Best 5 Things to Do in Riga
Whether you’re visiting Riga for the first time or a return visitor under the spell of this magnificent city, here’s 5 Best things to Do in Riga, Latvia.
Modernists Champagne Bar and Shop
1. Drink French Champagne at Modernists
There’s something very special about the sound of popping corks, the sight of rising bubbles and the click of fine stemmed glasses. Special occasions like visiting a great new city deserve celebrating.
Neighbourhoods of Riga
On the outskirts of Riga Old Town on Kr. Barona Street 31, you’ll find a unique champagne bar and shop. Modernists Champagne Bar is host to one of the world’s most loved luxuries and is the first champagne bar in Riga.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover Modernists and be introduced to a number of relatively unknown boutique champagne houses. The quirky concept incorporates modern design furniture, bespoke furnishings and walls of champagne bottles showcased in its interior design. Flowing sheer drapes divide the space, creating an intimate and elegant atmosphere.
It is obvious as soon as you walk in the door that owner Martins Pilens is passionate and knowledgeable about champagne and sharing that passion. Each week, Modernists features four new champagnes by the glass with a focus on exposing the hidden gems from the French Champagne region.
Lovers of champagne can also enjoy champagne by the bottle or glass paired with delicious food. Go on, treat yourself to one of life’s pure luxuries on your visit to beautiful Riga.
Address: Kr. Barona Street 31
2. Robert’s Books Riga Bringing Art and Culture Together
Robert’s Books is much more than just a second-hand English bookstore in Riga. It’s a space filled with arts, literature and culture. Often hosting yard sales, annual festivals and eclectic events.
Bookworms hungry for the next book can be found here rooting through bundles stacked high of books from all genres. The alluring outdoor courtyard becomes a popular meeting place that attracts sun worshippers and their pets in the warmer months.
Here’s your chance to pick up some great holiday reading or an opportunity to bargain for a worthy exchange. You can also enjoy a coffee or glass of wine from the café, while you browse the shelves for a new or second-hand book or admire the art that hangs on the walls.
Address: Dzirnavu iela 51-1, Riga
3. Dine at The Catch
Looking for a great restaurant in Riga? The Catch is a modern Japanese Restaurant in Riga run by foodie enthusiasts who support the concept that every guest is important and food and the relationship to it, is one of the finer pleasures in life. Cuisines shared by nations expand our palette, shape our health and some can also increase our waistlines.
Each Asian Japanese dish at The Catch is bursting with freshness made from quality ingredients woven together to hit every single taste bud. The menu includes raw and cooked seafood, meat plus a range of vegetarian options. As well as a good selection of cocktails, The Catch offers Japanese beers, multiple sakes, quality spirits and wines.
You could easily miss this restaurant as there is little or no visible signage to be seen on the outside. Reservations are recommended especially in the busy warmer months. This relaxed cosy restaurant can be found in the ‘Quiet Centre’, a small café and restaurant precinct, 20-minute walk from the centre of the Old Town. Book a table at The Catch and experience the best food and dining in Riga.
Address: Antonijas iela 12-19, Riga
4. Capture the Riga Art Nouveau Architecture
Admiring architecture wherever we travel has a universal attraction and mystery about it. Seeing different architectural styles for the first time can leave us in awe for all sorts of reasons. The grandeur of old buildings can leave us spellbound and mystified by the marvel of their existence.
Architectural photography plays a big part in the whole travel experience. Art Nouveau architecture forms a large part of the Riga charm. One third of the extravagant Art Nouveau buildings can be found in the centre of Riga. Most of these 800 buildings were built by local architects in the early 1900s between 1904 and 1914.
Today, Riga is regarded home to the world’s best Art Nouveau multi-storey apartment buildings. Many of the decorative pieces such as stained glass and sculptures were crafted by local companies in Riga.
Follow the historic path with a professional Viator guide on a one-and-half hour tour of the Old Town and Art Nouveau Walking Tour of Riga. Learn more about this stunning architecture and about the famous people who once lived in them. The city is brimming with an excellent selection of masterpiece buildings built in this period, just waiting to be discovered.
Art Nouveau Quarter
Stroll around the Art Nouveau quarter to see several iconic examples including works by celebrated architect Mikhail Eisenstein. Some of his jaw-dropping creations can be seen along Elizabetes and Alberta Streets, and Strēlnieku Street in the Embassy district.
Snap glorious instagrammable photos of the decorative facades while listening to your expect Viator guide recount the history of the Art Nouveau period that flourished in Riga.
Address: Embassy District
5. The Great Cemetery of Riga
When you think of fun things to do in a new city, it is unlikely that your first choice is to visit a local cemetery. You may think of cemeteries as sad and solemn places and not a place for recreation.
Your view may change after visiting ‘The Great Cemetery’, a short 25 minutes tram ride away from the centre of Riga. It is here you will discover that most cemeteries are not morbid or scary but are rich in history and see elaborate architecture together with an element of mystery.
Cemetery tourism is a flourishing business these days with more travellers trekking to graveyards around the global to learn more about a city’s past and the famous people who played a part in shaping it. Other visitors travel across the world to learn more about their heritage and find the resting place of loved ones.
The Living are Dying to Get in!
The Great Cemetery of Riga (Lielie Kapi) was built in 1773 and continued to expand over the following centuries and cover 22 hectares (54 acres). Multiple Lutheran cemeteries merged together to become the Great Cemetery. Also known as the Pantheon of Latvians, the Great Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Riga’s elite including aristocrats, noblemen, historic families and commoners.
From 1773 – 1944 (171 years) the majority of Baltic Germans who died in Riga were buried here. The cemetery is divided into three sections: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian. Unfortunately, during the second Soviet occupation many of the highly decorative crypts and headstones were vandalised, destroyed or removed.
A Little History
In 1957 the Great Cemetery ceased to accept burials and fell into disrepair. Between 1967 and 1969 large sections of the cemetery were bulldozed by the City Council to make way for a public memorial park. Located across the road is the Russian Orthodox section now named ‘Pokrov Cemetery’. It was not damaged, and these graves are the best-preserved in the entire area.
The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church are the owners of the cemetery and the quaint Lutheran Chapel adjacent to the cemetery is worth visiting too.
Other items of interest are the elaborate bronze sculptures, ancient metal gates, Art Nouveau fences and memorial markers. As you wander through the lush green forest, you get a strong sense of how magnificent the cemetery must have been.
How to Get to the Great Cemetery ?
Catch the number 11 tram from Barona in the city centre to the Mēness stop. You can purchase your return tram ticket from the Narvesen convenience store at the tram stop.
Address: Vidzeme Suburb, Riga, Riga, LV-1013 Map
The Great Cemetery has a hauntingly beautiful landscape and wealth of stories to tell.
Looking for the Best Area to Stay in Riga?
You can’t go past the Radisson Blu Hotel and nearby precinct.
Step into the panoramic elevator and enjoy the stunning views of the Gold Topped Domes of Riga’s largest Orthodox Catheral.
Bar Six in Riga
Bar Six is the only speakeasy cocktail bar in Riga. Set in an old basement on Gertrudes iela 14 that was once a video gaming store. The only connection to it previous life is the old signage that takes pride in the bathroom.
Small wooden tables and leather seating are encapsulated by barren brick walls and soft warm lighting. The parlour has a bohemian style and a hint of elegant of a bygone era.
Bar Six has created a truly innovative cocktail menu brimming with expertly crafted drinks made lovingly by passionate waiters. It is one of the most exciting and sophisticated bars in Riga. Make a reservation via the Bar Six Facebook Page or by phone.
Address: Gertrudes iela 14
Next Stop Estonia
The Old Town of Riga and the neighbouring suburbs are fantastic to explore. These 5 best things to do in Riga are just the tip of the iceberg.