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Sitting on the wide and slow Daugava river in the heart of the Baltics, Riga is the capital of Latvia and has the feel of a city that is just coming in from "the cold" of communism. A pretty historic centre mixes a little uneasily with concrete municipal buildings and Soviet-designed transport. Still, this is also much of the charm of this city, and most of the interesting places are all within walking distance, including the splendid Art Nouveau district. For the visitor, facilities are 21st century - good hostels and hotels, easy transport links, accessible attractions, tasty food and good, cheap beer.
Riga has many neighbourhoods but the main ones that visitors will be passing through would be as follows.
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Ok, the Cats Hostel is not your standard hostel and unless you are smaller than the smallest person on Earth, you won't fit in either. But it's there and it's sort of famous...at least in Riga. If you are lucky you will actually see cats in or near the hostel, which is located near the Riga Old Town Hostel and Backpackers Pub, in between the Old Town and the train- and busstation. And although you can not stay there, it sure makes for a great photo to show at home!
The Freedom Monument was built in Riga to praise the soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence from 1918 to 1920. It replaced a statute of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great.
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Riga's Old Town is placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and not without reason. It is a great place to walk around, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful architecture and squares. There are quite a few of them, including Livu Laukums (laukums = square), Doma Laukums, Ratslaukums and Pils Laukums. There are many church spires, cathedrals and other architectural wonders. Some of them include the Saint Peter's Church is a very tall church that was originally built in 1209. The view from the top of the tower gives excellent views of all of Riga. Other highlights throughout the old town include the Blackheads House, the Town Hall, Cathouse, Riga Castle, Jacob's Barracks, the Great and Small Guild and of course the Swedish Gate.
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The Festival of Light ("Staro Riga") is held for 5 days in November to honour the Latvian anniversary. One of the darkest times of the year, light symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness.
Jāņi is the celebration of the summer solstice on the evening of June 23rd. The most important event in the Latvian calendar. Expect the cities to be empty as most people travel to the countryside for three days of partying. Girls wear flower crowns, whilst men called Jānis (John) sport crowns made of oak leaves. People drink, eat carroway cheese, sing songs and dance around a fire until the early morning.
Even though the Latvian Song and Dance Festival is only held once every five years, it is still one of the most prolific events staged in the Baltic. Around since 1873 in the city of Riga, more than 30,000 performers are brought together. Add in thousands of spectators, and the festival becomes one of the biggest events in Europe. It is held in July and the next one will be in 2013.
The Latvian Beer Fest in May is a massive annual event in the capital. Contrary to its name, though all of the festival is not spent drinking. There are plenty of musical performances and competitions to enjoy. Latvians love a cold one so rejoice in the best food and drinks in the Baltics.
Held in June every year, the Riga Salsa Festival is one of the more popular celebrations in Latvia’s capital. The event only began in 2005, but with each passing year sees more people coming out to celebrate. Today, famous salsa dancers from nearby countries like Spain and Portugal make their way to the largest salsa event in the Baltic Region, and one of the most popular in all of Europe.
Summers are warm, around 22 °C during the day on average from June to August, and days above 30 °C are possible. Winters are cold with snowfall. Average maximum temperatures are around -5 °C while nights average around -10 °C. Occasionally, when the winds blow east from Siberia, temperatures can plummit way below -20 °C. Precipitation is fairly even throughout the year, but winters and spring tend to be a bit drier. On average, there are between 10 and 15 wet days with around 50 mm of rain or snow a month.
|Avg Max||-2.3 °C||-1.7 °C||2.7 °C||9.8 °C||16.2 °C||20.1 °C||21.7 °C||21 °C||16.3 °C||10.4 °C||3.9 °C||0.3 °C|
|Avg Min||-7.8 °C||-7.6 °C||-4.7 °C||1 °C||5.9 °C||10 °C||12.3 °C||11.8 °C||8 °C||4 °C||-0.5 °C||-4.4 °C|
|Rainfall||34 mm||27 mm||28 mm||41 mm||44 mm||63 mm||85 mm||73 mm||75 mm||60 mm||57 mm||46 mm|
Riga International Airport (RIX) handles all flights. Air Baltic is the national airline of Latvia and has flights to most countries in Europe. It also has domestic services to and from Liepaya and Ventspils.
Other airlines, among others, serving Riga are KLM to Amsterdam, Lufthansa to Frankfurt and LOT to Warsaw.
Lowcost airline easyJet has budget flights to and from Berlin. Ryanair has more flights operating to several cities in Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as Stockholm and Milan.
To/from the airport:
Latvian Railway has services between Riga and all major cities like Ventspils and Liepaya, among others. International trains go to/from Moscow and across the border to Valga in Estonia. It's possible to travel between Tallinn and Riga by train via Valga. The train leaves early morning (around 7:00am) from Tallinn and arrives around 11:30am in Valga, where you can catch the onward train at 11:42am to Riga. It takes over 8 hours though, compared to just 4.5 hours by bus. There are also a few other options to check timetables, prices etc, including the Latvian Passenger Trains website and the excellent 1188.lv website.
Buses travel to and from Riga from almost anywhere in the country, including the major cities and more regional off the beaten track towns. Eurolines has buses to and from Vilnius and Tallinn in Estonia.
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Taxis are everywhere and hailing one any time of day is easy. Be careful to get in the licensed taxis, although even in these most trips seem to be charged at a fixed rate. In general the most reliable taxi firm is the Air Baltic Taxi firm Baltic Taxi, they are operated by a major airline (Air Baltic) so they have a high reputation to up keep. From the airport to the city centre they offer a flat rate to any part of the city centre which is around €14 (December 2010). You simply need to find the Baltic Taxi desk inside of the departures in Riga airport and then they will give you a token. When you step outside the airport you will see a long line of green taxis. Go to the one at the front and this token will then get you a ride. The cars are clean, modern and they even have little TVs in the head rests! Good shout.
Car rental is available from the airport but the prices will be much higher than if you do some research and pick the car up from one of the smaller firms that operate all over the city. You best bet is to do some internet searches for car rental.
Rigassatiksme offers dozens of options of getting around Riga by tram, bus and trolleybus. English is typically not spoken by the bus drivers, so figuring out your stop can be a bit complicated if you aren't very sure where you are going. You can now buy 24-hour tickets from kiosks which are very well priced and are a great way for tourists to get around. Bus 22 is the most common way for tourists using public transport to get too and from the airport. Just bear in mind that you may be asked to pay for your luggage as an extra ticket when you get on the bus. Prices are 0.70L between the airport and the city centre (Old Town). Trams are one of the easiest systems for tourists to use and you can make some great city tours by simply hoping on trams and seeing where you will go. Riga recently introduced a new tram, which is high tech and all fancy but you still can use some of the more retro older models! Trains are also very cheap and easy to use. You may reach the beach towns of Latvia as well as make longer journeys to the very east and west of the land. Trains are a great way to mix with locals and in general are more comfortable on longer journeys than that of the buses. The only down side is that some of the longer journeys are not that well populated with trains, so in some case you may find one train a day!
Riga is an easy city to get around by foot, being flat and having sidewalks everywhere. Much of the inner city is either not trafficked, or hardly trafficked, making it both safe and easy to wander around. Outside of the Old Town of Riga it is a good idea to take great care on the crossings. Cars often will shoot across pedestrian crossings and it is common that people from outside of Riga who do not pay attention get hit by obnoxious drivers. Still, many people also stop for official pedestrian crossings so don't worry too much. Latvia has a high rate of alcohol related problems with drivers so you must always have your wits about you. Once you have looked both ways when crossing the road Riga is actually a great city to walk around. The Old Town, the Art Nouveau district, the central district, the quiet centre and across the river are all easy to do on foot and in many ways the best way to see the city. The Moscow suburb on the other hand may not be the best part of town to walk around as a tourist. This area has a bit of a bad reputation but usually you will find drunks rather than trouble makers.
Since 2010 Riga has engaged in a program to improve it bicycle path networks and with some degree of success. You will now find that there are bike paths leading from the old town out to many different areas of the city. If you are renting a bike or bringing your own you have many options to get around Riga now, so take advantage. If you are renting bike you may consider the Baltic Bikes which pop up on convenient corners of the city and can be rented and dropped up using an electronic payment system. Of course the independent bike rental houses are much better for those of you who want to use normal bikes that have been serviced as pretty much all prices are the same across the board. Be aware though in Riga, even though there are bike lanes very few cars are actually aware of them and cyclists, so you must be on your guard at all times when riding around the city. It is advisable if you are not used to inner city riding to wear full protection at all times.
|Ala Hostel||Audeju 11 iela||Hostel||-|
|Augustine Hotel||Alauksta street 1||Hostel||-|
|B&B Riga||43 Gertrudes||Guesthouse||-|
|Balt Hostel||Merkela Street 1||Hostel||-|
|Best Hostel Riga||52 A. Caka Street||Hostel||76|
|Best Hotel||Gimnastikas 9/11||Hotel||81|
|Central Hostel Riga||E. Birznieka-Upisa iela 20||Hostel||85|
|Central Park Hostel||Elizabetes street 103-1||Hostel||-|
|Conference Hotel Tomo||Raunas 44||Hotel||86|
|Dodo Hotel||Jersikas 1||Hotel||87|
|Central Dome Hostel||Maza Jaunavu iela 8 Town Hall square||HOSTEL||78|
|Dome Pearl Hostel||Tirgonu Street 4||Hostel||75|
|Elizabeth's Youth Hostel||103 Elizabetes Street||Hostel||78|
|Friendly Fun Franks Backpackers Hostel||Novembra Krastmala 29 Old Riga||Hostel||74|
|Funky Hostel and Apartments||Top Floor, Kr Barona 25 LV-1011||Hostel||86|
|Green Apple||Aspazijas bulvaris 22||Hostel||-|
|Home in Riga||Gertrudes 19/21||Apartment||-|
|Hostel Turiba||68 Graudu Street LV–1058||Hostel||79|
|Hotel Enkurs||Caka street 87,||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Forums||45 Valnu Street||Hotel||86|
|Hotel Jurnieks||Str. Sofijas 8||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Man-tess||6 Teatra Street||Hotel||79|
|Hotel Riga||Aspazijas boulevard 22 LV-1050||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Skanste||Skanstes iela 9 LV-1013, LATVIJA||Hotel||-|
|Lejina Apartment||Str.Paula Lejina 2-3||Apartment||-|
|Monte Kristo Hotel||56 Kaleju Street||Hotel||84|
|Norsons||Brivibas street 196||Apartment||-|
|Old Captain Hotel||"Vecais kapteini" Marupe Parish||Hotel||-|
|Wellton Old Riga Palace Hotel||Minsterejas 8/10||HOTEL||-|
|Posh Backpackers||Pupolu Iela 5||Hostel||69|
|Primo Hotel||62 Nometnu Street||Hotel||-|
|Hostel Purvciems||4 Nicgales iela||Hostel||85|
|Red Roofs Inn||6 Jana street||Hostel||-|
|Riga-Backpackers Hostel||Marstalu st.6||Hostel||-|
|Riga Hostel||Marstalu Iela, 12||Hostel||-|
|Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub||43 Valnu Str.||HOSTEL||86|
|Riverside Hotel Riga||Maza Lacplesa iela 5||Hotel||-|
|Sunny Paula||Paula Lejina 10-47||Apartment||-|
|Tale Hostel||Sencu prospect 45, Baltezers, Riga district||Hostel||79|
|The Penthouse||44, Kr. Barona Street||Apartment||-|
|The Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel||50 Kaleju Iela Old Riga||Hostel||93|
|TIA Hotel||63, Kr. Valdemara Str||Hotel||-|
|Tiger hostel||Raina bulvaris 31||Hostel||78|
|Toss Hotel||Kengaraga Street 6||Hotel||-|
|Victory Hostel||16 -58 Marijas st.||Hostel||-|
|Viktorija||A.Caka street 55 - 210||HOTEL||72|
|Rooms for Rent Gerdi||Daugavpils 7||Hostel||-|
|Guesthouse Jakob Lenz||Lencu iela 2||Guesthouse||86|
|Hotel Multilux||Kr. Barona 37, Entrance from Gertrudes street||HOTEL||-|
|Vilmaja Hotel - Riga||Ilmajas street 12||Hotel||84|
|Radi un Draugi - Riga||Sampetera Street 139 A||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Kert||Hospitalu str. 17||Hotel||-|
|Baltvilla||Sencu prospect 45 Baltezers||Hotel||-|
|Kolonna Hotel Brigita||Saulkalnes iela 11||Hotel||-|
|Art Hotel Laine||Skolas iela 11||Hotel||-|
|Comfy Backpackers||Raina blvd 31||Hostel||-|
|KB Hotel||37 Kr. Barona iela||Hotel||-|
|Budget Apartments||Lerocu Str 1||Apartment||-|
|Guest House Helga 4*||Elizabetes street 22||Guesthouse||-|
|Apartments STES Latvia||Biskapa str 6||Apartment||-|
|Hostel Camel||Vaļņu 41||Hostel||-|
|Baltic Suites||E.Birznieka - Upisa 27||Apartment||-|
|The Blue Cow Backpackers||Level 3, 4-2B Torna Iela Old Town||Hostel||-|
|Happy Hostel||Kartupelu street 8||Hostel||-|
|Red Nose||14 Jana street||Hostel||83|
|Cinnamon Sally Backpackers Hostel||Merkela 1 3rd floor||Hostel||91|
|Cheap & Good Apartments||3 Merkela street||APARTMENT||79|
|Riga Style Hostel||Alfreda Kalnina street 4 - 11||Hostel||78|
|ABC Hotel - Riga||Mārstaļu Iela 1||Hotel||-|
|Karavella Hotel - Riga||27 Katrinas Dambis Street||Hotel||-|
|The Penthouse (private apartment)||Kr. Barona iela 44 - 12||Apartment||-|
|Teddy Bear Hostel Riga||3, Vecpilsetas Street, Riga||Hostel||78|
|Monte Kristo Hotel - Riga||Kaleju St.56||Hotel||-|
|Maritim Hotel - Riga||Slokas Street 1||Hotel||-|
|Albert Hotel - Riga||33 Dzirnavu street||Hotel||-|
|Forums Hotel||Valnu iela 45||Hotel||-|
|Gobas Street Apartment||Gobas iela 32||Apartment||-|
|Gutenbergs - Riga||Doma laukums 1||HOTEL||-|
|Cozy Apartment Riga||Skunu Iela 13-3, Riga, Latvia||Hostel||-|
|Riga Hostel||Merkela 1 4th floor||Hostel||85|
|Westa Hotel||Negu Str. 5||HOTEL||78|
|Appartement au centre de Riga||Krasta iela 5||APARTMENT||-|
|Sunlit Loft Riga Center||Matisa Str. 41-10B||APARTMENT||-|
|Annabella Hotel||Caunes street 15||HOTEL||-|
|Hostel Atrium||Slokas street 28||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel Firefighter||Maskavas str.156/158||Hostel||79|
|Wellton Elefant Hotel||Kalnciema 90||HOTEL||-|
|Best Western Mara Hotel||Kalnciema 186||HOTEL||-|
|City Hotel Teater||Bruninieku Str.6||HOTEL||-|
|Gate Apartment||Biskapa Gate 3||APARTMENT||-|
|Hotel Ezerkrasts||Ezerkrasta 17a||HOTEL||-|
|Hotel Grizins||Pirnavas iela 32||HOTEL||-|
|Julia Blue in Lacplesa||18 Lacplesa, Riga, Latvia||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Apartment Splendid||Lacplesa 18||APARTMENT||-|
|Julia Brown in Lacplesa||18 Lacplesa||APARTMENT||-|
|Barona Apartment||Barona 24/26||APARTMENT||-|
|Hotel A1||Čaka street 38||HOTEL||-|
|Wellton Gertrude Hotel||70 Gertrudes Street||HOTEL||-|
|Lachplesha Sunny 2 Bedroom Apartment||Lachplesha Street 70b||APARTMENT||-|
|Old Riga 1 Bedroom Apartment , Kaleju Street||Kaleju street 52||APARTMENT||-|
|Old Riga Light 2 Bedrooms Apartment, Kalku street||Kalku street 2||APARTMENT||-|
|Old Riga 1 Bedroom Apartment Mansard, Kaleju St||Kaleju street 52||APARTMENT||-|
|Large 2 Bedroom Apartment Old Riga, Kaleju Street||Kaleju street 52||APARTMENT||-|
|Red Roofs Hotel||Jāņa Street 6||HOTEL||-|
|Knights Court||Bruņinieku srt. 75b-Lit.3||GUESTHOUSE||79|
|Doma Hostel||Maza Jaunavu iela 8 Level 2||HOSTEL||-|
|Two Wheels||Baložu iela 12||HOSTEL||-|
|Elizabete Design Hotel||Dzirnavu iela 2||HOTEL||-|
|Elizabete Hotel||Elizabetes iela 27||HOTEL||-|
|Gertrude Hotel||Gertrudes iela 70||HOTEL||-|
|Bed and Breakfast Rooms and Apartments||A. Čaka Street 34||APARTMENT||-|
Internet cafes can be found all over Riga. You will not have to look far for one if you need to print a ticket or simply use the internet and prices start at around 0.50L an hour. Many are open 24 hours and so can double up as an emergency place to sleep if needed. Throughout Riga Wi Fi is available from many cafes, bars, hostels, hotels, public buildings and spaces. Normally cafes and bars will give you a password if you have bought a drink as in other European countries. Free Internet connections are available in all libraries.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Emergency numbers include 110 (police), 112 (fire), ambulance (113), but you can connect to all of them by using the general 112 number.
There are both fixed and mobile phone communications available in Latvia. The international telephone code for Latvia is +371 and all phone numbers (except for emergency numbers, some information numbers, hotlines etc.) consist of 8 digits. One should note that all mobile phone numbers start with "2", landline numbers start with "6".
For local communication, it is much cheaper to buy a local prepaid SIM card, which can include data as well as voice and text. These cards and separate renewal vouchers can be easily bought in gas stations, kiosks, or supermarkets. All brands are more or less equal in price and service. Popular brands include LMT, Tele2, and Bite. All prepaid SIM cards come with a manual in English, Russian, and Latvian.
To call from a public phone, you need a phone card (telekarte) which cost as little as €2. International calls are possible from every public phone.
Latvijas Pasts is the national postal service of the country and has relatively fast, affordable and reliable services. They have both mail and express mail service, domestically and internationally. Prices for international mail start at around 0.45L for postcards within Europe, 0.50L outside Europe, stamps for letters are slightly more expensive. It usually takes at least several days up to a week within Europe, but around 10 days to North America for example. Domestic services are faster of course, usually within 2 days. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, though large central post offices might keep slightly longer hours and can be open on Sunday sometimes. Latvian post boxes are colored yellow, and postage stamps can be bought in post offices or news-stands (kiosks). Specialized package services are provided as well by companies like DHL, FedEx, TNT and UPS, among others.
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I can give any traveller a piece of advice concerning weekend planning in Riga.
Weekend planning is the most interesting thing I can even imagine because I follow all the entertainment opportunities which is popular in this city at the present moment.
Usually I make routes - travel destinations from point A to point B by using a Tripcheat meta-search site (It helps to make the route directly on the city road map, in such a way people can't get lost if they will follow the created route).
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