Looking for the best 2 days in Riga itinerary? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
I have to admit: I had no idea what to expect when my friend suggested we spend 2 days in Riga. This was part of a longer trip that included several other countries, all of which are worth a visit. Estonia fascinated me. Romania surprised me. And Sigulda, the small city an hour outside of Riga, charmed me.
So naturally, by the time I got to Riga, my expectations were high. I liked all the places I’d visited thus far, so why should Latvia’s capital be any different? Good news: it didn’t disappoint.
Like its neighbors, Riga is best seen by wandering…and wander we did. I traveled with my friend Chantell. We traversed Riga on bike and foot, marveling at whatever crossed our path.
So without further ado: the best Riga 2 day itinerary – with a few bonus ideas for a longer stay.
Table of Contents
How to Get to Riga
Riga is an easy place to get to from anywhere in Europe. Here’s how:
Riga has a well-connected airport, and the majority, if not all, European airports have flights into Riga. If you’re coming from the United States, you’ll likely have to connect to another European hub first.
The Riga airport itself isn’t far from Old Town Riga and you can easily take the bus or a taxi into the town or pre-book an airport transfer for peace of mind.
Unlike the Riga Airport (RIX), the central station is far less internationally connected. Trains run into the Riga central station from most Latvian towns and there are also sleeper options from St. Petersburg and Moscow.
If you’re coming from Western or Central Europe, you’re in for a bit of an adventure. Your two options are to take a bus from Warsaw to Riga (it’s a long, not super comfortable journey), or take the train from Warsaw to Vilnius and then another to Riga.
Basically, train travel from outside Latvia can get complicated. If you do choose to book a train or bus, be sure to check out Omio for a complete list of times and tickets!
Another option for getting to Riga Latvia is to take a ferry from Stockholm. This is a long trip (around 17 hours), but the ferry is kind of an adventure on its own. You’ll book a cabin with a bed and there are onboard restaurants – it’s like a mini-cruise!
Best Time to Visit Riga
Latvia is generally colder year-round, with frigid winters. Summer has the best weather but is also peak tourist season. May and September are the best months to visit for mild temperatures and fewer crowds.
April – May: Springtime is still on the rainier and cooler side, but it’s a great time to visit for beautiful blooming flowers without the frigid cold of winter. May is usually a solid choice for decent weather and lower prices.
June – September: Summer is the peak travel season in Latvia, with the best weather in July and August: around 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. Your best bet for fewer crowds is to visit in early September, but you can get away with visiting in October if you don’t mind cooler temps.
Riga is a really walkable city and most of the sights are pretty close to each other, so you can pretty easily see all the best places to visit in Riga in two days. This Riga 2 day itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful city.
2 Days in Riga Itinerary: Day 1
Go on a food tasting tour
Being me, I was pretty excited to do the food tasting tour on our first day. Confession: I’m obsessed with food markets (and supermarkets) in other countries and was stoked that the tour was at Riga Central Market. It’s actually the biggest food market in Europe, with FIVE different buildings, each dedicated to different products (meat, vegetables, pastries, clothing, and flowers).
Our tour guide led us through the different areas, explaining the historical significance of each one. I asked her a ton of questions about various products and about Latvian food in general, and she happily answered all of them.
We got to sample a bunch of different traditional foods. Latvian food has a large Russian influence, focusing primarily on pork, fish, pickles, and bread. It wasn’t too challenging to find options without pork, thankfully, although there were a couple of things on the tour sampling menu I couldn’t eat. Thankfully there aren’t too many challenges traveling with dietary restrictions!
This food was an excellent introduction to Latvian cuisine, and we got some stellar restaurant recommendations from our guide as well. You can book it here.
Take in the View at the Latvian Academy of Sciences
Riga is full of beautiful architecture and seeing it from above just makes it that much better. One of the lesser-known places to visit in Riga is the Latvian Academy of Sciences Observation Deck. You can take an elevator to the observation deck to get a panoramic view of Riga, including the gorgeous St. Peter’s Church tower as part of the skyline.
Tea Break at Apsara Tea House
I couldn’t come up with a more perfect location for Apsara Tea House if I’d tried. That’s because it’s located in the middle of a park, with both indoor and outdoor seating and a view of the canal. They have a wide selection of delicious teas. It’s an excellent place to spend a couple of hours relaxing and people-watching.
Stroll through the Art Nouveau District
Fun fact, Art Nouveau is another way to describe beautiful, ornate architecture with zero chill and all the details. And I love it. So does Riga, because there’s straight-up an entire neighborhood filled with Art Nouveau buildings. Albert Street and Elizabeth Street are the best places to marvel at these buildings.
Walk through Kronvalda Park
I love finding public parks when I travel, especially those located in an urban city. Kronvalda was conveniently located near our accommodation, but it’s not too far from the Old Town either – just a 15-minute walk.
This large park has a canal running through the middle and is an excellent place for running, biking, people-watching and picnicking. Plus, cool photo ops. Including the one pictured above with a giant monkey in a spacesuit. Shrug.
Dinner at Milda
If you’re in Riga to #TreatYoself, then this is the place to go! Chantell and I realized that we were both celebrating travelversaries in Latvia – countries number 50 and 30, respectively.
Milda is considered one of Riga’s best restaurants and for good reason. Think excellent service, incredibly reasonable prices and artfully-plated drool-worthy meals. I mean, what more could you want?
We treated ourselves to three delicious courses and I recommend you do, too. Make sure you make reservations ahead, especially if you’re there on a weekend.
2 Days in Riga Itinerary: Day 2
Go on a bike tour
I’m not sure how I got talked into doing a bike tour but I’m glad I did! I have to admit that I was very anxious about this tour. I hadn’t ridden a bike in five years and was incredibly nervous to ride alongside cars and other bikers.
Thankfully, Riga is built for biking and we spent the majority of our time on bike paths and in less congested areas anyway. This was an amazing way to see the city.
Not only were we able to explore a lot of the Old Town at the beginning, but we also crossed the bridge to ride around the island of Kipsala, located on the other side of the Daugava River.
This area is incredibly calm and quiet but offers stunning views of central Riga – and plenty of interesting architecture. Kipsala has a variety of wooden fishermen’s houses in various stages of renovation. Even if you don’t opt for a bike tour, this is still an area well-worth visiting.
On our way back, we rode through the Art Nouveau neighborhood. The architecture here is mind-blowingly detailed and impressive, and the contrasting buildings were fascinating. We also rode through Kronvalda Park and through the Old Town, stopping along the way to soak up some historical knowledge about Latvia from our guide.
I always recommend walking tours as the best way to explore a new city, but in Riga, biking is the way to go!
Lunch at Restorāns 3
It was a Sunday afternoon when I showed up at Restorāns 3, another gem recommended to me by our food tour guide. I was excited to try their lunch but found that the only thing available was their weekend brunch buffet.
I was disappointed at first but that feeling disappeared as soon as I took my first bite. Soup, salads, cold and warm food, and dessert – the staff certainly went all out. It was an excellent way to sample a variety of local eats and I left with a full and happy stomach. If you’re looking for a modern twist on traditional food, this is the place for you.
Walk around the Old Town
Riga’s Old Town is nothing short of charming, with cobblestone-lined streets and historical buildings tucked amongst modern ones. We wandered through the town several times, soaking in the lively ambiance. But if you’re on a mission to make sure you see everything, here are the things you can’t miss while in Riga for two days:
- Freedom Monument: Located in Bastejkalna Park (which is really pretty and romantic), the Freedom Monument is dedicated to the people who fought for Latvia’s independence. It’s really pretty at night too.
- Livu Square: This bright and cheerful square is pretty in all seasons, but Livu Square is really stunning in the summer when it’s planted with flowers and surrounded by outdoor seating for the cafes. Keep an eye out for the Cat House – its owner installed the cat sculptures after being denied entrance to the Great Guild and made sure their backsides were facing that building! The level of petty is hilarious!
- St. Peter’s Church: Not only is St. Peter’s Church the tallest church in the city, but it also dates back to 1209, so it’s one of the oldest (if not the oldest) churches, too. You can see some of the old parts of the building inside, and I thought the coats of arms on the walls were really cool. Most people just want to climb to the top of the tower and look out over Riga, and I can’t really blame them. On a clear day, it’s definitely a must-do in Riga.
- Bremen Town Musicians: Behind St. Peter’s Church is a really cool statue you’ll want to check out. The Bremen Town Musicians are based on a Brothers Grimm fairytale and they’re kind of creepy-cute, but definitely Instagram-worthy!
- The Swedish Gate: Riga was once a fortified town, and although not much of its city walls are left, you can see what’s left of them at the Swedish Gate. It’s a really pretty part of medieval Riga, and the area around it is full of shops and cafes and street musicians.
- Town Hall Square: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Town Hall Square should be at the top of your list of things to see in Riga. All the buildings and statues are worth seeing, but it’s the House of the Black Heads that will really blow you away. It’s possibly the coolest building I’ve seen and the museum inside is full of Latvian history, a gorgeous silver collection, and recreations of 19th-century rooms. Get your ticket ahead of time here
If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of these sights, and you aren’t too tour-ed out, consider booking a spot on the Riga Walking Tour. The guides are spectacular.
Dinner at Folkklubs
If you eat ONE meal in Riga, make it a meal at Folkklubs. The food is delicious and reasonably priced, but that’s not the only reason to traipse across town. This lively tavern is one of the few places in central Riga that offers live Latvian music in addition to the traditional fare. With costumed dancers and a live band, it was seriously the perfect way to end our time in Riga.
Best things to do in Riga Latvia in 3 days and beyond
If you’re wondering how many days you need in Riga, I’d say you can probably get by with two days in Riga. But it’s so pretty, with such great food and so many parks and fun people watching, that I also wouldn’t talk you out of staying as long as you can!
Visit a Museum
If museums are your thing, Riga will not disappoint. There are so many excellent museums in Riga that it’s hard to recommend just one.
Zanis Lipke Memorial
I’d normally say to go with whichever one best suits your interests (of course!), but to me, the Zanis Lipke Memorial is a standout.
The Zanis Lipke Memorial tells the story of a couple who saved persecuted people during the Nazi occupation of Riga. I don’t know if people skip it because it feels too heavy for a vacation but it’s actually a pretty uplifting experience. You’ll get a glimpse of an authentic fishing village, a great view of Riga, and a multi-sensory experience unlike any other.
Natural History Museum of Latvia
This is a tricky one because there are two Natural History Museums in Riga. The Natural History Museum, which covers plants and animals, and the Natural History Museum of Latvia, which exhibits Latvian history through archaeological finds.
The one I’d visit would be the Natural History Museum of Latvia. Some of the displays are outdated, but the Latvia’s Century exhibit gives an excellent overview of the history of the region.
The entrance is a little challenging to find because it’s in a temporary home until Riga Castle renovations are completed. It’s currently located by the Post Office and Freedom Monument. Locals are happy to point you in the right direction.
Housed in an old KGB prison, the KGB House museum is definitely a little eerie. Inside, you’ll get an in-depth look at what life was like in Riga during the Soviet occupation (read: incredibly challenging). If you’re going to visit, be sure to book a tour so you can actually see it all and get the context.
Latvian National Museum of Art
Art should always be shown in a building as gorgeous as the Latvian National Museum of Art. In fact, there were actually times I forgot to look at the art (I meant it when I said the building was gorgeous). But the art here really is incredible too. It focuses on Latvian artists and the entire process of making and curating art.
Pro tip: Download the app for help navigating the museum and understanding some of the displays.
Marvel at the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral
If you’ve never seen a Russian Orthodox church, you’ll be blown away at your first glimpse of the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral. In fact, even if you have seen one, you’ll still be blown away. It’s got everything you could hope for – no admission fee, glittering gold domes, and stunning icons and artwork inside. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to hear orthodox chants. Plus, it’s located in Esplanade Park so it’s an excuse to visit one more park on your Riga itinerary.
Take a Trip to Sigulda
If you’ve got an extra day (or two), I highly recommend hopping on a train to Sigulda. It’s only an hour’s train ride away, making it a perfect side trip from Riga. If you’re into castles and gorgeous scenery and once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventure, check out my recommendations for things to do in Sigulda.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can book this Gauja River Valley Kayaking Trip that starts in Riga and transports you to Sigulda. Activity and transport in one!
Where to Stay in Riga
Public transportation is really convenient for getting around Riga, but I still recommend picking a place to stay that’s close to the Old Town. Location matters when trying to get the most out of 2 days in Riga. Also worth noting: luxury hotels in Riga are reasonably priced compared to major cities in Western Europe, in case you want to opt for nicer accommodation.
Chantell and I stayed at a little spot that’s no longer open, but if I were to return to Riga again, I’d stay at the Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa for clean, comfortable accommodation with easy access to the Old town.
I’ve included a few of my top picks in Riga for every budget below:
The Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel (Budget)
One of the great things about staying in hostels is getting to know other travelers. And if that’s something you’re looking for, The Naughty Squirrel won’t disappoint. They have plenty of quiet spaces and it’s really clean and comfortable too, but the social aspect of this hostel really can’t be beat. I’m going to bet you’ll walk away from this place with a new friend.
Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa (Mid-range)
Wellton Riga hotel combines an awesome location in the Old Town with modern, comfortable amenities. The breakfast here is delicious, and there are plenty of options! Plus, there’s a pool, as well as spa and massage options for those who want that wellness vibe. Plus, rooms are spacious with comfy beds and A/C. What more could you want?
Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga (Luxury)
The Grand Hotel Kempinski lives up to its name – its grand. The rooms and common spaces feel luxe but cozy – even a little funky. And can we talk about the food they serve at breakfast and in their onsite restaurant? It’s got every amenity you expect from a luxury hotel – concierge, rooftop terrace (that view alone is worth staying here for), and a beautiful indoor pool. But if I had to pick one reason why this is one of the best hotels in Riga Latvia, it would be the quiet and convenient location overlooking the Opera House and Bastejkalna Park.
Other Things to Know Before Visiting Riga
Riga Transportation: How to Get Around Riga
While Old Town Riga is fairly compact and easily walkable, the surrounding area is much more spread out. I recommend renting a bike for a day or two, especially if you want to cover the majority of the city. There are also public transport options including trams, trolleys, and buses. If you have some extra time or are sticking to the center, Riga can easily be explored on foot.
To be honest, there are a lot of cool things to do in Riga, and Chantell and I only scratched the surface. If you’re limited on time, you can probably cover the highlights in a few full days, but if you have the time, come and stay awhile. You’ll be surprised by this underrated capital city!
Do I need a visa to visit Latvia?
At the time of writing, North Americans do not need a visa for Latvia. Upon arrival, you’ll receive a stamp to stay for up to 90 days (as part of the Schengen) visa-free. Always double-check embassy websites for the latest information.
Latvia uses the Euro and at the time of updating this post (March 2022), the rate was about USD $1 to 0.91 euro. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines for withdrawing cash.
So there you have it: The best Riga 2 days itinerary, full of the top things to do in Riga and the best restaurants in Riga. And if you’re wondering how many days in Riga will be enough, I added some bonus ideas you can use to stretch out your journey. Enjoy!
More Latvia ResourcesPlanning a trip to Latvia soon? Check out ALL my posts on Latvia below:
- Latvia Travel Guide
- 5 Cool Things to Do in Riga, Latvia
- Best Things to Do in Sigulda, Latvia: Where Nature Meets Adventure
Tell me: Have you ever been to Riga? What was your favorite part of the city? Share in the comments below!
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