Riga is northern Paris. Riga is a lovely weekend destination with an affordable price level and short distances.
Experience the largest city in the Baltics
The capital of Latvia, Riga, is sometimes called the Paris of the North. And not quite swampy, as the beautiful river that crosses the center, the old buildings and the vibrant cultural life connect the two cities. However, Riga is not a cheap copy of Paris, but a unique city that charms with its own merits.
For many Finns, the Baltic countries are easy and familiar travel destinations where you can spend an affordable weekend holiday. Of the Baltic capitals, Riga in particular is a good example of an interesting and affordable city. The cobblestones and narrow alleys of Riga’s Old Town take the tourist on a time travel to the historic market town.
Riga’s strengths are good transport connections and a scale suitable for a weekend trip. Despite its compact size, the city offers everything you could expect from a city break: attractions, excellent food, shopping and culture. It is easy to combine a holiday in Riga with a visit to the sophisticated spa town of Jurmala, whose long sandy beaches make it easy to spend a day or two in the heat.
Riga blooms in summer
Riga is a year-round holiday destination that can be visited even in winter. However, like other northern cities, it comes to life when summer comes. Then the squares of the old town will be filled with terraces and stalls, and the sandy beaches of Jurmala from the sunbathers. In spring and summer, Riga is warm, but rarely suffocatingly hot.
Winters are humid in the city and basically mild in temperature, but the sea breeze often makes the weather chilly. In summer, the city is bustling, but in autumn and winter there are fewer tourists and the atmosphere is calmer. At Christmas, there will be a traditional Christmas market in Riga that is not to be missed.
The price level is delightfully affordable
Riga is still a fairly affordable destination for Finnish travelers, even though the capital is clearly more expensive than the rest of the country. Local food and shopping are available at very reasonable prices, although in the old town you should be prepared to pay extra for the location. There are many cafes and bakeries in Riga where you can taste delicious pastries and cakes.
Thanks to cheap flights, Riga has become a popular shopping destination. In the city’s shopping centers, trendy clothes are sold by Russian and European clothing chains, which differ from Finns more in terms of supply than prices. The largest shopping malls are Galerija Centrs and Alfa.
The finished dress of the Riyla women with high heels arouses admiration, but on the other hand, the clothing offer of the shops does not necessarily meet the tastes of Finns. The tourist also peeks into the small alleys, where you can often find lovely little boutiques with an individual selection.
Local products are lighter for the wallet. Typical souvenirs and gifts include chocolate, amber jewelry, wooden toys and dried fruit – and not to forget Riga’s legendary black balsam. The liquor sold as a miracle cure tastes mainly like a cough medicine, but it is promised to cure many other big and small ailments.
The most interesting place to shop for gifts is Keskustori, Centraltirgus, located in hangars designed for storing airships next to the bus station.
Nightlife and culture
For a culture lover, Riga is a great destination. The city’s vibrant cultural life is piloted by, among other things, the renowned National Opera. In fact, Richard Wagner has worked as a conductor in Riga in 1837-1839.
Of the museum offerings in Riga, it is worth visiting at least the Latvian Open-Air Ethnographic Museum, which is located about 13 km from the city center. On a beautiful day, the museum area easily spends several hours marveling at the historic habitat of Latvian farmers, artisans and fishermen. There are also events in the open-air museum area.
The darker phase of Latvia can be explored in the downtown area at the Occupation Museum. The museum is located in a huge black cube, which has been barked as the ugliest building in Riga. Admission to the museum is optional, making it an interesting and affordable place to visit.
Riga’s nightlife is wild and often expensive for tourists. Especially in the popular bars of the old town, a foreigner can easily shell out a double price for his drink. Fortunately, outside the Old Town, you can find very cheap cups and beer rooms in Finnish, where you can quench your thirst.
In nightlife, various scams of intoxicated tourists are still annoyingly common. The best way to avoid them is to keep your alcohol consumption reasonable and leave larger sums of money as well as extra cards in the hotel safe. Treat yourself with the latest friends who will join you in restaurants.