Travel to Latvia

View from the 17th floor of Latvia National academy of science

In June 2019, my friend Dana asked if I wanted to travel to Riga, Latvia to meet her for a few days. I decided it was a good excuse for a weekend in Riga. Although I had never visited Latvia, I had been to the other Baltic countries of Lithuania and Estonia in 2016. The Latvian capital of Riga is located along the Daugava River. It is a beautiful mix of old medieval and new architecture. The city is very walkable (or runnable) and felt safe. This is a very short guide based on my two-day visit to Riga, the capital of Latvia. By good fortune, we were there around Midsummer so the city was festive and full of decorations and flowers.

House of the Black heads
House of the Black heads
Art Nouveau on Albert Street
Art Nouveau on Albert Street
Local Riga band Duende at Folkklubs in Riga, Latvia
Local Riga band Duende at Folkklubs in Riga, Latvia

Highlights

  • Riga Central Market – colourful and lively market with fresh food, and some small bakeries and restaurants. I bought a lovely flower headpiece for Midsummer.
  • Latvian Academy of Sciences for the observation deck on the 17th floor. It took some searching and looks like a private building but we were allowed up!
  • Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs was great fun for live music and drinks. We saw a fun and lively local band called Duende
  • Art nouveau buildings on Albert Street
  • Nativity of Christ cathedral 
  • KGB museum The corner house 
  • House of the black heads 
  • Marker for the first ever Christmas tree
  • Latvian rifle monument 
  • House of Dannenstern 
  • Riga Castle
  • Swedish Gate
  • Riga dome cathedral and square 

Before you go

  • For US and UK citizens, no visa is required for up to 90 days
  • Most people speak English in the main city of Riga
  • Latvia uses the Euro
  • Bolt is more common than Uber to get around, and quite cheap
  • Midsummer holiday is important here and falls on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year
  • Weather can fluctuate even in June so pack layers
  • A typical alcohol from the area is called Balsam and it is a rather strong but fruity and sweet liqueur. I tried the blackcurrant and cherry flavours and even brought some back home, since it is unusual.
  • Many places have wifi hotspots so it is easy to get online
Cat building Riga
Cat building Riga
Latvia National academy of science
Latvia National academy of science
Art Nouveau on Albert Street
Art Nouveau on Albert Street

Transport

  • I flew from London Gatwick to Riga on Air Baltic. Although it is a budget airline, it was comfortable and friendly. The flight was just under 3 hours
  • Air Baltic operates a cheap shuttle to the city centre, but since I was short on time I took a Bolt car, which was only 7.30 euros

Accommodation

  • We stayed in an AirBnB flat on Riharda Vāgnera, and it was easy to find and very central. It cost 30 euros per person per night, which seemed like a good price.
  • The only problem was that it was located on the top floor and was quite warm at night, which made it difficult to sleep
Street art Riga
Street art Riga
Riga central market pickles
Riga central market pickles
Maris Liepa monument
Maris Liepa monument

Currency

Conveniently, Latvia uses the Euro as its official currency. As of August 2021, the exchange rate is 1.17 Euros to one British pound.

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

10 euro note
10 euro note
Dinner at Restaurant Riits
Dinner at Restaurant Riits – Freshly smoked salmon salad with quail eggs
Lunch at Fat pumpkin vegan restaurant
Lunch at Fat pumpkin vegan restaurant
Pâtisserie from Beze bakery
Pâtisserie from Beze bakery

Food

We had a delicious meal at Riits, which also had cool decor. I had smoked salmon sala, rabbit soup, and soured cream crème brûlée. Everything was fresh and flavourful and this was my favourite meal of the trip.

And we had a fun underground medieval meal at Rozengrāls eating by candlelight

Try Pelmeni XL for fresh dumplings, cheese or meat, as a sort of fast food option

We enjoyed a tasty and filling vegan lunch at Fat pumpkin vegan (now called Green Pumpkin) restaurant

We also enjoyed some sweets, pastries and cakes from 96% dark chocolate shop, Laima chocolate, Beze Bakery and Martina’s bakery There were many bakeries to try so we just popped in to some as we passed by.

The central market also had many foods and liqueurs to try

For my last snack, I had a nice coffee and Latvian grey peas at Double Coffee “Kungs”

96% Dark Chocolate Cafe Riga
96% Dark Chocolate Cafe Riga
Afternoon snack of grey peas with bacon at Double Coffee Riga
Afternoon snack of grey peas with bacon at Double Coffee Riga
Martina’s bakery Riga
Martina’s bakery Riga

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, the city is easily walkable around the centre. Also GoogleMaps quite clearly marks most places of interest or you can search for specific sights.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes in general everywhere we went including restaurants and sights, people spoke English. They spoke less English at the local market but it was still easy enough to communicate. If in doubt then you can download GoogleTranslate for Latvian. You can read about why I am a big supporter of using GoogleTranslate

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Yes the city feels safe and the centre is small enough to get around by foot.

Q: How easy is it to send postcards?

A: It was easy to find postcards and stamps and tourist shops. There is also a post office, but that was closed on the weekend. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

Go to Country Map

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