Whilst attending the first-ever Women In Travel Summit in Europe, I had the absolute pleasure of spending a couple of days exploring the beautiful city that is Riga.
Having never visited Latvia before, I was super excited to spend a couple of days exploring both a new city and a new country. Then again, who wouldn’t be?
With zero expectations, I landed in Latvia not knowing what to expect. I hadn’t had the time to do extensive research so I was banking a local city tour to set the scene for me.
Thankfully, it did exactly that.
Not only was our guide incredibly passionate, but he also spent four and a half hours showing us all of his favourite spots.
With a bit of free time in between conference sessions, I also visited some of the places we missed on the tour.
So, what can you do during a weekend trip to Riga?
Climb To The Top Of St Peter’s Church
One of my favourite things I did during my weekend in Riga was climbing to the top of St Peter’s Church. Located in the heart of the city, St Peter’s Church is the cities tallest church offering stunning panoramic views of Riga.
Unsurprisingly, the tower has an incredible history with more than one renovation. The 130 meters tall Gothic tower was first completed at the end of the 15th century, however, it collapsed in 1666. Years later in 1690, a brand new tower was built in a Baroque style with several new domes and galleries. Unfortunately, this tower was struck by lightning in 1721, causing it to burn down. In 1967, the final renovation of the tower was completed, this time with an elevator.
Although it costs 9 EURO to climb to the top, the views are 100% worth it.
TOP TIP | Head to the top of the tower just as the sun is about to set for stunning views across the city. The golden hour sun was INCREDIBLE.
Price: 9 Euros
Location: Reformācijas Laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Visit The House Of The Black Heads
If you want to visit the most photographed building in Riga, you need to add The House Of The Black Heads into your itinerary. Situated in the Old Town of Riga, The House Of The Black Heads was first built a guild for unmarried merchants and shipowners in the 14th century.
Years later, the building was bombed by Germans in 1941 and destroyed by the Soviets in 1948. It wasn’t until 1999 that it was finally rebuilt with the phrase ‘if I should fall, build me again’ inscribed above the main entrance. Today, you can tour the building from as little as 3 Euros.
Price: Admission from 3 Euros
Location: Rātslaukums 7, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Go On A Tour Of Their Most Popular Breweries
On the last day of our trip to Riga, we went on an incredibly fun guided tour of some of the cities most popular breweries. We visited four different breweries and tasted 8 delicious craft beers from the local region. From smoked beer to delicious cranberry beer, the tour was a great way to get a taste for Latvia’s beer culture.
Learn About Their Fascinating Mittens History And Buy A Pair For Yourself
Whilst on our walking tour we learnt about the fascinating history of mittens in both Riga and Latvia. Latvians have a long tradition of knitting colourful wool mittens, with each region of the country using their own colours, pagan symbols and geometric patterns. For those living in Latvia, mittens were more than just a way to keep your hands warm as they crafted different pairs for weddings, funerals, and everyday life.
Not only that, but they also make the perfect souvenir to take home with you.
Head To The Panorama Viewpoint In The Academy Of Sciences
If you’re looking for another panorama view of the city, the Academy of Sciences is a great place to visit on a sunny day. Unfortunately, we visited when it was foggy outside but having seen a glimpse of the stunning view, it’s certainly not one to be missed.
Known as ‘Stalin’s Birthday Cake’ the Academy of Sciences is an incredibly unique building. As one of the most notable examples of Socialist Realism in Latvia, the Academy of Sciences was originally meant to become a hotel and dormitory for collective farm workers who come to Riga, but it was never actually used for the purpose. Instead, it’s occupied by scientists, researchers, historians, and various companies.
Price: 4 Euros
Location: Zinātņu akadēmijas augstceltne, Akadēmijas iela 1, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Walk Along The Barracks In Old Town
On one of the days where I had free time between conference sessions, I went for a walk through the famous Riga Old Town with a couple of friends. It wasn’t long before I found myself walking along a long stretch of stunning yellow buildings, all identical to one another. It wasn’t until I did further research back home that I realised these were the barracks, lining the cities defence system and Powder Tower.
Jacob’s Barracks is now home to a number of bars and restaurants, beauty salons, and travel agencies.
Location: Torņa iela 4, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Relax In Livu Square (And Spot The Black Cat)
Although it was cold, walking through Livu Square was another one of my favourite parts of the walking tour. Located in the heart of the city, we were surrounded by colourful buildings and a deep history of the cities walls. With many of the buildings destroyed during World War II, the majority of Livu Square was rebuilt post-war. 7
Once the site of the Riga River, Livu Square was once a shipping route for transporting Latvian grain.
Livu Square is also home to the guild and the famous cat house. Being refused entrance to the guild was known to be a huge insult so one Riga local, feeling incredibly offended, attached a black cat to the top of his building so it would cast its evil glare upon the guild for as long as the building would stand.
Location: Līvu Square is situated between Zirgu, Meistaru and Kaļķu iela.
Wander Around Riga Central Market
One of the last stops on our walking tour of the city was a trip to Riga Central Market, one of the largest markets in Europe. Located inside five 1920’s zeppelin hangars, it’s hard to describe just how big this incredible food market is. With fish, meat, dairy, vegetables and incredible gastronomy inside each of the hangars, there really is something for everyone.
On average, 80,000 to 100,000 people visit the UNESCO site on a daily basis.
Location: Nēģu iela 7, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Visit The Freedom Monument
One of the most prominent pieces of Rigan history is the Freedom Monument. Known as Milda, this incredible monument towers above the city between Old and Central Riga.
The Freedom Monument has been Riga’s central landmark for almost a century. The 42.7 m tall monument is a symbol of the Latvian nation striving for both their freedom and their independence. The woman standing proudly at the top of the monument is holding up three golden stars, each of which represents the historical regions of Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale. On the base, you will find the motto “For the Fatherland and Freedom” inscribed.
Location: Central District, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
Walk To The Top Of Bastion Hill
Located just a short walk away from the Freedom Monument is Bastion Hill, known as one of the most romantic places in central Riga. With its narrow paths, alleys of trees, stone gardens and water cascades, the short walk to the top is absolutely breathtaking – no matter the season.
Despite its stunning exterior, Bastion Hill has a heartbreaking history. Created in 1859 as a replacement of the old defensive sand bulwark, Bastion Hill is now home to memorial stones that commemorate the five people that were killed by Soviet bullets during the January 1991 disturbances.
Take A Walk To The Three Brothers
If you’re visiting Riga Old Town, make sure you take the time to hunt down the famous Three Brothers. Although it may look like just a building complex consisting of three houses, the Three Brothers are known to be the oldest dwelling houses in Riga. Each house represents various periods of development of dwelling houses.
Although no-one really knows where they got their name, legend says that the houses were built by a family of the same brothers.
It took us a while to find them but after a little bit of perseverance and help from Google Maps, you’ll find them in no time.
Location: Mazā Pils iela 17, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Go Inside The Riga Dome Cathedral
Riga is home to several incredible churches and cathedrals but one of the most well-known sights is the Riga Dome Cathedral. With construction starting in 1211, Riga Dome Cathedral was the central cathedral in the Baltics until Livonia fell in 1561. The cathedral has Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau features and is considered to be the largest Medieval church in both Latvia and the Baltic States. This was one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole of Riga and honestly, I could have stared at it for hours spotting all of the periodical design-tells.
Location: Herdera laukums 6, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Take A Drive To Jurmala
If you want to venture out of the city of Riga during your weekend stay, the drive to Jurmala is short, sweet and definitely worth it. Whether you spend the day relaxing at one of their incredible spas or you do a spot of nordic walking on the beach, Jurmala is such a beautiful and unique place to visit.
I’ll be sharing more about my trip to Jurmala in a later blog post, so I’ll link that here as soon as it’s live!
Tour The Laima Chocolate Museum
Finally, this is something I didn’t get a chance to do but definitely something I WOULD have done if I had a little longer.
Riga is home to Laima chocolate and it’s incredible chocolate museum. With a number of different exhibits that trace the long history of the company, you can watch videos about the history of chocolate making or see how Laima produces some of its most delicious chocolate treats. This will 100% the first place I go when I make it back to Riga for sure.
Price: 7 Euros
Location: Miera iela 22, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1001, Latvia
I went to Riga with no expectations and definitely left wanting more. This magical city not only had a magical setting but it also had a fascinating history too. Would you visit?