If you are looking for a new and unique, lesser-known destination in Europe, Latvia is probably an ideal destination for you. Latvia – a destination that is not very famous, but if you have come here, visitors definitely cannot help but admire its beauty. Adorned with the valley pine of Gauja or the wonders bearing bold European dome architecture style, Latvia appears in a charming and brilliant way. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Latvia for the first-time? Let’s check out our Latvia travel blog (Latvia blog, Riga blog, Riga travel blog) with the fullest Latvia travel guide (Latvia guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Latvia, a name is still quite unfamiliar to those who are passionate about European tourism. However, in my opinion, not because few people know about it that make this place is not worth exploring at all. If I have to vote on a place that I’ve been to and want to come back again, surely the Latvian capital Riga will never be out of this list. In 2018 Riga was also voted as the top 5 most attractive destinations in Europe.
Latvia travel guide: Overview of Latvia
Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia. Latvia is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia and Belarus to the east and the Baltic Sea to the west. Ethnic groups are mainly Latvian (59%) and Russian (28.3%), in addition to other ethnic minorities. Latvia’s area is about 65,000 square kilometers but the population is only nearly 2.7 million people (2021).
- The Latvian capital: Riga
- Member of the European Union since 2004
- Latvian population: about 2.7 million people
- Language: Latvian, English (administrative), Russian
The capital of Latvia is Riga and this city has also been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Riga is also the largest city among cities in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). Latvia is a country with a long history in Europe. Historically, the country was colonized by many neighboring countries.
On November 18, 1918, the republic of Latvia was officially established. In 1940, Latvia was annexed to the Soviet Union, then became a socialist country called the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, Latvia became an independent country again. Therefore, it is not difficult to realize, the architectures were built in Riga are extremely majestic and beautiful. People often compare Riga to a city of Art Nouveau – an art and architecture school from the early 19th century that stands out with its meticulous decoration and intricate and flexible motifs. These are also special architectural features only in Riga.
In my personal opinion, the architecture here is as beautiful as in cities centers of the Netherlands or Russia and even more beautiful than the Nordic countries. Therefore, many newspapers are now assessing that Riga’s tourism is being “underrated” compared to other European countries.
Latvia travel blog: When to visit?
Latvia has a pleasant climate, so it is extremely suitable for sightseeing, relaxing and leisure travel. The best time to travel to Latvia is in spring (April – June) and autumn (September – October). During this time, the weather is warm, right in the fruit harvesting season, so the scenery even more charming. If you want to have a special experience, you can also come here around February when the temperature is very low to have fun with snow.
In addition, January and February are the coldest months of the year. November, December days are usually short and often rain in late afternoon.
Riga travel guide: Where to stay?
The cost of living in Latvia is quite cheap, the hotel price is about €20-30/night, so you will have a room right in the center if you book early.
During my trip in Riga, I stayed at the Airbnb of a Latvian man’s house. His house located right in the center, so it is quite convenient. The room rate is €23 and you are free to use its kitchen. In general, life in Latvia as well as the climate here is quite pleasant, so I was so satisfied with this trip. In addition, you can refer to some of the following hotels:
- Green Cat Rooms: The hotel is located in the heart of Riga with modern and comfortable equipment. Price €23/2 people.
- Apartment Harmony (Agoda.com or Booking.com): The hotel is located in the center of Riga for €24/2 people including breakfast.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Grand Poet Hotel by Semarah (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Neiburgs Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Monika Centrum Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Wellton Centrum Hotel & Spa (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Latvia travel guide: Gettting to Latvia
There are no connecting flights to Riga, but you can go from Helsinki, take a ferry to Tallinn and continue take a bus to Riga. If you plan to visit Baltic states, you can make a trip to visit Tallinn (Estonia) – Riga (Latvia) – Vilnius (Lithuania).
Other ways to get to Latvia you can refer to here.
Riga travel guide: Getting around Riga
If you only visit famous places right in the center of Riga, you do not need to buy tickets for transportation, but if necessary, you can refer to some of the following options:
Hop on – hop off bus tickets: Adult: €17 / Child (11-15 years old): €10
The above fare for 2 days, and note that this is an online ticket price, if you buy it directly on bus, it will be more expensive (€20). Tickets can be used to go 4 different lines and passing many famous attractions.
- Take bus 22 from the airport – city center and vice versa (30 minutes)
- Single ticket price: €1.15 when buy online or via ticket vending machines, ticket counters (tickets purchased directly on the bus: €2)
- One-day ticket: €5
- 3-day ticket: €10
Riga travel blog: Where to go?
Old Town of Riga
When it comes to Riga, perhaps it can’t help but to mention its old town. This district was recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage in 1997. Although the war has caused a lot of damage to the works in the Latvian capital Riga, the remaining works, buildings, structures are still well preserved to this day.
Riga’s Old Town is a maze of enchanting cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings dating back to the 13th century. The main highlights here are the St. Peter’s Church, House of the Black Heads, and the Three Brothers. These are definitely places you should not miss when traveling to Riga.
St. Peter’s Church
The Church of St. Peter is the highest structure in Riga, with a 123.5 meter towering tower rising straight into the Old Town sky. You can take the elevator to the top of this tower for a panoramic view of the city. Besides worship services, this 13th-century Art Nouveau building also hosts art exhibitions, festivals and concerts.
Church of St. Peter is one of the oldest medieval monuments in the Baltic States. Since its construction, this tower has been affected by lightning, wind storms and fire and has been rebuilt many times.
Located next to the gentle Daugava River, Saint Peter’s Church is the most representative of the quintessence of Art Nouveau architecture school. Using curving curves with high vaulted doorways and elaborate decorations, St. Peter’s Church is the most beautiful and impressive church in the Baltic region.
Address: Reformācijas Laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Hours: 10AM–7PM/Monday: Closed
Architectural style: Gothic architecture
House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads was built in 1334 and was the meeting venue of Riga’s various public organizations. It was completely destroyed during the 2nd world war and was rebuilt in 1999. This building can be seen as the symbol of Latvia tourism that you often see on its postcards.
This magnificent Blackheads building is like a crown adorning the Old Town square in Riga. The building’s Dutch Renaissance exterior is a tourist attraction. This building was built in the 14th century, was destroyed during the war and rebuilt in 1999.
Address: Rātslaukums 7, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 12–5PM
A building complex of three houses, located in the Latvian capital Riga. This is considered the oldest residence in Riga. The homes are located at 17, 19 and 21 Maza Pils Street, and each represents different periods of housing development of the city.
Address: Mazā Pils iela 17, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
Christ’s Nativity Church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the Baltic region. The church was built in 1876, when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire. At that time, this church was one of the most laborious and expensive buildings ever built in Riga. In the 1960s, the Soviets converted the cathedral’s use into an observatory and cafe, destroying the murals on the ceiling. The building returned to its original role as a church when Latvia gained independence from Russia.
I consider this a very worthwhile place to go when traveling to Riga, Latvia because besides the church’s architecture, its location is right on the boulevard overlooking the trees that are trimmed like square-shaped, evenly and eye-catching. Besides, this church is located right in the campus of an extremely large park. You definitely won’t regret coming to this place.
Address: Brīvības bulvāris 23, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Architectural style: Byzantine Revival architecture
In addition to the outstanding places above with countless small places to visit in Latvia, you can visit some other places such as Bastejkalna Park or Riga central market.
Bastejkalna Park is also an interesting place that you should stop when traveling in Latvia. This is very large park located in the bustling center of Riga, Latvian park possesses extremely rich natural scenes. Inside the park are large lakes. To experience the wonderful and interesting things here, you can walk or cycle around the park. You will sure to have an enjoyable picnic here.
Address: Central District, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
Hours: Open 24 hours
Riga Central Market
The Central Market is located next to Riga Bus Station and Central Railway Station, near the Old Town and is full of goods and food. You can stop by to know the price of food and experience the real market culture here.
Address: Nēģu iela 7, Latgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Freedom Monument is a memorial to the soldiers who participated in the Latvian war for independence. The monument consists of a large column, carved statues around it, at the top of the column is a bronze statue of the Statue of Liberty, holding 3 stars. This monument is a symbol of Latvia’s freedom, independence and sovereignty.
Address: Central District, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
Opened: November 18, 1935
Height: 42 m
Riga Castle, located on the banks of the Daugava River, is a must-see when visiting the Latvian capital. It was built in 1330. After several destructions, the castle was continuously restored between the 17th and 19th centuries. Today, it is used as a museum and the presidential residence.
Address: Pils laukums 3, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia
Architectural style: Classical architecture
In addition, if you still have time, you can go to the other side of the city’s river where many Russians live is called Pardaugava. This area also has a number of attractions such as flea market, museum, Holy Trinity Church of Pārdaugava, park… If you take a hop on hop off bus, the bus will take you to this area too.
And the last place to consider to come when traveling to Latvia is Jurmala Beach, a 30-minute train ride from the center. If you still have time, you should consider to go, this beach has the Blatic style, so it’s not as excellent as our Vietnamese beaches.
Cēsis Old Town
Cesis is one of Latvia’s oldest towns with poetic cobblestone streets, wooden buildings and impressive castles. With gardens, lakes, flowers and small paths, or moss-covered rocks… Cesis appears as beautiful as a watercolor painting. When you visit Cesis, you can visit the historic museum, gallery and oldest brewery in the region.
Gutmanis is the deepest cave in the Baltic region at a depth of 19m, 10-12m wide. This is also a favorite destination of tourists when coming to this Baltic country. There are many legends about the formation of this cave, one of which is the story of a chief’s wife, who was locked here because of infidelity, her tears created Gutmanis cave.
One of the most beautiful places in Latvia is Turai Castle. This castle was built during the time of the Roman pope. However it was destroyed in 1776. But, 50 years later it was restored to its original form. Visiting this castle, visitors will see the red brick background, it exudes a rare ancient look. The wild scenery around the castle makes you feel like you are lost in the magical fairy world.
Address: Turaidas iela 10, Sigulda, Siguldas pilsēta, LV-2150, Latvia
Venta Rapid Waterfall
With an impressive width (249m), Venta is currently the widest waterfall in Europe, although the slope is only about 2m. The best time to see this waterfall is in spring. When the water overflows, the waterfall also turns and shoots white foam.
Riga travel guide: What to eat?
Latvian cuisine is typical of European cuisine. It brings the subtle and sophisticated. In addition to its delicious and attractive taste, it is also decorated very sophisticatedly and eye-catching. In particular, the dishes in Latvia are not too expensive, suitable for the budget of most tourists.
Typical Latvian cuisine consists of agricultural products, where meat is present in almost every main course of a meal. Fish is commonly consumed as Latvia is located on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. Latvian cuisine changes with the seasons, each time of the year has its own unique foods and flavors. Latvian food is generally quite fatty and uses little seasoning.
Here, you can try to enjoy Sklandrausis pie, a traditional vegetable pastry made from carrots and potatoes, sprinkled with cinnamon powder and served with milk; dessert Maizes zupa (bread soup) made with rye bread, whipped cream and fruit; or sipping a glass of Riga Black Balsam flavored with a variety of herbs.
Coming here, you can rest assured that you can eat comfortably without having to worry about costs. A meal in restaurants costs only €4-5. Supermarkets are of course cheap. In general, the price is cheaper than all the countries I have been to in Europe (on par with Lithuania).
If you want Asian food, come here, I think it’s delicious and the price is also quite good: Hum Asian Kitchen: (Address: etrūdes iela 22, Riga 1011, Latvia+371 66 077 077).
If you want to try an authentic Latvian restaurant, you can visit this place: Domini Canes (Address: Skarnu street 18/20 | Riga Old Town, Riga 1050, Latvia). This restaurant is located in the old town near St. Peter church.
Onother good restaurant also located in the Old Town is Golden coffee (Address: Kungu iela 7/9, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia/Hours: 9AM–11PM).
In short, traveling to Riga is the cheapest cost among other European cities!
Riga travel guide: Shopping
In Latvia there are many places to shop with interesting gifts for yourself or as souvenirs for loved ones such as amber rings, silver jewelry, smoked ceramics, very beautiful decorated fingerless gloves or unique handicrafts. These items are sold everywhere from traditional markets to commercial centers, from shops to roadside stalls.
Riga travel blog: Trip costs
Riga has a very good cost of living, not as expensive as many Western and Nordic countries. A bottle of soft drink costs 80 cents, while in Finland it is €2.5 and in France €2.0.
One night hostel from €10 – €15. Hotels from €20. I have stayed at a 4-star hotel but the price is only €35, this price is even cheaper than mid-range hotels in Vietnam.
Means of transportation you can buy daily ticket for €5 and can use all bus and tram system of the city.
The trip cost per day if staying at hostel is only €35/day/person.
Riga blog: Some notes before you go
- In short, when traveling to Riga, the most worth-visiting place in my opinion is Riga Old Town – where many Art Nouveau buildings and churches and other historical sites are concentrated. There is also an boulevard and Christ’s Nativity church right in the center. The above places can be considered a must see in Riga – the rest of the places I have mentioned, if you still have time, let explore. The itinerary for traveling between attractions is not too difficult. You just need to find your way to the old town and boulevard. Generally pretty easy to find.
- If you have time, go to Lithuania – a neighboring country with the same cost as Latvia but the scenery is also very beautiful.
Riga travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Riga you can refer to
- Tallink Silja Cruise between Stockholm and Riga
- Riga Classical Old Town 2-Hour Walking Tour
- Sigulda Hiking Tour: A Day in the Switzerland of Latvia
- From Riga: Cēsis, Sigulda & Turaida Castle Tour
- Kemeri National Park & Baltic Seaside Tour Bog Boardwalk
- Eurail Pass for Latvia (3, 4, 5, 6, or 8 Days)
- Riga Sightseeing Tour by Canal Boat
- Riga: Private Tour with a Local Guide
- Riga Classical Old Town 2-Hour Walking Tour
- Riga: 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Are you looking for more top things to do in Latvia: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here.