Riga is the capital of Latvia and the biggest city in the Baltic’s. It is located between Estonia (to the North) and Lithuania (to the South). Due to it’s location and dense population it has always been a magnet for artists and musicians – many shows, concerts, club events are only held here every month. The easiest way to reach Riga is by Air – many low cost airlines fly here (like Ryan Air, Easy Jet). Latvia has it’s own airline called AirBaltic. Tourism is well developed and Latvians are happy to meet and greet new people. Every year, summer festivals are held in Jurmala – coastal town just 30 minutes from Riga.
Events and tickets
The reason we were going to Riga was to see a theater play that evening. Riga is hosting hundreds of exciting events each month, so it is worth mentioning the place where you can buy a ticket – bilesuserviss.lv. Luckily for us, foreigners, it has been translated to both English and Russian. Tickets can be purchased online via credit card. You will need, however, physical tickets, so be prepared to grab them from one of many locations mentioned on their website. While I was planning our route, one of the places was right on the way, so we popped in before the show. They will ask for your ID!
Traffic in Riga is relatively similar to Estonian and European in general. If you are first time traveler, consider taking a cab, as it might get a little hectic on the streets (especially during rush hours). If you decide to get a rental (also not a bad idea), please keep in mind that city center has a lot of one-way streets. I recommend using one the free gps navigation apps – we used Navmii and it was very helpful. Make sure to download Latvian maps beforehand and save your destinations to favorites. It really is a lifesaver!
Where to stay?
This is by far my most favorite topic! Riga is truly amazing, when it comes to hotel deals. My first choice for any trip is Booking.com. Originally we planned to stay in the heart of the city, somewhere close to the theater. After some search we realized, however, that there are some pretty impressive deals for higher class hotels too. So we booked Bellevue Park Hotel, 4-star property with very attractive rate! The hotel is located on the other side of the river, so having a car is preferable. It is very quiet location, perfect for the purpose we chose it – to relax and have a good sleep! Reception area has a huge fish tank. We received free drink coupons on arrival – another nice touch. Breakfast was fabulous. I can only highly recommend this property!
If you never visited Riga before, shopping should be on your list. There are some major shopping malls in Riga worth visiting. Generally, in the Baltic states it is common to shop at huge shopping malls (due to bad weather). These malls have grown over the years and have become entertainment centers. You can shop clothes of major world brands, as well as souvenirs, groceries, electronics and much more.
Biggest ones are:
Alfa – address: Brīvības 372
Domina – address: Ieriķu 3
Elkor Plaza – address: Brīvības 201
Galleria – address: Dzirnavu 67
Olimpia – address Āzenes 5
For us, Estonians, Riga and Latvia are like our own backyard. We enjoy coming here and it is an easy ride. The prices are very attractive, compared to other European destinations. I wouldn’t say it is the prettiest place on Earth – a lot of buildings (especially in the city center) still need restoration and maintenance. It is prettier in the summer, when the city is truly green and blushing. But still it is a very nice get-away destination, and surely anyone can have a lot of fun here! I really like Jurmala – it is more tourist-friendly and the beach is amazing!