If you’re into architecture or Art Nouveau design, you’re in for a treat because Riga’s city center has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture worldwide. This post will review the top things to do in Riga. 

Are you traveling to Riga? Book an Art Nouveau walking tour with a local guide. Latvia’s capital has many facades covered in gargoyles, dragons, and wolves. Forty percent of all the buildings in central Riga were built in the Art Nouveau style, making them beautiful and unique.

Wander Riga’s Old Town

Art Nouveau Buldings of Riga

Wandering the old town’s cobbled streets is one of the best things to do in Riga. Every street is a delight, so don’t just stick to the main street of Brivibas iela or the central and busy Livu Square; get lost and enjoy your stroll. Be sure to walk the minor road in Old Town. Rozena iela is so narrow; you can touch the opposite walls at the same time!

Book this highly rated Riga walking tour – take a guided tour with a local guide to explore the heart of Riga, the Old Town. Learn why Latvians put golden roosters instead of crosses on church towers, why the world should thank Riga for the Christmas tree decorating tradition, and more! Book now and get free cancellation with a full refund if canceled 24 hours before the tour.

Some of the top Riga attractions in Old Town include:

  • The Church of St Peter has a dizzyingly high steeple (122m). You can take a lift to a viewing platform 72 meters up
  • Cathedral Square, which contains Riga’s massive gothic Cathedral
  • The Swedish Gate, the only gate left in the old town’s walls 
  • The Cat House is a yellow building with two iron cats peering over the roof’s edge. This Riga Walking Tour explains who hated the sculpture of the black cat in Riga and why?

House of the Blackheads

Arguably the most spectacular building, the House of the Blackheads, is the star of the Town Hall Square. The building was founded as a merchant’s society in the 13th Century. It was designed as a meeting place for a guild of unmarried businesspeople known as the Brotherhood of Blackheads. It is famous for being where the first public Christmas tree was displayed in 1510.

Riga at Night

If you are looking for things to do at night in Riga, there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the old town. While you’re likely to see the odd stag or hen party, Riga isn’t spoiled by rowdy, drunk tourist groups the way some of the capitals of Eastern Europe are – and this is an excellent reason to choose Riga for your city break! Riga’s Old Town is pedestrian-only, so it is easy to walk around to enjoy its bars and nightclubs.

Visit the Art Nouveau Museum

Due to the concentration of Art Nouveau buildings, Riga is the Art Nouveau Architecture capital of the world. So you should consider an Art Nouveau walking tour of Riga to take in the best examples of architecture around the city. 

And at the very least, you should visit the Art Nouveau Museum. It is such a unique thing to do in Riga. The Museum is an apartment in an Art Nouveau-style building. It was built in 1903 as the home of the architect Konstantins Pekšens who designed it together with Eizens Laube. The apartment has been preserved in its original decor and furniture, so it is like a time capsule: it gives a real glimpse into life in the early 20th Century. There’s a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and maid’s room, all with period fixtures and furniture. The building also features a stunning spiral staircase, the ceilings painted with intricate and swirling patterns. This alone is worth the entry price!

Take a boat ride on the canal and river.

As well as enjoying the nature surrounding the canal, one of the most incredible things to do in Riga is to take a boat ride along the canal and the river Daugava. You can pick up a boat on the canal banks near the bridge where the main street, Brivibas laukums, crosses the canal. Book a Canal Tour for the best sightseeing in Riga. Cruise along the Daugava River and Riga City Canal to see the most famous sights in Riga, including the Freedom Monument and Latvian National Theatre.

The boats are small wooden boats, which take you along the pretty canal, past grand buildings in baroque and art nouveau style. Eventually, the channel reaches the River Daugava, which is enormous compared to the canal. The boat will feel small in this vast, fast-flowing, brownish-colored river, but you’ll be safe! You’ll then follow the river downstream, passing the old town and Riga Castle on your right. Then you’ll turn back into the canal system and make your way back to the starting point.

Where to Eat in Riga after your Tour

It is a beautiful, peaceful way to see Riga and a great way to spend an hour. And if you need refreshments after your tour, there’s a restaurant called Kolonade near the drop-off point, with a small outside terrace, where you could grab a drink or a bite to eat. 

Marvel at the Stunning Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ

One thing you must do in Riga is to visit the gold-domed Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ. There are several churches in the old town, but this orthodox church on the east side of Esplanade Park is arguably the most spectacular. It was built in the 19th Century when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire and is in the Neo-Byzantine style. At one point during the reign of the USSR, the church was closed and re-opened as a planetarium, but it was restored to a place of worship when Latvia gained Independence. 

It is a functioning church, so there are regular services inside. However, you will want to admire it from the outside because it features intricate and pretty domed rooves plated in gold. On a bright day, they glow and glisten in the sun. If you need a place to eat after visiting the church, there’s a traditional Latvian restaurant called Lido Vermanitis nearby on Elizabetes iela. 

Recognize the Past at the Freedom Monument

Outside the old town and just beyond the canal is a tall monument you can’t fail to notice. The Freedom Monument stands proudly in the middle of a pedestrianized plaza. 

The monument is 42 meters high and at the top of the column is a statue of Liberty holding three stars defiantly above her head. It was conceived and designed to commemorate the Latvians who died in the Latvian war of Independence between 1918 and 1920. During this war, Latvia fought for and won Independence from Russia. 


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