Not Everyone Loves Riga

Riga's Old Town Walls

After having such an amazing time in Estonia, and in particular Tallinn, Riga was a bit of a let down for me. I had such high expectations, thinking it would be like a mini version of Tallinn when in fact it bares no resemblance whatsoever. I should know better than to set expectations before visiting a destination. It’s a classic beginner traveller’s mistake which I continue to make after all these years on the road. It’s always better to go with an open mind.

Walking Riga's Cobblestone Streets

Cute Windows

I also should have known better as the Estonians and Latvians are culturally and linguistically different people. The Estonians are quite similar to the Finns whereas the Latvians are related to their Lithuanian neighbours.

I thought a geographical closeness and a shared history of Soviet occupation might show in the attitudes of the people or at least in the architecture. But no, the people are very different and Riga doesn’t have that Medieval feel Tallinn has, instead having it’s own distinct style and a huge number of gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings.

Old Town Riga

Freedom Monument in RigaOne of Riga's Cute Side Streets

Gorgeous Architecture in Riga Latvia

So what is there to do in Riga? Riga is one of those cities which is best enjoyed by walking the cobblestone streets rather than seeking out specific sights. I’m sure you’ll come across Cathedral Square and the old city walls, the Swedish Gate and the Freedom Monument but there aren’t really any must see sights that will wow you.

During the day the city is quiet except for the packed cafes and restaurants which line many of the Old Town streets. Taking in the cafe life or maybe walking through one of the many city parks is probably enough to round out your stay.

There are so many churches in Riga!

Chips and Cake: Latvian Street Food

More cafes!

I received a few comments on social media from people saying how much they adore Riga so maybe it’s just me who didn’t see the appeal. I loved Tallinn and Vilnius but I didn’t feel the same attraction for Riga. I hate that I can’t put into words why it wasn’t appealing but I feel better knowing that soon I will be sharing exactly what I loved about Riga’s Baltic neighbours.

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. you’re not the only one who’s not a fan of Riga. I’ve been there three times, never came there from Estonia or Lithuania so I didn’t really compare Latvia to other Baltic States yet Riga never managed to charm me. It’s a nice and pretty city, true, but it lacked something that would make me fall for it!

  2. I’m starting off my Baltics trip in Riga. It sounds like things will improve as I move around.

  3. Thanks for linking to my post! I’m sorry you didn’t fall for Riga, but every person’s travel experience is different. I moved to Riga five weeks ago and it’s completely charmed me. Before this I was living in Shanghai so I’m rather enjoying the peace and quiet 🙂

    I’ll be taking my first trip to Tallinn at the end of the month so it will be interesting to compare the two cities.

    • I can only imagine what a change of pace Riga must be for you! I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Tallinn.

  4. Unfortunately, I experienced the same. I have already been there 5 times and I think, Riga is really worth visiting as a tourist since there are many beautiful buildings, attractions, etc. However, I never experienced the “being home”-feeling as I did in Vilnius or the welcoming atmosphere of Tallinn. There might be several reasons. Maybe I have not spent enough time in a row in Riga. Maybe, it is because there are a lot of tourists, but in Tallinn are even more, I guess. Or maybe I just didn’t find the right places where locals hang out to get in contact with them.

    • Some places simply don’t resonate with us, for whatever reason. We can’t love everywhere I guess.

  5. I’m interested to see how we’ll feel after we visit all three main Baltic cities in mid-November. Your posts about Tallinn do have me super excited though. 🙂

    One city that I didn’t like at all was Athens! It was hot, dry, dusty and it was August. Sure, it was great to see the acropolis and ancient ruins, but otherwise I thought Istanbul was and is a much prettier city than Athens.