Riga Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.

About Riga


Riga is the financial, creative, and cultural centre of Latvia. It is the capital and the largest city in Latvia, it is also the largest city in the Baltic States. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of Daugava, Riga has an official population of a little over 700,000 inhabitants. It is home to one in three Latvians. Part of many empires throughout history, each of which has left its mark on the city, today Riga is a city with many faces. It is famous for Art Nouveau and wooden architecture. Riga's historical centre is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hostels


Cinnamon Sally Backpackers Hostel

One of my favourite hostels in the Baltics. I had a really good time here. Such a relaxed and yet lively atmosphere here. Four nights was not long enough so I'll have to come back some day. Bathrooms and toilets are very clean and you will find everywhere you need (soap, etc). Beds are very comfy and the staff are beyond amazing. If I come back to Riga I will for sure stay here.

The Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel

Really fun and clean hostel with big rooms. The curtains on the beds give some good privacy and are a nice touch. The staff are fun and welcoming and will gift you a welcome shot on arrival. The location is really good and close to the bus station and right in Old Town. Be warned however, that it is a party hostel so you should only stay here if that's what you're after.

Riga Old Town Hostel & Backpackers Pub

Great location on the outskirts of the old town with easy access to all tourist sights and the bus/train station. The staff were very friendly and gave very helpful tips on restaurants, bars and things to do. The Aussie Backpacker Bar is attached to the hostel and stays open late with music playing quite loudly so if you're after an early night this probably isn't the hostel for you. The bar is very popular and a great starting point (or finishing) for a night out in Riga.

Sights and Highlights


Free Walking Tour

The best free walking tour in Riga is called the Riga Free Tour. The tour is run every day of the year at 12 pm and runs for 2.5 hours. The meeting point for the walking tour is the entrance to St Peter's Church inside the Old City walls. A very well run walking tour that is concentrated mostly within the old town.

Another great option is the Riga Culture Free Tour. The meeting point for this tour is the Raina monument inside Esplanade park. Going to both tours is a real option as they do not cover the same areas of the city. This tour covers areas outside the old town such as the Art Nouveau district.

Riga Central Market

The Riga Central Market is Europe's largest market and bazaar and one of the most notable structures from 20th century in Latvia. It has been included in UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1998. The main structures of the market are five pavilions constructed by reusing old German Zeppelin hangars and incorporating Neoclassicism and Art Deco styles. The market is 72,300 square metres wide with more than 3,000 trade stands.

Riga_-_1_of_124_1.jpg by Hayden Albrey on 500px.com

Riga central market exterior

Riga_-_1_of_124_6.jpg by Hayden Albrey on 500px.com

Riga central market interior

 

The KGB Building

The Corner House, or the former headquarters of the USSR Committee for State Security (KGB), is a symbol of occupation and captivity for the Latvian nation. In 1940-1941 and 1944-1990, the USSR imprisoned, interrogated and executed citizens and potential opponents of the occupation regime, inside the Corner House.

Inside the museum, there is an exhibition that tells the story of the KGB, the scariest USSR instrument of power, inside Latvia. You can also take a tour of the building's offices, prison cells, basement and kitchen. For ticketing information and opening times, head to OkupacijasMuzejs.lv/en/. Tickets for the guided tour are 5€. The KGB building is located about 15min walk from the old town.

The KGB Building

The basement inside the KGB Building.

The KGB Building

A KGB prison cell.

Riga Kayak Tour

Kayak along the Daugava River and the Riga canal in the evening when the city’s bridges and fountains are lit up. This tour is a mix of relaxation, beautiful sights, a dreamy atmosphere, and good company. Cost is 25€ and can be booked through any hostel. The tour starts at 10 pm in summer but may vary at other times of the year. Visit here for more info.

Riga

The Riga canal.

Riga

The Riga canal.

Nightlife


Aussie Bar

A fun backpacker bar attached to a hostel (see above). Head here for some great beer, great atmosphere and great people. I highly suggest the very tasty tap honey beer or the IPA, or any of the dozen or so other beers on tap!

The Armoury Bar

A unique bar that is adorned with a variety of Soviet era weapons and ammunition. It's a bit of cliche for the region, but the beer and whisky selection is really good and the bar is always popular. I definitely recommend visiting as a part of any Riga pub crawl. If you ask politely you will be able to have a few photos taken with an AK47 and also a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Cuba Café

A great bar with a nice Latino atmosphere inside the Riga Old Town. This bar-café doesn’t overdo its Cuban theme, striving for authenticity in its atmosphere instead of relying on stereotypical decorations. The interior is very eclectic, featuring a stuffed fox, old lamps, pictures of Fidel Castro, and old-fashioned wallpapers. The overall effect is surprisingly charming. It is the perfect place to have a mojito and to dance salsa. There’s also a terrace in the summer.

To Eat


Lido

An excellent self-serve restaurant with a huge selection of local dishes. The food on offer here is incredible tasty comfort food. A really huge meal including a drink can easily be bought for under 10€. One of my favourite places in the Baltics. Check out the Lido menu here. There are three Lidos in and around the Old Town, in the city centre, east of the Old Town and one more just north of the Old Town. I recommend visiting the Lido north of the Old Town as it is bigger and not as busy as the others.

Pakistānas Kebabs

I am always on the lookout for a good kebab when I am travelling and this small takeaway chain makes some great kebabs. There are four separate Pakistānas Kebabs joints in Riga and each is great. Their smallest kebab is less than 2€ making them one of the cheapest as well as the best. The two most central stores are the one in the Old Town as well as the one just outside the Old Town but quite close to Cinnamon Sally Hostel.

Transportation


Local Transport

The old town of Riga is very compact and walkable, so it's unlikely you will need to catch public transport. However, there is a network of trams, buses, minibuses, and trolleybuses available. They all use an e-ticket system called e-talons. A single fare covers a ride on any one route independent of the distance. The Rigas Satiksme website has a lot of info, or you can head to google maps and get public transport directions there. Single fares are €2 if paid on board to the driver or €1.15 for if a reloadable e-talon card is purchased in advance.

Getting In and Out

Tallinn

There are very frequent buses between Tallinn and Riga. The company with the most frequent departures is Lux Express. You can check timetables and make bookings for this route here. Tickets start at 10€ and the departure point is from the Riga International Coach terminal.

Vilnius

Buses are also frequent to and from Vilnius. Timetable and booking details can be found here. The departure point again is the Riga International Coach terminal.

Kaunas

Luxexpress does not run a route between Riga and Kaunas. For this route, I recommend a service like Eurolines. They operate a twice daily route from Riga to Kaunas. When booking, make sure the bus is direct, otherwise, you may be forced to take a detour through Vilnius. The direct bus should be no more than 3hr 50min.

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