The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (2024)

Riga has become a top holiday destination for travelers from all over the world. The Old Town is the city’s very heart, showcasing well-preserved medieval architecture and narrow cobbled streets at every corner. From astonishing architecture to world-class museums, take a look at the top 10 things to see and do in this UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (1)

1. Saint Peter's Church

Building, Church

Saint Peter’s Church

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (2)Saint Peter’s Church’s nave | © David Iliffe/Wikicommons

This Lutheran church is one of the oldest monument in Riga, though it looked now looks completely different from the original building, of which very little remains. What can be seen today is for the most part from the 15th and 17th centuries. The church’s 123-meter steeple, dominating the city, is unmissable. From there, the view of the Old Town and of the Daugava River is breath-taking, but make sure to go on a clear day. That being said, the interior should not be overlooked, as its three basilicas provide a fascinating insight into Riga’s history. The church also holds temporary exhibitions of works by local artists.

Address: Saint Peter’s Church, Skārņu iela 19, Riga, +371 67181430

Town Hall Square

This iconic square, a meeting place since the late 13th century, is a must-see for any visitor. Here Riga’s Hanseatic architecture is at its best, culminating in the world-famous House of Blackheads, built in the 14th century but so-called because in the 17th century its occupants were the merchants of the Brotherhood of Blackheads. It was unfortunately destroyed during World War II but has been rebuilt and stands as beautiful as ever since 1999. In addition to this important building, the square is home to a leading venue for contemporary art and to numerous bars and cafés, giving it a pleasant, old-fashioned atmosphere.

2. Riga Cathedral

Cathedral, Church

Riga Cathedral

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (3)Riga Cathedral | © Brunswyck/Wikicommons

Although Saint Peter’s is the more famous of the two, this church is Riga’s cathedral and deserves to be seen in its own right. It is so beautiful composer Franz Liszt wrote a piece in its honor. Built in the 13th century, it’s the largest medieval church in the Baltics but, like a lot of Riga’s landmarks, it has undergone extensive modifications since its foundation. Don’t forget to have a look at its organ, one of the biggest in Europe, and at its medieval cloisters.

Address: Riga Cathedral, Herdera lauku*ms 6, Rīga, Latvia, +371 67 227 573

Sit down at a café

Exploring the Old Town can be exhausting. To catch your breath, sit down in one of Riga’s charming cafés – on a terrace if it’s not too cold – and watch tourists and locals go about their business around, making Riga bustle with life. There you can, of course, have a cup of tea or coffee while people-watching, but why not give Latvia’s national (alcoholic) drink, Riga Black Balsam, a try? Among Riga’s various establishments, we particularly like literary café Kafka, whose coffee is probably the best in the city.

Admire the Swedish Gate and the medieval streets

History buffs will love walking along the largest remaining portion of the medieval town walls to walk through the seventh-century Swedish Gate, the only remaining entrance to the Old Riga. It takes its name from the fact that back then Riga was part of the Swedish Empire. The oldest and narrowest streets in Riga, dating from the 13th and 14th century, sprawl beyond it, full of chatter from the lively bars and cafés that line them, such as local favorite I Love You.

3. Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

Building, Memorial, Museum

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (4)The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia’s exterior | © Dezidor/Wikicommons

A big black building stands next to the beautiful Hanseatic architecture of the Town Hall Square: the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. This haunting memorial of the period from 1940 to 1991 when Latvia was occupied by Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and then Soviet Russia again is really worth visiting to get a tangible glimpse of Latvia’s traumatic 20th-century history and remember the countless victims of World War II and of the Soviet Union.

Address: Raiņa bulvāris 7, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 212 715

4. Arsenal Museum of Art

Building, Museum

Arsenal Museum of Art

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (5)Porch in Capri by Janis Rozentals | © Darwinius/Wikicommons

The impressive nineteenth-century arsenal building has been turned into Latvia’s largest exhibition hall and now hosts some of the most exciting exhibitions of Latvian art. The permanent displays comprises a collection of modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures and drawings by Latvian or Latvian-born artists like Jūlijs Feders, Janis Rozentāls and Vilhelms Purvītis. The temporary exhibitions are very varied, highlighting the work of artists from all over the world, such as Luxembourg-born photograph Edward Steichen. All in all, the Arsenal is one of the best art museums in Latvia and essential for anyone interested in the country’s cultural history.

Address: Torņa iela 1, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 357 527

5. The Three Brothers

The Three Brothers

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (6)The Three Brothers | © Martin Thirolf/Wikicommons

‘The Three Brothers’ is the nickname given to the three buildings in Maza Pils street forming Riga’s oldest complex of dwelling houses. Though very little is known about their history, each building illustrates a different period of the city’s architectural development. The oldest one, 17 Maza Pils Street, was built in the 15th century and has crow-stepped gables and Gothic and Renaissance elements, while the neighboring house, 19 Maza Pils, shows Dutch Mannerist influence, and the last one, house number 21, exemplifies 17th century Baroque architecture. Today, the buildings house the Latvian Museum of Architecture.

Address: Latvian Museum of Architecture, Maza Pils iela 19, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 220 779

Go out at night

Riga is an increasingly popular party hotspot, combining all the fun of big Western European cities and none of their high prices. The nightlife is concentrated in the Old Town, conveniently also where most hostels are located. There’s a little of everything hiding in Riga after dusk, from huge mainstream clubs to quiet cozy bars to alternative cultural centers. Have fun, but beware of stumbling on the cobblestones and of scammers preying on drunk tourists.

6. Riga Castle


Riga Castle

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (7)Riga Castle | © Frode Inge Helland/Wikicommons

By Valentine Baldassari
Riga Castle is another 14th-century Latvian monument that has been destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries. It is now home not only to the National History Museum, but also to the President’s residence and offices. For this reason, much of it is off-limits so keep to the tourist parts unless you fancy a run-in with angry Latvians. The museum is full of artifacts from Latvian history, including coins and costumes, but there is very little information available in English. Nevertheless, visiting the castle is worth it if only to admire the fortifications and take in the view of the Daugava. This monument was unfortunately damaged in a fire in 2013 so two years later parts of it are still undergoing renovation.

Address: Riga Castle, Pils lauku*ms 3, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 092 106

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Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

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The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Riga's Old Town (2024)


What is Riga most known for? ›

Riga was founded in 1201, and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga's historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. Riga was the European Capital of Culture in 2014, along with Umeå in Sweden.

What makes Riga special? ›

The historic centre of Riga was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Many medieval buildings survive, among them the 13th-century Riga Dom (cathedral), the 14th-century Riga Castle (1330), and merchants' homes and warehouses. The canal around the city's Old Town was the fortress moat.

Is Riga, Latvia worth visiting? ›

To conclude, is Riga worth visiting? Riga is 100% worth visiting for at least a few days. Especially if you enjoy budget travel, have a passion for art or want to admire the incredible architecture. If you're anything like me, you'll fall in love with Riga the moment you arrive.

How many days in Riga is enough? ›

You'd feel rushed to see the main attractions of Riga such as the great nightlife along with the terrific museums and landmarks. To thoroughly enjoy all that the city has to offer, you'll probably want more than just a 2 day trip. Most travelers schedule two to four days to fully experience this city.

What is the most beautiful street in Riga? ›

According to legend, Riga was founded by Bishop Albert; therefore, one of the most beautiful Riga's streets was named after him. Alberta Street has embodied architects' greatest ideas.

What is the traditional drink in Riga? ›

Riga Black Balsam (Latvian: Rīgas Melnais balzams) is a traditional Latvian balsam often considered to be the national drink of Latvia. According to tradition, only the Head Liquor Master and two of his apprentices know the exact recipe.

What is the national dish of Riga? ›

Pelēkie zirņi ar speķi is the national dish of Latvia. This type of stew is made with local grey peas (similar to chickpeas), fried onions, and diced speck. The dish was invented when locals used their supplies of dried and preserved food.

Can I speak English in Riga? ›

Getting by with English very much depends on where you are. In the centre of Riga, most younger people are able to speak at least a little English. If you're at a supermarket, or a store, and the person behind the till looks under 35, then chances are they'll speak good enough English to help with your transaction.

Is there a lot to do in Riga? ›

Top Attractions in Riga

Peter's Church, the Swedish Gate and the Freedom Monument. Inside world war era Zeppelin hangers lies this mega huge market full of never ending varities of food places… Join us for a special COMBO offer!

Is it safe in Riga now? ›

A lot of people are asking whether Riga is a safe city or not. Riga is a fairly safe city compared to other European cities– there are no major crimes that happen within city particularly are armed clashes. But just like with all major cities, you still must be aware of your surroundings.

What is unique in Riga? ›

Albert Street is a notable thoroughfare in Riga that's famed for its beautiful Art Nouveau architecture. In fact, as many as a third of all the buildings in the city's center sport this architectural style, meaning Latvia's capital reportedly boasts one of the world's highest concentrations of Art Nouveau structures.

What is Riga popular for? ›

The best things to do in Riga include stunning architectural landmarks, world heritage sites, and lush green spaces offering brief escapes.

Why do people go to Riga? ›

Here's why. Explore Riga's rich architectural heritage by visiting Alberta Iela Street, which boasts the best-preserved collection of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe. Adorned with stained glass windows, statues, mosaics, and intricate details, the buildings offer a unique glimpse into the city's history.

What is a fun fact about Riga Latvia? ›

With over 800 Art Nouveau buildings, Riga has one of the world's greatest galleries of this joyful style. Alberta iela is a street almost entirely created by Art Nouveau genius Mikhail Eisenstein, and his son film director Sergei Eisenstein was one of the founders of modern cinema.

What is Latvian culture known for? ›

Latvians continue to observe the traditions of their ancestors – culture embedded in Latvian folklore that is best experienced during the Summer Solstice or "Jani" holiday, and the impressive Song and Dance festivals, as well as through traditional crafts and handiwork, events organized by museums, and a lot of other ...


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