Riga - the "Paris" of this part of Europe is located only a short 3,5 hour drive from Vilnius, and is easily accessible by short flight from most of Europe, which has resulted in its recent growing popularity, especially with British and Scandinavian tourists. Here is our guide on how to spend 24 hours in Riga, including activities and tips on where to eat and where to stay.
If you fly in, the airport is located about a 20 minute taxi ride from the city center. For a cheaper yet reliable taxi service, use the Bolt app, which is like Uber and widely used in this region.
Riga is also very easy to get to by coach bus, having direct links from cities like Vilnius, Tallinn, Tartu, Kaunas, Warsaw, and others. A great option is Lux Express, which runs something like 8 buses per day, and tickets will set you back about 10-15 EUR per person from say Tallinn to Riga. Most of the coaches get into the Riga International Coach Station - from which you can walk into the the old town in about 5 minutes.
ARRIVING IN TIME FOR LUNCH - 2PM
My top place to eat in Riga remains Mākonis Cocktails & Design, located an easy 10 minute walk outside of Old town. This place is great for dinner and high quality cocktails, but the burgers there are INSANE, and in my opinion worth the trip to spend 24 hours in Riga itself. A simple meal for two with a cocktail each will set you back about 40EUR.
A FEW HOURS OF SHOPPING - 3 PM
On your walk back to the old town from lunch, stop for some shopping at Galeria Riga - a shopping center located in a trendy part of town, holding high street brands such as H&M, COS, Massimo Dutti and others.
For more luxury brands, visit Stockmann (a House of Fraser like department store) which boasts in international brands like DKNY, Coach, Michael Kors and has men's, women's, accessories, beauty and a home goods floor.
SPEND THE AFTERNOON & EVENING RELAXING AT YOUR HOTEL SPA
So the days of visiting spa's that are well outside the city center are officially over. Well.. at least in Riga. The brand new Wellton Riverside Spa Hotel is located in the smack center of the Old town, which means your accommodation will be easily accessible by foot from the central station and the Old town.
The hotel has well designed - trendy rooms, and a nicely sized swimming and sauna complex. A one night stay in a double room (2 people) and spa access is about 85 EUR, which considering you're staying in the city center, get to visit the spa area and get breakfast the next morning - is pretty great.
Whilst staying here is good value for money, here are some things to keep in mind:
The spa facilities themselves are pretty good - but can become crowded, especially during weekends.
There is no parking - Paying an additional 15 EUR upon arrival, you'll be able to park your car at a nearby guarded parking lot (until 2 PM the next day). Every additional hour beyond that is 4 EUR and must be paid in cash to the man in the booth.
The hotel restaurant - generally has a limited selection and can be a bit pricey. We didn't feel like leaving the hotel after getting warm in the spa, so used the Wolt app to get food delivered straight to the hotel!
Here are a few other accommodation options for your 24 hours in Riga:
Metropole Hotel by Semarah, conveniently located close to the station, another mid-budget option with good facilities.
Mercure Riga Centre, we've stayed at various Mercure hotels across the world and it remains an affordable option with international standards in service.
HAVE A MORNING STROLL AROUND THE PICTURESQUE OLD TOWN & WALK ALONG THE RIVERSIDE
There is something about Riga's old town, with its windy, narrow cobblestone streets, and colorful architecture that give you a feeling of calmness as you walk around and experience the local charm of the city. The old town itself is small enough for you to be able to have a relaxed stroll without a major need to use google maps, but yet large enough to be filled with interesting shops, cafes, a few unique squares and parks.
For your mid-morning coffee craving stop by Rigensis local bakery (Tirgoņu 8, Riga, Latvia-1050). They have great local cakes and other baked goods mostly ranging at starting at 0,80 - 3 EUR per serving.
After your coffee, walk your way down towards the riverside, where you will find some great views of Riga's impressive bridges and enjoy a nice fresh water breeze. Although admittedly, this activity is much more pleasant in the warmer seasons.
HAVE A TRADITIONAL LATVIAN LUNCH BEFORE LEAVING RIGA
So you can't go spending 24 hours in Riga without trying some of the local food! A place loved by locals - Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs also located in the old town, is one not to be missed as the place to experience some traditional food.
We tried some traditional meatballs, which were served with potatoes and sauerkraut cabbage (7,80 EUR) and a very interesting grey peas dish. The peas, served in a bowl of rye bread were mixed through with a sour cream and bacon sauce and also came with a fresh cabbage salad (5,80 EUR). Overall, a great relatively authentic food experience!
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