The Old Town was the very heart of Riga’s development for many centuries, so basically this is a must-see site. It is pleasantly walkable from end to end and you can buy traditional Latvian foods like Caramel bread along the way.
In neighborhoods such as Jugla, Užava and Šķirotavas Bridge area there are plenty of good restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating where you can relax during summer days. You may prefer to visit some forest parks which include Gauja National Park or nature reserves such as Ķemeri National Park, Vidzeme National Park or Kūkas Regional Nature Park.
A few museums are also worth visiting – Riga Art Nouveau Museum, National History and Art Museum or Latvia’s Open-Air Ethnographic Museum.
The Old Town is also packed with bars, pubs and clubs organized in different districts along its main streets- Alberta iela, Jāņa iela and Kalēju iela (also referred to as Kalējs). You can also find plenty of bars around Riga Central Market or on Elizabetes iela.
For those who love festivals, in summertime there is a Night Festival (Rīgas nakts) organized where you can see local bands and artists singing as well as DJ’s performing on different stages. The event takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from July 2nd to August 30th in 6 different locations around Old Town.
There are also many other festivals during the year and especially during holidays such as New Years Eve, Christmas or Easter. You can find a list of events at www.riga2012.lv .
Weathered stone lions make up the facade in the courtyard of St. Jacob’s Church, which was built in 1601 and is the oldest surviving building in Riga’s Old Town
The Green House is a historic house at 10 Alberta Street in Riga, Latvia built in 1561. It is the only remaining wooden residential building from the city’s medieval past which has not been substantially altered since its original construction.
The main attractions in the Green House are its carved wooden door with a small metal lock, walls lined with oak paneling and rustic interior decoration. The house was named after the decorative green tiles that adorned its exterior during the 18th century. From 1950 to 1990, it housed a branch of Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic Museum and then an art museum. At present, it is again a private residence.
Another historic building nearby is Gimbutas House (later St. Peter’s Church) at 20 Alberta Street and the St. James’ Lutheran church (one of two buildings designed by Alojzije Bičakčić) located at 26 Alberta Street which was consecrated in 1804
If you want to learn more about Riga’s past, bring your kids to visit Latvian Open-Air Ethnographic Museum. It is one of Europe’s largest open-air museum and it includes over 30 authentic historical buildings from different regions and eras of Latvia’s history as well as a zoo with native animals.
The museum was founded in 1922 and from 1940 until 1991 it mostly exhibited the lifestyle of Latvian peasantry. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1999. According to researcher Jūlija Skulme, this is one of the few open air museums where ethnographic elements are still linked with the original functions of buildings.
The Summer Stage in Riga Open Air Museum provides a beautiful backdrop for an evening concert of traditional music
One of the more popular places to visit on a sunny day is Jugla Waterfall, which is located within Jugla forest park. It is also accessible via tram 4 or bus 20. The waterfall has been protected as part of Latvia’s nature heritage since 1973. The park offers picnic tables, a lookout area and an observation deck near the waterfall
How to get there: Take tram 4 or 20 from central Riga (Old Town stop) or bus 21 from Brīvības baznīca stop (bus 21 is only available during weekdays). The Latvian Open Air Museum is located on the bus route.
The Riga TV Tower (Latvian: Raiņa bāka) is a 333.33-metre high structure in central Riga, Latvia. It was built between 1979 and 1989 as a transmitter for both radio and television. The tower was designed by the architects Janis Brauns, Egons Bērziņš and Jānis Melderis. Until the completion of Tallinn TV Tower in 2015 it was the tallest structure in the Baltic states. The tower is a part of Latvian Television and shares space with several radio broadcasters such As Riga Radio under its umbrella organisation Latvijas Radio. The tower features six floors dedicated to broadcasting, one technical floor for transmission equipment and two observation decks which are open to the public.
The most common language spoken in Latvia is officially referred to as Latvian. However, there are several large minority languages engaged by many people such as Russian and Belarusian. The Jewish and German languages are also present, but these have mostly disappeared from common use except for being maintained by the local small communities.
If you are visiting Riga you should also try a sauna in Riga. In my opinion, Riga Saunas are the best around.
Unlike Estonia, which is still more or less dominated by its Russian culture and minority population, Latvia has been free of Soviet rule for over 20 years and has thus adopted a totally different approach regarding its cultural past. There are still many people speaking Russian in Latvia, but the country has focused on its own language as a way to create new national identity.