Riga is the vibrant capital city of Latvia. It continues to gain popularity as a tourist destination in part because it is the base for the airline Air Baltic. This affordable airline offers discount flights around Europe and most of these flights pass through Riga with a forced overnight layover. This encourages travelers to visit this fascinating city for at least a night or two.
Riga is also a very affordable destination. It's popular with young travelers because it has a vibrant nightlife and there are many unique and interesting bars and clubs that offer low cost drinks and entertainment. The city's old town also has a lot to offer in the form of interesting architecture, museums, restaurants and tours. There's a very large market near the old town that sells anything and everything from meats, to smoked salmon, to clothes and flowers. It's a great place to people watch or you can pick up some food for a picnic lunch. It's definitely worth a visit while you're in the area.
Riga's climate is humid continental and the coldest months are January and February when the average temperature is around -5 degrees Celsius. During the coldest days it is not uncommon for temperatures to drop as low as -20 or -25 degrees Celsius. Because the city is so close to the ocean it is often damp and foggy during the fall months. Snow is usually on the ground during the winter months and summers are mild and humid. On average the summer temperature is around 18 degrees Celsius, but it sometimes reaches more than 30 degrees Celsius.
Most visitors to Riga spend their time in the city's Old Town. Popular sights include Triangula Bastion, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, St. Peter's Church, St. John's Church, the Big Guild, The House of the Black Cat, Riga Cathedral, the Museum of the Barricades of 1991, and Freedom Monument, among many other things.
Riga is split into two areas by the River Daugava. The Old Town is at the center of the city on the east side of the river. Outside of the Old Town is a ring of 19th and 20th century architecture and then further out there are private houses and apartments. As a tourist you'll probably spend most of your time in the Old Town and in the area around the Freedom Monument, which is close by. There are some interesting area's outside of this district though that are often overlooked by tourists. These include Agenskalns and Tornakalns which are just over the Stone Bridge.
As a large, cosmopolitan city, there are many activities you can enjoy during your time in Riga. You can see either the opera or ballet at the Latvian National Opera. This is a nice building that is worth checking out. The Latvian National Symphonic Orchestra also has shows occasionally. Another unique experience in the city is to try your hand at bobsledding. You can ride in a professional winter bobsled between the months of November and March. It's a rare experience and one worth trying if you're in the area.
Food and Dining
Riga has a diverse range of restaurants that offer everything from international cuisine to local Latvian specialties. Latvian cuisine is usually quite hearty and makes use of ingredients such as potatoes, cabbage, beef, pork and fish. The cheapest restaurants in town are the cafeteria style options. You can choose from any number of dishes, most frequently dumplings, and then pay by the weight of your food selection. If you're interested in trying an international restaurant then your options include sushi, Chinese and Indian among others.
The old town area in Riga is easy to walk around. Most of the streets are asphalt and where they are cobblestoned it is usually flat and even. Taxis are reasonably priced but you must be diligent to make sure they take the shortest route to your destination.
If you're hoping to venture outside of the old town, Riga has a wonderful network of trams, buses and trolleybuses. It's generally thorough and comprehensive and is usually your best option for traveling around the city. Trams are usually your fastest option with the exception of trains. Trams operate on street level and are not separated from the rest of the traffic, but they usually have the right of way. During rush hour, however, congestion may slow the trip down significantly so plan accordingly. Minibuses are usually your second best option as they are smaller and more maneuverable than the larger buses and trolley buses.
Riga Central Market
By wanderinggurl on May 15, 2010 in Food
Check out the Riga Central Market near the bus station if you're looking for an interesting experience with the locals. You can buy some cheap food and make yourself a meal or just wander through the stalls and people watch. It's definitely worth checking out the cheese and dessert sections!