Things to do in Riga + Art Nouveau District

Riga is the capital city of Latvia which was formerly part of the Soviet Union but is now part of the European Union.  As a matter of fact, Riga Old Town is a UNESCO site.  Here are a few things to do in Riga;

  • Riga Old Town
  • Freedom Monument
  • Riga castle
  • House of Blackheads
  • Nativity Cathedral
  • Art Nouveau District
  • Railway bridge

You’ll easily find a good value hotel in Riga.  In addition, you could try Airbnb, which is often better value than hotels in former Soviet countries.

Riga Old Town – UNESCO Site

Things to do in Riga - Old Town

Riga is a very walkable city therefore it’s possible to see nearly all the things to do in Riga on foot.  Furthermore, there are lots of local maps available free of charge, alternatively, you can use google maps to navigate the city.  If you don’t want to walk or the weather is too bad, there is a city bus tour which will take you to all the points of interest.  Finally, Old Town is full of good restaurants, bars and as well as good value hotels.

Freedom Monument

Things to do in Riga - Monument of Freedom

The Freedom Monument was erected in 1935 to honor the soldiers of the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920).  An interesting fact is that it was never demolished or altered when Latvia was annexed to the Soviet Union.  When Latvia became independent again on May 4, 1990 thousands gathered at this monument to celebrate.  There are always two armed guards at the monument 24 hours a day, changing shifts, unless of course, the weather is too bad or too cold.

Riga Castle

Things to do in Riga - Riga Castle

Riga Castle was founded in the 14th century.  Throughout the years however, it has expanded and been modified into what is has become today.  In most modern cities, the castle has become a tourist site.  All you need to do is look at neighboring Vilnius as examples of this.  Nonetheless, Riga Castle didn’t become a tourist attraction.  It is in fact the residence of the President of Latvia!

House of the Blackheads

Things to do in Riga - House of Blackheads

The house of Blackheads is a very impressive building built in the 14th century by the brotherhood of Blackheads.  This brotherhood included local unmarried merchants, shipowners as well as foreigners.  In 1580 and 1886 most of the decorations were added to the building.  Unfortunately it was bombed by the Germans in 1941 before being demolished by the Soviets in 1948.  The building you see today was built in 1995 and is a reconstruction of the original design.  It’s a beautiful building to photograph and also a top Riga Instagram spot.

Nativity Cathedral

Things to do in Riga - Nativity Cathedral

When you come to Eastern Europe, especially former Soviet countries, you expect to see an elegant Orthodox Cathedral.  Riga doesn’t disappoint and its Nativity Cathedral challenges those of Kiev and even Moscow with it beauty.  An excellent location to photograph the cathedral from is the Radisson Blu Latvija.  This hotel not only offers aerial views of the cathedral but also of the whole city.

Art Nouveau District

Things to do in RIga - Art nouveau district

Architecture lovers may be overwhelmed during a walk through the Art Nouveau District.  There are city blocks lined with both elegant and colorful Art Nouveau style buildings.  What’s more, this district is adjacent to the UNESCO Old Town of Riga.  As a matter of fact there’s a particular blue building which is becoming a top Riga Instagram location.

Railway Bridge

Another place I recommend to photograph is the Railway Bridge.  In particular, I recommend you take a long exposure shot at night.  At night it’s lit up colorfully and with a long exposure it shines over the Daugava river below it.

How to get from Riga to Tallinn by bus

Bus from Riga to Tallinn - Lux Express

Riga bus station is located around the corner from the Riga train station.  Furthermore, there is no train service to Tallinn so you must go by bus.  The 2 main bus companies serving this route, Ecolines and Lux Express.  Services to Tallinn offer personal in-seat entertainment systems with movies, music, computer games and even your current GPS position.  Additionally, you can also make use of the phone chargers and free WiFi.  Lastly, the journey takes 4 hours and costs around €14.  Don’t forget, you can always look out of the window!

There was an interesting documentary made recently about Riga, Guy Martin, Our Guy in Latvia.  He is, like myself, a northerner but the reason he was in Latvia was because his Grandad was Latvian and he wanted to trace his routes.  It’s very interesting and he uncovers a lot of history about the country and people.

Tallinn to Helsinki

2019-01-02T08:24:07+00:00December 18th, 2016|Latvia, Northern Europe|9 Comments


  1. Ivy February 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    I haven’t read much about Latvia; this is the first time I’ve actually heard of Riga. It looks like the perfect place to walk around with a camera to snap lots of pictures. The architecture is one of a kind, especially the House of Blackheads! So different from what I’m used to seeing in other parts of Europe.

  2. Clare February 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    I was in Riga in September last year and it was still quite warm. It looks pretty with snow though. It’s a great city with lots to do, I had a great time there. That part of eastern europe is so easy to get around and I can’t wait to go back and do more in that region this year.

  3. Rosie Benton February 21, 2017 at 2:48 am - Reply

    We’re planning an interrailing trip through Europe this Summer and Latvia is high on the list! Great pictures, the Old Town looks so colourful. It seems like there is plenty to do there, definitely want to visit the Castle and Freedom Monument. Thanks for the recommendations!

  4. Bhushavali February 21, 2017 at 7:44 am - Reply

    I came to know of Latvia, about 15 yrs ago when an acquaintance got employed there!!! Later I read a bit about Latvia and wanted to visit when I was in Europe and unfortunately couldn’t! I love how the city has an old world charm to it and yet so colorful!

  5. Tony February 21, 2017 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Another wonderful city and another wonderful post highlighting everything that one can do in it. Loving the colours of the buildings in the Old Town and Art Nouveau district would certainly be of interest since I love architecture styles. Lovely to hear that the city is walk-able as that makes it all the more special for me.

  6. Vicky February 21, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Although I grew up in Eastern Europe, I’m ashamed to say that I never made it to Latvia (or Riga itself) – I do want to go at some point, though because I’ve heard so many great things about it. It looks like such a charming little place, I love the colour and the style of those buildings!

  7. Tina February 22, 2017 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Latvia isn’t featured much on travel guides and blogs. But your feature of this city has got me curious. The monuments and the old town look beautiful. I really love those historic building facades in Europe – they make such great photo subjects!

  8. Swati February 23, 2017 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Riga looks like a charming city and glad to know that everything is reachable by foot. I love small walkable cities. Riga was never on our bucket list though but after seeing pictures , I won’t find a quick weekend escape 🙂

  9. Natalie February 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    The House of Blackheads is Gorgeous!! Oh, what a stunning place…with a funny name. We travel with kids – who are tweens now, so of course I would have to explain the dermatology description of a blackhead. This would be met, of course, with a chorus of, “EW, GROSS!”. LOL! But, no one would ever forget!!!

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