Whilst in Jurmala take a walk down Jomas Street, a 1km long street which offers plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes.
4) Rozengrals Medieval Restaurant
The building in which the restaurant is located was first mentioned in 1293 as the most ancient wine-vault and festival place of the city council and it continues to serve high quality food and good wine to this day!
Think spit-roasted piglet, rabbit stew, lamb shank and hearty soups amongst others, this underground restaurant is the real deal and should definitely be on your list of things to do in Riga! The staff are dressed in medieval attire and even perform medieval style music whilst you’re enjoying the wonderful food. I’d recommend making a reservation as it is a popular restaurant and it would be a shame to miss out!
3) Beer and Balsam
A right of passage for visiting Riga should be experiencing their famous Riga Black Balsam drink. It’s a traditional herbal liquor made of a variety of plants, roots, oils and berries mixed with vodka. It wouldn’t be right for me to try and explain the taste of Balsam, rather, get yourself to Riga and experience it for yourself. You can have the drink in a variety of ways; as we went during the winter we had it warm but it can also be ‘enjoyed’ on the rocks or even with tea and coffee.
There are plenty of great pubs and bars to seek refuge in, if like us, you find yourself in Riga in the bleak winter and need to escape the heavy snow for the afternoon. We love a quirky bar so when we stumbled upon Easy Beer we decided it would be a good place to escape the cold. It’s a self serve bar with taps on the wall where you can decide which beer you’d like as well as how much you’d like. There are plenty of international and local craft beers to choose from, simply press the button for which beer, select how much and pour yourself a drink. Before you know it the sun will have set over the Riga old town, the snow will still be falling and you’ll be sat with the locals enjoying some great craft beers, ready to head out into the night.
There are lots of great places for a night out in Riga but the Cuban Café in the old town is the place to go if you want great music, 2 for 1 cocktails and dancing into the early hours. You might even be as lucky as we were and stumble across a salsa class and attempt to throw your hips around with some of the locals.
2) Riga Central Market
Housed under giant re-used German Zeppelin hangers and sat on the banks of the Daugava River, the central market in Riga is a great place to wonder around mixing with the local people. The market is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is worth visiting just to see the iconic Zeppelin hangers.
With over 3000 market stalls there is everything from pickled vegetables, fresh fish (you’ll know the which hanger these stalls are in when you walk in!) to essential winter thermal underwear. Plenty of stalls to browse and support the local businesses.
There are also a few local pop up restaurants and cafes; although many of the locals only spoke broken English so your guess is as good as mine as to what was in the soup we ordered! Nevertheless it was delicious and their English was better than my Latvian!
1) Explore the old town
Riga’s old town is an area of tiny cobbled streets with over 500 buildings built in various architectural styles from romanticism era to gothic style, the variety of beautiful buildings will keep your eyes busy as you wonder through the tight streets. Take some time to visit the many churches in Riga. Riga Dome Cathedral and St Peter’s Church are both beautiful buildings and if you want an aerial view over Riga climb the St Peter’s Church tower which stands at 130m and offers excellent views, tickets cost £9.