Riga - Latvia - Weekend Travel Guide
Updated: May 20, 2020
The climate of Riga is humid continental. The coldest months are January and February when the average temperature is −5 °C (23 °F) but temperatures as low as −20 to −25 °C (−4 to −13 °F) can be observed almost every year on the coldest days. The proximity of the sea causes frequent autumn rains and fogs. Continuous snow cover may last eighty days. The summers in Riga are mild and rainy with an average temperature of 18 °C (64 °F), while the temperature on the hottest days can exceed 30 °C (86 °F). Early May to late October is generally regarded as the best time visit by most seasoned Travellers. However, as long as you bring a warm jacket and expect it to be cold the winters can be just as good.
One of the places I recently visited while in Riga went by the name of "The House of the BlackHeads". I have to admit this place really stood out for me and I found myself captivated by its history. The House of the Blackheads is a building situated in the old town of Riga, Latvia. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried merchants, shipowners, and foreigners in Riga. Maybe it was the mystique of the place or maybe it was the fact that it was started by travellers that drew me into the place but drawn in I certainly was. Here is that video where I visit the Blackheads House.
Little old Riga although it is actually the biggest city in all the Baltics. Home to a third of Latvia's population and a city that should be visited by all those that enjoy European travel destinations. It's also a city I've frequented many times either for business, tourism or simply visiting friends. I am Alex van Terheyden & I am passionate about travel, immersing myself in other cultures and have the belief that all Nations are unique and worthy of one's time. I recently made a series of videos for my YouTube Channel The Wondering Englishman about intriguing Riga. The Wondering Englishman's YouTube channel consists of various adventures from around the world. He "wonders" what a place may be like and then sets off on an adventure to find out. Bringing the viewer and his loyal subscribers along for the ride.
I'm incorporating the recent Riga Videos into this article so it's your one-stop-shop for some essential Riga action. This post will be updated when new videos are sure to be made about this destination.
Riga was founded way back in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. In 2020, Riga has a population of just under 700,000 it receives double that in the number of visitors each year (1.5million) and it is only going to grow over the up and coming years. Riga is served by most of Europes major Airlines and depending on where you are flying from you are more than likely to be able to pick up a good deal if planned ahead. Kayak, Google Flights and Skyscanner should be the go-to websites for searching for the best flight deals. However, my personal favourite for European flight deals is Skyscanner. For some reason, Skyscanner works best when searching for European Flights over any of its rivals.
The city is served by Riga International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in the Baltic states. And it is from that airport where most of you will enter Riga should you visit for a weekend. Here is my advice on getting to the centre.
One theory about the origin of the name Riga is that it is a corrupted borrowing from the Liv rings meaning loop, referring to the ancient natural harbour formed by the tributary loop of the Daugava River.
The river Daugava has been a trade route since antiquity, part of the Vikings' Dvina-Dnieper navigation route to Byzantium. A sheltered natural harbour 15 km (9.3 mi) upriver from the mouth of the Daugava — the site of today's Riga. And it is this river that has served the people of Riga for centuries with goods and one of the finest examples of this service can be found at the Biggest Market in the world (yes it is actually in Riga Latvia). This is Riga's City Market.
The Gothic spires that dominate Riga's cityscape might suggest austerity, but it is the flamboyant art nouveau that forms the flesh and the spirit of this vibrant cosmopolitan city. Like a lot of Northern European cities, it is quiet and reserved on the outside, but there is some powerful chemistry going on inside its hip bars, modern art centres and the kitchens of its cool experimental restaurants. If you have a fondness for food then you won't come away disappointed from a weekend in Latvia. My advice as restaurants are forever changing I would refer to TripAdvisors' Top Restaurants list when in Latvia. Download the app onto your smartphone and have Riga available in offline mode that way you won't be incurring any roaming fees if your data plan doesn't allow Latvian data. Yelp does not serve the city well and is biased towards American travel tastes hence steer towards TripAdvisor which is clearly more used if you took the time like I did to compare the two while there.
Over the years, I've had the fortune to stay in an array of hotels, apartments and various forms of accommodation while visiting Latvia. For the majority of travellers, I recommend Booking.com - yes, there are hotel comparison websites such as Trivago and Kayak. However, from my years of travel experience, I've discovered both of these comparison websites do not have all the hotels, hostels and apartments listed. The reasons behind this could be some premises simply do not pay the comparison sights a fee or the reason could be something else. If you know of the reason, do leave a comment below. However, I have discovered no matter what the location Booking.com will 9/10ths of the time have the most competitive deal and generally more choice. However, if you are super keen to get the best deal- use Booking.com, Kayak, Trivago, Lastiminute.com and Hotels.com in separate browser windows. An alternative which I do recommend for your accommodation is Airbnb. The city authorities still allow Airbnb in the city (it hasn't been banned just yet). I've booked a number of apartments via Airbnb. If you have not used them before (you have probably been living under a rock). But if you use this referral link you will get many Dollars or Euros off your first booking, and I'll get a very small referral kickback.
Riga has since its Inception sat at the crossroads of the great empires that wrote the pages of Europe’s elaborate history, Riga was – for centuries – a strategic linchpin in the annexation of important lands, until it was smothered into obscurity when the Iron Curtain fell. During its time in the Soviet Union, it experienced a changing population. Russians moved into Latvia while Latvian dissidents were often made to disappear. One of the museums in the city that give a snapshot into the dark years of the Soviet occupation is found where the KGB used to be headquartered. Though the museum does need updating it is a valuable source of information for those unfamiliar with KGB tactics and the atrocities that went on under communism.
The most vibrant time of year in Riga is probably around over the summer solstice (23 and 24 June), Ligo and Jani are Riga’s most important days, celebrated with deep pagan undertones. Though most city dwellers flock to the countryside for bonfires, beers and naked frolicking, the capital remains lively, with parades and locals dressed in traditional garb. When not celebrating Pagan festivals Latvians love to drink good beer and decent cocktails in the numerous pubs and bars dotted around the city. And when Latvians and tourists want to party some more there is a wide selection of clubs to choose from. Although nothing to rival Berlin or Ibiza, the small city is still a fun place with the right company.
Of course when your not out raving and drinking in the city you could be exploring the many museums in Riga or simply taking in the numerous sights. One of the more obscure museums I visited on my latest trip to Riga was the Video Games Museum. If you are a fan of Retro Gaming then this place has a huge selection of platforms to play and explore. From the humble ZX Spectrum, the game-changing Super Nintendo to Neo Geo arcade machines.
The Video Games Museum called “Enjoy the Game”. It’s a privately run museum set up by the owner of the games shop that it sits below. The man’s love for Videos games and classic gaming systems is why it exists. The Museum is still growing - as they are a long way from having every system under the roof but it’s clear that they have made it as open and interactive as possible. Great for old gamers and new gamers who are seeking out to either relive the past or discover the wonders of the gaming past. My hope is this little museum continues to grow. I’m happy I’m able to bring you an insight into the world of video games - something that was a big part of my childhood and youth. Check out the video and go pay it a visit if you are a fan of video games.
Enjoy the Game - Video Game Museum +371 27 028 464
Krišjāņa Barona iela 41/43, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1011, Latvia
I'll try my best to update this post as I gather more information on Riga over time. More videos will likely follow as I visit to take in the town after the weaponised virus has retreated from the scene. I was hesitant about posting the next video as it was done such a long time ago. However, this is the first video I made on the city of Riga. I would like to think it is more amateurish than my latest videos but I'm still learning as I go. Here is that video for prosperity purposes from 2017!
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