Latvian capital Riga — less than three hours from the UK — is ranked among the world’s greenest cities.
So it’s no surprise to find so many parks to enjoy while exploring this walkable city.
Then there’s the lovely Old Town, with its cobbled streets flanked by countless cafes and restaurants set within beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. Riga really is a wonderful surprise.
Wonderful surprise: A map showing the Latvian capital’s tourist hotspots
Where to stay
Pullman Riga Old Town Hotel
With its decorative terracotta and white frontage, this classy five-star hotel was converted from 18th-century former stables. It’s close to the Old Town and has 155 muted-tone rooms, the best of which overlook a small park. A welcome drink is offered on arrival. Doubles from £85, breakfast £15, pullmanriga.lv
Sherlock Art Hotel
This quirky Victorian-styled hotel in the Old Town is dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, hence the Baker Street-themed mural by the main door. Its 17 self-catering apartments are named after characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, which have been popular here since Soviet TV made several Sherlock Holmes films in Riga. A 1901 letter written by Doyle, which was found under floorboards in one of the rooms, is displayed in reception. Apartments are spacious and stylish. Apartments from £96, sherlock.lv.
Tucked away on a quiet street near the Dome Cathedral, this hotel has 15 rooms reached via an 18th-century spiral staircase. Rooms are light, airy and have Nespresso coffee machines. Next door is the hotel’s highly respected seafood restaurant, where mains cost about £20. B&B doubles from £85, domehotel.lv/en.
Wellton Riverside Hotel
Built in 2018, this 220-room four-star hotel is close to the railway station and many city attractions. In clement weather, relax with a glass of wine on the eighth-floor terrace overlooking the River Daugava. B&B doubles from £59, wellton.com/en.
What to see and do
Explore the Old Town
Riga’s Old Town, with its warren of colourful streets, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Get a bird’s-eye view by taking the lift (£7.60) to the St Peter’s Church observation platform, and visit the House of the Blackheads (right). Join a free walking tour in front of St Peter’s Church at 10am or midday (tip expected). Guides carry yellow suitcases (rigafreetours.com).
Art Nouveau delights
Riga’s city centre, particularly Elizabetes and Alberta streets, is awash with beautiful Art Nouveau architecture. About 800 buildings were designed in this eye-catching style, so admirers will delight in wandering around. Pop in to the Riga Art Nouveau Centre, where exhibits include a furnished apartment once owned by a renowned Latvian architect (£4.22), jugendstils.riga.lv.
Head for the National Museum of Art, and its fine permanent display on two floors of 19th- and 20th-century Latvian art (lnmm.lv, £5). Don’t miss the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which showcases the country’s history from 1941-91 when it was controlled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (occupationmuseum.lv; entrance free). Also, pop along to the Latvian Museum of Natural History, one of the Baltic region’s oldest museums packed with more than 195,000 exhibits (dabasmuzejs.gov.lv, £2.50).
Hit the beach
Sixteen miles west of Riga is the resort city of Jurmala, famous for wooden seaside villas and a long golden beach
Sixteen miles west of Riga is the resort city of Jurmala, famous for wooden seaside villas and a long golden beach. During the Soviet era, this slender peninsula jutting into the Baltic Sea was a premier USSR holiday hotspot. Stroll along the beach before wandering down the pedestrianised shopping streets and visit the free city museum to learn more. Catch the train from Riga’s central station (£1.20 one way, taking about 30 minutes).
Go for a cruise
Take an hour-long cruise along the Riga Canal and River Daugava aboard one of the wooden launches that sail regularly between 10am and 8pm. You’ll see sights including the Central Market, National Library, Freedom Monument and St Peter’s Church. Sailings are from mid-April to mid-November. £15.20, rigabycanal.lv.
Save with a city pass
The Riga Pass provides free use of public transport, discounts at attractions, a free guided Old Town (pictured) walking tour
The Riga Pass provides free use of public transport, discounts at attractions, a free guided Old Town walking tour, plus a free audio-guided city tour on the red hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus. Pay £20 for 24 hours, £25 for 48 hours and £29 for 72 hours. liveriga.com.
Where to eat
Enjoy views of the 138 ft-high granite and copper Freedom Monument and impressive National Opera House from the Kolonade, which offers Latvian and international dishes. On the lunch menu, try wholegrain pasta with mushrooms, cream and parmesan (£5.25), kolonade.lv.
Popular with locals, this canteen-style cafe is on one of Riga’s main streets. Reasonable prices and wholesome dishes mean you might have to wait for a table. Opt for the lunch offer of a soft drink, main course (e.g. chicken, rice and veg) and soup or dessert for £3.34. Its closed at weekends. Address: Krisjana Valdemara iela 22.
Step back in time to the country’s Soviet era at this kitsch basement caff with its old clocks, televisions, radiograms, books and furniture. Try Russian dumplings (£5.17) and a local beer (£3), leningrad.lv.
Aairbaltic (airbaltic.com) offers return flights from London to Riga from £63. At Riga airport, the number 22 bus runs approximately every 20 minutes to the heart of the city and costs only £1. For further information, see liveriga.com. Holiday Extras (holidayextras.co.uk) offers various savings on airport hotels and parking.