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Riga is Latvia’s old capital and one enchanting city. Acknowledged by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site, there are so many things to do in Riga.

Things to do in Riga number 1: Get up st Peters and enjoy the beautiful view on the town

Riga. So many things can be said about Latvia’s capital: It’s young, it is full of culture and friendly people, it offers beautiful architecture, and a cosmopolitan flair, while still remaining cosy. In short, it is a city you should visit. Here are 10 things you absolutely need to do when visiting Riga!

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Do you love Riga? Check out my Guide to Oslo! Norway’s capital is just as charming and that far away!

1. Historical Centre of Riga

A street in the old town of Riga - such a beautiful things to do in Riga

The UNESCO declared the historical center of Riga a World Heritage Site and so there is no way to discovering that. Actually, it should be your top reason to visit Riga. The narrow streets are more than enchanting.

2. House of Blackheads in Riga

The house of the blackheads in riga

This is certainly one of the main attractions of the city. Built in around the 13th century and utterly bombed during WWII, the medieval guild hall once again can be seen in its full glory. (Note: currently closed for visitors as of July 2015)

3. St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter'S church in Riga offers a beautiful view from its high bellfry

Riga has a lot of churches. In fact, it sometimes feels like almost the whole inner city consists of nothing else. Your biggest treat will be St. Peter’s Church, though. Why? Because an elevator will bring you to the top where you can enjoy a beautiful view over the city.

4. Freedom Monument

The freedom monument in Riga

Latvia as a whole has a very long but also very eventful history. The Freedom Monument with Latvia’s Lady Liberty atop celebrates the final victory over foreign oppression. On both sides of the Monument, you will find a park – all the more reason to put it on your list of things to do in Riga

5. Riga Cathedral

The inside of riga cathedral with the organ and people listenting to the organ concert

Riga’s biggest protestant church dominates the central area of Riga. The insides are rather austere, though. Frequent fires and the upheavals during the reformation wars destroyed its original opulence. What remains, however, is a magnificent organ. Every day at noon (12:00 am) there is a small organ concert you really should not miss! Such a spiritual experience.

6. The Three Brothers

The three brother houses in Riga, Latvia

House number 17 is the oldest secular building in the city and dates back to the 15th century. With the two adjoining buildings, these form the building complex known as the three Brothers. Quite enchanting – especially at night

7. Central Market

The central market in riga and locals shopping groceries

As a tourist in Riga, you really should not miss the central Market. It is indeed located quite close to the centre. The huge halls are only a couple of meters away on foot and offer you the whole variety of Latvian food. Clothes and basic household goods can be found there as well. Definitely take your time and sample the fruits and foods!

8. Art Nouveau district

An art nouveau fasade in riga antonijas street

Riga is sometimes dubbed the world Art Nouveau centre. And to be quite frank there are few cities around the world with more buildings from that time still standing. The streets Elizabetes, Dzirnavu and Antonijas will impress you with their huge variety of different styles from that area.

Although I have to say that  Munich has, even more, Art Nouveau architecture. I blogged some amazing images of my hometown here.

9. Latvian National Opera

The Latvian national Opera in Riga from outside

The Latvian People love their performing arts. And so it is little wonder that they did not cut back on their Opera house. In fact, the building resembles the famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. If you got the time you should consider getting tickets for a performance. The theatre is well known for its good acoustics.

10. Cathouse

The yellow cat house in riga, with a bronze cat perched on the tip of the tower

A bit quirky but just as famous. Hidden within in the cobblestoned crevices of the old town you will find a yellow house with two cats sitting on its spires. Know then that these two feline fellows are not the only architectural gem hidden in Riga.

11. Riga Castle

Riga castle at the banks of the daugawa

As of now Riga Castle only is an honourable mention in my list of things to do in Riga. In 2013 a terrible fire destroyed major parts of the castle. The restoration is far from complete and so Riga castle is still hidden behind construction works. Still, it is the official residence of the President of Latvia and houses a couple of museums.

12. Pilsetas Channels

Things to do in RIga with kids? Get on a boat on the enchanting pilsetas canals

The old moat around Riga now forms a beautiful canal. Little boats offer rides out through the canal and the Daugava River. It may not be Venice, but it is still quite enchanting and a wonderful thing to do in Riga – especially with kids.

13. Riga Bourse

The riga bourse and its museum on the central square

The Riga Bourse, now an art museum, is located on the central square of Riga and is as beautiful from outside as it is from within. Changing exhibitions invite you to visit again and again.

14. Small Guild of Riga

The richly decorated inside of the small guild in Riga - what a beautiful thing to do in Riga

Definitely, put this on your list of things to do in Riga. The Small Guild of Riga may have burned down during WWII but the restoration efforts have been thorough. For only 2 euros you get a chance to explore the opulent interiors

15. Soviet Architecture

The latvian academy of science in riga - looking like lomonosov university in moscow

Have you ever seen the Lomonosov State University in Moscow? One of the hallmarks of Soviet architecture has a little brother in Riga: The Latvian academy of sciences. Built between 1951 and 1961 is a stark reminder of the Russian occupation. The 17th-floor balcony is open for visitors.

16. Amber Shopping

Amber shopping in riga - one of the best ways to get an authentic souvenir

Riga is famous for its amber jewellery. What better souvenir could there be for the ladies? From cheap to prohibitively expensive you will find everything among the inner streets of Riga

17. Chocolate and Pastries

Things to do in Riga? Go eat some of the beautiful chocolates like these ones

And talking about famous. Equally well known are the chocolates and pastries of Riga. After a long stroll through the city, make sure to reward yourself with some sweet sins.

18. Riga at night & nightlife

Riga central square at night

Even if you are not an avid fan of bars, clubs and discos, you should definitely save some time for walking around Riga at night. Most ancient buildings will be illuminated then, offering you a beautiful new perspective. Riga’s nightlife can be anything from luxury restaurants (like Bibliotheka) down to student bars and kantinas. Take your pick!

So that’s been it. My 18 wonderful things to do in Riga. As I couldn’t possibly cover it all, I do urge you to do some further readings. There are not too many travel guides out there for Latvia, but I can recommend the Lonely Planet Travel Guide Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, especially as it also covers the neighbouring countries. All of them worth a visit and easily to combine on a small eastern Europe itinerary.

Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. 

Things to do in Riga, Lativa

Did I miss something on my list of things to do in Riga? Tell me your favourite places in the comment section below!
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Looking for other city guides from the old continent? Check out these:

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