Cost: £ – super cheap
Rating: 9/10 – perfect mini break destination
Trip length: 2 nights is enough time to explore
CLICK HERE to see a video of the trip.
I flew from London with RyanAir for £89 (Priority boarding and chosen seats). Check SkyScanner for best deals.
We stayed a 15 minute walk away in a gorgeous AirBnb – a studio apartment in the attic of a church.
The shared space is dark and full of old furniture so we were a little worried as we walked up; however, when we let ourselves into the apartment itself, we were thrilled. A very stylish space with everything you’ll need for a short stay. For 2 nights we paid £89 / (£44.50 each).
Is the euro – check conversion rates before you go.
Our AirBnb host suggested we downloaded the app ‘Taxify‘ to get from the airport to the apartment. It works the same way as Uber does and the fares are considerably cheaper than other companies. It’s only 15 mins to the centre and should cost around 10 EUR.
Riga is really small and best explored on foot. If your feet get tired there are plenty of public transport options including a tram.
What we did…
1 – House of the Blackheads
Interesting building in the Town Hall Square (Ratslaukums). It was originally built in 1334 for the Brotherhood of Blackheads (a guild for the unmarried foreign merchants). It was bombed during WW2 by the Germans and remains were demolished in 1948 by the Soviets. A rebuild began in 1995 and it’s now a museum and concert hall.
The inside looks very impressive, although we didn’t see as it was not open when we were there (Latvians seem to have very short working days)!
2 – The Town Hall
Opposite the House of Blackheads is a reconstruction of the old Town Hall.
3 – St Peter’s Church
An impressive Lutheran church dedicated to Saint Peter. Parts of the church were built during 3 different periods (Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque).
For 9 EUR you can go inside and enjoy views of Riga from the tower.
4 – St John’s Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church located just behind St Peter’s.
5 – Cat House
A building in known for its cat sculptures with their tails raised and facing the Great Guild. It’s said that the owner of the ‘Cat House’ held a grudge against the guild members as he was denied membership. Quite a funny story 🙂
6 – Powder Tower
Part of the defensive system of Riga, right by the Latvian War Museum.
The Swedish Gate is also a short walk from here. It was erected as part of the Riga Wall.
7 – Riga Cathedral
Completed in 1270, this is another Evangelical Lutheran cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Riga, also known as the Dome Cathedral. It is home to a large organ which has 6,768 pipes which makes it one of the biggest in the world.
8 – Three Brothers
Three houses representing various periods of development.
No. 17 – built late 15th century (Gothic / Renaissance) – big brother
No. 19 – built in 1646 (Dutch Mannerism) – middle brother
No. 21 – built in the 17th century (Baroque) – little brother
9 – Riga Castle
The castle was founded in 1330 and is now home to the President of Latvia. Not the most spectacular castle I’ve ever seen, but worth walking past if you have the time.
10 – Freedom Monument
A monument to commemorate Latvian independence, completed in 1935. It honours soldiers killed in the Latvian War of Independence and is an important symbol of freedom and sovereignty of Latvia.
11 – Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral
Built between 1876 and 1883, this cathedral is spectacular from the outside as well as the inside (no photos allowed). When Latvia belonged to the Soviets, the cathedral was used as a planetarium / restaurant!
12 – Latvian National Museum of Art
Showcasing 52,000 Latvian works of art in a stunning building.
It only costs a couple of EUR to see the permanent exhibitions so it’s definitely worth having a walk around if you have the time.
The Art Academy of Latvia is the building next to this museum and is also impressive.
13 – Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Established in 1993 (after Latvian independence), the museum aims to show what happened in Latvia under 2 totalitarian regimes. I love to know the history of a place and this museum provides plenty of information. No ticket price but a donation is asked for.
14 – Riga Central market
Massive market worth passing by, but I don’t think this is a must see. There’s a large amount of produce for sale in various market halls, but unless you’re planning on cooking for yourself in an apartment during your stay, you’re unlikely to buy anything.
15 – Parks
There are many green spaces (or white when we went) to stroll through and a nice hill near the Freedom Monument which makes a nice lookout point.
In the same park near to Freedom Monument is a cute little bridge with locks on it (presumably a mini version of the Lovelock Bridge in Paris). If you’re feeling romantic then you can add a lock to it with your partner.
16 – Majori / Jurmala
As we managed to see the majority of landmarks on our first day, we decided to get a 30 minute train to the beach. It was 2.80 EUR for a return ticket… bargain!
The train station is a little confusing as all signs are in Latvian, but find a friendly person in a ticket booth and they’ll help you out and send you on your way.
When you get there…
Jurmala is a Latvian city on the Gulf of Riga. There was a nice street parallel to the beach full of restaurants, shops and cute little market stalls.
Whilst it looked lovely in the snow, I can imagine it being even more beautiful during the summer – a great beach holiday spot.
Riga food & drink
There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from… we were spoilt for choice. One thing we noticed which was unusual was that the restaurants would play music outside the building to lure you in. Quite funny listening to different types of music as you walk down a street trying to choose somewhere to eat!
Apparently if you haven’t been to a Lido, you haven’t been to Latvia. There were a few Lido restaurants dotted around Riga serving traditional Latvian style food, buffet style. You choose from a vast selection of hearty foods and pay for what you have on your plate. It was pretty tasty!
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
Busy bar in the Old Town known for its live music. It has a lively atmosphere and apparently the food is great too.
Gutenbergs Rooftop Bar
Fantastic views from this rooftop restaurant. It was pretty chilly so we were unable to go outside, but enjoyed the views from the cosy inside.
Lovely little restaurant serving fantastic food. Definitely suggest booking a table here if you’re planning on dining at the weekend (we were turned away on Saturday night). More expensive than most places in Riga but not outrageous.
Grand Poet Cafe
Really sweet little cafe in the 5* Grand Poet hotel. Beautiful interior with designer (yet comfy) furniture and a nice choice of cakes / snacks.
Cosy little coffee and cake shop in a stunning Art Nouveau building.
This is a Riga chain so you’ll see a few restaurants dotted around. It was suggested by our AirBnb host so we thought must say I was a little disappointed. Worst service I have ever experienced. Food was cheap and not horrific but I won’t be going back.
Jurmala food & drink
Great service, delicious food and big portions.
Cute little cafe on the beach serving drinks and a small food selection. Fantastic views 🙂
There is also a Radio & TV Tower which is the tallest tower in the EU! It’s a little drive out to the tower and the reviews on TripAdvisor weren’t great which is why we didn’t go. Might be worth looking into though if you have the time.
There are many beautiful buildings you’ll see as you walk around the city…
If you’re into opera then you can check out what’s on at the Latvian National Opera!
I was SO surprised at how gorgeous Riga was – a beautiful city centre with plenty to see and a considerable selection of nice restaurants and bars. It was magical in the snow, but I’m certain it would be stunning in the summer too. Definitely recommend for a mini break.
Cost per person
Flights – £89
Accommodation – £44.50
Spend – £179
Total for 2 nights – £312.50