Tourist attractions in Riga
Riga has a beautiful medieval Old Town, with a labyrinth of cobblestone streets leading to delightful little cafés all over the city. The Old Town also has a number of medieval cultural and architectural monuments for tourists to visit. Riga’s historical centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is famous for its extensive “Art Nouveau” architecture, which UNESCO considers to be unparalleled in the rest of the world. Being close to the Baltic Sea and with the River Daugava flowing through the city, Riga offers a wide variety of water activities and attractions.
Places of interest
One of the main attractions in Riga are the towers and domes of St. Jacob’s Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church and the Dome Cathedral.
The Dome Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the Baltic States and is famous for its pipe organ, which has over 9,718 pipes. The cathedral continues to serve as a Lutheran Church, but is also used as a concert hall. St. Jacob’s Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of the Catholic Church in Latvia. Given that there are no hills or elevations in Riga, the best views of the city are seen from the spire of St. Peter’s Church, which was the highest church tower in Europe prior to World War II. If you suffer from vertigo, this tower is definitely not for you!
Other important landmarks in Riga include the Town Hall Square, St. John’s Church, Convent Yard, the Old City Walls and Riga Castle.
Town Hall Square
Town Hall Square was built in 1334 and, for years, was the main square in Riga. It was destroyed in World War II, along with all the surrounding buildings, and was rebuilt in 1999. Nowadays, the Town Hall Square continues to house the Riga city council, the House of the Blackheads and the Tourist Information Centre.
St. John’s Church
St John’s Church, Convent Yard and Jana Seta form a small quarter in the Old Town, with some of the oldest historical buildings in Riga. The oldest stone building in Riga, the former St. George’s Church, is located in Convent Yard. In Jana Seta visitors can see a fragment of the inner city wall.
Riga Castle was built in 1340 by the Master of the Livonian Order and has traditionally been the building associated with the government and power. It is now the official residence of the President of Latvia and home to two museums.
“Art Nouveau” buildings
“Art Nouveau” is one of Riga’s most characteristic features. The city is famous for having the finest collection of 19th and 20th century Art Nouveau buildings in Europe, making Riga one of the largest centres of Art Nouveau. Over a third of the buildings found in the city centre are of Art Nouveau style (more than 800 buildings in total). Some of the best examples are found in Elizabetes Street, Alberta Street and Strewlnieku Street and are all highly recommended. We also suggest visiting the Art Nouveau Museum. You will be amazed by the wonderful shapes of the buildings as well as the details on the facades, which include lions, flowers, scary faces, dragons and sphinxes.
These are just some of the city’s main attractions. There are many other places to visit in Riga! Despite offering a wide range of historical landmarks and cultural activities, Riga also meets the needs of those looking for a modern city with a vibrant social scene.
Things to do in Riga
As in every big city, there are many things to do in Riga. Jurmala – a beach and spa resort located only 25 km from the city centre – is a popular place to visit during the summer, especially for those who enjoy swimming, cycling, walking and relaxing in the spa. Jurmala gets very busy in the summer months, so if you are looking for a place where you can enjoy quiet long walks along the beach, Vecaki might be a better option for you. Situated in the northeast of Riga, Vecaki is even closer to the city centre than Jurmala (under 20 km away). Vecaki does not have many tourist facilities, but visitors will love its beautiful sandy beaches.
Leisure activities on water are becoming increasingly more popular in Riga. There are several companies offering boat trips along the Daugava river and Riga canal. The National Opera and local and international film festivals are also very popular.
As in other European cities, tourists can choose to visit a wide variety of museums in Riga. We recommend visiting the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, the Ethnographic Open Air Museum, the Art Nouveau Museum and Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine.
If you are one of those people who enjoys going out at night, Riga has many clubs, pubs and bars in the Old Town and the city centre. On Friday nights, the Old Town is full of people looking to have some fun.
Riga is also becoming increasingly more sport orientated. For example, a lot of people now prefer to use their bicycle than to travel by car or public transport. Every year the city has something new for you to try, such as a new sport or a new sporting venue. Riga has a large number of ice-skating rinks as well as a cross-country skiing track in Uzvaras Parks.
If all this is not enough and you fancy exploring some Latvian customs, you can try mushroom picking in the forest, birch sap extraction or ice-fishing in the winter.
There are many things for you to discover in Riga, and they are all waiting for you!