A guide to Riga for those seeking the alternative, unusual and cool things to do in this beautiful city.
UPDATED MARCH 2020
Riga, capital of Latvia, has a lot to offer to tourists, and quite a lot has already been written about that. So I won’t repeat it all here.
Instead, I’d like to share some of the less touristy and more alternative sides of Riga that I had a chance to explore during my stay there.
Where to Stay in Riga
For a convenient stay in Riga, you want a place located at the Old Town or at the modern part of Riga close to the Old Town.
As the city is quite walkable, you’ll make the most out of your visit by staying in those areas.
Hotels in Riga
Old City Boutique Hotel is at a very central location and close to everything. It’s a modern hotel with a vintage feel. Check reviews and see current prices here.
Rixwell Centra Hotel
This hotel offers a contemporary design and good value for money, right in the centre of Riga’s Old Town. See reviews and current prices here.
If you want to stay outside the Old Town, then Elizabeth Street is both central and beautiful. The Old Town as well as the Central Station are within walking distance. Check reviews and current prices here.
Vacation Rentals in Riga
Modern apartment in a historical building – A fully equipped modern apartment close to the centre.
Suite With Cathedral Views – A spacious luxury suite next to Dome Square in the Old Town.
Find more gorgeous Airbnbs in Riga
Get to Know the City
It’s best to take a general city tour on your first day in the city, because these tours not only cover all the highlights, the main attractions in Riga and its history , but they also give you a chance to ask the local guide for tips.
These tours will introduce you to Riga:
- Free Walking Tour of Riga
- Riga Sightseeing Tour by Canal Boat – This is a great experience! The canal and the park surrounding it are simply stunning.
- Riga 1 Hour Old Town Tour
Unique Tours & Experiences in Riga
For more unusual, off the beaten path experiences and tours that help you get to know the local culture, check out these great options:
- Art Nouveau tour of Riga – This tour will show you some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in Europe!
- Unique excursion to unknown Riga
- Riga Culture and Food Tasting Tour
- Beer or Cider Bike Tour
- Riga Soviet Walking Tour
- Riga Detective Tour
Cool Places to See in Riga
Here’s my guide to the more unusual things to do in Riga – the hip, the creative and even the quirky.
Kanepes Cultural Centre
This huge alternative culture centre in Riga spreads over three floors, plus a nice garden.
The vibe is somewhere between hipster and activist, and the range of events and things to do can keep you busy any day of the week.
The first floor has a bar that offers drinks and some food, and has several rooms for events, like lectures and workshops.
The second and third floors host film screenings, theatre and music shows. There’s a schedule of events posted on the wall by the bar and on Facebook.
Even if you don’t go there for an event, it’s a great place to have a drink, especially when the weather is warm enough to sit outside on the deck in the garden.
Miera Street (or Miera iela in Latvian) is know as Riga’s hipster area.
There’s a bohemian feel to it and it easily attracts the city’s creative types.
It’s not quite in the city centre, but not very far either – about a 30 minute walk, or 10 minutes on tram number 11 from the centre.
Here are some cool places to see on Miera Street:
Mr Page Bookshop
This is not an ordinary bookshop. Let’s start with the fact that as far as bookshops go, this is one of the most elegant I’ve seen.
When I was done being impressed by the gorgeous display, I looked at the books themselves.
It’s quite clear that they were judged by their covers. Every single book in this store has a beautifully designed cover.
A chat with the lady working there confirmed that the books are hand-picked by the owners and good design is a must.
The shop is still very new and the current collection is based on the owner’s personal taste.
They try to feature books that are hard to find in other bookshops.
They also intend to survey their customers and let them vote on what other titles should be featured in the shop in future.
You’ll find many art and design books, some travel guides, a section for children’s books, and random titles from cookbooks to literature, philosophy to popular science. The books are in English and Latvian mostly.
There are chairs and a large sofa, so feel free to spend some time leafing through books.
You will be given gloves to use while you do that, to keep the books nice and clean. They only import a few copies of each.
Tea shop Illuseum
An impressive range of teas from different places around the world. They have a menu in English with explanations about the teas and their origins.
The place feels unique thanks to beautiful oriental chic decor and great Indian music playing in the background.
Tea shop Illuseum on Facebook
M50 Design Shop
There are some excellent design shops in Riga, and M50 is one of the most beautiful ones.
It offers fashion and a range of design items by designers from Latvia and the rest of the Baltics.
A popular bar open late, that also holds occasional events like music gigs and movie nights. They have a nice food menu too.
Taka Bar on Facebook
This is a cool space that started as a longboard workshop and later turned into a bar and alternative event venue.
The workshop is still active in the daytime, but the vibe changes in the evening.
They run events most days of the week, including live gigs, film nights, DJs and even ping pong tournaments. You’ll find all the listings on their Facebook page.
World of Hat Museum
And now for something completely different. This is a museum dedicated to hats. More precisely, this is a display of 200 hats, out of an amazing collection of about 500.
The museum is divided into rooms featuring hats by region: Russia and Europe, Asia and Africa and Central and South America.
The hats were collected all over the world by Dr. Kirill Babaev, who obviously has an immense passion for the story behind each hat.
As you walk around the museum, you can read a few words about each hat, where it is worn and when.
There are special hats for weddings, holidays and festivals and so on. You’ll enjoy this if you have an interest in fashion and anthropology, or just general curiosity about the world.
Next to each hat you can also see a photo of a person wearing it in its original form. That is useful, as some of them have such a peculiar shape, I couldn’t imagine how they were worn.
See if you can guess if it’s a man or a woman’s hat before you read the description. You’ll be surprised.
Spikeri Creative District
Not far from the city centre, a former warehouse district was developed into a cultural district, hosting creative businesses and public events.
I suggest you go there when there’s an event going on. I went there a couple of times for the open-air live concerts held every week in the summertime.
They also host a flea market and more – you can check the event calendar on their site.
Another creative district, a little far from the centre and across the river. A number of old, beautiful wooden buildings with a courtyard that is famous for hosting a weekly local farmer’s market.
Other events include a craft market, art exhibitions, open-air concerts and film screenings. Look at their Facebook page for current listings.
Visiting Riga: Travel Tips
How to Get to Riga
Flights to Riga
Riga International Airport is not too far from the city you can reach it with many international airlines fly, including Transavia France, KLM, Norwegian, Czech Airlines, Air Malta and others.
Check Omio to find all the flights to Riga.
How to get from the airport to the city:
- Bus: Very close to the terminal, you’ll find bus #22 and Express minibus #322. Both go to the Old Town. It should take about 30-40 minutes to get to Riga from the airport by bus.
- Taxi: There are taxis outside the terminal that can take you to the city centre in about 20 minutes. Be careful and ask for the price in advance. Taxi drivers at this airport are notorious for cheating naive tourists.
- Airport transfer: For your peace of mind, you can book your airport transfer in advance and avoid any undesirable encounters with taxi drivers.
Travel to Riga by Train or Bus
You can reach Riga from nearby cities by train or bus. These include Tallinn, Vilnius, Saint Petersburg, Warsaw and more.
Check Omio to find all the buses and trains to Riga.
Guide Books about Riga and Latvia
- Berlitz Pocket Guide Riga – Travel Guide with Dictionary.
- Insight Guides Pocket Riga – Travel Guide with Free eBook.
- Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania travel guide – This Lonely Planet guide also has an eBook version.