From the outside, Riga, Latvia, appears to be a sleepy, medieval town peppered with archaic wooden churches, their spires piercing the sky like swords. A closer look reveals not only the centuries-old Art Nouveau architecture that crowds the city streets but a myriad of fascinating museums, a buoyant arts scene, and a hedonistic nightlife. Known in Europe as the “City of Inspiration,” Riga draws in visitors with its alluring presence filled with a rich history, colorful culture, and palpable charm.
Blending its Old World appeal with a modern social scene, and new European culture and long-standing tradition, Riga stands out as a truly fascinating tourist destination. The city’s cobbled, winding streets will take you from the 13th century St. Peter’s Church to a contemporary art gallery or trendy gastropub, all within a few steps. If searching for a traditional Latvian nightcap, venture to B Bars in Old Town where they serve Hot Balzams — similar to a sweet mulled wine, which is served warm.
Across Riga’s Esplanade is the National Museum of Art, where Latvian and pre-World War II Russian artwork is on display. From the 18th century to today, the museum presents the Baltic region’s cultural history through artistic expression. If traveling to Riga in the warmer months, taking a stroll through Vermanes Garden is a must. The city’s oldest public garden is a beautiful park with exotic trees, rose gardens and a quaint restaurant. No matter what you do in Riga, the city’s magnetic allure is sure to enchant and excite any world traveler.
As one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Baltic region, Riga is bursting with trendy hotspots, neighborhood joints, are served and high-end restaurants that are served up both traditional Latvian and international cuisine. Helmed by one of Latvia’s most popular chefs, Martins Ritins, Vincents is one of the city’s hottest restaurants, serving creative Latvian fusion food. Fellini is arguably one of the best Italian restaurants in Riga, featuring a Naples-born chef and handmade pasta. A newly realized rage in Riga, sushi places are creeping up all over the city. For some of the freshest around, try Sushi Bar in the Baltic Beach Hotel.
Riga International Airport (RIX) is the region’s largest international airport, with carriers including Aeroflot, airBaltic, Lufthansa, Finnair, and Norwegian Airlines. Trams, buses, and trolleys make up the public transportation system of the city. Tickets are sold at kiosks, ticket offices, and Narvesen shops. The Riga Card is recommended and allows travelers to use the transit system without the hassle of purchasing tickets. Cars are not allowed in Old Town unless they are making deliveries (taxis actually fall under this), so walking is the best way to take in and navigate through the city center.
Riga has a moderate, continental climate. Summers tend to be short and stay fairly cool, with an average high of 71° F (21.7° C) in its hottest month of July. The winter months tend to be longer and can get quite cold, having an average high temperature of just 28° F (-2.3° C) in January. Winter also is known for periods of heavy snowfall that can last from December through March. Riga is also characterized by its cloudy skies and can be overcast 40 percent of the year. The city is a year-round destination, with snowy and picturesque scenery during the winter, and outdoor festivals in the summer.