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Nine Wonderful Things To Do In Riga – A Winter Guide To Latvia’s Capital


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Doe Lombardo



Planning a winter trip to Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a fantastic choice for travelers seeking a unique and memorable experience. With its charming historic Old Town, vibrant cultural scene, and delightful winter activities, Riga offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or an adventurer, this captivating city has it all.


As you step into Riga’s Old Town, you’ll be transported back in time with its cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and awe-inspiring architecture. But Riga is not only about history; it is a vibrant city that embraces modernity while preserving its rich heritage.


In this article, we will explore nine wonderful things to do in Riga during winter, ensuring that you make the most of your visit to this stunning European city. From exploring the historic Old Town to experiencing the magic of the Christmas markets, we will highlight the best attractions and activities that will make your winter trip to Riga truly unforgettable.


So, bundle up in warm layers, put on your comfortable walking shoes, and let’s embark on a winter adventure in Riga, Latvia!


Explore the Historic Old Town

Riga’s Historic Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must-visit destination during your winter trip. As you wander through its narrow, winding streets, you’ll be captivated by the enchanting atmosphere and the well-preserved medieval architecture.


Start your exploration at the iconic Riga Cathedral, a stunning Gothic masterpiece that dates back to the 13th century. Step inside to admire the intricate stained glass windows and the majestic organ. From there, make your way to the House of Blackheads, an architectural gem that was once the meeting place of a medieval guild.


Continue your journey to the Three Brothers, a trio of medieval houses that showcase different architectural styles from different eras. These buildings provide a fascinating glimpse into Riga’s architectural evolution over the centuries.


As you stroll through the Old Town, you’ll also come across the Swedish Gate, the last remaining gate from the city’s medieval fortifications. Climb up the cupola of St. Peter’s Church for panoramic views of the city and the Daugava River.


Don’t forget to explore Livu Square, the heart of the Old Town, where you can indulge in delicious Latvian cuisine at the traditional restaurants or enjoy a cup of hot mulled wine in one of the cozy cafes. And of course, no visit to the Old Town is complete without marveling at the intricate architecture of the House of the Blackheads.


Whether you visit during the day or at night when the buildings are beautifully illuminated, the Historic Old Town of Riga will leave you in awe of its timeless beauty and historical significance.


Visit the Riga Central Market

A visit to the Riga Central Market is a must for any traveler looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and indulge in delicious culinary delights. Located in five historic Zeppelin hangars, this vibrant market is one of the largest in Europe.


As you enter the market, you’ll be greeted by a bustling atmosphere and a plethora of stalls offering a wide variety of fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and fish. Take your time to explore the maze of aisles and let the aromas and colors entice your senses.


While strolling through the market, make sure to try some traditional Latvian dishes. Sample the mouthwatering smoked bacon, the hearty sausages, or the famous Latvian dumplings called pelmeni. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the rich and creamy Latvian cottage cheese, which is a specialty of the region.


After indulging in the savory treats, satisfy your sweet tooth with Latvian pastries known as pīrāgi or the delightful honey cakes called medus kūka. Wash it all down with a refreshing glass of Kvass, a traditional Latvian fermented beverage.


Beyond the food offerings, the Riga Central Market also boasts an array of shops selling clothing, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Browse through the stalls to find unique Latvian products such as amber jewelry, wooden crafts, and traditional woolen mittens.


Visiting the Riga Central Market is not just a shopping experience; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, interact with friendly vendors, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this lively place. So, make sure to include a visit to this iconic market in your itinerary when you’re in Riga.


Enjoy Winter Sports at Mežaparks

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and love winter sports, then a visit to Mežaparks in Riga is a must. Located on the outskirts of the city, Mežaparks is a picturesque neighborhood nestled in a lush forest. During the winter months, this area transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a plethora of activities for all ages.


One of the highlights of Mežaparks is its renowned bobsleigh track. Strap on a helmet, hop aboard a bobsleigh, and experience the exhilaration of racing down the track at high speeds. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just looking for a thrilling experience, this activity is sure to get your heart racing.


For those who prefer a more relaxed outdoor experience, Mežaparks offers opportunities for ice skating and cross-country skiing. Glide across the frozen lake at the Mežaparks Ice Skating Rink or explore the scenic trails that wind through the surrounding forest on skis.


If you’re traveling with children, they will love the sledding hills in Mežaparks. Grab a sled, find a slope, and slide down the snowy hills with glee. It’s a fun-filled activity that will create lasting memories for the whole family.


After a day of winter sports, take a leisurely walk around Mežaparks and admire the beautiful landscape. The neighborhood is home to the enchanting Mežaparks Palace, a stunning manor house surrounded by a tranquil park. Explore the grounds and marvel at the neoclassical architecture before warming up with a cup of hot chocolate at a nearby café.


Mežaparks truly comes alive during the winter season, offering a range of exciting activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a peaceful winter stroll, Mežaparks has something for everyone. So, layer up and embrace the chilly weather as you enjoy the winter sports and natural beauty of this delightful neighborhood.


Discover the Art Nouveau Architecture

Riga is renowned for its stunning collection of Art Nouveau architecture, making it a paradise for enthusiasts of this unique and ornate style. In fact, the city boasts one of the largest concentrations of Art Nouveau buildings in the world.


Embark on a walking tour through the streets of Riga to admire the intricate facades adorned with elaborate ornamentation, exquisite sculptures, and whimsical motifs. Albert Street is a great starting point, as it is lined with some of the most iconic Art Nouveau buildings in the city.


One of the must-see landmarks is the building at 10B Alberta iela, also known as the Art Nouveau Museum. Step inside to explore the interior, furnished with period pieces that transport you back in time to the height of the Art Nouveau movement.


Continue your architectural exploration by wandering along Elizabetes and Strelnieku Streets, where you’ll encounter more stunning examples of Art Nouveau buildings. The facades showcase a fusion of organic and geometric forms, floral motifs, and elegant curves.


For a deeper understanding of the Art Nouveau movement, visit the Riga Art Nouveau Museum. Housed in a beautifully restored Art Nouveau building, the museum offers insight into the history and significance of this architectural style, as well as the lifestyle of the affluent Latvians who once inhabited these lavish apartments.


As you explore Riga’s Art Nouveau district, keep an eye out for the unique “Cats of Riga”. These cat sculptures perched on the roofs of certain buildings are believed to symbolize good luck and protection from evil spirits.


Immerse yourself in the beauty of Art Nouveau architecture as you wander the streets of Riga. The blend of elegance and whimsy found in these buildings is truly mesmerizing and showcases the city’s rich cultural heritage in a distinctive and captivating way.


Take a Stroll along the Daugava River

A leisurely stroll along the banks of the Daugava River is a must-do activity when visiting Riga. The river, which flows through the heart of the city, offers breathtaking views and a serene atmosphere that provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.


Start your walk near the Riga Castle, an impressive structure that has served as a residence for various ruling powers throughout history. As you make your way along the river, you’ll pass by picturesque parks and green spaces, providing the perfect opportunity for a peaceful escape.


As you continue your stroll, you’ll come across several iconic landmarks, such as the National Library of Latvia, also known as the “Castle of Light.” Its striking modernist design stands in stark contrast to the traditional architecture of the surrounding area.


For panoramic views of the city and the river, head to the Riga Skyline Bar, located on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel. Enjoy a refreshing drink or a cup of coffee while admiring the magnificent vistas.


Further along the river, you’ll discover the breathtaking Cable Bridge, an iconic symbol of Riga. This striking structure provides both pedestrians and vehicles with a convenient crossing over the river. Don’t forget to take some photos and capture the beauty of this architectural marvel.


If you’re visiting Riga during the summer months, consider taking a river cruise to fully appreciate the beauty of the Daugava River. From the water, you’ll have a different perspective of the city’s skyline and its charming waterfront attractions.


Whether you choose to stroll along the riverbanks or embark on a river cruise, the Daugava River offers a tranquil and scenic experience. Take in the beauty of Riga’s architecture, enjoy the fresh air, and let the soothing presence of the river rejuvenate your senses.


Experience the Riga Opera House

For lovers of the performing arts, a visit to the Riga Opera House is a must during your time in the Latvian capital. Located in the heart of the city, this magnificent theater is renowned for its world-class productions and stunning architectural beauty.


The Riga Opera House, also known as the Latvian National Opera, is home to both opera and ballet performances. The grandeur of the building’s exterior, with its neoclassical facade adorned with intricate sculptures and ornate decorations, is a sight to behold.


Step inside and prepare to be enchanted by the opulent interior. The theater’s auditorium, with its plush red velvet seats and awe-inspiring chandeliers, creates an atmosphere of elegance and sophistication. The acoustics of the hall are exceptional, allowing for a truly immersive and captivating theatrical experience.


Check the schedule to see what productions are being performed during your visit. From classic operas like Carmen and La Traviata to enchanting ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, the Riga Opera House offers a diverse range of performances that cater to different tastes.


Attending a performance at the Riga Opera House is not just about the artistry on stage; it’s also an opportunity to witness the immense talent of the Latvian performers. The opera and ballet companies are highly regarded internationally, and their skill and passion bring the productions to life.


Before or after the performance, take a moment to explore the opera house’s stunning surroundings. The nearby park, known as the Opera Park, offers a tranquil space to relax and reflect on the beauty and emotion of the performance you just witnessed.


Immerse yourself in the world of music and dance at the Riga Opera House. Whether you’re an opera aficionado or simply appreciate the arts, this cultural gem will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the performing arts.


Wander through the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

For a glimpse into Latvia’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum in Riga is a must. Nestled in a serene woodland area, this captivating museum offers a unique and immersive experience, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore traditional Latvian village life.


Spread across an expansive 87 hectares, the open-air museum showcases over 120 traditional Latvian buildings, including farmhouses, windmills, churches, and craftsmen’s workshops. As you stroll through the museum’s paths, you’ll have the opportunity to wander inside these well-preserved structures, experiencing firsthand the living conditions and customs of past generations.


Each building in the museum represents a specific region of Latvia, highlighting the architectural styles and cultural nuances of different areas. From the cozy thatched-roof cottages of Vidzeme to the grand wooden structures of Kurzeme, the museum offers a comprehensive overview of Latvia’s architectural diversity.


Take part in the various activities and demonstrations organized within the museum. Watch as artisans showcase traditional crafts such as weaving, blacksmithing, and pottery-making. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the past as you witness these age-old skills being practiced.


As you explore the museum, don’t forget to visit the old Latvian wooden church, adorned with beautiful religious icons and intricate woodcarvings. Step inside and soak in the peaceful atmosphere, reflecting on the deep spiritual significance of these traditional places of worship.


The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum also hosts seasonal festivals and events, where visitors can experience traditional Latvian celebrations, music, and dance. From Midsummer festivities to harvest festivals, these events provide a vibrant and engaging experience that highlights the rich cultural heritage of Latvia.


A visit to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum is not just a visit to a museum; it’s an opportunity to connect with Latvia’s past and gain a deeper understanding of its cultural traditions. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply immersing yourself in a different time and place, this museum is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Warm up at the Riga Art Space

If you’re looking to escape the chilly winter weather while immersing yourself in the vibrant arts scene, the Riga Art Space is the perfect destination. Located in a renovated 19th-century building, this contemporary art gallery showcases a diverse range of works by local and international artists.


Step inside the Riga Art Space, and you’ll be greeted by a modern and spacious environment that allows the artwork to take center stage. The gallery hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year, featuring various forms of art, including painting, sculpture, photography, and multimedia installations.


Whether you’re an art connoisseur or simply appreciate creative expression, the Riga Art Space offers a thought-provoking experience. The exhibitions often delve into social and cultural issues, providing a platform for artists to share their unique perspectives and engage viewers in meaningful dialogue.


Take your time to explore the gallery’s different exhibition halls, each offering a distinct artistic journey. Admire the intricate brushstrokes of a captivating painting, marvel at the three-dimensional sculptures, or lose yourself in the captivating storytelling of a video installation.


In addition to the main exhibition spaces, the Riga Art Space regularly hosts workshops, lectures, and performances that further enrich the artistic experience. Attending one of these events can provide valuable insights into the creative process and offer an opportunity to engage with artists and fellow art enthusiasts.


After exploring the galleries, take a moment to relax and reflect in the cozy café located within the Riga Art Space. Enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee while discussing your favorite artworks or simply basking in the creative ambiance of the place.


The Riga Art Space is a haven for art lovers and an ideal spot to escape the winter weather. Immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art, embrace new perspectives, and let the vibrancy of the creative expressions warm your soul.


Enjoy the Festive Christmas Markets

During the winter season, Riga comes alive with the magical ambiance of its festive Christmas markets. These markets are a beloved tradition in Latvia, offering a delightful experience that captures the spirit of the holiday season.


Head to the heart of Riga’s historic Old Town, where the Christmas markets take center stage. Here, you’ll find rows of charming wooden stalls adorned with twinkling lights, selling a variety of handmade crafts, traditional treats, and unique gifts.


Indulge in the mouthwatering aromas of freshly baked gingerbread cookies, roasted chestnuts, and warm cinnamon-spiced mulled wine. Sample delectable Latvian pastries, such as pīrāgi (bacon-filled buns) and piparkūkas (spiced gingerbread cookies), which are staples of the festive season.


Be sure to browse through the stalls to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs, local handcrafted ornaments, and unique traditional Latvian textiles. From intricately woven wool mittens to beautifully carved wooden figurines, the Christmas markets offer a treasure trove of memorable gifts.


Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as live music fills the air, and locals and visitors gather to enjoy the seasonal celebrations. Take part in traditional dances, listen to Christmas carols sung by local choirs, and marvel at the brightly decorated Christmas trees.


For families, the Christmas markets offer a range of activities to keep children entertained. Visit Santa’s workshop, where little ones can meet Santa Claus himself, share their wishes, and receive a small gift. Take a ride on a festively adorned carousel or participate in interactive workshops to craft holiday decorations.


The charm of Riga’s Christmas markets extends beyond the Old Town. Other areas, such as Esplanāde and Kronvalda Park, also host smaller markets with their own special offerings. Take the time to explore these markets as well, as they provide a more intimate and local experience.


From the twinkling lights to joyful laughter and the scent of holiday treats, the Christmas markets in Riga create a truly enchanting atmosphere. Enjoy the festive ambiance, immerse yourself in Latvian traditions, and leave with lasting memories of this magical time of year.



A winter trip to Riga, the capital of Latvia, offers a delightful array of experiences that will captivate and enchant every traveler. From exploring the historic Old Town to immersing yourself in the vibrant arts scene, there is something for everyone in this charming city.


Begin your journey by exploring the historic Old Town, where medieval architecture and fascinating history intertwine to create a truly unique atmosphere. Visit the Riga Central Market and indulge in delicious local cuisine while immersing yourself in the vibrant energy of the market.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Mežaparks offers the perfect opportunity to engage in winter sports or take a peaceful stroll amidst nature’s beauty. Immerse yourself in the art nouveau architecture that decorates the city, and don’t miss the chance to experience a performance at the renowned Riga Opera House.


Expand your understanding of Latvian culture by visiting the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, where you can explore traditional Latvian village life and learn about the country’s rich heritage. Warm up inside the Riga Art Space, immersing yourself in the vibrant contemporary art scene.


Finally, enjoy the festive ambiance of the Christmas markets, where you can indulge in seasonal treats, shop for unique gifts, and immerse yourself in Latvian holiday traditions.


Riga in winter is a city filled with charm, history, and cultural richness. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or an immersive cultural experience, this captivating European destination will not disappoint. Bundle up, embrace the winter spirit, and let Riga enchant you with its warmth, creativity, and wondrous attractions.