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If you have read my post about my Baltic adventure, you know that I loved Riga, the capital city of Latvia. When I visited Riga back in May, I had the time of my life. The vibe in the city is amazing, and I had a fantastic time experiencing the Latvian culture. But I only got to spend one full day here. When I left Riga the next day, I knew I wanted to come back.
I only had to decide when I was going back. June began with uncertainty at work that continued throughout the summer. In July and August, flight tickets were four times more expensive than usual. So, I waited for the end of the high season and decided to return to Riga on September 1. I booked a return ticket with airBaltic and a hotel in the center of Vecrīga — the Old Town of Riga.
On September 1, I got up at 5:00 AM. My dad picked me up and took me to the train station. I took a train to Schiphol and arrived when the baggage drop-off opened. I dropped off my suitcase, went through security, and had breakfast. Everything went smoothly — which always scares me. I mean, what is the catch?
I found out later when I was waiting for boarding to start. Boarding started when the plane was already supposed to have left. The plane took off 40 minutes late, and airBaltic did not give much information. At least the pilot was kind enough to tell us the reason for the delay. At this point, all my flights with airBaltic have been delayed.
I arrived in Riga around 1:30 PM local time. Since I am not a big fan of airports, I left as soon as I had my suitcase. I planned to take bus 22 to the city. Not super comfortable, but hey, it is super cheap! If you want a more comfortable way to get to the city, check out my post on how to get from Riga Airport to the city center.
The bus takes you to the city center in 20-40 minutes, and today it was close to 40 minutes. It was a Friday afternoon, which explains why it was busy on the road towards Riga. At least in the Netherlands, Fridays are busy days on the road.
I had planned to get off at the bus station, or at least I thought it was the bus station. It turned out that it was just the name of the bus stop, which happened to be close to the bus and train station. From here, it was a short walk to my hotel.
At least, that is what I thought. I forgot that Vecrīga is a cobblestone nightmare when you pull a suitcase behind you. It was a good test of my mood and my brand-new suitcase — you can read my review here.
I had been to Riga before and thought I knew Vecrīga well. I expected to easily find my hotel, but it was more difficult than I thought.
I arrived at my hotel after a short detour, checked in, and was in my hotel room some minutes later. And boy, was it big! The room was huge. I stayed at Rixwell Konventa Sēta Design Hotel in the heart of the Old Town. Konventa Sēta translates to "Convent Yard" and is supposed to be one of the oldest parts of Riga. The hotel consists of 7 recently renovated buildings. I stayed in the attic of building 7.
After getting myself freshened up, I went outside to explore Riga. I loved being back and was looking forward to spending time here. It was great to see the House of the Blackheads and the Freedom Monument again — two of my favorite places in Vecrīga.
It was already late afternoon, and I decided to pick a restaurant for dinner and a few drinks. The hotel complex has a restaurant where they serve breakfast in the mornings. It is called Two More Beers and has a huge beer card. I tried some of their self-brewed beers with a local dish with deer meat and apple pie as dessert.
After dinner, I went outside and walked around Vecrīga for the last time before going to bed. When I got close to Town Hall Square, I heard a lot of music coming from there. I went to have a look and found the Latvian band Citi Zēni playing live. This was a great ending to my long and tiring day and a great start to my week in Riga at the same time!
The next day, I had a food tour in the Riga Central Market scheduled at 12:30 PM. The market is in five old pavilions that were once zeppelin hangars. After breakfast at Two More Beers, I had time before the food tour. I decided to visit Alberta Iela. It is a famous street in the Art Nouveau district with beautiful buildings. I skipped this place the last time I was in Riga because it is a decent walk from Vecrīga, and I did not want to lose too much time.
After walking around for a while, it was time to return to Vecrīga. The meeting point for the food tour was close to my hotel. The tour guide was friendly. Her name was Guna. We walked with about ten people to the Central Market. Guna showed us the five pavilions, told us about some Latvian traditions regarding food, and bought samples of Latvian specialties for us to try. It was all super interesting, and I can recommend taking this tour when you are in Riga.
After the food tour, I returned to Vecrīga and decided to have a Black Balsam tasting at the Black Magic Bar. I tried Black Balsam back in May, but only the original. Black Balsam comes in Original, Black Currant, Cherry, Chocolate & Mint, and Cream. However, Chocolate & Mint is a limited edition, and Cream is no longer available. Try them before they are gone!
I ended the day at Province, my favorite restaurant in Riga. It is just simple and good. I had delicious beef stroganoff and a few nice beers.
Today was Sunday, which was marking half of my trip to Riga. I realized it would take more than six days to visit everything on my list. So, I decided to stay an extra two days. Thanks to airBaltic and Rixwell, I could make this happen.
The plan for today was to visit the Corner House in Riga, which used to be the KGB headquarters of Latvia. It is known for its dark history and infamy. It is a 20-minute walk from Vecrīga. I found out upon arrival that you have to reserve a ticket online and that it sold out for today. Bummer! I was able to buy a ticket for the next day, though.
I walked back to Vecrīga and saw the canal boats. These were also on my list of things to do. I decided to take a tour around the City Canal and the Daugava River — which was not super interesting. There were only three other people on the boat, and the captain did not speak English. Maybe this was not the best time of the year to do something like this. Also, despite the warm weather, it was very chilly on the river.
After the boat tour, it was time for lunch. I got a bagel at Big Bad Bagels. It was recommended to me and was something I wanted to check out. I got a Caesar Chicken bagel with a Yellow Submarine smoothie — so good! I enjoyed it on a bench in the beautiful park behind the Nativity of Christ Church.
Since the weather was nice today, I wanted to climb the tower of St. Peter’s Church to take some photos of Riga from above. Thankfully, there is an elevator, although it felt a bit sketchy.
For dinner, I decided to go to Salve. This restaurant right next to the House of the Blackheads happened to have the same menu as Province. I had potato pancakes with salmon tartar, and plum cake for dessert. I had a few shots of Riga's Black Balsam and headed out for the last walk of the day through Vecrīga. I found some street musicians playing famous songs on string instruments. I decided to stay here for a moment.
While enjoying this music, I saw the Skyline Bar in the distance. This bar is located on the top floor of a fancy hotel and offers great views of Riga. I decided to go there and have a few drinks. I spent the rest of my evening there having the best cocktails I have ever had. I recommend the Clavis Rīga — meaning “Keys of Riga” — with apple juice, Black Balsam, and more!
For today, I had a ticket for the Corner House at 10:30 AM, so this was where I was going first. You can only go inside with a guided tour. The guide told us about the building and how prisoners were treated there. She showed us the first room the prisoners saw and where they got stripped of their belongings. Next were the cells, the interrogation rooms, and the execution chamber. The number of executed people in this building is unknown. The Soviet Union destroyed all evidence.
I left the Corner House feeling strange.
Back in Vecrīga, I planned to eat lunch at the Central Market, but it was closed. So instead, I looked for a restaurant.
After lunch, I decided to go to the House of the Blackheads. I had already visited this museum in May, but that was a quick visit since I had limited time back then.
The House of the Blackheads was the meeting place for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads – a guild of unmarried male merchants, ship owners, and foreigners. The building originates from 1334 but was heavily damaged during World War II. It got bulldozed by the Soviets shortly after the war. It was rebuilt in 1999 with the help of the city of Riga and donations from people. It is now open to the public as an event center and a museum.
Next, I visited the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. I also visited this museum earlier but did not have enough time to see everything.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia opened in 1993 as a place for Latvia to tell its story about its fight for independence. To remember what happened to the Latvian people during the occupations by Germany and the Soviet Union between 1940 and 1991, and to commemorate the people who were unjustly convicted and murdered.
After absorbing an enormous load of information about the history of Latvia, I decided to go back to Province for dinner. I was kindly welcomed by the same waitress I saw two days ago.
The tour started at 10:30 AM, so I did not do much before. The meeting point was the same as the food tour. And again, Guna did not disappoint. In only 2 hours, she shared more about Riga, Latvia, and the Baltics than the May tour guide did in 3 hours. She also added some personal stories, which made it even more impressive.
After the walking tour, it was time for lunch, so I headed for the Central Market. Before returning to Riga, I did a lot of research about the Central Market. I discovered delicious pies filled with ham, cheese, mushrooms, and more. There is also a beer brewer with good locally brewed beers called Labietis.
To end the day, I went to a restaurant that Guna recommended. It is called Folkklubs Ala. It is slightly hidden away from the tourist parts of Riga, so you need to know where to look. It is an underground and a bit medieval-looking restaurant with great food. I heard this restaurant is visited by many locals, so I guess it is good. I had traditional Latvian meatballs, which were delicious, and I can recommend honey cake as a dessert (it is a seasonal thing, though). They also have an amazing honey beer.
Today, I wanted to go to Jūrmala, a beach resort close to Riga. I have heard great things about this place, so it was also on my list of places to visit. Jūrmala was the reason that I extended my stay. Otherwise, I would not have had time to visit this place.
I had to take a train to Jūrmala, the only thing that slightly worried me. I got up on time and made my way to the train station, which was within walking distance of my hotel.
The first challenge was to get a ticket. I followed the signs to the ticket office but ended up in a shopping mall. Eventually, I found the ticket office, where I bought a ticket to Jūrmala for €1,50. I bought breakfast, walked to the platform, and waited for the train. And this is where I got rechallenged.
According to the signs on the platform, there would be a train at 9:20 AM, but this was not the train to Jūrmala. The next train was at 9:30 AM, which was my train. At 9:21 AM, a train arrived at the platform I was waiting on. I assumed this was the 9:20 AM train, so I waited for this one to leave.
At 9:29 AM, I was getting nervous. The train was still there, and people were still getting on. I eventually decided to board the train and ask someone if this was the train to Jūrmala. It was.
Half an hour later, I was standing in Jūrmala. I explored the town. It was one long main street with the train station at one end, and a church on the other. There were many restaurants on this street, which was convenient for getting lunch. I visited the church at the end of the street and turned left towards the beach.
The beach was crowded. Many people enjoying a beach walk, and a group of little kids having fun and playing games. I walked over the beach for a while and returned to town through a street with beautiful old wooden houses.
Back in town, I picked one of the many restaurants to have lunch. The restaurant was great, and the food was amazing. I had steak with mushroom sauce. Mushroom sauce is a seasonal specialty in Latvia, and I was so happy I got to try it!
After lunch, I decided to go back to Riga. I bought a ticket for €1,50 and took a train back.
The weather was nice again, and I got thirsty. The train station in Riga is close to the Central Market, so I decided to have a beer there. I remembered I had been to Alberta Iela before. But I forgot to go to the Art Nouveau Museum. The museum is in an old apartment. It shows how people lived in the 1800s and 1900s. Also, the staircase in the building is worth checking out. I decided to have a look.
At this point, it was time for dinner, and I decided to go to my favorite restaurant again and have potato pancakes.
Today, I did not have a lot of plans. I had enough of the hotel breakfast. So, I opted for a bakery. I had one in mind just outside Vecrīga, but it was crowded. There were not a lot of places to sit down. So, I tried to find a different place. I ended up at one just across the street from the Powder Tower and the Latvian War Museum.
I enjoyed a nice cappuccino with a pastry before I headed into the museum. Another museum that I visited back in May, but this time, I had more time. It is free, by the way.
The Powder Tower, built in 1650, was a defense tower in Riga's defensive system. Today, it is part of the Latvian War Museum. The museum focuses on Latvia’s military history. Particularly, the 20th century and Latvia's fight for independence.
Meanwhile, it was time for lunch. I did not fancy a restaurant, so I opted for a local dish at the food court in the Central Market and a nice beer.
I had no plans for the rest of the day, but I realized I had not taken many photos of Riga yet. I decided to stroll around with my camera.
Afterward, I had dinner at Two More Beers again, where I had an amazing burger.
Today was my last day. My flight was at 5:00 PM, which gave me a big part of the day to spend in Riga. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to just go for a walk through Vecrīga and take some more photos.
When it was time to leave the hotel, I left my bags in the storage room. Then, I went to the Central Market for my final Latvian lunch and my last beer from Labietis. I already miss it. After leaving the Central Market, I went to the hotel to get my things and walked to the bus stop to catch bus 22 to the airport.
Riga did not want me to leave, as she used all her cobblestones against me, trying to make me stay. I wish I could.
The bus to the airport was more comfortable this time, but I still do not like traveling with a suitcase. I dropped my suitcase at the airport check-in desk with a friendly girl. I tricked her into thinking I was from Latvia. I guess my "Labdien" sounded very local, which resulted in a slightly awkward situation.
Riga Airport is not very big, so I went through security quickly. This gave me lots of time to explore, grab a bite, and unwind. This time, the plane was perfectly on time. I had some snacks on the plane, so I did not have to eat at Schiphol. The 5 PM flight lands around 6:30 PM at Schiphol, which is a bit unpractical with supper. At Schiphol, it takes quite a while before you have your suitcase back, so it is recommended to eat something before you land.
I had an amazing time in Riga. The trip had a rough start, though. A delayed flight, an uncomfortable bus ride, and horrible cobblestones. But the beauty of Riga and the Latvian culture and the amazing locals made up for it. And let's not forget the live performance of Citi Zēni.
Riga's dark history has shaped the city into what it is right now—an amazing city with a fantastic vibe. The city is so alive, and the Latvian people know how to enjoy life. Nowhere in the world have I seen a place where people know how to enjoy the small things in life as in Riga.
Riga, I'll be back. I miss you already!
|Tourist Tax in Riga
|Moving return flight
|Extra nights at hotel
|Central Market Food Tour
|Black Magic Bar
|House of the Blackheads
|Museum of Occupation
|Riga Walking Tour
|Train to Jūrmala
|Train to Riga
|Art Nouveau Museum
|Bus to Airport
|St. Peter's Church
|Two More Beers
|Big Bad Bagels
|Villa Joma (Jūrmala)
|Ice Cream (Jūrmala)
|1 ice cream
|Two More Beers
|Total Restaurants & Food
|Labietis (Central Market)
|Bottle of Water (0.5L)
|Total Drinks & Going Out
|Total Week in Riga
|Konventa Seta Design Hotel
€ € € €
|Art Nouveau Museum
€ € € €
|House of the Blackheads
€ € € €
|Latvian War Museum
|Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
€ € € €
|Nativity of Christ Cathedral
€ € € €
€ € € €
|Riga Central Market
€ € € €
|St. Peter's Church
€ € € €
|The Corner House
€ € € €
|The Three Brothers