2 to 3 Days in Riga Itinerary: Things to Do in Latvia’s Capital


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Though the capital of Latvia is still considered to be a relatively “off the beaten path” destination in Europe, planning a 2 or 3 days in Riga itinerary is never a bad idea.

In recent years, the city has attracted visitors with cheap flights and cheap alcohol prices, but Riga has a lot more to offer than simply a party destination. With a beautiful, historic old town and gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture that put cities like Budapest or Prague to shame, Riga has something to offer everyone.

While Riga doesn’t get nearly the international tourism attention it deserves, it has steadily been creeping onto the radar of potential visitors over the past few years.

It’s clear why Riga is becoming popular for a wide range of different travellers – it offers something different for everybody. Whether you’re a history and architecture buff, a foodie or simply looking for fun and affordable nightlife – you will easily be able to incorporate those things into your Riga itinerary.

So if you’re planning to visit Riga and want to make the best out of your time in the Latvian capital, make sure to follow this itinerary.

Getting To & Around Riga

Riga is home to its own international airport and has excellent connections to many European cities – and a few further afield, as well. Riga Airport is the hub for Air Baltic and also serves budget carriers like Ryanair, so you’re likely to be able to find an affordable flight to the city if you’re planning a bit of a city break.

The Riga Airport is located about 10 kilometres from Central Riga. You can catch a public bus to the city centre from the airport (bus number 22) or you could opt to take a taxi. If you use the latter option, we recommend using the Bolt app to hail a cab. Fares on Bolt are quite reasonable with a 10km trip costing approximately €8-10

Riga is also well-connected to other cities in the region, such as Tallinn or Vilnius and there are plenty of buses to the city. You can also easily reach Riga from smaller cities, such as Liepaja in Latvia and Parnu and Tartu in Estonia. The Central Bus Station in Riga is located, unsurprisingly, quite centrally so it is easy to get to the city centre from there. You can view schedules here.

The House of the Blackheads in Riga
The House of the Blackheads

Once in the city, you’ll find Riga’s Old Town and central areas are reasonably compact. This means that if you’re only spending 2 days in Riga you’ll only need to use public transport on a rare occasion, if at all. It also means that you likely won’t need to hire a car.

Riga has an extensive bus, tram and trolleybus network within the city limits. If you want information on how to use and buy tickets on the transit in Riga, have a look at the public transit website which outlines everything you need to know.

For those spending 3 days in Riga or if you’re interested in taking a day trip to Jurmala & Kemeri National Park, then you may also consider hiring a car.

While you don’t need to have a car to get around Riga and you can also easily reach and get around Jurmala without your own vehicle, it does make it easier to visit nearby Kemeri National Park, which is located on the western edge of Jurmala.

If you do want to hire a car while in Riga, we suggest browsing RentalCars.com to compare prices across a number of different rental companies.

Riga's Old Town
Riga’s Old Town

2 to 3 Days in Riga Itinerary

Riga has a number of fantastic attractions to keep travellers busy during their stay in the Latvian capital. While you can definitely see the main tourist attractions in 1 or 2 days in Riga, spending 3 days in Riga will allow you to make the most of everything that the Latvian capital has to offer. It can even give you the opportunity to explore beyond the main tourist attractions and go on a day trip.

Day 1 – Old Town, Canal Cruise, Central Riga & More

Riga’s Old Town

There is no better place to begin your Riga itinerary than in the historic Old Town. While this part of Riga has undoubtedly attracted more and more tourists over the years there is a very good reason for this –  its cobblestone streets and charming medieval architecture is simply a delight to walk around and there are many interesting sites to explore.

The House of Blackheads is one of the most iconic sites in Riga, originally built in the 14th century for German merchants it was completely rebuilt in the late 90s after being destroyed during WWII.

One of the most famous churches that’s worth seeing is St Peter’s Church located in the Old Town. Built in the early 13th century, it is over 120 metres tall and offers visitors a chance to climb the tower to the top and get a wonderful view of the Old Town.

The Riga Cathedral is another famous church located in the Old Town. Constructed in the 13th Century, it is famous for its organ which contains 6,718 pipes! Along the side of the Riga Cathedral lies Dome Square, a major meeting point in Old Riga that is lined with cafes and is a great place to take in.

Riga Cathedral
Riga Cathedral

Other points of interest in the Old Town include The Three Brothers which are the oldest residential houses in Riga and home to the Architectural Museum.

The Swedish Gate is also worth visiting, which is the last remaining part of the Old City Walls. The Powder Tower is another point of interest, which used to be an important defensive post for Riga and is now home to the Latvian War Museum.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the Old Town during your first 24 hours in Riga then it’s worth taking a free walking tour with Riga Free Tours. Their Old Riga Tour starts at 10 am, which does mean an early start but gives you the advantage of getting there before many other tour groups arrive!

It is also possible to book a paid walking tour here if it suits your schedule better.

The Powder Tower in Riga's Old Town
The Powder Tower in Riga’s Old Town

Bastejkalna Park & Canal Cruise

After a few hours of walking around the Old Town, you will undoubtedly be due for a break! Luckily, you’re not too far from some lovely green spaces and a canal to relax by!

Bastejkalna Park which is located just on the outskirts of the Old Town is the perfect escape if you want to get away from the Old Town as it becomes more crowded throughout the day. There is a lovely canal that runs through the park and a number of inviting benches to rest your sore legs.

If you want to get another vantage point of the Old Town then you can take a short one-hour boat ride along the canal. River Cruises has departures every thirty minutes costing €12 per person and leave regardless if they are filled or not.

The cruise will take you along the canal and then onto the Daugava River.

Relaxing by the canal in Riga
Relaxing by the canal in Riga

See the Freedom Monument & Laima Clock

Located right next to the canal, is the Freedom Monument is considered an important symbol of Latvian independence and commemorates Latvian lives that were lost during the Latvian War of Independence. 

Whilst nowhere near as elaborate as what you might see at Buckingham Palace in London, there is a changing of the guard that occurs on the hour during the day.

Opposite the Freedom Monument is the Laima Clock, advertising Latvia’s famous chocolate company and is considered the main meeting point for locals in the city.

Freedom Monument at dusk
Freedom Monument at dusk

Visit Central Riga

Whilst the Old Town of Riga might be what draws in many tourists, it’s worth crossing the bridge over the canal and exploring the streets of Central Riga. This area is filled with beautiful buildings and one could easily spend hours marvelling at the Art Nouveau architecture.

Whilst this area might lack the large number of tourist sites found in the Old Town, you will definitely be less likely to bump into tour groups and can see a side of Riga that many locals call home today. This is also the best area to stay in during your visit to Riga as it’s more affordable than the Old Town and there are many fantastic cafes and restaurants here which are catered to locals. 

One monument that is worth detouring to during your walk around central Riga is the Nativity of Christ Cathedral. Located in Esplanade Park, it is the largest orthodox church in the Baltics and has a fascinating history.

It was originally built in the 19th Century but was closed during the Soviet era and used as a planetarium. It was restored to its original purpose following Latvia’s independence.

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral

Day 2 – Central Market & Museums

Explore Riga Central Market

There’s arguably no better way to understand a culture than by its food so if you want to see where many locals shop, head straight to Riga Central Market. The market was originally opened in 1930, is open daily and is considered one of the largest markets in Europe.

Walk down the aisles and explore the many vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, fish, meat and much more! There are also a number of vendors selling freshly baked pastries, making this a great place to pick up some breakfast or lunch! You can also book a food tour of the market here.

Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is one of the best museums in Riga to explore that covers the history of the German and Soviet occupation of Latvia from WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It has been newly renovated and is located in the Old Town near House of the Blackheads. Entrance to the museum is by donation.

Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia

If you want to get a bit outside of the city centre, then this museum provides a glimpse into Latvia of days past as well as a welcome escape from the relatively busy central area of Riga.

Located a short bus ride from the city, the open-air museum allows you to explore and learn more about life in rural Latvia. There are a collection of traditional houses and workstations for different types of occupations. You are given a map on arrival that allows you to explore at your own leisure as well as enjoy the surrounding nature.

Take buses 1, 19, 28 or 29 to get here by public transport or a Bolt ride will cost around €8 from central Riga.

Wooden houses in the Ethnographic Museum
Wooden houses in the Ethnographic Museum

Enjoy Riga’s famous nightlife

Riga’s nightlife has become increasingly famous over the years and has become especially popular for stag-do parties. Most of the nightlife is concentrated in the Old Town, however, there are a lot of tourist traps in the historical centre so it’s worth venturing out for cheaper drink prices and more local venues.

One place I can recommend if you’re after a more relaxed night is Vina Studija which is a hip wine bar in Central Riga. They offer an extensive wine list all available by the glass with detailed descriptions on the menu costing between €3-5. There is also a restaurant if you’re after a full meal. 

Antipasto Platter from Vina Studija
Antipasto Platter from Vina Studija

Day 3 – Jurmala & Kemeri National Park

Day trip to Jurmala

One of the best things to do in Riga is to take a day trip to nearby Jūrmala which has kilometres of beautiful sandy Baltic beach. During the summer months, many tourists arrive from nearby countries so accommodation can be difficult to find which makes a day trip from Riga the perfect option to enjoy Jūrmala!

The water might be a bit chilly for people used to warmer climates however it’s definitely still swimmable during the summer months if you can handle a little bit of chill. There are also a number of nature trails in the area for walking or biking if you feel like being more active.

If you’re not visiting Riga on a budget and feel like you need some pampering after your first 2 days in Riga then Hotel Jurmala Spa offers a number of affordable spa treatments including a variety of massages.

Jūrmala can be easily be reached by taking a 30-minute train ride from Riga Central station. Please note that there is no train station named Jurmala and there are a number of possible stations you can exit when visiting Jurmala.

Majori Beach in Jurmala
Majori Beach in Jurmala

Majori is the most popular area for visitors while Dubulti is a good option if you want a slightly less busy beach but still have access to facilities such as a beach bar and changing areas.

If you are looking to be a bit active, then consider heading to Kemeri National Park before exploring Jurmala. Famous for its bog walk, the national park is most easily reached by your own car, however, you can take the train to Kemeri station (it’s on the same line as the Jurmala trains) and walk the 4km to the trailhead.

The town of Kemeri itself is also very much worth exploring and boasts a number of interesting attractions, such as an abandoned Soviet-era sanitorium and sulphuric water taps.

It is possible to book a full-day tour here that takes you to both Kemeri and the beach.

Kemeri Bog Walk
Kemeri Bog Walk

Places to Eat in Riga

There are a number of fantastic places to eat in Riga ranging from traditional Latvian fare to trendy and hip cuisine drawing on both local and international influences. Here are some of the best restaurants to try during your 3 days in Riga.

Big Bad Bagels – Located in central Riga, Big Bad Bagels is a hip cafe serving freshly baked bagels with several different fillings along with a range of coffee and juices. This cafe is a great option for breakfast or lunch and they also do takeaway if you are eager to start exploring. A bagel and coffee will cost about €5-6 per person.

Lido – Lido is a cafeteria-style restaurant chain that is extremely popular with locals. It offers a changing menu of traditional Latvian cuisine including meat dishes, potatoes, salads, desserts and much more. There are several locations across Riga and you can eat well here for around €6-10 per person depending on your selections.

Delicious dinner from Lido
Delicious dinner from Lido

Maza Terapija – This is an excellent vegan restaurant in Central Riga. They have a range of different meals available and all so delicious you won’t know they were vegan! They also have an impressive pastry case for those who have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Kolonade – Located next to the Laima Clock, Kolonade is a great option for lunch if you’re near the Old Town as they have affordable set menus. For a great price, you can choose from one soup and main dish from their daily menu.

Moltto Wine & Grill – Moltto is a trendy restaurant and wine bar located on a quiet street in central Riga. With a vibrant atmosphere and friendly staff, this is a great option for dinner as they have an extensive menu of dishes.

Beef carpaccio from Moltto

Where to Stay in Riga

Greystone Suites & Apartments – If you’re looking for a nice hotel with some self-catering options, then this is a wonderful option for you! It is centrally located and within walking distance of all of the main sites. They have a large range of rooms on offer. Click here to see their availability

Grand Poet by Semarah – For those looking for a luxury option in the Latvian capital, this 5-star hotel is definitely a great option. They have a number of plush rooms available and countless amenities, such as a state-of-the-art fitness centre, pool and spa. Breakfast is included and they also organise airport shuttles. Click here to see their availability

Cinnamon Sally Backpacker’s Hostel – located in the heart of Riga close to the Central Market, this small hostel is one of the best places to stay in Riga if you’re on a budget. They offer both dorms and private rooms and also organise social events, making it a great option if you’re travelling solo and want to meet some people to explore Riga with! Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Riga!

3 days in riga
Art nouveau architecture in Central Riga

Riga is a fantastic city to visit and offers something to do for a wide range of travellers. While 3 days in Riga will give visitors a great introduction to the city there is also more than enough reason to stay longer and enjoy the thriving atmosphere of the Latvian capital. 

Looking for travel insurance before visiting Riga? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.

Have you travelled to Riga before or are you planning a trip soon? What would you add to this 3 days in Riga itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.

Comments

  1. Great itinerary. Will follow it for our 5 day stay in Riga starting as soon as we get off the Lux Express coach from Tallinn.
    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Interesting look at what to do in three days as I will arrive mid day on the 28th of April. I will certainly get out early to catch the old part of the city on day two before the crowds arrive so thanks for that tip as well as where to eat and relax.

    Reply
  3. Riga is my heritage and I will be visiting next March for the first time. Will it be very cold and will all sites be open as I understand this is not peak tourist season? Thank you for all of the above tips.

    Reply
    • Hi Inga, March is definitely a cold month so I suggest looking at the average weather to determine if it’s the right time for you to visit. Site opening times might vary so I suggest checking on their website for any updated information.

      Reply
  4. I went to Riga for 4 nights at the beginning of December 2021 for their Xmas market that unfortunately wasn’t but I loved it that much I’m back there again at the same time this year for 3 nights and get to see the Xmas markets this time. We went to the National Opera House to see The Nutcracker ballet which was magical! The thick snow just makes it more xmassy at that time of year too.

    Reply

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