In this article, I’m going to share with you my Riga 3 days itinerary. I visited the UNESCO listed capital of Lativa as part of a month-long trip to the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).
With 3 days in Riga, you’ll have plenty of time to experience the charm of the medieval Old City, explore the intricate architecture of the art nouveau district (Riga is actually the Art Nouveau capital of Europe!), as well as visit a couple of places just outside of the city. Basically, this city guide is going to give you the low down on all the best things to see and do in Riga in 3 days.
Riga was voted the European Capital of Culture in 2014 and is quickly creeping up to be one of the must-see cities in northern Europe. Whether you’re spending just a weekend in Riga on a short city break, passing through for a few days or exploring Lativa in more depth, this guide is for you.
The city has so much to offer and I can guarantee that you’ll love your trip to Riga. It’s best to get around Riga by foot to fully experience the history and culture of the city. There are so many little alleyways and courtyards, all steeped in history, waiting to be explored and you’ll find yourself stumbling on so many little gems.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a brew and let’s discover Riga in 3 days.
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Riga 3 Days Itinerary – How to spend an amazing 3 days in Riga
Getting from the Riga Airport to Riga City
The closest is Riga International Airport (RIX). It’s located about 15km outside of the centre of Riga.
There are several options to get from Riga International Airport to the centre. One of the most efficient is by taking the public bus. The bus runs every three hours and takes 24 minutes. Get this from the station from the airport.
Alternatively, you can book your airport transfer directly to your hotel in advance. Booking in advance saves you both the hassle and avoids the hefty inflated fees from the taxi firms at the airport.
Prebook now: Private Transfer from Riga Airport
Best time to visit Riga
With regards to the weather, the best time to visit Riga is from late May through to October, with the warmest months being July – August.
However, the peak time for crowds and prices coincide with the school summer holidays (late July-August).
Knowing this means that the perfect time to visit Riga making the most of the good weather, quieter crowds and shoulder season prices are late May – early July and September – October.
However, even in the peak of summer, it can still be chilly, especially in the evenings. It can rain at any time of the year, so what ever you plan to do on your Riga itinerary, even in July and August, take a warm jumper and waterproof jacket.
Making the most of your 3 days in Riga - Top Tips for visiting Riga
- Riga is a fairly compact city and the main highlights are all fairly central. If you do get tired easily, make the most of the efficient and affordable public transport system to get about.
- This Riga 3 days itinerary covers all the best things to see in the capital. If you only have a weekend in Riga, skip either day 2 or 3 of this Riga itinerary, when you’ll venture outside of the city.
- Make sure you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes with grippy soles. In particular, the streets in Riga Old Town often made of cobblestones which can get super slippery underfoot and can be uneven in places.
- To make the most of your 3 days in Riga, and if you want the easy option to see the main highlights while getting some insights into the history of Riga, then make the most of one of the numerous city walking tours.
RIGa 3 days itinerary - DAY 1
- RIGA'S OLD TOWN & ICONIC LANDMARKS
Day 1 - Morning
Town Hall Square
You’ll be starting the first day of your Riga 3 days itinerary in Ratslaukumus, also known as Riga Town Hall Square. This is basically the birthplace of Riga, and was founded in 1201.
Throughout its history, the Ratslaukumus has survived invasions from other countries, the great fire of1350 and bombings from World War II. The heart of Riga has been rebuilt countless times and is just as important today as it’s always been.
In the centre of the Town Hall Square there’s a statue of St Roland wielding a sword, surrounding the square you’ll see the Town Square and the river Daugava. Probably the most prominent of the buildings at the Ratslaukumus is the colourful ‘House of the Blackheads.
House of the Blackheads
Historically, Riga was a port of call for merchants and their ships who travelled from the Baltic sea to the Black sea. These merchants held important meetings as well as elaborate banquets meetings at ornate Baroque style headquarters known as the House of the Blackheads.
The original building dates back to 1334 however, it was destroyed during the second world war (except a 14th-century cellar, that miraculously survived). Between 1995 and 1999 the building went under major reconstruction and renovations. This included the creation of replica furniture and paintings to bring the building back to her former glory, and what you see today is a near match of the original.
Today the building also houses Latvia’s silver collection as well as being a tourist information centre. It also hosts a range of gigs and concerts! It’s certainly worthwhile checking out if there are any gigs on during your 3 days in Riga.
Honestly, the House of the Blackheads is one of the prettiest buildings in Riga and one of the most photographed spots in the city.
St Peter’s Church & Tower
From Town Hall Square, look upwards, you’ll be able to see the iconic bulbous spire of St Peters Church. Head up the hill towards it.
No Riga 3 days itinerary would be complete without visiting this church. St Peter’s Church is the most famous in Riga and if you’ve seen any postcards of the city, this church is sure to future on them. If you look at the structure of the church, you’ll probably see a whole mish-mash of styles. It’s a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque all melded together to create one of Riga’s most instantly recognisable landmarks.
The church was originally built in 1209 and was pretty much the only building that remained after the great Riga fire in 1350, this makes it one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The clock tower is over 120metres high and you can go up to the top, either by the lift or climb the stairs. The view from the top looks out over Old Riga and the Daugava river.
Admission is 9 Euro – 10am – 6pm, Closed on Mondays
After going up the tower on St Peter’s Church, wander around to the side of the building to continue your Riga itienrary, you’ll see a monument called ‘Bremen Town Musicians’
The statue is of four animals; a donkey at the bottom, a dog, a cat and finally a cockerel on top. It’s based on a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm and is one of the most popular monuments in Riga Old town.
Wondering why they’ve got shiny noses? It’s supposed to bring good fortune if you rub the noses of each of the animals. You’ll probably see hoards of tourists trying to do this. The amount of rubbing has made the noses go shiny, if you’re feeling super energetic then try to jump up and rub the rooster’s beak, this is supposed to bring a bonus bit of luck.
The Konventa Seta
From the statue of the musician’s, you’ll be able to see a little archway heading down an alleyway. This will lead you to the very Insta-worthy enclosure of Konventa Seta, or the Convent Yard.
Like with St Peters Church, this little area originates from the 13th century and is one of the oldest parts of Riga.
This is a super cute area of Riga, it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time during your 3 days in Riga, getting lost in the ancient narrow cobbled streets of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Riga, wandering about the charming colourful little houses and alleyways.
Riga Black Balsam
While you’re in Riga, I highly recommend you try the Riga Black Balsam. Every bar in the city will sell it.
In the Old Town, you’ll find Black Magic Bar which serves all things Riga Black Balsam. It’s a little bit kitsch, but equally fascinating. You’ll know you’re at the right place because, in the windows of the cafe, you’ll see the signature ceramic bottles.
Riga Black Balsam dates back to 1752 and is a traditional herbal Latvian liquor made to a traditional recipe by Abraham Kunze, who was a pharmacist living in Riga. It’s got a dark brown syrupy consistency and is created from f 24 botanical ingredients. It’s a little bit bitter to taste but works well in cocktails. They also do a blackcurrant version of Riga Black Balsam which is delicious!
Meander your way along to Livu Square. This is one of the livelier areas in Riga with a string of restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as well-manicured flower beds and colourful buildings.
You’ll have to use your imagination quite a bit, but this square once was the site of the Riga River up until the 16th century. The river eventually became narrower and redirected.
The square also used to have more buildings here, which were destroyed in World War II. In the 1950s the area was redeveloped and made into an open public area that you see today.
Not far from Līvu Square you’ll find the Small Guild, Great Guild and Cat House. If you look carefully at the flowers in the summer, you’ll be able to see they form wave shapes to represent the lost river after that Riga was named after. Come back here at some point during your 3 days in Riga, there are loads of lively bars and cafes.
Great & Small Guilds and The Cat House
If you’re into your signature architecture styles, then be sure to check out these three buildings; The Great Guild, the Small Guild and the Cat House.
The Great Guild dates back to the early part of the 14th century, and is one of the oldest public buildings in the Baltics. Today it’s home to the Riga Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Small Guild existed for the master craftsmen in Riga, if you get a chance to go inside, it’s one of the most ornate and decorative buildings in the city.
My favourite of the three buildings is the Cat House named after the cute felines standing on the roof. The building was designed by Friedrich Schefel and was built in 1909. He was regarded as one of the pioneers of Riga Art Nouveau architecture.
There’s a bit of history surrounding the cats. The building was owned by a wealthy Latvian trader who requested membership of the Great Guild. He wasn’t granted access to the Guild so as a bit of a middle finger up to the organisation, he originally positioned the cats with their rear end facing the building of the Great Guild.
Riga Dome Cathedral & Dome Square
The next stop on this Riga itinerary is the famous Dome Square. Walk to the great open square where Riga Dome Cathedral stands.
This open square wasn’t always this vast, take a look at the cobbles on the floor, you should be able to see a grid-like pattern. This is to make the footprint where buildings once stood, which were destroyed in the war.
The Cathedral was built from the early 1200s and is one of the oldest churches in the Baltics. It’s miraculously survived wars and fires.
Inside the Riga Dome, is one of Europe’s largest Organs consisting of 6,718 pipes, the Organ is surrounded by stained glass windows which illuminate it. If you time your visit well, monthly organ music concerts take place here.
Opening hours: 10 AM to 7 PM every day
Admission Fee: 3 Euros
At the Dome Square, you’ll find loads of places to stop for a rest. Granted, you’ll find cheaper places in town, but not with the bustling feel of the Dome Square with the backdrop of the Cathedral.
You’ll usually find buskers, entertainers or live music playing in the square. Have a drink or a bite to eat before heading off to explore the rest of the Old Town.
Day 1 - Afternoon
Powder Tower, Old City Wall and Jacob’s Barracks
The large rotund building in Riga is called the Powder Tower. The tower now aptly houses the Museum of War. The original building was completed in 1330, and until the 17th Century was called the Sand Tower.
The name changed to Powered Tower after the gun powder was kept here for the cities defences. This used to form part of the Old City Wall of Riga.
A short distance from the Powder Tower you’ll find the colourful Jacob’s Barracks. The barracks were originally built in the 18th century, have undergone several makeovers and used by the military up until the mid-90s.
They are one of the longest stretches of buildings in Riga and fill most of Torņa Street. Today the barracks house shops, restaurants and beauty salons
Opposite Jacob’s Barracks, you’ll find The Swedish Gate. Out of a total of eight gates, this is the only remaining gate from Riga’s Old City Walls.
It was built in 1698 to provide access to the city for the soldiers stationed at the barracks.
The whole of this area is surrounded by pretty cobbled lanes making it one of the most photographed sites in the city.
Depending on when you visit, you might have to wait for the Instagrammers to finish posing to get you an opportunity of photographing this pretty gate. If it’s too busy, come back at another point during your 3 days in Riga.
St Jacobs Cathedral
Although this is one of the smallest of the medieval churches in Riga, its bell-tower is the best preserved. Ironically, at my time of visiting they were doing maintenance on the bell, so I wasn’t able to see the full tower as it was surrounded by scaffolding.
Another one of Riga’s iconic photo spots is the three brothers. The story behind the name is that they were built by three men from the same family (no one knows if they were actually brothers).
- The oldest of three houses (number 17) dates back to 1490
- The most decorated one, the middle brother was built in 1646.
- The third brother (number 21) was built during the late 1600s.
You’ll always find a hub of people here trying to find the best angle to fit them all in without anyone walking past the front. If you’re after this shot, you might be waiting for a while, but this is another must-do thing for your Riga itinerary.
Today the three buildings are home to the Latvian Museum of Architecture (where you’ll find loads of blueprints and plans for the city’s historical architecture), and the State Inspection for Heritage Protection.
Head towards Riga Castle, which is situated on the banks of the River Daugava. A castle has stood here for over 700 years, although its undergone extensive additions, renovations and repairs. Today the president of Latvia resides here.
It’s difficult to see the full castle from close up, so for a better view of it cross over the river and take a photo from there, or book onto one of the river cruises to see the castle from the water.
Cross the Vanšu Bridge and the Stone Bridge
You’re going to cross both of these bridges. If you’ve followed this Riga itinerary, the closest bridge to you now will be the Vanšu bridge. Cross over to the other side of the River Daugava. There are numerous places on the river bank to photograph the Riga skyline, in particular, you’ll get a much better view of Riga Castle from this side.
This side of the river is home to cute and colourful houses including the vibrant Holy Trinity Church. The Russian Orthodox church sits in a leafy suburb. I found out about it from another traveller who had been there. Because it’s out of the way, you’ll have the place to yourself too.
Cross back over the river taking the Stone Bridge and head straight for the parks.
Keep walking towards Bastejkalna Park. You’ll pass a slightly strange looking tower clock called the Laime Clock, which is named after a famous Latvian chocolate brand. It was originally built in 1924 and has a very much Art Deco look to it.
Near to the Laime Clock, at the end of Brivibas Street, you will see the Freedom Monument, this was built to symbolise Latvia’s freedom and independence. It commemorates the lives of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Latvian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920.
The 42-metre-high monument was built in 1935 from granite and copper and survived the Soviet occupation of Riga. You can often see a guard at The Freedom Monument and you can watch the changing of the guard on the hour each day.
The Russian Orthodox Church - Nativity of Christ Cathedral
Located in Esplanade Park, this visually stunning Russian Orthodox church was built between 1876 and 1883. If you’ve read my article about Tallinn, you’ll see similarities between this church and the one there.
However, this is the biggest Roman Orthodox churches in the Baltics. It was closed as a church during the Soviet reign and actually made into a planetarium, after Latvia’s independence it returned to being a Russian Orthodox Church.
If you’re in Riga on a sunny day, the gold onion-shaped roofs are blinding to look at.
Relax in Vermanes, Esplanade, Kronvalda or Bastejkalna Park
The first day of your 3 days in Riga is coming to a close, you should have seen some pretty amazing stuff. There are 4 large parks just outside Riga Old Town. To finish off day one of Riga in 3 days, head to one of them to relax. Not sure which one to choose?
- Vermanes – This is the smallest of the gardens in Riga but also one of the prettiest.
- Esplanade – This is the one which the stunning Russian Orthodox cathedral is situated in, in my opinion, it’s not quite as pretty as the other three but it’s still a nice big green expect to get away from the crowds.
- Kronvalda – The Pilsētas Canal runs through two parks in Riga, this is one of them. Boat trips go along the Canal and out into the Daugava River which will give you some great panoramic shots of the Old Town from a different perspective. This is a very pretty park and a bit quieter than the others. You can book a onto a Riga Sightseeing Tour by Canal Boat here.
- Bastejkalna – This is one of the oldest green spaces in Riga, and located just outside of Riga town, which also makes it one of the busiest. The Pilsētas Canal runs through this park, so you can pick up the river tour here also.
3 days riga itinerary - Day 2
– The Art Nouveau District, CENTRAL MARKET, Jewish District & MUSEUM of Occupation
Day 2 - Morning
Art Nouveau District
It would be sacrilege for any Riga itinerary to skip this stunning district. Riga is the Art Nouveau capital of the World, this because about a third of all the buildings in Riga are built in the Art Nouveau style. Most of the buildings date between 1904 to 1914.
Just outside of Riga Old Town, you’ll notice that the architecture starts to change. It becomes much more ornate and regal. This is Riga’s Art Nouveau district or Jugendstil as it’s also known. You could book on to an Art Nouveau Walking Tour in Riga
The main streets you’ll want to spend your time around and get trigger happy with the camera are;
- Alberta Street
- Elizabetes Street
The whole area is pretty much an open-air museum filled with extravagant buildings adorned with scened from nature, growing vines, flowers and leaves, geometric ornaments as well as mythical creatures including dragons and gargoyles.
Most of the buildings have undergone extensive restoration to bring them back to their full glory, and wow, they are stunning! It’s easy enough to wander about the streets yourself, however, there are also loads of Riga Art Nouveau tours which will give you loads more details on them and point out lots of hidden little quirks.
There are several reasons why there was an influx of these stunning Art Nouveau buildings at the start of the 20th Centruty; the economic boom meant there was the money, the industrial revolution with people looking for something new and innovative, there was plenty of space outside of the Old City which was overcrowded and also cheap manual labour was readily available.
This is also where you’ll find one of Rigas best museums. The Art Nouveau Museum and one of the most photographed staircases in Europe!
The stunning spiral staircase is just inside the foyer of the museum, so even if you don’t fancy going inside the actual museum, at least take a peek at the staircase – you won’t regret it!
The museum is located on the corner just off Alberta Street and was originally the home of one of Latvia’s most famous architects.
The museum has been restored to show what a typical house would have looked like in the Art Nouveau era, including the furniture, wall decoration and appliances, some of which are original pieces.
Opening hours: 10 AM to 6 PM – Tuesday to Sunday and cost 5 Euro
Day 2 - Afternoon
Riga Central Market
After exploring Riga’s stunning Art Nouveau district, head towards Riga’s Central Market which is located near to the bus station and the Daugava River.
Rigas Central Market is located inside a series of huge aeroplane hangers, which were built in the 1920s to house Zeppelins. The Latvians bought the 4 of them off the Germans cheaply after the war. It was opened as a food market in 1930 and is now the largest city market in Europe. One statistic says it attracts a whopping 80 thousand shoppers every day!
Today, the air hangers are filled with stalls selling fresh vegetables, smoked meat, cheeses, cheap clothes and locally made handicrafts which makes it perfect for a lunch stop as well as a spot of souvenir shopping. You’ll probably need to visit this place several times during your 3 days in Riga to try just a fraction of the delicious food on offer.
The Central Market is popular with both locals and tourists and where you’ll find some of the best (and cheapest) fresh food in the city.
Opening Hours: Every day from 7 AM to 6 PM
After sampling the delights that Riga’s Central Market has to offer, head out to the Riga’s Jewish District.
The Riga Ghetto Museum is a great option if you want to learn about the history of Latvia’s Jewish Community and the harrowing history of the 70,000 Jews who lost their lives during the holocaust.
While you’re in this area you’d be hard pushed to miss the omnipresent building that houses the Academy of Sciences built in 1956. You can go inside and up to the 17th floor to the viewing platform for a great view over the city as well as the Daugava River – it costs about 4 Euro at time of writing to go up.
Museum of Occupation of Latvia
If you only plan for one musuem on your Riga itinerary, this is one of the not-to-be-missed museums in the city. You’ve explored the Old City, the Art Nouveau and Jewish District to get a decent insight into some of the histories of the city already.
This Museum of Occupation will help piece together some more of Riga’s recent history and focuses on Rigas history from World War II up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The museum is filled with artefacts, photographs documents, exhibits as well as testimonies and stories from survivors spanning the 51 years that Latvia was occupied by Russia and Nazi Germany and then after the war, Russia again.
The purpose of the Museum of Occupation is to preserve the memory of the war-torn country. You’ll also find out about the fascinating peaceful protest, where millions of people from the Baltic states joined hands to make a chain of people which stretched 675 kilometres from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius in opposition of the Russian rule.
Opening hours: 11 AM to 5 PM, check here for more infomation including special exhibions.
3 days riga itinerary - Day 3 – Gauja National Park or Jurmala Beach
On the final day of your Riga 3 days itinerary, you’re going to head outside of the city, I’ve given two options for a perfect day trip from Riga. Alternatively, see both and discover best of Sigulda and Gauja National Park in one day .
Riga is located next to the Baltic Sea and within just a 30-minute train journey you can be at Jurmala Beach.
A heads up, there is no actual train station called ‘Jurmala’ but you’ll be able to see the sea from quite a bit of the train journey, so you’ll know you’re getting close. If you want to see some cute traditional wooden villas there are plenty between the two stops of Majori and Dzintari. These are good options to get off at if you want to be somewhere livelier. If you want a slightly quieter spot which still has facilities then Dubulti is a good option.
The white sandy beach of Jurmala gets busy in the summer with the residents of Riga and tourists looking to escape the city. If the beach is too crowded, then you can hire bikes to cycle along this stretch of coast and explore some of the quieter districts and pretty tree-lined avenues or some of the nature trails.
Take note though, because Jumala is located on the Baltic Sea, the water can be chilly even in the summer months. So brace yourself if you’re not good with the cold.
Day trip to Sigulda
If beaches aren’t your thing, then the alternative option to head out to one of Latvia’s most beautiful national parks. In around about an hour by train or bus, you can be at Sigulda which is the gateway to Gauja National Park.
The 90,000 hectares Gauja National Park and River offer loads of things to do on a day trip (if you have longer, then even better!).
The area is full of medieval castles, caves and ruins as well as being a great place for hiking through the beautiful countryside. You could explore the area yourself, or take the brain-work out of it and book one to a Gauja National Park Full-Day Hike
If you’re desperate to find some adrenalin sports, then check out the zip lining 55 m above the river or bungee jumping. There is also a bobsleigh run during the summer months. If you visit in the winter, then you can also ski! You might also like going to the Gutmanis Caves to drink the ‘holy water’ or the cable car to Krimulda.
If you want to visit castles (let’s face it, who doesn’t love a medieval fairytale castle) then there are two options here. Either, Sigulda Castle located in the town that the train or bus from Riga arrives in, or take the connecting bus to nearby Turaida Castle. From the tower of Turaida Castle, you get stunning views looking back over Gauja National Park.
Where to stay in Riga
- On a budget: Wicked Weasel Hostel is one of the best (and newest) hostels in Riga. Centrally located in the Old Town, massive lockers in the room, loads of social space, nightly activities (like the famous bar crawl!), as well as a fully stocked bar. It’s also really close to the Central Market, so lots of delicious food available.
- Mid-Budget: Sherlock Art Hotel is my top pick. This Sherlock Holmes themed hotel is based on self-catering units filled with quirky design features, go check out the pics! I think you’ll agree that it’s stunning! It’s also centrally located which is a great bonus.
- Blow the Budget: Dome Hotel, centrally located on Dome Square, this 5-star hotel is right in the heart of the Old Town. Close to all the attractions and next to the famous Riga Cathedral Dome. Beautifully decorated inside and out with spacious rooms. The hotel also benefits from an onsite spa and Turkish bath are a great option after a full day of site seeing.
Final notes on this Riga 3 Days Itinerary
I hope you agree that Riga doesn’t half pack a punch when it comes to city breaks. It’s an absolute must-see city in the Baltics with so much character and history. This three days in Riga guide should have ample stuff to do in this fabulous city, regardless of what your travel style.
I’ve included more than enough stuff to do in Riga in 3 days but if you have more time I would highly suggest taking longer to enjoy the Old Town (split that into two days). Then a day each to both the National Park and Beach day trip from Riga. There are so many amazing things to see in Riga, you won’t be bored that’s for sure!
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