I’m now catching up on the Latvia leg of my Baltics road trip back in May. Riga is the capital city of lovely Latvia, a Baltic country on the northern coast of Europe. It’s a small city which packs a punch and is the perfect destination for a weekend trip, or to incorporate in to a longer trip with other places in Latvia like Cesis or Gauja National Park. 2 days in the city is enough time to see a lot, and here is an itinerary which hopefully maximises the time.
A. Town Hall Square, Blackheads House and Christmas tree plaque
Start your trip off with a coffee or breakfast in the beautiful Town Hall Square area of the city. There are lots of really nice eateries to choose from surrounded by picture perfect rows of houses.
Then head round the corner to the House of the Blackheads – the original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Riga.
Also make sure you find the little Christmas tree nearby – this marks the spot where the very first public Christmas tree was placed in 1510!
B. St Peter’s Church & Tower
Next it’s time to head up to the best view in the city – from St Peter’s Church Tower. The church itself is nice to have a walk around, and then head skywards for some beautiful panoramas.
C. Popular Front Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about Latvia’s journey to independence in 1991 then this museum charts the Latvian Popular Front’s (political party) rise to power and independence from the USSR. It’s super interesting and we spent over an hour there. Especially interesting is the part of the exhibition on the Baltic Way – a line of over 2,000 people holding hands all the way from Tallinn to Vilnius in a peaceful demonstration for independence.
D. Livu Laukums Square
Another beautiful square and perfect as your stop for lunch, enjoy people watching and music playing as you sit in one of the restaurants and watch the world go by for an hour or so.
E. Powder Tower (Latvian War Museum)
For the last stop of the day, walk the few minutes to the Latvian War Museum, also known as the Powder Tower. Here you will find exhibits on Latvian history from the 1200s to the present day. It’s particularly famous for its WW1 exhibit, which has won awards internationally – and you can easily spend an hour just in that exhibit. There are also galleries on the Crusader wars, WW2 and modern day conflicts where Latvians have fought for NATO – including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
F. Evening old town stroll
One of the nicest things to do in an evening is to stroll the cobbled streets of the old town and just get lost to enjoy what you find. The cobbled streets are just stunning.
G. Dinner at Domini Canes
One of the best places to eat in town is Domini Canes. We had an incredible meal in there, but be sure to book in advance as even on a Tuesday night there were no walk-in tables available.
A. Riga Cathedral & Dome Square
Like yesterday, start your day off in a beautiful and picturesque square. Then head in to the incredible cathedral, being sure to check out the Cloisters and the world famous organ.
B. Riga History & Navigation Museum
The Riga History & Navigation Museum makes a good stop for an hour or so to learn more about the histpry of the city. The boards are all in Latvian, so you will need the English guides, but they are worth spending time reading whilst looking at the exhibits.
C. Three Brothers & Swedish Gate
The Three Brothers is a building complex consisting of three houses which form the oldest complex of dwelling houses in Riga. Each house represents various periods of development and they are just absolutely beautiful.
Just down the road is The Swedish Gate, which was erected 1698 as a part of the Riga Wall to provide access to barracks outside the city wall.
D. Bastion Park & Opera House
Meandering along the canals of Riga is a lovely way to spend a bit of time. We visited just as the sun popped out and the park area was stunning with lots of flowers blooming and the light coming through the trees. You can also get an icecream here, hire a boat or join a canal tour – perfect.
E. River Cruise
Within the park, there are a number of canal boat stations, where you can hop on a boat and relax on a river cruise along the Daugava River, taking in the various bridges, islands and landmarks along the way. Don’t miss the Riga TV Tower and the modern Library.
F. Freedom Monument
The Latvian Freedom Monument honours soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence which happened between 1918 and 1920. During the Soviet times it lost significance but is now a site of national importance.
G. Corner House Museum
Next it’s time to head slightly out of the centre to the Corner House Museum, the ex-KGB building in the city during the Soviet era. Here you can read about the shocking acts during the period Latvia belonged to the USSR, including forced migrations to Siberia, torture and espionage.
H. Art Noveau Walk
As you walk back from The Corner House, head to Albert iela, the heart of the Art Noveau district in Right. The buildings are absolutely gorgeous and make the perfect way to spend your final evening in this incredible city. Make sure you buzz in to the Art Noveau museum just to at least go in to the staircase – it’s perfect.
What do you think of Riga? We were really taken with the city and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good value city break. Thanks for reading – and as always, stay safe and happy travelling!