Discover Riga – 5 top destinations in the Latvian capital

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is well worth a visit. We went there over the Christmas period and left with many new and interesting impressions.

Where is Riga?

Riga is an old Hanseatic City. The city was founded by merchants in the medieval. It is south of the Gulf of Riga on the banks of the river Daugava. The hinterland is only sparsely inhabited due to the many bogs and swamps in the area.

We visited Riga in December and our biggest worry were the temperatures at that time. Days with – 20° Celsius are possible. Even in the summer months the temperature rarely ever rises above +20° Celsius.

The history of the city is diverse and characterised by periods of German and Soviet occupation. Today, Riga is the biggest urban centre in the Baltic Countries and the capital city of Latvia.

How to get there

We flew in from Berlin Tegel using airBaltic. This and many other smaller airlines travel to the international airport in Riga from many German airports. The airport is approximately 15km from the Old Town.

Discover Riga – 5 top destinations in the Latvian capital

The cheapest way to get to town from the airport is by bus on public transport. Bus number 22 goes all the way to the city centre. Cost varies depending on where a ticket is bought. Buying a ticket from the driver costs 2€ (in 2016) and buying it at the kiosk costs 1.15€ (in 2016). The airport kiosk is in arrivals next to the tourist information. Reduced fares are charged here.
Those who want a little extra comfort and a drop off directly in front of their hotels have the option to book an airport shuttle for 14€ from airBaltic together with the flights.

There also is a train station in Riga. It is mainly used for public transport but also trains to Russia, Belarus and Lithuania call there. The bus station is right next to it. Coaches to different areas of Europe stop here. Those who want to travel by boat can do so from Lübeck or Travemünde with Stena Line or Finnlines.


Top 5 destinations in Riga

This is our selection of landmarks in the Latvian capital. Our top 5 destinations.

Latvian capital

Stalin’s Birthday Cake

The building that is home to the Latvian Academy of Science is called Stalin’s Birthday Cake by the locals. The building is close to the Old Town and is easily accessible on foot. A really impressive building that, despite its size and potency, shows remarkable attention for details on its façade.

Weather permitting, visitors can access a viewing platform 65 meters above ground. Apparently, the view over Riga and the Daugava is wonderful from up there.

Our article “Stalin’s Birthday Cake – Academy of Science” talks about the history of the building, the address and info about the viewing platform (opening hours and admission fees).

Freedom Monument

In Riga’s centre, the Freedom Monument stands 42.7 meters tall. Originally, an equestrian statue of Peter the Great stood in this exact same spot. During the times of the first Latvian Independency, the Freedom Monument was placed there.

The monument survived both the German and the Soviet occupation despite its meaning for the Latvians. Especially the Soviet occupiers disliked the monument strongly and had plans to blow it up towards the end of WWII.

There are many stories and anecdotes surrounding this monument. They’re all in our article “History of the Freedom Monument”.

History of the Freedom Monument

Town Musicians of Bremen

Behind St. Peter’s Church stands a sculpture that no one would expect in Latvia’s capital. There are the Town Musicians of Bremen, created by Bremen artist Christa Baumgärtel. We tell you why and how this artwork found its way to Riga in our blog post “The Town Musicians of Bremen in Riga?”.


Riga Cathedral

Riga Cathedral is one of the most frequently visited churches in Riga. We particularly liked the wonderful windows. The glass artworks show pretty pictures and when the light hits them the nave lights up in many different colours.
A door in the nave leads through a cloister into the former monastery. Pieces of art as well as remains from Riga’s history can be found here.

Cathedral of Riga

Our article “The Cathedral of Riga – a landmark of the Latvian capital” provides more information on the history of the church, ticket prices and opening hours.

Riga Central Market

A visit to the Central Market in Riga is something you should absolutely include in your travel plans. This was one of the few spots for us that gets frequented by locals and tourists alike and that therefore provided a little insight into the lives of the Latvians.

Discover Riga – 5 top destinations in the Latvian capital

The market is made up of four smaller halls that are 2.500 m² in size and measure 70 meters in lengths and one bigger hall that is 5.000 m² in size and measures 140 meters in length.

It is huge! The bigger hall is a little further to the side than the others and is the place where all the meat products get sold. The other four halls are all next to each other and provide space for dairy products, fruit and veg, gastronomy and fish.

Discover Riga – 5 top destinations in the Latvian capital

Additionally, many stalls are dotted around the halls where farmers sell their local products.
Those, who would like to learn more about our time at the Central Market, its history and the opening hours should have a look at the blog post “A fascinating visit to Riga Central Market”.


  1. Susanne Jungbluth on 1. June 2018 at 8:28

    No not in Riga. We have been in Poland at the Baltic shores. Also in the winter! And this was really great!

  2. Renata on 31. May 2018 at 21:40

    I’ve been planning on going to Riga forever – I’ve heard so great things about it, and your post proves all these people right. I especially like the idea of visiting such a historically rich city – and being so close to a beach that’s said to be just breathtaking. I can see from your pix that you were there in Winter, but have you ever been to the Baltic shores?

  3. Bernie Jackson on 30. May 2018 at 22:38

    I’ve not made it to Riga yet – closest I’ve been is Tallin – but it looks fascinating. I think I’d be most interested in the visit to the market halls. Seeing how people live day to day is one of my favourite things about travel, and nothing is a better indicator than where people buy their goods, especially food. Even the interactions between stallholders and their customers is interesting. I bet the views from Stalin’s Birthday Cake are incredible too, although for someone as scared of heights as me, I hope you get to stand a way back from the edge!

  4. Jing Calonge on 30. May 2018 at 11:51

    Riga’s medieval and Gothic look is what interests me. I also love walking through local markets whenever I’m in a new place. Markets are just perfect places to see through a place’s culture and buy cheap stuff, too, so I will definitely want to visit their Central Market.

  5. Susanne Jungbluth on 28. May 2018 at 8:22

  6. Mohana Das on 27. May 2018 at 20:57

    I haven’t been to Europe but I’m interested in visiting all the erstwhile Soviet states. The architecture in those countries is unique (and I like how moody your photographs are). Funny that a building is named Stalin’s Birthday Cake, isn’t it? Is it because of the shape of the building?

  7. Eva on 27. May 2018 at 15:57

    I’ve never been to Latvia but am planning a tour of all Baltic states this summer. The central market looks amazing and will surely be one of the first places I’ll visit. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Susanne Jungbluth on 27. May 2018 at 11:05

  9. Jenn and Ed Coleman on 27. May 2018 at 2:27

    The history of the Freedom Monument is fascinating. It’s hard to believe that a nationalist icon of Latvia survived Soviet occupation. I have a couple of Latvian friends who are fiercely patriotic that love everything about Latvian independence. The central market sounds like a beautiful place to see authentic culture and everyday life.

  10. Lauren on 26. May 2018 at 22:45

    I have never heard of Riga, but it looks super interesting! Do you have any idea why that building is called Stalin’s Birthday Cake by the locals? In any case, that market sounds like a ton of fun with so much great food to discover!

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