Follow this list of alternative things to do in Riga to skirt the crowds of the Old Town, heading instead for the city’s abandoned buildings, arty hangouts, and skateparks.
Many visitors to Riga spend their time in the touristic, though beautiful Old Town with its pastel buildings and adorable shops selling Laima chocolates and Balzams liquor. But few get to experience the thriving alternative scene that the city has to offer.
Riga is full of abandoned buildings and cheap space which have allowed its creative scene to flourish. This guide takes you into the city’s many creative spaces and also offers some simple tips on how to experience traditional Latvian culture. Riga is Latvia’s capital city, and really, its only urban center. The rest of the country is predominantly rural. No trip to the heart of the Baltics is complete without experiencing country life.
This list of 33 things to do in Riga is full of alternative trip ideas and quirky haunts.
1. The center of Riga is full of abandoned buildings. Hit up Free Riga and discover all the interesting ways in which artists and designers have repurposed them.
2. Share a punnet of strawberries at midnight at the Central Market.
3. Watch the Baltic Queens perform at one of the city’s popular drag evenings.
4. Challenge yourself with some high brow contemporary art at Kim? Gallery.
5. Go skateboarding at The Spot, an indoor skatepark complete with a foam pit.
Soviet-styleck to the early 90s on Alfrēda Kalniņa iela where a Soviet style restaurant serves vodka, pelmeni, tea and sandwiches for under 4 euros. The alcohol and till are still kept safe behind bars.
7. Visit the National Library building which has been designed to look like a mountain and has a skatepark out front.
8. Watch a film for free at one of the Benji Knewman literary evenings.
10. Have a bottle of ‘existential crisis’ at Čē and pretend to be one of your favourite philosophers.
11. Visit the beach at Jūrmala and relax at what was once a Soviet resort.
12. Fancy getting beaten with branches in a hot sauna? Head out of the city for a traditional shamanic sauna ritual.
13. Take a street art tour of the city, beginning at the Tallinas quarter, and end in the center.
14. Eat sour cream with everything (literally!) for an authentic Latvian experience.
15. Come in time for the Riga Biennial art event and check out the best in contemporary art.
16. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is grim but necessary if you want to understand Latvia’s troubled history.
17. Cross the Daugava river and check out the Soviet war memorials. Topped with a red star, this striking bit of architecture is the site of protests throughout the year.
18. Take the Lux Express bus for five euros to Tallinn or Vilnius. The two neighboring Baltic capitals are both full of alternative experiences.
19. Walk around Riga’s micro-districts, or microrayons, and think of the USSR.
20. Try duck filled pelmeni and other takes on the traditional dumplings at Pelmeņi XL.
21. Go for a paddle down the Daugava in hired boats and try to spot the otters.
22. Sun yourself beneath the city’s largest bridge on an artificial beach.
23. Walk out into the industrial districts to the east of the Old Town and head for the fishermen. This is the best spot in the city to down a bottle of wine as you watch the sunset.
24. Watch the Riga Young Poets perform their poetry in Latvian on Dzirnavu iela.
25. Get some rare magazines and art books at Mr Page, where every customer must put on white gloves to handle the product.
26. Mix sour cream with chopped cucumber, tomato, and dill, for a traditional Latvian summer salad.
27. Go wakeboarding across the Daugava at the city’s wake school.
28. Take a bike ride around the city streets with She Fix, an all-girl fixed gear bike gang.
29. Realign your chakras at the Life Art Academy through some spiritual activities.
30. The disused Riga Circus is the best venue in town for art events and drinking. Keep an eye out for events at this unusual venue.
31. Spend the night listening to shamans chanting at Kino Teatris.
32. Forget Cadbury–Riga’s Laima factory has the best boozy chocolates.
33. Take a bog walk at the Kemeri National Park to experience the Latvian countryside.