Steeped in over 800 years of history, Riga is a recently re-discovered tourist destination. The capital of Latvia has become a staple on European itineraries in recent years, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Riga has everything you could want in a European city. Its picturesque Old Town has been listed as a UNESCO heritage site, it has some of the best examples of Art Nouveau architecture to be found on the continent and it has a pulsing nightlife. Riga has long had a reputation for an excellent arts scene, and the city always seems to have a world-class ballet, concert or opera on offer to entertain and delight visitors.
An increasingly popular cruise port of call, Riga is a vibrant city with lots for visitors to see and do as they wander its scenic streets.
Riga’s cruise port is conveniently close to the heart of the city. The cruise terminal on the Daugava River is a pleasant 10–15 minute walk into the centre.
The terminal has only a café and a money exchange office; however, the Old Town is a short walk away. Once you are in Riga itself, there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, ATMs, banks and Wi-Fi hotspots around town.
How to Get Around
The Old Town of Riga is easy to explore on foot and within walking distance from the port. However, other attractions in Riga are best accessed by public transport, taxi or cruise shore excursion. There are taxis at the pier that will take you around; just negotiate a fare at the start of the trip. Riga’s public transport system includes trams and buses and is fairly inexpensive. Trams are particularly easy for getting around Riga; tickets can be bought from the conductor.
Travel times from cruise terminal:
- It is a 14 minute journey to Alberta Street
- It is a 22 minute journey to the Old Town
- It is a 30 minute journey to the Central Market.
- It is a 3 minute journey to Alberta Street
- It is a 12 minute journey to the Old Town
- It is a 7 minute journey to the Central Market.
- Currency – Latvia has only recently switched to the euro (€). Most restaurants and shops accept major credit cards; however, it is a good idea to have some cash on hand, particularly for transport tickets and taxi fares.
- Time Zone – Riga operates on Eastern European Time (CET), which is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Latvia switches to Daylight Saving Time (DST) at the end of March, when the clocks are set forward 1 hour. Daylight savings comes to an end in October.
- Weather – Latvia enjoys a very seasonal climate; winters are cold and often snowy, while summers are sunny and bright. The hottest month is generally July, when temperatures can reach as high as 35 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in the winter months is -6 degrees Celsius; however, temperatures have been known to reach as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
- Old Town – Riga is a stunning mix of historic architecture and the Old Town is especially diverse with its Gothic, Baroque, Classicism and Art Nouveau styles. Old Town is perfect for wandering around; there are cobblestone streets to explore, boutiques to browse, and cafés for relaxing. Of particular interest is the old city wall, which dates back to the 13th century, and the Riga Dom, an impressive cathedral which began its life in 1211. The cathedral is open to visitors daily, 10am to 5pm in summer and 10am to 5pm in winter.
- Art Nouveau Architecture – Riga has many fine examples of Art Nouveau Architecture scattered throughout the city. One of the best streets to visit to see this particularly flamboyant style is Alberta Street. Russian architect Mikhail Eisenstein principally designed the buildings and included many of the flourishes, characteristic of the style. Pay a visit to the Latvia Museum of Architecture to learn more about Art Nouveau and where to find it in the city.
- The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia – Latvia was occupied for 51 years in the 20th Century, by both Nazi Germany and the USSR. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia tells the story of these occupations, in important and heartbreaking detail. Though it is housed in a rather uninspiring Soviet building, it is well worth a visit inside as it pays particular attention to the country’s sad Jewish history. From May through September, the Museum is open daily from 11am to 6pm, and from October through April, it is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm.