I often leave a place with a wish that I had more time there and an internal promise to return someday. Riga, Latvia is one of those places. We spent just 24 hours there and it was not near enough time. But sadly, 24 hours in Riga, Latvia was all we had before heading to Estonia.
If you ever find yourself in the same situation, do not hesitate to make the most of your 24 hours and enjoy the hell out of this European city. Below are my tips for making the most out of 24 hours in Riga, Latvia.
Prepare yourself for a ridiculous amount of cuteness
We had heard that Riga was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, which is a pretty tall order. But man oh man, did Riga delivery. A postcard shot awaits you around every corner. Every. Single. Corner. Riga and it’s medieval quaintness completely surprised us. Even a less-than-stellar photographer like myself was able to capture a decent shot or two. Honestly, it is a little ridiculous how cute this city is.
Explore, explore, explore
The cobblestone streets were mostly deserted and we often had picturesque sights all to ourselves. Old Town is quite compact and very walkable. We had great weather, but I would have enjoyed this city no matter what. Raining? Grab your umbrella and rainboots. Snowing? Honestly, I do not think my heart can take this city during a white Christmas. (That said, I still made a promise to myself to return to Riga for Christmas someday.)
We didn’t do much (read any) homework before stopping in Riga. This lack of preparation did result in stumbling upon some great things, such as:
- a large square lined with art work around the edges and a cellist going to town in the middle
- a giant copper lady statue
- a farmer’s market full of flowers….and massive servings of sauerkraut
Brush up on your history
Riga was founded in 1201 and is the capital of Latvia. Its historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is chock full of cool old buildings with great stories. The House of Blackheads is one of them. It was built in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Ironically, it was bombed to ruin by the Germans before being demolished by the Soviets. What you see today is the refurbished version built from 1995 to 1999. It is still very cool.
Stay in Old Town
Our hotel, the Konventa Sēta Hotel, has quite the history and used to be a convent. It is located in the heart of the Old Town, which made it easy to walk to everything we wanted to see. It also has fantastic views and a tasty breakfast. If you have limited time in Riga like we did, you will want to stay somewhere close to Old Town to maximize your Riga experience.
Artisans about in Riga so get ready to shop
There are delightful shops and street vendors all over Riga selling handmade goods (not kitsch tourist crap, although you can find that too). Save up your pennies because you are going to want to come home with something beautiful and handmade from Riga. I bought hand-knitted gloves from an adorable artisan selling her wares on the street. She also makes a nice hat and scarf combination the likes of which I had never seen before.
Do not forget your evenings
Walking around at night is a lovely experience in Riga and all of the buildings look just a little different than they do during the day. We do not always venture around in the evening because we are either too tired or unsure how safe a place might be after dark. However, since we wanted to make the most of our time in Riga, we made it a point to explore after the sun went down. Plus, Old Town is quite safe to walk around at night.
Warning: Riga on a Saturday night is a unique experience. Apparently, it is THE place to have your stag party. We saw many and a lot of them appeared to be themed with men dressing in up in things like togas and yellow overalls. It was a highly entertaining experience.
24 hours in Riga, Lativa is not enough time. But it is better than nothing. Enjoy as much as you can and then make plans to return as soon as possible.