The House of Blackheads in Riga's Town Square.
Riga is the capital of Latvia, the largest city in the Baltic States, and the second-largest city of the Eastern Baltic.
Riga is experiencing a new Renaissance as the capital of Latvia, and many large-scale restoration projects on old buildings have made Riga one of the most attractive cities in Europe. Most famously, Riga is home to the largest concentration of Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) architecture in the world. Riga has become an increasingly popular destination for Europeans drawn by its old town, its historical importance, and its reputation as having the best nightlife in Europe.
Riga was founded in 1201 by Albert of Bremen as a base for the Northern Crusades. It developed as the major trade hub of the Eastern Baltic during the high days of the Hanseatic League, ruled by the Archbishop of Riga. The Reformation reached Riga in 1522, which ended the Archbishops' power. After the fall of the Hansa, Riga became a part of first the Swedish and then the Russian Empires, before becoming the capital of independent Latvia in 1918. Riga remained the capital through the Soviet period, and emerged in the 1990's as the capital of newly-independent Latvia.
Germans have inhabited the city since its establishment by Albert, and throughout most of its history Germans were the elite while Latvians remained a lower class. Their position as the elite continued through the Imperial period of Riga. As such, much of the architecture in Riga has been heavily influenced by Germany. The Germans were forcibly repatriated after the Nazi occupation of 1941-44.
Much of Riga was bombed in World War II--the ruins were left to decay until independence, when the government, realizing the tourism potential, began to invest in reconstructing and restoring the old buildings. Because of this, Riga has one of the most complete old towns in Europe.
The official language is Latvian, but in practice Riga is bilingual with Latvian and Russian as the main languages: 50% are native speakers of Latvian and 50% of Russian, though most people are bilingual. English is widely spoken by younger people and by people in the tourism industry, and also by some older people, though Russian is more widely spoken among the latter.
Daugava river and central Riga
Riga International Airport (IATA: RIX) (ICAO: EVRA), . (Latvian - Starptautiskā Lidosta Rīga)
The following airlines offer service from/to Riga International Airport:
- Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
- airBaltic (Ålesund, Almaty, Amsterdam, Athens, Baku, Barcelona, Beirut, Belgrade, Bergen, Berlin-Tegel, Billund, Brussels, Chisinau, Copenhagen, Dubai, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Dushanbe, Frankfurt, Geneva, Gothenburg-Landvetter, Hamburg, Hanover, Helsinki, Hurghada [winter season], Istanbul-Atatürk, Kaliningrad, Kaunas, Kiev-Boryspil, Kuopio, Lappeenranta, London-Gatwick, Milan-Malpensa, Minsk, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Munich, Nice, Odessa, Oslo-Gardermoen, Oulu, Palanga, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Pskov, Rome-Fiumicino, Sharm el-Sheikh [seasonal], Simferopol, Stavanger, Stockholm-Arlanda, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Tartu, Tampere, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Tel Aviv, Tromsö, Turku, Umeå, Vaasa, Venice-Marco Polo, Vilnius, Vienna, Warsaw, Yerevan, Zürich),
- Belavia (Minsk),
- Czech Airlines (Prague),
- Finnair (Helsinki),
- LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
- Lufthansa (Frankfurt),
- Norwegian Air Shuttle (Oslo-Gardermoen, Trondheim),
- Ryanair (Bremen, Bristol, Brussels South-Charleroi, Dublin, East Midlands, Glasgow-Prestwick, Hahn, Liverpool, London-Stansted, Milan-Orio al Serio, Oslo-Rygge, Stockholm-Skavsta, Tampere, Weeze),
- TAROM (Bucharest-Henri Coandă)
- Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Atatürk),
- Uzbekistan Airways (Tashkent), and
- Wizz Air (London-Luton, Oslo-Torp, Turku)
Bus 22 runs between the airport (Lidosta) and the central bus station downtown, 40 minutes away. Tickets can be purchased from the driver for 0.70 LVL (March 2010) or from the Narvesen shop in the airport for 0.50 LVL. Alternatively, you may want to purchase a 24-hour transport pass or a 5 or 10 journey e-ticket (see below). Have small change ready. Bus 22 runs from 5:40 to 23:25. See schedule .
Airbaltic runs “Airport Express” minibuses to the city center costing 3 LVL. These run more frequently than bus 22, although more expensive.
Baltic Taxi  runs taxi service from the airport to the center for a fixed price of 9 LVL
Riga Limo  is an English language limousine, bus and taxi service that provides affordable airport transfers and other transportation services in Riga and Latvia.
Taxi prices, if going from Riga airport to city, can be very high, especially when using Red Cabs. The tax ride to the center takes 15 minutes. Charge – 1.50 LVL for embarkation plus 0.50 LVL per kilometre, waiting 6.00 LVL/hour.
There are many international bus connections including Tallinn, Estonia and Vilnius, Lithuania.
- Eurolines 
- Ecolines 
- BalticShuttle 
- Hansabuss , operates only between Riga and Tallinn.
- Baltic Bus  organizes affordable bus tours of the Baltic states.
Tallink, , operates a daily ferry service between Stockholm and Riga. Prices start at €103.
Latvian Railways  operates service to many cities in Latvia as well as a few cities in Russia, Belarus, and Estonia.
Trains depart for Moscow daily (except New Year's Eve) at 16:20 ('Latvijas Express') with an additional train departing at 18:10 from May to September ('Jurmala'). The trip takes 17 hours and costs €55 for a bed in a 4-bed cabin if the ticket is bought at the train station.
One train bound for St. Petersburg departs Riga daily at 19:30. The train takes 13.5 hours and costs €50 for a bed in a 4-bed cabin if the ticket is bought at the train station.
Trains operate between Riga an Valga, Estonia. From Valga, connections can be made to other cities in Estonia including Tallinn. Direct service to Tartu is planned for 2010 .
Cars are not allowed in Old Town (although enforcement is somewhat lax at night), but vehicles making "deliveries" are. Therefore, you can take a taxi to the Old Town, but you cannot park a rental car there.
Riga's old town is best explored on foot, especially since cars are not allowed. The streets in old town (and some points beyond) are mostly cobblestone, so comfortable shoes are recommended.
Taxis are reasonably-priced but you should be careful, as they may not necessarily follow the shortest route to your destination, especially if you appear to be new to the city. Occasionally, taxi drivers will try to overcharge you, but the majority are honest, courteous and very helpful. Many drivers speak a few words of English. From airport choose red taxi. They have the contract with the airport and with many of the better hotels.
By Public Transport
The trams, buses and trolley buses are easy to use.
- Single tickets cost 0.70 LVL if bought from the driver or 0.50 LVL if purchased in advance. 24-hour tickets cost 1.90 LVL, 3-day tickets cost 5.70 LVL, and 5-day tickets cost 9.50 LVL. These all run from first use and cover all travel on city buses, trolleybuses, and trams. Alternatively, 5-day tickets valid only on 1 mode of transport (either the bus, trolleybus, or tram) can be bought for 6.00 LVL. Tickets are sold in ticket offices, in vending machines, in press kiosks, in Narvesen shops, and other locations listed on the website . Once inside the bus/tram/trolleybus, validate the ticket by using the yellow device. WARNING: you must validate the day, 3 day and 5 day tickets every time you enter a transport
- Also available are tickets for 5, 10 and 20 rides. 5 ride ticket costs 2.50 LVL, 10 rides are 4.75 LVL and 20 rides are 9.00 LVL
- Also a available are tickets for 2 trips for 2 people (2.00 LVL) and 2 trips for 3 people (3.00 LVL)
- If you enter a transport with the same number and in the same direction within one hour, you ticket is still valid and will not be charged
- The Riga Card  allows the holder to travel free on public transportation.
- There is a good website to search for connections  and also a list of routes .
There are several car rental offices in Riga airport as well as in other parts of the town. You can even rent a cheap soviet style car. However, be aware of the ban on cars in old town.
The view southeast from St. Peter's Church in Riga's Old Town
Riga has several districts. The ones most interesting to tourists are the Old Town and the area around the Freedom Monument, located nearby.
A walking tour is by far the best way to see these two districts. The tourist office, located inside the House of Blackheads, offers both guided tours and free pamphlets, complete with detailed descriptions of many buildings, for independent walks. These walks cover the old town and the main city centre sights as well as heading out to view the Art Nouveau district. It's all pretty small scale so it's easy to do each of these in around an hour, or linger and read every detail in the booklet - in the absence of any signs or plaques around the city the booklet gives you an insight to what you are seeing. Private companies also operate tours. If you want to get away from the 'touristic areas' Alternative tours on bike and on foot are also available, aswell as a free city tour that runs everyday from St Peters Church at 12:00. Look for a yellow suitcase.
The Riga Card , which costs 10Ls-18Ls, has discounts for museums and some tourist attractions.
A virtual walk through the Old Riga is available at .
The mostly residential areas outside Riga center are largely made up of grey apartment blocks built in the typically Soviet style. These areas are nearly identical to those all over Eastern Europe. However, they do give an idea of how the vast majority of the people in Riga live and of the history of the area.
The area around Old Town is mostly built between 1860 and 1914 and has many buildings that resemble Berlin, Paris, or Rome. Many Soviet-era movies set in Western Europe were filmed here as the buildings can make the city pass for a city in Western Europe.
Triangula Bastion - 11 Novembra Krastmala 17. Modern building with an excavated fragment of historical Riga fortification wall system which protected medieval Riga city from attacks from war ships. Also Triangula Bastion has the best view terraces in Riga. Open 9:00 – 22:00. Free entrance.
- Town Square and Surroundings.
- Statue of Roland, (In the center of the Town Square).
- House of Blackheads, 1 kalku iela, ☎ 371 7044300. The House of Blackheads is where the merchants-to-be had their guild. Part of this building is the Tourist information office, the rest is a fascinating museum. The upper levels house grand ballrooms while the basement has a wine cellar and several exhibits relating to trading in Riga. 2 LVL, 1 LVL students. (latitude,)
- Town Hall. Pretty to look at, but not open for visitors.
- Museum of Occupations, 1 Strelnieku laukums, ☎ 371 7 212 715 ([email protected]). This oticeable austere black building is clearly out-of-place. In the Soviet days, this housed a museum to the Riflemen, a group of Latvians who attempted to annex Latvia for the Soviet Union. Now it houses a museum of Latvia's time under both the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Very long, but very moving--essential for anyone interested in the history of the USSR or Nazi Germany. Outside the building away from the town square stands the Soviet-era Monument to the Riflemen. Free. (latitude,)
- St. Peter's Church, 19 Skarnu iela, ☎ 371 7229426 (fax: 371 7211375). St. Peters Church, dating to 1209, is Riga's oldest church. Besides its ensemble of architecture, the church has an elevator to the tower from where you can see all of Riga (service not available on Mondays). 2 Lats. (latitude,)
- St. John's Church, 7 Jana iela. 10AM - 5PM TUE-SAT. A smaller, less spectacular church near St. Peter's. There is a nice altar inside, and unlike most Riga churches, this one is free.
- Porcelain Museum, 9 Kalēju iela, ([email protected]), . 11AM - 6PM TUE-SUN. Covers the history of porcelain in Riga through the 19th and 20th centuries. 1 Lat, 50 Santi for children, free under 7.
- Sun Museum, 1 Kungu iela, ☎ +371 67225587 ([email protected]), . 10AM - 7PM daily. A definite contender for Riga's weirdest museum, this one covers the history of sun mythology and its role in Latvian culture. 2 Lats, 1.5 Lats for students, children free.
- The Big Guild, 6 Amatu iela. Housed the guild of the tradesmen, who would join after being a member of the Blackheads (see House of Blackheads). Home to the Latvian Philharmonic, but you can't just walk inside. It's the exterior that's worth seeing though.
- The Little Guild, 5 Amatu iela. Another pretty building just behind the Big Guild, this one housed the craftsmen's guild. Like the Big Guild, you can't go inside except for a performance.
- The House of Black Cats, Next to the Big Guild. This building (currently a pub of no particular note) is most famous for the two small statues of black cats on the roofs. The black cat is a symbol of Riga.
- Wagner Concert Hall, 4 Vāgnera iela. Wagner once lived in Riga, on the street now named after him. This hall, where he performed, occasionally holds concerts.
- St. Saviour's Anglican Church, 2a Anglikanu iela, ☎ 6722 2259, . Riga's only Anglican church has English language services every Sunday, and free concerts every Wednesday. []
- St. Jacob's Catholic Church, 2 Klostera iela. Dating to 1226, this is one of the few Catholic churches left in Riga. At one point, it housed one of Riga's first schools. Free.
- Riga Castle - Rigas Pils, (Near the Northern boundry of the Old Town). The castle itself is fairly uninteresting but it houses the following 2 museums:
- National History Museum of Latvia, 3 Pils Laukums, ☎ 7223004 ([email protected], fax: 7220586). 11AM - 5PM WED-SUN. The History Museum is interesting, however there is little English (Every room has its exhibits summarized on a single plaque). However, the museum does give a very good idea of Latvian history, and will give you a good understanding of the area. Admission: 2 LVL; Camera fee: 5 LVL. (latitude,)
- Museum of Foreign Art, 3 Pils Laukums, ☎ 6722 6467, . 11AM - 5PM TUE-SUN. The less interesting of the two museums: this is just a standard art museum. Admission fee: 2.50 LVL; Camera fee: 0.50 LVL.
The Dom Cathedral in central Riga.
- Dome Square and Surroundings.
- Dome Cathedral, 1 Doma Laukums, ☎ 7227573. Dating to 1207, it is one of Riga's symbols. The 6768-pipe organ inside is particularly spectacular. Besides the organ, however, the interior is rather spartan, and may not be worth the entrance fee. (latitude,)
- Museum of the Barricades of 1991, 3 Krāmu iela, ☎ +371 67213525, . 10AM - 5PM MON-FRI, 11AM - 5PM SAT. Covers the dramatic events that occurred in the tumultuous final year of the USSR, when Soviet authorities sent troops into Riga to overthrow the elected Latvian government. Free.
- The Three Brothers, 17, 19, and 21 Mazā Pils iela, . 9AM - 5PM TUE-THUR, 9AM - 4PM Fri. The Three Brothers are the oldest dwelling houses in Riga. One of them has a small architecture museum inside, along with changing exhibits about Latvia.
- Latvian Parliament (Saiema), 11 Jekaba iela, . A rather plain building housing the Saiema, Latvia's parliament. It has had a number of uses--including as a soviet-era museum. Currently not open to visitors
- Arsenal Museum of Art, 1 Torna iela, ☎ 6735 7527, . April - Sept: 11AM - 7 PM Tue-Sun, Oct - Mar: 11AM - 5PM Tue-Sun. Riga's premier museum for modern art.
- Swedish Gate, Btw Torna and Aldaru iela. The last remaining gate from the old city walls.
- Powder Tower & City Wall, (Northwestern end of Old Town). The following attractions are here:
- Museum of War, 20 Smilsu iela, ☎ 6722 8147. May - Sept: 10AM - 6PM Wed-Sun, Oct - April: 10AM - 5PM Wed-Sun.
- St. Jacob's Barracks, Torna iela. The primary attraction here is the last remaining stretch of city wall directly opposite the barracks.
- Pharmaceutical Museum, 13-15 Riharda Vagnera, . Tue-Sat: 10am-5pm. In a renovated 18th century house. 1 LVL.
Around the Freedom Monument
- Freedom Monument, 1 Brivibas iela. Freedom Monument is one of Latvia's national symbols. It was erected after the first independence and surprisingly never taken down by the Soviets (although laying flowers at its feet was forbidden). The statue at the top of the monument is "Milda." (latitude,)
- Laima Clock, (Just south of the Freedom Monument). Laima is a Latvian chocolate manufacturer and means good luck in Latvian.
- Jewish Museum and Cultural Center, 6 Skolas, 3rd Floor, ☎ 6738 3484. Sun-Thu: Noon-5PM. Small museum dedicated to Jewish life in Latvia since the 16th century. Includes information on destruction of the synagogues by the Nazis, and the Latvians that saved Jews during the Holocaust. Exhibits are in English and Latvian. Free, donations requested.
- Mentzendorff House, Grecienieku 18, . Wed-Sun: 11:00am-5:00pm. Former residence of a wealthy merchant built in 1720, now a museum dedicated to life in Riga in the 17th & 18th centuries. 1.20 LVL.
- Bastejkalns, Between Raina Bulvaris and Basteja Bulvaris. A small, pleasant park surrounding Brivibas Bulvaris. Sites in the Bastejkalns include a Chinese and a Japanese building, and the Bridge of Love over the Pilsetas Canal. The Bridge of Love has several locks on the railings put up by recently married couples. There is also a memorial to the two people killed here in the tumultuous events of 1991.
Scary Art Nouveau designs in Riga.
- Art Noveau Buildings. *Alberta and Elizabetes streets (iela) are the best place to see the creations of Art Nouveau architect Eisenstein, famous of his splendid style. Other Art Nouveau buildings can be seen in the area around the Freedom Monument, including the embassies on Raina Bulvaris and on Strelnieku iela.
- Esplanade Park, (a block from the Freedom Monument). Designed by Georg Kuphaldt, who was expelled by Germany in 1915 as a spy becuase he had a telescope in his garden.The following attractions are here:
- National Museum of Art. Houses many works by Latvian artists.
- Riga Orthodox Cathedral. The Orthodox Cathedral was erected during Russian rule ofr Russian residents. In contrast to its relatively plain exterior, it is spectacular on the inside, but be aware that shorts are not allowed. free.
- Clock, (Western corner of the park). Donated by Riga's sister city Kobe.
- Mežaparks, (Take Tram 11). Mežaparks(English: Forest Park) is a pleasant park area on the outskirts of Riga. There are large, gorgeous residential houses once inhabited by Riga's pre-war elite during the summers. They were largely let go during Soviet times but many are now being refurbished, repainted, and brought back to their original glory.
- Riga Zoo, 1 Meza Prospekts. The Riga Zoo is small, but fairly popular (latitude,)
- Riga Motor Museum, Eisensteina 6 (8km from the old town; take trolleybus 14 or 18 to Gailezers Hospital, then walk 500m), . 10am-6pm daily. Contains former vehicles of Stalin, Kruschev, and Brezhnev. 1 LVL. (latitude,)
- Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum (Brīvdabas muzejs), 440 Brivibas (Take the A2(E77) to the East out of Riga or take bus N.1 or Tram 1, 3, 6 (but from the tram there is a 2 km walking distance).), ☎ 7994106 ([email protected], fax: 7994178), . The Riga Ethnographic Museum is in Jugla, near a lake of the same name. There are many traditional Latvian countryside houses collected in a forest/park and exhibitions inside them about the traditional things. The employees are often dressed in the traditional Latvian costumes, creating a nice atmosphere.
- Maskavas forštate ((English: Moscow Suburb)). A district with old wooden houses and other sights.
- Choral Great Synagouge, At Gogola and Dzirnavu iela. Mostly in ruins as the Germans burned it down on July 4, 1941 with 600 people locked inside. There is a memorial to 400 Latvians who saved Jews during the Holocaust dedicted on July 4, 2007.
- Russian Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, 9 Gogola iela.
- Grebenshchikov Church, 73 Krasta iela. An Old Believers' church.
- Jesus Church, 18 Elijas iela. An unusually-designed Lutheran church.
- Latvian Academy of Sciences, 1 Akademijas laukums, ☎ 6722 5361. Balcony: May - Sept: 9AM - 8PM daily. Built in 1953, this building is often called Stalin's Birthday Cake because of it's austere and ornamented design. The balcony is open to visitors.
- Andrejsala. An artists' island behind the passengers port is starting to emerge here.
- Pārdaugava, (Left Bank of Riga). Less frequently visited by tourists. The following attractions are here:
- Riga TV Tower, 1 Zaķusalas krastmala, ☎ 7108643, . A 368 meter-high tower built of concrete and standing on three legs.It has an observation deck at a height of 97 metres. The inexpensive tours feature a tour guide but don't depend on the guide speaking much English!
- Āgenskalns, (Take Tram 2, 4, or 5). A historical part of Pārdaugava, full of interesting architecture
- Victory Monument (Uzvaras piemineklis), (Get off the tram at the second stop after the bridge over the Daugava). A splendid example of high Soviet art and the biggest occupation-era monument in Latvia. If you've never seen a Soviet monument before, you should really check this out.
- Railway Museum, 2 - 4 Uzvaras bulvaris, ☎ 6723 2849, . 10AM - 5PM TUE-SUN. The railway museum exhibits several collections of Soviet rolling stock.
- Ķīpsala, (Cross the Vanšu bridge over the Daugava). An island with Nordic Dwelling architecture, solitude, and delicious sights of Riga over the river Daugava
- Riga Aviation Museum, (At Riga-Spilve International Airport). 10 - 4. Bored at the airport? Check out the Riga Aviation museum, which contains several rare aircraft. 5 Euros. (latitude,)
- Latvian Photographic Museum, Marstalu iela 8, . Constains photos of Latvia since 1839, wih focuses on the World Wars and 1905 Revolution. 1 LVL.
- Latvian National Opera, 3 Aspazijas bulvaris, ([email protected]), . A pretty building in its own right, this is also a nice place to see an opera or ballet. 4 LVL to 45 LVL depending on seat.
- Latvian Philharmonic Concerts @ Big Guild.
- AK-47 Shooting, Biekensalas 6, ☎ +371 26576166, . Real Gun Shooting Packages for groups from 5 persons (includes transfer, guide, ear protection, targets and bullets) from 40 EUR.
- Scenic Flights over the Old Town.
- Bobsled, . Enjoy the thrill of a real Olympic bobsleigh run!
- Paintball, . Exciting paintball action in a real Soviet atmosphere.
- Go-Karts, . Exciting and high speed kart racing on a super fast indoor track.
- Don't go to the souvenir shops, instead buy items like amber and wool mittens and socks in the central market or throughout Old Riga in little stands. You might haggle and get good prices for souvenirs.
- During Christmas season there is a small Christmas market which offers lots of festive fare and hot wine.
- Konventa Seta, Behind St. John's Church. A former convent courtyard that now contains several touristy shops.
- Central Market (Centrāltirgus), 1 Centrāltirgus, . 8AM - 5PM daily. This striking building near the central train station began life as an airship hangar in the 1930s, but is now an excellent place to buy fresh produce, meat, dairy, and the occasional counterfeit goods, though these have been mostly eradicated. The market is actually quite non-touristy but very good for souvenirs. There are lots of small cafes scattered around the markets that serve up cheap local eats.
- Latgalite, Corner of Gogola and Dzirnavu iela. If you are looking for Soviet era items, such as hats, medals, pins, or complete uniforms, go to this flea market. On the way there you will see old buildings that aren't exactly well conserved, but there are some that are breathtaking.
- Galerija Istaba, 31 Krišjāņa Barona iela. Nice local artwork can be found here. There is also a small cafe/bar on the second floor with a nice, laid-back atmosphere.
- Stockmann, 13 Janvara iela (Near the train station), ☎ +371 6 707 1222 (fax: +371 6 707 1254). 1st Floor: 9AM - 10PM MON-SAT, 10AM - 10PM SUN 2nd Floor: 10AM - 9PM daily. The Latvian branch of the Finnish department store chain.
Riga, as the most vibrant and cosmopolitan city of the Baltics, offers countless opportunities to sample both local cuisine and international favorites. Latvian food can be hearty, using a lot of potato, cabbage, beef, pork and fish. A diversity of foreign cuisines is also available -- sushi restaurants in particular are currently in vogue.
- Čili Pica, Several locations (One near the Freedom Monument, another on the ground floor of the Stockman mall near central station), . Cheap but good pizza.
- Ķīpsala Island Student Cafeteria, (Ķīpsala Island). Several sets of home-like food are offered in a cozy atmosphere.
- Lido, . A network of 8 restaurants offering decent hearty Latvian food, including desserts, at good prices. The restaurants are either cafeteria-style or feature English menus. The restaurants only accept cash. The following resturants are in the Lido network:
- Lido Entertainment Center, 76 Krasta iela (Take Tram 3, 7, or 9 to Krasta masīvs), ☎ +371 7 504 420 (fax: +371 7241168). Main Restaurant: 11AM - 11PM daily, Express Restaurant: 1PM - 11PM daily, Beer Cellar: 6PM - 12PM MON-FRI, 12AM - 12PM Holidays, Playroom: 5PM - 10PM MON-FRI, 12PM - 10PM Holidays. The wooden building features three floors of dining, a built-in wooden windmill, and a small amusement park outside. The ground floor and basement operate cafeteria-style. There is a huge choice available, including a variety of soups including borscht and the Latvian cold beetroot soup, as well as kebabs, breasts, chicken sausages, fish, red meats. Blinis are another specialty here. Cafeteria: 2.30 LVL for a meat main course and 0.50 LVL for a plateload of roast potatoes. Pancakes for 0.40 LVL. Top floor: Buffet for set price of 11 LVL.
- Alus Seta. Literally Beer Yard. Serves huge portions of excellent meat and two veg from a grill at the front of the tavern, as well as an excellent choice of Beer. Probably the best value place in town.
- Staburags. á là carte based and not cafeteria-style. Rustic interior, low prices and large portions of traditional Latvian food. Plays pseudo-traditional Latvian music with synthesized backing.
- Vermanitis, 65 Elizabetes St. A fantastic range of Latvian food in "authentic" environment. Fried fish: 2 LVL, Salmon steak: 3.50 LVL, Half chicken: 1.80 LVL, large side of mashed potatoes or pasta: 0.70 LVL, 500ml beer: 1.50 LVL.
- Smilšu Pulkstenis, Kalku iela #7. Cheap & tasty Latvian food.
- Varzob (=""), 21 Peldu Iela, ☎ 67211332. Rated the best restaurant in Riga. Uzbek food. The plov is an excellent choice, as is the Shashlik.
- 13 Kresli, Dome Sq. Still going from Soviet times - 13 Kresli (13 chairs)has grown a bit, but is excellent, especially for tea and snacks
- Alus Ordenis, 15 Raina bulvaris, ☎ 6781 4190. Serves rural Latvian food for an eminently reasonable price. Try pork shanks or bull testicles!
- Cafe Grill Bar/Stork's Nest Pub, 14-16 Kaleju iela, ([email protected]). A jewel of a restaurant/bar with all the comforts of the USA/UK, serving both Latvian and American food The walls are decorated with American/English memorobilia and there is a large plasma TV showing English or American shows and sporting events.
- Double Coffee, various all over Riga & Majori. Not just a coffee cafe like Starbucks, but a wide range of teas & coffees + other drinks plus an wide range of food - both Latvian & international. Excellent for lunch or a snack. Reasonable prices too.
- Juffin's 12, 10 Aldaru Street, ☎ (+371) 67224271 ([email protected], fax: (+371) 67224272), . 11AM-11PM. Serves European and Oriental international food and has an extensive wine list.
- Le Crabe, Jauniela 24, ☎ (+371) 67212416, . 12AM-12PM. One of the best fish restaurants in town. Champagne Glass: 5 LVL, Bottle of Philipe Brugnon 1er Cru Rose: 33 LVL.
- Osiris, 31 Krisjanis Barona iela. An artsy cafe with a cool interior, fireplace and pancakes worth killing for. While there, drop by Gallerija Istaba for another cup of coffee or beer, and make sure to check out some of the artwork sold downstairs.
- Sweetday Cafe Tirgoņu 9 in old town, Riga. The Sweetday Cafe is a coffee house that serves freshly homemade cakes that are TO DIE FOR! It has a great cozy atmosphere, the best service in town and I would highly recommend it to anyone!! The owner Inese (she's amazing, speaks english, spanish, russian and a bit of dutch..apart from Latvian obviously and is the sweetest girl ever) says that they just opened recently.
- Traktieris (Russian: Трактиръ), 8 Antonijas iela. For a Russian experience, try out Traktieris. Huge servings, great food, loads of vodkas to try out, and a Russian troubadour for entertainment. Few tourists.
- Vecmeita ar kaķi, 1 Mazā Pils iela. This restaurant and bar is a more upmarket option than Lido, serving very good Latvian food.
- Gardenia, Grecinieku street 28 (City centre, Old Riga), ☎ +371 67224650 ([email protected], fax: +371 67359749), . 12:00-24:00. Enjoy Mediterranean and European cuisine at our re-established, cozy, and elegantly casual Restaurant. 5 EUR and up.
- Rozengrāls, . An authentic medieval restaurant in a real medieval basement in the Old Town. Serves tasty medieval foods and beverages.
- Vincents, Elizabetes 19, ☎ (+371) 67332634. M. - F.: Noon-11PM, Sat: 6PM-11PM, Su: Closed. If you're splashing out try Vincents Restaurant which compares favorably to any up market western restaurant at half the price. 20 LVL.
Bar scams in Latvia
Latvia, and Eastern Europe in general, are home to a number of fraud/extortion scams in bars, run by the local mobs. A common scam, which targets men, begins by coaxing you into a bar, where most often a girl will strike up a conversation with a with you and convince you to buy her a drink. You will then be presented with a bill for several hundred Lats. Don't worry, the bar will take credit cards - or you might be forced to withdraw money from their handy ATM. If you ask, you will even be presented with a menu and the price listed. The trick to avoiding this scam is not to enter a bar recommeded to you by someone on the street or, if you do, insist on seeing the price of a drink in writing. If not, leave immediately, although this may not be possible if the exit is being blocked by a large bouncer. Here is a list of bars/clubs in Riga the U.S. Embassy specifically warns against visiting (and bars all embassy personnel from visiting):
- “Foxy Lounge” - Terbatas 2; located below the “Fashion Café” in the basement of the “Vegas” casino at the corner of Terbatas and Merkela streets near the flower market.
- “Roxy Klub” - Kalku 24; located near the entrance to Old Town on Kalku street.
- “Lord’s Pub” (formerly “Groks Pub”)—Kalku 22; located next door to Roxy Klub.
- “Puzzle” (formerly “Pink Panther”)—Kalku 22; also located next door to Groks Pub.
- “Mary” - Audeju 13; located on the east side of Galleria “Centrs” Mall.
- “DD Bars”
- “Saxon” - Laipu 7; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of restaurant “Steiku Haoss”.
- “Doll House” a.k.a “Zig Zag” – Marstalu 12; located to the right of Reformed Church.
- “Bar Fly” - Vagnera 8; located near “Livu Square” in a small street to the right of “Roxy”, “Groks” and “Pink Panther”.
- “Zephry Bar” - located near Galleria Center in Old Town, near the youth hostel.
- “Mademoiselle Cigar Club” – Valnu street; located in Old Town across from “Lounge 8”.
- “Nobu Sushi” - Grecinieku 28; located in Old Town.
For your own safety, you should not patronize any of these locations. Many are strip bars or locations of prostitution rings. Consider yourself warned.
Riga is a major nightlife destination for tourists and bars here are often open later than those in other European cities. On average, bars in Old Town will charge 2 LVL per beer and bars outside of Old Town will charge 1 LVL per beer. A specialty liquor is Riga Balsam, which is an acquired taste.
- Goija Tea-room (Tejnica), str.Strelnieku 1a (near str.Alberta), ☎ 67333370, . 14.00-24.00. Down tempo music, board games, free Wi-Fi, wintrgardten, original library, Tea Ceremonies of the World this is not the only way to spend your time in Goija, not only with pleasure, but very useful. Tea :2-5 Ls.
- Atslēga, Skarņu iela 2 (Old Town). Cozy bar.
- Cuba Bar. Cozy bar, DJ in the evenings (who mimes!).
- Double Coffee, International chain of coffee houses/restaurants based in Riga. They have wireless hotspots, but you need to buy a Lattelekom wifi card. 10% service charge is added to the bill.
- Karakums, Lāčplēša iela 18. Fun bar with TV and dance room. Beer: 1 LVL.
- Leningrad . After nearly two decades of capitalism and double-digit inflation, some Latvians are looking back to the past. A bar with a retro Soviet interior of assorted communist relics and even period furniture is as good a place as any to enjoy a drink. The beer might not be as cheap as it was in Gorbachev’s time, but for Old Riga the local Brengulis and Czech Kozel are remarkably affordable. The beefy bartender with the shaved head and trimmed beard looks like Lenin on steroids.
- Pulkvedis, . A trendy place popular with a younger crowd. ALL of the barmen are v.good and the speed is superb. The basement offers techno-ish and/or alternative sounds. Upstairs which is the busiest area with a mix of pop/dance occasional rock music. It is a very busy place on Thurs/Fri/Sat and is closed on Sunday. Entry fee: 3 LVL; Beer: 2 LVL, vodka orange: 2.75 LVL, vodka coke: 2.50 LVL, Cocktails: 4-5 LVL.
- Skyline Bar, (On the top of Reval hotel in Riga), . Just perfect view at sunset. Finding a table next to the windows might be difficult after 11PM. Beer: 2.20 LVL; Cocktails: 4-5 LVL.
Before choosing an economic hotel (hostel not included), it is useful to take a look at a table that compares the time needed for a journey from the hotel to the center. In May 2009, the Latvian Magazine "Vakara Ziņas" conducted a survey to evaluate the distance of the main budget hotels in Riga from the old city. The survey is not based on the the physical distance but on the journey time. At different times of the day and by different means of transportation (tramway, taxi or walk), you'll know the exact time to reach the old city, which will avoid some unpleasant surprised.
Comparison of budget hotels in the journey's time from/to Old Riga. Click on photo to enlarge
- Riga City Camping, (In the center of town), . Open May 15 - September 15. Nice facilities. From 2 LVL.
- Backpackers Planet, (5 min north of the bus station and 5 min south of the train station), . The rooms are clean, private, safe, spacious, and have private bathrooms. Located next to a very nice farmers market and flea market that have good prices on food and clothing. Double: €18.
- BaltHostel, Markela Iela 1 (just over the road from the central station), ☎ (+371) 67224258, . Friendly, multilingual staff. Dorm bed: €18-€23.
- Barons Hostel, (In the center of town), . For the Mature Traveller as they do not accept stag or bucks parties. Is also the HQ for the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia .
- Central Hostel, (Near the train station), . New hostel, bed & breakfast or whatever with many nice double rooms and one 4 beds room.
- Doma Hostel, 16 Skunu Street, ☎ (+371) 67213101, . Clean, small, safe, cheap, and in a great location. Not the best place to hang out though. They seem to run a nail salon out of the common room during the day, and the kitchen is the size of a closet. They do have free coffee and tea though.
- Elizabeth's Youth Hostel, 103-2 Elizabetes str (Just outside Old Town), ☎ (+371) 67217890 ([email protected]), . HI Hostel. Free internet access. Dorm bed: €6 (Low Season), €10 (High Season); Single: €15 (Low Season), €20 (High Season).
- Friendly Fun Franks Hostel, (on the banks of the river Daugava), ☎ +371 2599 0612 ([email protected]), . The biggest party hostel in Riga. Australian/British/Latvian owned. Popular with Brits in Riga for stag parties, so expect a lot of guys who want to party.
- Funky Hostel, 25 Kr Barona Iela, . Australian & Latvian owned. 24 hour reception. Free wifi in all rooms. Dorrm bed: From 6.90 LVL.
- Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel, 50 Kaleju Iela, ☎ +371 67220073 ([email protected]), . Australian & Latvian owned. 24 hour reception. Offers a wide range of alternative tours. Dorm bed: From LVL 5; Double: From LVL 22.
- Old Town Hostel, . Has a nice bar which is always open.
- Posh Backpackers Hostel, Pupolu Iela 5 (Opposite the police station, reasonably near the bus and train stations.), ☎ (+371) 67210917 ([email protected]), . Anything but posh. Privates, doubles as well as 6,8 and 12 room dorms. Dorm bed: 8 LVL.
- Riga Hostel, Marstalu Iela 12 (old town), ☎ (+371) 67224520, . Friendly, multilingual staff. 62 beds in various hostel configurations.
- Riga House Hostel and Guesthouse, (Old town), . Newly renovated building offering rooms or apartments. Handmade decoration and eco frinedly materials. Dorm bed: €12-€15; Double: €18-28.
- Apartment Hotel Riga, 196 Brivibas iela, . Apartments on Riga's main street. Every apartment has either two separate beds or one double, as well as a washing machine, television, gas ring, air conditioner, refrigerator, and set of dishes. €25 and up.
- Dodo Hotel, Jersikas iela 1 (10 min from old town by tram.), . Modern rooms with shower, WC, flat-screen TV, and hairdryer. Free Wi-Fi. French owned. Double: €29.
- Hotel EDVARDS, Dzirnavu iela 45/47, ☎ +371 67439960 ([email protected], fax: +371 67439959), . Newly opened in September 2008, the Hotel Edvards is a cosy, family-run hotel in the heart of Riga, in a renovated 19th-century building. 38 LVL and up.
- Krisjanis and Gertrude Bed & Breakfast, K. Barona iela 39 (in the wooden house diagonally opposite the Barona shopping center, entrance in Gertrudes iela), ☎ +371 67506604 ([email protected], fax: +371 67506603), . Homely, popular with artists and musicians, city centre, walking distance from opera, music academy, and old town, free Wi-Fi, en-suite rooms. Single: €30 (Low Season); Double/Twin: €40 (Low Season), breakfast included.
- Metropole Hotel, 36 Aspazijas bulvaris, ☎ +371 67225411 ([email protected], fax: +371 67216140), . Not quite as centrally located as some other hotels, but still quite near Old Town. All rooms have satellite TV, minibar, and WiFi. €93 and up.
- Hotel Bergs, 83 Elizabetes iela, ☎ (+371) 67770900 (fax: (+371) 67770940), . An internationally regarded hotel that opened in 2003 located in the heart of Riga. €180 and up.
- Hotel Centra Riga, 1 Adeju iela, ☎ 866-538-0187, . A true gem of a hotel. The service here is spectacular, and the management has a habit of upgrading people for no extra charge. Flat-screen TVs, minibar, and free WiFi. In a historic building. €80 and up.
- Hotel de Rome, 28 Kalku iela, ☎ +371 67087600 ([email protected], fax: +371 67087606), . checkin: 2 PM; checkout: 12 AM. Mostly a business hotel, but this Kolonna hotel also has rooms for splurging tourists. Amenities include free wifi, safe, minibar, and satellite television in every room. The hotel also has a guarded parking lot (which requires a surcharge) and a fancy restaurant at the top. Small pets are allowed. €142 and up.
- Hotel Garden Palace, 28 Grecinieku Street (City centre, Old Riga), ☎ +371 67224650 ([email protected], fax: +371 67359749), . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Elegant boutique 4* hotel in the heart of historic centre of Riga with 65 comfortable guest rooms. 55 EUR and up.
In general Riga is a quiet and safe city where you are unlikely to have any trouble.
When visiting bars and restaurants make sure you know the price before you order and keep track of your spending, so no cheating is possible. Beware of scammers who strike up conversations out of the blue and invite you to visit their favorite club or bar; this is often a favorite way for the fraudsters to rob the foreigners, and the police are unlikely to help if you get scammed.
US embassy has issued travel advisory for clubs and bars in Riga which are involved in crimes against foreign clientele. For whole report please read this page  from US Embassy (includes a list of establishments involved). See the infobox near the Drink section for a common scam run in Riga.
- Canada, 20/22 Baznicas Street 6th floor Riga, LV-1010 Latvia, ☎ (+371) 6781-3945 ([email protected], fax: (+371) 6781-3960), .
- United States, .
- Sigulda - a resort town just over an hour from Riga by train, featuring a wooded river valley containing forest walks, cable car, bobsleigh track, and three castles, all of which is manageable as a day visitor on foot.
- Ligatne - a small picturesque town deep in the forest between Sigulda and Cesis, ideal base for a visit to both tourist centres. Just over an hour from Riga by car or train. Attractions are forest walks, tethered ferry, and disused Soviet bunker.
- Liepaja - city on the Western coast of Latvia, (capital of music and culture, fantastic white soft sand beach)
- Jūrmala - seaside resort that was popular amongst citizens of the USSR (the word literally means seaside or beach in Latvian.)
- Tartu, Estonia
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Parnu, Estonia
- Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda in Lithuania.
- Stockholm, Sweden - You can take a ferry there
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