Latvia’s Impressive Riga

February, 2015

As there are no real borders these days, you’d think that travelling across the border from Estonia and in to Latvia and on to Riga would be easy and without any hassles, right? Wrong!

Tip: This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Long travel adventure

The flash new train (€4.40) from Tartu bound for Valga (Estonia’s border to Latvia) departs at 10:20hrs to meet the connecting train (with a 12-minute wait time between trains), which should be waiting to whisk us away across the border to Latvia and on to Riga.

Riga, Latvia, Baltic States, EuropeThe journey from Tartu to the border takes just over an hour, but also another 10-minutes late.

Once in Valga, the Riga train should have been waiting. However, there was no Latvian train anywhere to be seen, although the board stated it should be on time and waiting. Stranded on the platform in the cold and snow, we trudged our 30-kilo backpacks inside the station to enquire whether a train would arrive sometime today.

A traveller from India was also stuck at the station with us but he’s going to Riga to catch a flight to Australia – small world – we’re from Australia. Not able to wait any longer, he takes a taxi to Riga as he didn’t want to miss his flight.

A very helpful staff member tried to tell us in Estonian that a train hasn’t arrived today, but later we learn that no Latvian trains are working today.

On our way again, finally

After five and a half hours of waiting in the train station for a bus, one finally arrives but still not sure of its destination as no one speaks English…are we going to reach Riga today?

The bus takes us across the border, which is only a couple of kilometres from the train station and a further 57 kilometres to Valmeira.

Along the way, we seem to drive around many back lanes in the dark to pick up one or two people at tiny deserted train stations. Looking out, fresh deep snow covers both sides of the lanes.

Getting off the bus at Valmeira, we all pile into a tired old train, bound for Riga.

Although the train isn’t busy to start, slowly along the journey we are the only ones left in the carriage with the train conductor. On asking the name of the next station, she responds in a very slow husky, Latvian accent “Nexttt, Riiigaaa”.

The train trip is quite surreal…actually, the whole day is quite surreal!

Finally arriving in Riga at about 21:00hrs, the station and surrounding streets are a little seedy this time of night, but we still walk to the Wellton Hotel in the Old Town – about 15 minutes away.

The Latvian bus and train trips cost €5.60 in total – bargain.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, Baltic States, Europe
Riga Old Town


Decided not to venture into museums in Riga as these are expensive for the budget.

Vecrīga – Old Town

Although not as large as the Old Town in Tallinn (Estonia), located on the east side of Daugava River, Vecrīga is still impressive.

Famous for its old churches and cathedrals, such as Riga Cathedral and St. Peter’s church, it’s a delightful site to explore.

Although still winter and snowing, it is a little busy, especially on the weekends with both local and foreign tourists.

Laima Clock

This clock is near the Freedom Monument and apparently used to be a favourite rendezvous point for couples.

A great spot for people watching and taking photos, as the clock is in the centre of the main square.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, clock, Baltic States, Europe
Laima Clock – Anno 1334

Freedom Monument

An impressive memorial on Brīvības bulvāris (Freedom Boulevard) that honours soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence. And is an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia.

Art Nouveau District

From the Old Town, it’s easily a half-hour walk to the Art Nouveau District, which hosts an ensemble of buildings, boulevards, and parks.

Apparently, this district was created in the late 19th and 20th centuries and according to local tourist brochure, supposed to be one of the “most diverse centres of art nouveau architecture in Europe”. Sadly, this didn’t live up to this claim for me.

Wandered around this area going down multiple streets for over an hour to find some of these exceptional buildings, but after visiting the Old Town, this district didn’t offer too much.

Rīgas Centrāltirgus (Riga Central Markets)

Wow! Not only is this an amazing UNESCO-listed area that hosts a myriad of over 3,000 trade stands, but in the past this was one of the biggest and most modern markets in the world. And, at 72,300 square metres, I can see why.

Fresh and natural food, clothing, bric-a-brac stalls, and much more are housed in 5 pavilions constructed by reusing old German Zeppelin hangers – you’ll spot these from a distance.

You’ll spend hours wandering around this market and drooling at all the delicacies for sale. Great people-watching place as locals bargain for produce and goods. And unlike any SE Asian market I’ve visited, this market is spotless.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, cathedral
Dom Cathedral – Central Riga


Rixwell Old Riga Palace Hotel (formerly Wellton Old Riga Palace Hotel) – The first hotel stay in Eastern Europe and although the room is small, everything is great.

The actual hotel building is very lovely. This hotel is a little pricey and usually out of our budget, but with accumulated Agoda points, the discount is too good to be missed.

The amazing part of this hotel is the buffet breakfast included in our room price. This has to be one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had!

The selection and quality are both excellent, you definitely won’t starve, and the service is great.

Breakfast starts at 07:00 and finishes at 11:00hrs. I’m sure some guests just sit and graze for the 4-hour duration, as it really is incredible value.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, Baltic States, Europe
Medieval streets


As we’re staying in a hotel and not a self-contained apartment this time, have to keep the costs down. So, staying in a couple of nights with wine, freshly baked bread, cheese, smoked salmon, olives, and salami – all of which you can buy at the excellent supermarkets close by.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, Baltic States, Europe
Two of the Three Brothers – Old Town

Wok to Walk

Stumbled on this popular Asian restaurant on Aspazijas bulvaris 30, whilst wandering through the Old Town – popular with locals and tourists.

A standard noodle dish (you select the noodles, meat, and sauce) starts at about €3.29, but can quickly add up if you start adding extras to your base meal.

The meal is good but after having spent over 10 months in SE Asia, found that the dishes are tailored to the European palette and not very authentic or spicy.


For grocery shopping, visit the Rimi, Maxima, or IKI chains. Although, the Maxima (X, XX, or XXX – size of store) chains seem to be a little cheaper and have a greater selection than the others.

Stockmann Supermarket

This building is next to the Riga Central train station and although a little more expensive, it offers more of a gourmet selection of scrumptious goods in addition to the usual staples.

The Stockmann coffee shop just outside of the supermarket has the cheapest and best Segafredo coffee around, which comes with a dark chocolate morsel on the side. Choose from savouries, salads, and pastries at great prices. The service is also pretty good.

Leaving Riga

Decided to push west from Riga and travel to Liepāja by bus (€10).

This journey takes about 3.5 hours and leaves Riga bus station many times throughout the day. You can buy tickets on the bus.

Visit my Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Latvia at Image Earth Travel.

Latvia, Riga, architecture, Baltic States, Europe
Ornate ancient fencing

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19 responses to “Latvia’s Impressive Riga”

  1. Abirbhav Avatar

    Thank you Madam for sharing such an informative article about Riga.. So crisp and to the point, complemented by beautiful pictures as well..!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the great feedback and happy that you enjoyed my post and photos!

      1. Abirbhav Avatar

        You are most welcome Madam.. 😊
        Your posts are so well organised and informative..
        Thank you for checking my blog as well.. would be happy to get your feedback.. 😊

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Please call me Nilla.
        Many thanks once again and visited your informative blog, also left you a comment. 😉

      3. Abirbhav Avatar

        Sure Nilla.. I am Abirbhav.. Nice to meet you..
        Thank you once again for your feedback and taking the time to check my blog.. 🙂

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi, nice to meet you too and you’re very welcome.

      5. Abirbhav Avatar


      6. Abirbhav Avatar

        (searching for your valuable comment though 🙈)

      7. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That’s strange as I’am sure I left a comment and liked your Singapore post (the mechanics of the city…).

      8. Abirbhav Avatar

        Oh.. I see.. Strange are the ways of WordPress.. (I almost lost a blog post of mine earlier, despite duly saving the same repeatedly)

      9. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I know what you mean as WP continuously throws my real comments into my Trash or Spam folder. So every day, I go through several hundred and pick out the real comments – annoying.
        Just left another comment on a different post.

      10. Abirbhav Avatar

        Exactly.. WP must have some kind of bug.. couldn’t find the other comment of yours as well..
        Anyways, thank you for still taking the time out to read and comment, not once, but twice.. much appreciated.. ☺️🤗🙏🏻

      11. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Agree. After the last WP update, I found a couple of annoying quirky things with the Dashboard.
        No problem and look forward to reading your future posts. 🙂

  2. inesephoto Avatar

    Oh you missed an excellent place to eat in Riga. It is Lido! I rented an apartment in 2010 – by the way, a great price and location – and it was just across from Lido. You can probably google the menu etc. Just divine.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      What a shame! I love to eat my way around Europe!
      Will just have to go back and hunt Lido out. Thanks for the tip Inese.
      Did you enjoy Latvia? I loved it. 🙂

      1. inesephoto Avatar

        I spent summer in Latvia in 2013, and did a fair bit of travels 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That would have been wonderful!
        I wasn’t there very long, think about 9 or so days and would love to return one day. Too many places to see and only a lifetime to do it in. 🙂

      3. inesephoto Avatar

        That’s the problem 🙂

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed it is 🙂

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