Riga is a fascinating city to explore, the historic centre of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. That alone makes it an enticing draw for travellers looking for a slice of Europe that falls slightly off the beaten track. However, there’s much more to the Baltic capital than history. Architectural gems abound, including one of the world’s biggest collection of Art Nouveau buildings. Riga is also a city filled with museums, grand churches and unique neighbourhoods of bars, cafés, shops, and restaurants all worthy of exploration. If you’re packed and ready to go, here’s everything you need to know once you get to Riga.
Public transit is a good option for making your way to and from Riga International. The bus stop for Bus No. 22 is located opposite the terminal behind the car park P1 and the journey takes about 30 to 40 minutes. The cost is EUR 2 if you pay right on the bus, but if you buy a ticket from the Narvessen press kiosks at levels 1 and 2 of the terminal building or at the ticket machine near the bus stop, the cost is EUR 1.15. The bus gets you to Central Station in the centre of the city, from where you can take transport to other places in town. From Monday to Friday the first bus leaves at 6:15am and the last bus leaves at 12:05am. On weekends the first bus leaves at 6:20am and the last one at 11:45pm.
Another option is to take the Airport Express Minibus for EUR 5 per person. The shuttle bus stops near the exit of the “E” terminal arrivals hall and goes to Old Town, stopping at several big hotels along the way. It leaves every 30 minutes, operating from 4:35am until 12:35am.
If you’d rather take a taxi, Baltic Taxi drives you to the city centre for a fixed price of EUR 15. Other taxis will usually use the meter and the cost to the city centre is typically EUR 12.
There are four methods of public transportation in Riga: bus, tram, trolley, and rail. For bus, tram and trolley, tickets can be purchased right from the driver for EUR 2 for one fare, but as with the airport bus, it’s cheaper (EUR 1.15) to buy tickets from ticket offices, ticket vending machines, Narvesen newsstands, and various shops. You can also buy rides in bulk, including five trips for EUR 5.75, 10 trips for EUR 10.90, and 20 tips for EUR 20.70 if you’ll be staying long enough to need multiple tickets. Visit Riga Transport (Rīgas Satiksme) for information about routes and tips for planning your trip.
You can travel by rail in Riga on trips within city limits costing EUR 0.70. Many people also use rail to get to the nearby coastal town of Jurmala, which costs EUR 1.40. You can check the rail website for details on routes and trip planning.
If you want to take a taxi in Riga you can expect to pay between EUR 3 and 5 for short rides and up to EUR 8 for longer trips. Just note that foreign tourists with no knowledge of Russian or Latvian are likely to be asked a higher price.
Watch a home game of Riga’s ice-hockey team Dinamo. As Latvia is based in Northern Europe and covered in snow for one-third of the year, there is no better sport to represent the county than ice hockey, Latvia’s favourite sport. Tickets range from EUR 4 to 15.
While in Riga try to get yourself to the Latvian National Opera. Not only is the opera house a beautiful building, but it also has a fantastic range of opera, ballet, and other events. Tickets range anywhere from EUR 5 to 65 depending on what you’re buying tickets for and where you want to sit.
Riga is also home to several events and festivals throughout the year. Three of the best to check out include Midsummer Festival, White Nights, and Museum Night, all of which are free.
The Midsummer Festival happens in late June during the summer solstice, celebrating the longest day and shortest night of the year. The festival is celebrated all over Latvia as well as the other Baltic and Nordic countries and involves many festivities, musical performances, workshops, and markets all around the city. The Midsummer Festival is one of the best times to visit the city as it’s the perfect opportunity to see Latvians in their traditional clothing and get to know local folklore. The city is decorated with flowers and at night there are many bonfires and fireworks displays.
Taking place in early September, White Night was first held in 1972 and has since been continuously growing in popularity. It’s a night full of workshops, events, art installations, concerts, theatre, and contemporary art. The cultural event is a great way to walk through the city getting introduced to many new sights and sounds.
During Riga’s Museum Night, which takes place in May (date varies), you can visit many of the city’s museums and cultural institutions for free. Many museums will have special events and workshops, so this is an excellent opportunity to visit both Riga’s major museums, as well as the lesser-known ones. Bars and restaurants usually stay open later to accommodate museum-hoppers.
Looking for more things to do? Urban Adventures offers day tours in Riga and beyond, all led by local experts that will give you a taste for local life:
Riga Old Town Pub Crawl
Raise a glass to Riga! Head out on the Old Town with a local beer enthusiast by your side, and learn about the experimental craft beers sweeping through Latvia. Taste traditional drinks like black balsam and kvass, as well as new ciders and beers that can’t be found anywhere else.
Soviet Secrets of Riga
Riga’s Soviet days may be over, but there are still lots of hard memories tucked away in the city’s streets. Find out what it was like to live under Russian rule during those tumultuous years, as you explore neighbourhoods and visit sites where it feels like time has stood still.
Classic and Cool Riga
Discover one of Europe’s last hidden wonders! Explore the old and new towns of Riga with a local guide by your side, and be prepared to quickly fall in love with the gorgeous wonders of the Jugendstil era, to be amazed by the enormous Central Market, and to be enchanted by the historic city centre.
While there aren’t many well-known or contemporary films set in Riga that would ring a bell, a spot near Riga was used in BBC’s 2016 adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Rundale Palace in Bauska, an easy day trip from Riga, stood in for a Russian winter palace during the opening scene of Anna Pavlovna Scherer’s soirée. You can visit the palace if you’ve seen the movie, or just want to check it out.
Some bands from Riga you can look into to get you in the mood for your trip include alternative rock band the Double Faced Eels, shoegaze band Tribes of the City, or progressive rock band Crow Mother.
Thriller The Dogs of Riga by Kurt Wallander is set in Riga — although be aware that the book doesn’t represent modern Riga.
As one of the fastest developing countries in the European Union, Riga’s young population is starting new and hip projects all over town, but keeping the authentic atmosphere that makes Riga so special. Old soviet buildings turn into ateliers, workshops, and cafés, resulting in an interesting combination of the old and the new.