When researching my recent trip to Riga I found there was a significant lack of guidebooks etc to help me plan my itinerary. Due to the annoying flight times from Manchester, we didn’t arrive until 10pm on our first day and had to depart by 1pm on our last day. This meant we really only had 2 full days to see as much as we could.
I have therefore put together an ideal itinerary for exploring the main bits of Riga and hopefully, if you decide to go (which you should!) this will help you to plan your trip! You can read about what I got up to on my trip here.
Day 1 (First 24 Hours)
9am – get up and out early, you do not have loads of time in this new city, so don’t waste it sleeping! Take a leisurely walk up through the centre of Riga to the KGB House on Brivibas iela 61. There is an English speaking tour at 10:30am, so you want to aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before to purchase tickets and read the opening exhibit. Tickets for the tour cost 5 Euros per adult. (The KGB House is closed on Tuesdays).
10:30am – the tour of the KGB House takes around 1.5 hours, you may want to schedule in a coffee break after your visit as it can be quite a powerful and upsetting experience.
12pm – Coffee break if needed
12:30pm – wander along Alberta iela and admire the amazing architecture and sculptures of these art nouveau buildings.
1pm – lunch time! There are loads of lunch spots around but I highly recommend a trip to the quirky themed Flying Frog Café nearby!
2.30pm – after enjoying a leisurely lunch, wander along Embassy Row, past the random monkey space statue and to the temporary location of the Museum of Occupation.
4pm – I’d allow a good hour and a half to do the museum justice as there are quite a few video clips that I would urge you not to skip. Entrance fee is by donation and the museum is open daily until 5pm except for June 23, 24, December 24, 25 and 31 and January 1st. Once you have finished, there is an amazing souvenir shop just round the corner for some shopping.
4:30pm – The Freedom Monument. This is just something to admire and once you have been to the museum you will really appreciate its significance.
5pm – Watch the sunset (or the night scene if the sun has already set, depending on the time of year) from the SkyBar at the top of the Raddisson Hotel. The views from the top are stunning and the cocktail menu is extensive!
7pm – enjoy a traditional Latvian dinner. There are loads of ‘taverns’ which offer a selection of local dishes for you to try. The street just passed the War Museum is packed with cute Latvian restaurants to try.
9pm – early to bed so you can get up bright and early ready for another full day of exploration!
Day 2 (24-48 Hours)
9am – yet another early start! This time make your way along the water’s edge to the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust Museum.
10am – Explore the Riga Ghetto and Holocaust Museum. The museum entry fee is by donation. The majority of it is outdoors though so dress appropriately if visiting in winter! The museum is closed on Saturdays and it is open from 10am -6pm all other days.
11:30am – Walk along the street, going back on yourself, to the Central Market. Get caught up in the hustle and bustle of local life. There are 4 WW1 hangers packed with meat, fish, fruit, veg, clothes, toys, baked goods, cheese, you name it, it sells it!
12:30pm – cross the road (there is a subway underneath as it’s a busy road) and head back into Riga’s old town to find a spot for lunch (unless you decided to eat at the market). There are a lot of options between the market and your next stop, so you will be spoilt for choice. We went for a little cockerel themed place called Petergailis.
2pm – Visit St Peter’s Church and take the rickety lift (and a few steps) to the top of the tower and enjoy incredible views across Riga. The church is closed on Mondays and there is an admission fee of 9 Euros to go to the top of the tower.
2:30pm – head to the House of the Blackheads. It was closed for renovations when I visited but it is still a very pretty building for some awesome pictures. You will want to allocate a bit more time here though once it is open and you can actually have a snoop around inside!
3pm – walk up into the Old Town and visit the key sites including the Three Brothers, The Cat House and the Swedish Gate. Make sure you camera is fully charged and has plenty of memory as you will find yourself taking pictures of every street, building and tree you come across as you explore this area of Riga.
4:30pm – head to Black Magic Café for some chocolate goodies, a taste of the local liquor, Black Balsam and the chance to explore the secret passageway! There is a Laima Chocolate shop nearby as well as lots of other shops, should you still have a burning desire to purchase heavily!
6pm – Sauna time. This is the perfect way to relax and warm up like the locals.
8pm – head to my favourite place in Riga, Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs for some awesome food and a taste of some local, Latvian beer. Wander via The House of the Blackheads as it looks stunning at night.
11pm – If you loved Folkklubs as much as me, you will probably not want to leave until closing time, which I think on some days is 4am!!
So there you have it, the ideal way to spend 48 hours in Riga. It is a whirlwind trip and a bit of a whistlestop tour of the main sites but hopefully it gives you an idea of what not to miss! If you have more time I would recommend trips to Jurmala Beach, the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum and maybe even venture out into the nearby Gauja National Park.