If you’re like me, you’re probably at the moment scouring the internet for winter travel ideas. Let me introduce you to Riga! This Baltic gem is the capital of Latvia and the perfect winter weekend destination. Experience the Christmas market in Riga from the end of November and enjoy this highly walkable and affordable art nouveau city. Below you will find everything you need to plan a winter weekend in Riga including things to do, where to eat and places to stay. The city quickly climbed to the top spots of my favourite destinations and I really hope that you’ll feel inspired to visit Riga during winter!
Travel to riga
Budget airlines such as Ryanair and Norwegian service Riga International Airport, which makes this an affordable destination. For example, say you were to travel between 1st to 4th December from London Stansted. If you book now, your return flight would cost £62 with Ryanair. If you are able to travel mid-week it would be even cheaper, with a one-way ticket priced at £24.59.
There are shuttle buses running between the airport and Riga city centre. Cross the car park when you exit the airport and there is a bus stop just opposite the exit. You want to get on bus 22 and there is a ticket machine at the stop. If, like me, you can’t get the machine to work, it’s also possible to buy a ticket from the bus driver. The ticket is 2 euro if purchased from the driver. The bus has a display inside showing the next stop, so make sure you know where you are getting off. We didn’t and ended up in a random suburb when the bus reached its final stop.
Where to stay in RIga
There are plenty of places to stay in Riga from hostels to 5 star hotels. We got a really good deal at Liberty Mansard when we went a few years ago and I would warmly recommend this hostel. The location was excellent and the staff was incredibly friendly. I would happily stay here again, but note that it is no frills. A lot of options on booking.com are less than £45 per night for a double room, so there are plenty of good deals available.
What to do during a Winter weekend in Riga
Riga is a fairly small capital city but there is plenty of things to do in Riga in winter to keep you entertained for a weekend trip. The main benefit of the size is that everything is within walking distance and we didn’t use any public transport whilst here. The affordability means that you can treat yourself to lovely meals and traditionally expensive activities, such as the opera.
Several of the sights are located in the Old Town, which is a gorgeous part of Riga and definitely a must see for any traveller to the city. In addition to the highlights below, we also visited the KGB building, Museum of Occupation, Museum of Photography, Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral (stunning!), Museum of War, The Swedish Gate and Riga Central Market. Needless to say, we had a really busy weekend in Riga!
Latvian National Opera
Address: Aspazijas bulvāris 3, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050
Tickets: Between 7 to 40 euro depending on seat. See production schedule and book tickets through Live Riga website.
If you’ve ever wanted to see an opera performance, Riga is the place to do it. Tickets for the opera in Riga cost between 5 to 40 euro depending on your seat and the opera house is stunning. There are also ballet performances available. The troupe presents several famous productions including Carmen, Swan Lake and Le Nozze Di Figaro. We watched Le Nozze Di Figaro for 10 euros and got pretty good seats. Although I will admit that our lack of Italian left us pretty clueless as to the plot. Regardless, this is a great winter activity and incredible value for money.
Riga CHristmas Market
Address: Spread across the city. The two main sites are Domu Square and Livu Square.
The best part about travelling during winter to Riga is that the city puts on a Christmas market across the city centre. The cute stalls are decorated with stripes and contain plenty of crafts. Latvia is famous for amber so expect to see plenty of jewellery made from this golden material. There is a massive Christmas tree at Domu Square in Old Town where troupes perform Christmas songs. If you’ve never heard Jingle Bells sung in Latvian you’re missing out. I recommend going both day and night, as the atmosphere is really cosy in the evenings when everything is lit up. Just make sure you wear plenty of layers though, cause it gets cooooold. Like, wear 50 layers kind of cold.
st peter’s church
Address: Skārņu iela 19, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050
Tickets: 9 euro to access the observation platform and interior of the church
St Peter’s Church is one of the most famous attractions in Riga and offers excellent views of the city. This imposing building is situated close to the House of Blackheads, another famous sight. The main draw of St Peter’s Church is the tower, which offers a panoramic view of the city from 123 metres up in the air. Entry is 9 euros, which is a bit steep but worth it in my opinion. Cause check out the view (also the top image)! We were there when they opened at 10 and were part of the first group up. The light was gorgeous at that time in the morning and I think half of my photos from this trip are of the view!
Address: Central District, Riga, LV-1050 (by Raiņa Bulvāris)
Another iconic Riga landmark, the Freedom Monument is dedicated to the soldiers that died in the Latvian War of Independence. It’s worth a visit and close to the opera house so you can combine the two. The soldiers in front of the monument are really impressive to watch as they march slowly in synchronisation. I must admit that I got a bit nervous when the soldiers all of a sudden started moving just as we walked past. For a split second, I thought we had done something wrong as the soldier with a massive gun walked towards us. Then he turned and we realised he was just marching. The area around the monument is also lovely with parks that are perfect for a winter walk.
Address: Elizabetes iela 55, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010
Tickets: 5 euro entrance fee after 21.00 Thursday – Saturday
If you’re looking for a chilled place to go for drinks in Riga, I would recommend the Skyline Bar in Radisson Blu. This sleek bar is located on the 26th floor and gives you amazing nighttime views of the city. Admittedly, this is quite touristy and also expensive with cocktails at 10 euros, but you can’t argue with those views. There are sofas to lounge on and the atmosphere is busy but classy.
Take a Tour bus
Address: Join the bus at Latviešu strēlnieku laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050.
Tickets: 20 euro for 48 hours. You can buy tickets from the driver.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t tour buses very….touristy? Well, yes. But they’re also a good introduction to a new city as you learn the history of the place and remember that you only have ONE winter weekend in Riga. Unless you extend your trip, which would be a pretty amazing option too. We used the Riga City Tour Buses as they had a route that allowed us to see a glimpse of the west part of Riga and not just Old Town.
I’ve been on a few tour buses in different countries and the bus in Riga is really good value for money. The audio guides provide extensive information and the routes are very long, allowing you to see a lot of the city. Also, if the weather gets very cold (it’s winter after all!) the heated bus is a nice way to see Riga without freezing.
Where to Eat in Riga
Address: Rozengrals, Rozena iela, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050
As Riga is so affordable you can have lovely meals for a relatively low cost and there is definitely a strong food scene in the city. With so many great places to eat in Riga it was difficult to decide where to go.
My favourite was Rozengrals which is a restaurant specialising in old recipes with a medieval atmosphere. As you enter through the heavy wooden doors you walk down a staircase and are greeted by a waiter in medieval costume. Whilst this could easily veer into gimmicky territory, the food was excellent. The atmosphere is really cosy with candlelight and medieval inspired music in the background.
Address: Kolonade, Brīvības bulvāris 26, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050
For fine dining in Riga, we enjoyed our meal at Kolonade. This restaurant with glass walls is situated close to the opera house and has gorgeous views of the canal. The menu changes seasonally and Kolonade also offers an extensive drinks selection. I had beautifully cooked duck breast with carrot puree and apple pieces in lingonberry jam. Very yummy.
Address: Lido can be found throughout the city. We tried the one on Elizabetes iela 65, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050
For a cheap breakfast alternative, you should try Lido. It’s a cafeteria style eatery where you grab a tray and point at whatever you want to eat. The lady behind the counter will hand you your food and then you pay at the till.
Riga is such a fairytale city with really friendly locals and a lovely atmosphere. There are so many great things to do in Riga in winter that it can be difficult to know what to do first! Hopefully this guide has helped your narrow down your choices and inspired you to plan a winter weekend trip to Riga.
For more winter wonderlands, check out my post about the Christmas market in Colmar.
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