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Riga

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Europe Latvia Riga

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Introduction

Riga - Square

Riga - Square

© All Rights Reserved sabrinakam

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.

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Neighbourhoods

Riga has many neighbourhoods but the main ones that visitors will be passing through would be as follows.

  • Old Riga - The main tourist area and historic center of Riga. This is where the city of Riga began. You will find great museums, lovely little streets and its also where the overpriced cafes, bars and souvenir shops squeeze money from tourists!
  • The Central District - The living heart of Riga, great little shops, architecture, bars, cafes and a sense of a real city. People work, live and shop here as well as socialize It is a great space to meet locals.
  • The Quiet Center - If you like Art Nouveau this is where you need to be, you will even find an Art Nouveau museum here. Great streets full of beautiful buildings, lovely cafes and an up market air fill this district.
  • The Moscow District - Home to the Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation and one of the best collections of wooden houses in Europe. It has a charm like stepping back 50 years but many locals will tell you to be careful around here.
  • Kipsala and the Left bank - If you have time you should cross the river, visit the island of Kipsala, the old fisherman district. Today its home to some of the more wealthy of Riga's high society.

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Sights and Activities

Cats Hostel

Cats Hostel, Riga

Cats Hostel, Riga

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

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!

Freedom Monument

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.

Riga Freedom Monument

Riga Freedom Monument

© All Rights Reserved okidoki


Originally unveiled in 1935 this 42-metre (138 feet) high monument has inspired countless Latvians. When the Soviet Union annexed Latvia after World War II the Soviets planned to demolish the statute but never did it. It remained a symbol for independence throughout the communist period, and in 1987 Latvians gathered around the monument to grieve the horrible things the soviets had done. This started the independence movement, which led to independence 3 years later. The Freedom Monument is now popular tourist spot in Latvia.

Old Town

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.

Swedish Gate, Riga

Swedish Gate, Riga

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Other Sights and Activities

  • Latvian National Museum of Art - With over 52,000 pieces of art from the mid 18th century to the present this museum is an excellent place to visit. Address: 10a K Valdemara Street, Hours: everyday, except Tuesday, 11:00am to 7:00pm during the summer (April to September), and 11:00am to 5:00pm during the winter (October to March).

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Events and Festivals

  • The Festival of Light - 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.

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Weather

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.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max-2.3 °C-1.7 °C2.7 °C9.8 °C16.2 °C20.1 °C21.7 °C21 °C16.3 °C10.4 °C3.9 °C0.3 °C
Avg Min-7.8 °C-7.6 °C-4.7 °C1 °C5.9 °C10 °C12.3 °C11.8 °C8 °C4 °C-0.5 °C-4.4 °C
Rainfall34 mm27 mm28 mm41 mm44 mm63 mm85 mm73 mm75 mm60 mm57 mm46 mm

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Getting There

By Plane

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:

  • Bus: Route #22, operated by Rigas Satiksme, runs between Riga city centre and the airport. airBaltic in cooperation with Reval Hotel Latvia offers a shuttle bus service - Airport Express. The bus operates between the Riga airport and the Reval Hotel Latvia, (in the city centre). There are international bus connections from the airport to cities in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia.
  • Car: The airport and European route E22 are connected by highway P133. There are almost 2,000 parking place available, both long term and short term. Taxis are widely available as well, but are of course expensive.

By Train

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.

By Bus

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.

By Boat

Sweden

Germany

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Getting Around

By Car

House of Blackheads and St. Peter's cathedral

House of Blackheads and St. Peter's cathedral

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

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.

By Public Transport

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!

By Foot

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.

By Bike

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.

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Eat

  • Vincents - Vincents is pricey, yet known for great food. Address: 19 Elizabetes Iela, Phone: 733 26 34
  • Rozengrals - Rozengrals is medieval themed restaurant in a basement in the centre of Riga. The food is somewhat overpriced, but they've managed to keep the experience very authentic. Address: Rozena 1, Phone: 722 47 48
  • Varzob - a restaurant serving Uzbekistani cuisine. Address: 21 Peldu Ieal, Telephone: 67 21 13 32
  • Šefpavārs Vilhelms - Šefpavārs Vilhelms is a cafeteria offering cheap self serve pancakes in about 10 different varieties (meat, mushroom, banana, cottage cheese, plain etc). Good coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice make it an ideal place for breakfast. Most visitors are local, a rarity in the Old Town, but the pancake types are also translated to English. Address: Skunu 6

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Drink

  • The Skyline Bar - The Skyline Bar is a bar at the top of the Reval Hotel with good views over the city. You can also eat here, but most come to enjoy a drink and a snack.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Ala HostelAudeju 11 ielaHostel-
Augustine HotelAlauksta street 1Hostel-
B&B Riga43 GertrudesGuesthouse-
Balt HostelMerkela Street 1Hostel-
Best Hostel Riga52 A. Caka StreetHostel77
Best HotelGimnastikas 9/11Hotel80
Central Hostel RigaE. Birznieka-Upisa iela 20Hostel88
Central Park HostelElizabetes street 103-1Hostel76
Conference Hotel TomoRaunas 44Hotel79
Dodo HotelJersikas 1Hotel86
Central Dome HostelMaza Jaunavu iela 8 Town Hall squareHOSTEL83
Dome Pearl HostelTirgonu Street 4Hostel79
Elizabeth's Youth Hostel103 Elizabetes StreetHostel75
Friendly Fun Franks Backpackers HostelNovembra Krastmala 29 Old RigaHostel88
Funky Hostel and ApartmentsTop Floor, Kr Barona 25 LV-1011Hostel84
Green AppleAspazijas bulvaris 22Hostel-
Home in RigaGertrudes 19/21Apartment-
Hostel Turiba68 Graudu Street LV–1058Hostel79
Hotel EnkursCaka street 87,Hotel-
Hotel Forums45 Valnu StreetHotel85
Hotel JurnieksStr. Sofijas 8Hotel-
Hotel Man-tess6 Teatra StreetHotel79
Hotel RigaAspazijas boulevard 22 LV-1050Hotel-
Hotel SkansteSkanstes iela 9 LV-1013, LATVIJAHotel-
Lejina ApartmentStr.Paula Lejina 2-3Apartment-
Monte Kristo Hotel56 Kaleju StreetHotel85
NorsonsBrivibas street 196Apartment-
Old Captain Hotel"Vecais kapteini" Marupe ParishHotel-
Wellton Old Riga Palace HotelMinsterejas 8/10HOTEL-
Posh BackpackersPupolu Iela 5Hostel68
Primo Hotel62 Nometnu StreetHotel-
Hostel Purvciems4 Nicgales ielaHostel84
Red Roofs Inn6 Jana streetHostel-
Riga-Backpackers HostelMarstalu st.6Hostel75
Riga HostelMarstalu Iela, 12Hostel-
Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub43 Valnu Str.HOSTEL88
Riverside Hotel RigaMaza Lacplesa iela 5Hotel-
Sunny PaulaPaula Lejina 10-47Apartment-
Tale HostelSencu prospect 45, Baltezers, Riga districtHostel78
The Penthouse44, Kr. Barona StreetApartment-
The Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel50 Kaleju Iela Old RigaHostel92
TIA Hotel63, Kr. Valdemara StrHotel-
Tiger hostelRaina bulvaris 31Hostel79
Toss HotelKengaraga Street 6Hotel-
Victory Hostel16 -58 Marijas st.Hostel-
ViktorijaA.Caka street 55 - 210HOTEL72
Rooms for Rent GerdiDaugavpils 7Hostel-
Guesthouse Jakob LenzLencu iela 2Guesthouse88
Hotel MultiluxKr. Barona 37, Entrance from Gertrudes streetHOTEL83
Vilmaja Hotel - RigaIlmajas street 12Hotel84
Radi un Draugi - RigaSampetera Street 139 AHotel-
Hotel KertHospitalu str. 17Hotel-
BaltvillaSencu prospect 45 BaltezersHotel-
Kolonna Hotel BrigitaSaulkalnes iela 11Hotel-
Art Hotel LaineSkolas iela 11Hotel-
Comfy BackpackersRaina blvd 31Hostel-
KB Hotel37 Kr. Barona ielaHotel-
Budget ApartmentsLerocu Str 1Apartment-
Guest House Helga 4*Elizabetes street 22Guesthouse-
Apartments STES LatviaBiskapa str 6Apartment-
Hostel CamelVaļņu 41Hostel80
Baltic SuitesE.Birznieka - Upisa 27Apartment-
The Blue Cow BackpackersLevel 3, 4-2B Torna Iela Old TownHostel-
Happy HostelKartupelu street 8Hostel-
Red Nose14 Jana streetHostel83
Cinnamon Sally Backpackers HostelMerkela 1 3rd floorHostel86
Cheap & Good Apartments3 Merkela streetAPARTMENT79
Riga Style HostelAlfreda Kalnina street 4 - 11Hostel79
ABC Hotel - RigaMārstaļu Iela 1Hotel-
Karavella Hotel - Riga27 Katrinas Dambis StreetHotel-
The Penthouse (private apartment)Kr. Barona iela 44 - 12Apartment-
Teddy Bear Hostel Riga3, Vecpilsetas Street, RigaHostel80
Monte Kristo Hotel - RigaKaleju St.56Hotel-
Maritim Hotel - RigaSlokas Street 1Hotel-
Albert Hotel - Riga33 Dzirnavu streetHotel-
Forums HotelValnu iela 45Hotel-
Gobas Street ApartmentGobas iela 32Apartment-
Gutenbergs - RigaDoma laukums 1HOTEL-
Cozy Apartment RigaSkunu Iela 13-3, Riga, LatviaHostel-
Riga HostelMerkela 1 4th floorHostel87
Westa HotelNegu Str. 5HOTEL80
LieneAvotu 75HOTEL-
Appartement au centre de RigaKrasta iela 5APARTMENT-
Sunlit Loft Riga CenterMatisa Str. 41-10BAPARTMENT-
Annabella HotelCaunes street 15HOTEL-
Hostel AtriumSlokas street 28HOSTEL76
Hostel FirefighterMaskavas str.156/158Hostel79
Wellton Elefant HotelKalnciema 90HOTEL-
Best Western Mara HotelKalnciema 186HOTEL-
City Hotel TeaterBruninieku Str.6HOTEL-
Gate ApartmentBiskapa Gate 3APARTMENT-
Hotel EzerkrastsEzerkrasta 17aHOTEL-
Hotel GrizinsPirnavas iela 32HOTEL-
Julia Blue in Lacplesa18 Lacplesa, Riga, LatviaGUESTHOUSE-
Apartment SplendidLacplesa 18APARTMENT-
Julia Brown in Lacplesa18 LacplesaAPARTMENT-
Barona ApartmentBarona 24/26APARTMENT-
Hotel A1Čaka street 38HOTEL-
Wellton Gertrude Hotel70 Gertrudes StreetHOTEL-
Lachplesha Sunny 2 Bedroom ApartmentLachplesha Street 70bAPARTMENT-
Old Riga 1 Bedroom Apartment , Kaleju StreetKaleju street 52APARTMENT-
Old Riga Light 2 Bedrooms Apartment, Kalku streetKalku street 2APARTMENT-
Old Riga 1 Bedroom Apartment Mansard, Kaleju StKaleju street 52APARTMENT-
Large 2 Bedroom Apartment Old Riga, Kaleju StreetKaleju street 52APARTMENT-
Red Roofs HotelJāņa Street 6HOTEL-
Knights CourtBruņinieku srt. 75b-Lit.3GUESTHOUSE79
Doma HostelMaza Jaunavu iela 8 Level 2HOSTEL-
Two WheelsBaložu iela 12HOSTEL-
Elizabete Design HotelDzirnavu iela 2HOTEL-
Elizabete HotelElizabetes iela 27HOTEL-
Gertrude HotelGertrudes iela 70HOTEL79
Bed and Breakfast Rooms and ApartmentsA. Čaka Street 34APARTMENT-

Upscale

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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.

Post

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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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 56.946538
  • Longitude: 24.10485

Contributors

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Riga Travel Helpers

  • Leksa

    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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  • Riga James

    I have been living in Riga for over 5 years now and run an alternative tour company here. If you have questions feel free to ask me.

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  • AskVictoria

    I have been living for years in those places - I like to find real gems, blend with locals and find some yummy places to eat. Drop me some lines on food, accomodation or trip organizing topics. I am a pro at packing!

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  • augusts

    I was born in Riga, and live there my whole life. I love history of art and culture. However, I also am able to find/answer/help with any queries.

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This is version 51. Last edited at 7:25 on Jul 9, 14 by Utrecht. 67 articles link to this page.

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