Citytrip Riga

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

From Vilnius I travel on to the capital of Latvia; Riga. I am travelling by bus, with the Ecolines company, and the total trip takes just over three hours. We drive through beautiful, snowy landscapes and arrive in Riga around 1:30 PM. My first impression? A lot bigger than Vilnius, friendlier people and the city just looks a lot more fun... I think Riga will be nice!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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One of the many christmas markets in Riga during my short stay.

One of the many christmas markets in Riga during my short stay.

Citytrip to Riga

Riga is the largest capital of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and that is something you see right away! Of course I can not (yet) speak for Tallinn, but compared to Vilnius, the city already looks a lot bigger!
In terms of size, I could compare it with the Belgian city of Ghent.
I think a short city trip to Riga is a good idea if you like a cheap, beautiful destination but don’t mind the unpredictable weather that sometimes spoils your plans.

The cozy town has a lot of different areas, but the most popular among tourists is still the old city center. Definitely justified, because it really is incredibly cute and fun to shuffle through these gorgeous little streets. Since Christmas is just twenty days away, there are indeed Christmas markets on each and every square. Cosiness times a thousand!

The heart of Riga has beautiful churches, colorful buildings, strange structures, cozy restaurants and bars and a lot of small squares!
The most beautiful church in my opinion is the St. Peter’s Church. With a giant, towering roof this greenish structure rises above the rest of the old city and -fortunately – you can also climb up. The entrance is not cheap (€9 – quite expensive for Riga, because the rest of the city is really very cheap!) But the view is overwhelming.

After I bought my ticket, I went to the second floor to take an elevator. A funny lady sat in the elevator with a small electrical fire in front of her while she was playing a game on her iPad.
Without looking up she pressed the buttons and a minute later I arrived on the platform.


You see the red and black roofs of the city, the many churches and you can slide your eyes far away from the old center. It’s winter, so that means that it’s quite cold up here… After a while your fingers pretty much froze off, and you are quite happy to get back into the elevator, where the female still neatly pursues her weird job.

The view from the St. Peters church is amazing!

The view from the St. Peters church is amazing!

Riga is cozy!

There are many sites and monuments scattered around the old town. I think it’s also just a good idea to walk around a bit and just look around.

For the cat lovers among us, you should definitely visit the ‘cat house’. Don’t expect too much… It’s just a building with on its rooftop a large copper cat.
The story behind it is quite amusing… The owner of the building was a bit bullied by the guilds of the city, and he was not allowed to join them. To make them a bit ridiculous he then placed a cat on his roof, with its rear facing towards the guilds.
The men of the guilds didn’t find this very pleasant and eventually they all agreed to accept the guy into the guild. On one condition of course… That the cat would show her booty in the opposite direction. And so… The history of the cat house!

Near St. Peter’s Church -not too far from the cat house- you will also find the House of Blackheads, two beautiful buildings that are seen as the pride of Riga.

If you’ve seen the old city, you can make your way through the quaint streets and eventually you’ll get to see the Freedom Monument. A high pillar stands beside one of the most beautiful parks in Riga. If you are in luck, there are some Latvian guards presenting a small military robot dance for you!

The 'Cat house' has quite a funny history, while the St. Peters church towers over every other building in the old city!

The ‘Cat house’ has quite a funny history, while the St. Peters church towers over every other building in the old city!

Outside the old town

Most of the interesting sights are on display in the old center, but obviously there is plenty to visit outside as well.

If you come from the Freedom Monument just keep walking straight ahead, then you’ll quickly see the Orthodox Church of Riga, with its huge golden dome. In the evening or at night it seems the building is not particularly interesting, but during the day it’s a masterpiece!
For the best views of this beautiful church –and the rest of Riga– you can go sip on a cocktail at the Skybar at the Radisson Blu hotel.
For being in Riga, the cocktails are quite expensive, but to Western European standards, the prices are normal. You obviously don’t need to drink a cocktail, since they also have normal beers and cokes which don’t cost that much at all.
From the 26th floor you don’t get such a nice view like that from the St. Peter’s Church, but it certainly is not bad either and here at least you are sheltered against the cold weather!
The Art Nouveau district is another favorite of the crowd. A lot of beautiful art nouveau style buildings with faces, bodies and all sorts of beautiful decorations adorned into the walls of these stately homes. Try to explore the neighborhood in the evening. A lot of buildings are well lit so the architectural features stand out even more.

As you may know, Riga also was under the control of the Soviets. To read more about this, you can visit the corner house of the KGB, the former residence of the KGB. I must be honest … It isn’t very special or interesting. But you do learn something and you won’t lose a lot of time here, since the museum is tiny.

Outside the city center there is also a lot to see! - The freedom monument - The art noveau district - The Latvian Museum of arts

Outside the city center there is also a lot to see! – The freedom monument – The art noveau district – The Latvian Museum of arts

Walk around and enjoy!

Riga, as most Baltic cities, is very small. If you’re a fast walker you can easily see the city in one day. For most people, two days is more than sufficient for a city trip to Riga. Actually, I recommend just to stroll around easily and hide into one of the nice bars or restaurants from Riga.

The capital is dirt cheap, the people are quite friendly, the food is very tasty and the unique architecture around the city is very nice to see.

Stroll through the town, or walk along the water.
For me, Riga was a hidden gem in the North!

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