Latvia is a travel destination best known for its magnificent capital Riga and the adjacent sandy beach of Jurmala. The country also boasts its Rundale Palace, which is often called the Versailles of the Baltic Sea. This Baltic country has many nice places to visit that can be found in the list of top tourist destinations in Latvia.
Latvia Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Latvia
Travel guide to Latvian cities and useful travel tips for planning a trip to Latvia.
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Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in northeastern Europe, with a coastline along the Baltic Sea. The country has developed rapidly since it became independent and joined the European Union. Latvia is one of the countries of the Baltic States and attracts visitors with its impressive sights, rich heritage and lively capital Riga.
General information about Latvia
Area and boarders
With an area of 64,589 km², Latvia is a Northern European country on the Baltic Sea coast. Latvia, one of the three Baltic countries, is adjacent to Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, Russia in the east, Belarus in the south east, and shares maritime borders with Sweden. It’s mostly flat landscape offers a mix of beaches, rivers, lakes, marshes and forests.
The country has a population of about 1.9 million, including 62% Latvians, 29% Russians, 3.9% Belarusians, 2.6% Ukrainians, 2.5% Polish.
Since 1 January 2014, the currency used in Latvia is Euro. All major credit cards are accepted and there are enough ATM machines to withdraw local currency.
Latvia is a member state of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement, so for entering the country you need to show valid passport and Schengen Visa on your travels to Latvia, which allows you to stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period. You will need to check your visa requirements at the nearest embassy of the destination country yourself.
For EU / EEA citizens, no visa is required before traveling to Latvia. You just need a valid passport or chip ID card as a travel document in Latvia. If the stay is longer than 90 days, you will need to request a residence certificate from the Latvia Migration Service.
The official language is Latvian. However, nearly half of the population can also speak Russian. Although English is not that widely spoken, the young population knows enough English to help you during the trip.
Here are some essential expressions to remember:
- Hello = Čau / Sveiki
- Good morning = Labrīt
- Good day = Labdien
- Bye = Atā
- Yes = jā
- No = nē
- Thank you = Paldies
Weather in Latvia
Latvia’s strategic position on the Baltic Sea influences its climatic conditions and the presence of the sea makes it a place where the 4 seasons are clearly visible with its mild summers and cold winters.
During the snowy winter season from December to March in Latvia, the daytime temperature can fall down to -25 degrees or below. The sunshine hours are in the range of 5-6 hours during winter but in general seeing white cities and experiencing it through the typical activities, such as Nordic skiing or ice skating, is a unique experience.
In spring, the air temperature is between 5 and 15 degrees, and sometimes it can be colder at night. This is the time when the nature awakens and it is very suggesting to see the trees in bloom in numerous parks and gardens.
The weather in summer is offering ideal seasonal conditions for a trip to Latvia, which is abundant in green, with a pleasant atmosphere. The weather is usually around 18-23 degrees during the day. July is usually the hottest month, and in late August it can rain a lot. You can enjoy the sandy beaches of Jurmala or some outdoor activities.
In autumn, you will see the red and yellow of the forests making it a good time for hiking.
From June to early September, it is the best time to travel to Latvia where many festivals are celebrated in this period. If you don’t mind the cold weather, you can come to visit this beautiful country in winter. The minus temperatures allow you to visit the city in complete tranquility and the snow that flocks lightly make it more magical, especially during the Christmas.
Tourist Attractions in Latvia
There are many places to visit in Latvia. Latvia's historical culture dates back to ancient times. The most visited historical sites are mainly located in Riga. Riga is an important European city as well as the capital of Latvia. It is a magnificent city with its Art-Nouveau architecture, stone streets and historical buildings. Get familiar with Riga's top tourist attractions and you'll be surprised at the range of places to visit in the city.
The historical places in Latvia are numerous including St. Peter's Church, Turaida Castle, Nativity Cathedral, Latvian War Museum, and Latvian Occupation Museum. The Rundale Palace which reflects the history of the country very well, is very popular in Latvia trips. You should definitely with Bauska Castle, famous for its baroque architecture.
Riga Culture and Food Tasting Tour is the most popular tour to explore 3 of Riga’s most essential districts on a half-day. You will enter the heart of medieval Riga in the Old Town, explore the world’s largest collection of Art Nouveau architecture, and go to Central Market.
Latvia also has unique beaches that have preserved their extremely natural beauty. As more than half of Latvia is covered with forests, you can easily find natural attraction in Latvia. Nature lovers should head to Gauja National Park. This place is one of the most beautiful national parks to get lots of forest air along the Gauja River. It is worth visiting for its magnificent view. There is also Burtnieks Lake with an average depth of 3 meters. It is a lake suitable for fishing.
If you will be coming to Latvia, we suggest you to discover more modest small cities of this country. There are dozens of hidden places to discover, we've rounded up the best tourist destinations in Latvia that everyone should have on their bucket list.
Cēsis, Sigulda & Turaida Castle Tour will take you to two beautiful cities of Latvia: ancient Cēsis or Wended, and beautiful Sigulda, known as the Switzerland of Latvia. You also enjoy the picturesque countryside, a nature park, and visit 3 medieval castles with your guide.
Transportation in Latvia
Find out the best ways of traveling to Latvia, around the country and its capital city Riga.
How to get to Latvia
The easiest and fastest way to get to Latvia is undoubtedly by plane. Latvia has one airport that is used for international flights, namely Riga International Airport (RIX). Riga Airport is well connected to all major European cities such as London, Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Berlin, Tallinn, Copenhagen and others. There are numerous airlines that fly there including AirBaltic, Finnair, Lufthansa, Ryanair, and Wizz Air. Riga Airport is the home airport of the Latvian AirBaltic.
You can easily find direct or indirect flight tickets for Latvia. However, flight ticket prices for Latvia might be a bit more expensive compared to other European countries.
Riga International Bus Terminal is a bus station in Riga, Latvia. This modern bus station is located in a comfortable position in the city center, you can reach the Old Town square in a 10-minute walk. The station is reached by many intercity and international bus companies. It connects Riga with the main cities in Latvia and most of the closest capitals nearby. Traveling by bus is quicker and cheaper than a train journey but they often fill up quickly, especially during the summer.
You cannot travel to Riga directly by train, as the only railway sections that arrive at Latvian borders are directed from Moscow and Minsk in Belarus. This is because the rail network is Russian and wider than the rest of Europe. However, there are plans to have a train connection between the Baltic States and Finland. If you travel by train, you can travel to Warsaw in Poland and then travel by bus to the Latvian capital.
Another connection option is by ship. There are numerous connections from Stockholm and Helsinki. From Stockholm ferries that connect Latvia to Sweden depart daily but the journey is quite long as it takes about 8 hours to make the crossing.
Riga is also easily accessible by car. The city is well connected with other major highways for easy access. The most direct route from neighboring countries to Latvia is along the Via Baltica. In Estonia, the Via Baltica runs through Pärnu. An interesting alternative route is to drive on an inbound or return trip through Tartu, Estonia.
Maximum attention is recommended, especially when traveling by car in winter. Winter tires are mandatory from 1 December to 1 March. Drivers must carry original vehicle registration documents when crossing the border to Latvia (including motorcycles). If you do not have these documents, you cannot get your vehicle back from Latvia. You cannot drink and drive as you will face a large fine and possible prison sentence. It is forbidden to use a mobile phone while driving without using a handsfree device.
How to get from Riga Airport to City Center
Riga International Airport (RIX) is located 13 km southwest of the city center and is well connected by public transport.
By Bus: Bus No. 22 provides transportation between the airport and the city center. When you land at Riga airport you can buy a bus ticket at the tourist office for 1.5 EUR and take the bus from the car park number 1 opposite the terminal building. If you don't have time to buy a ticket at the tourist office, you can get the ticket directly from the driver but you pay more for the same ticket. The journey takes 30 minutes. Buses run every 10 to 30 minutes. Bus No. 22 runs from 5:45 to 23:40.
Shuttle Bus: If you want, you can use express shuttle that costs 5 EUR.
By Taxi: There are also many taxis ready to take you from the airport to the city. Taxi ride takes only around 15 minutes. Taxi is quite an affordable option as the trip should cost around 12-15 EUR. However, some taxis operating from Riga Airport may charge highly inflated prices so beware.
By Private Transfer: With Riga Airport Private Transfers, you will enjoy a safe, reliable, and cost-effective transfer from Riga Airport to Riga city center hotels, and take the worry out of the start of your vacation or business trip to the Latvian capital.
How to get around Latvia
Transportation in Latvia is very well organized and connects the whole country. Transportation within the country is very comfortable with both private vehicles and public transportation.
Public transport in Latvia is affordable both within and between cities. Buses are a safe option and a convenient means of transport for both short and long-distance trips.
Train is also a great means of transportation to see some parts outside of Riga. Trains depart more often in the morning and afternoon. Some buses and trains even have free internet hotspots that you can use. These hotspots can also be found in the city and at stations.
How to get around Riga
Riga city transportation is provided by buses, trams, trolleybuses and minibuses. There are 52 bus lines, 20 trolleybus lines, 11 tram lines and many minibus lines. The latter do not have scheduled stops, but allow passengers to get off anywhere. You can easily travel to numerous places in the country or city. The company that manages bus, trolleybus and tram services is called Rīgas Satiksme.
Public transport in the city is available between 05:00-24:00. There are also night buses after midnight. You can get all the tickets from the ticket machine or on board with a slight surcharge. One-way ticket price is 1.50 EUR. If you buy tickets from certain kiosks or ticket shops, you can buy one-way tickets for 1.15 EUR. Group tickets are also very advantageous. In addition, a 24-hour ticket is 5 EUR, 3-day ticket is 8 EUR.
As for taxi transfers, there are 3 different types of taxi present in Riga and they are easily separated by color. The red taxis are the cheapest. The black ones are more expensive and more comfortable while the white taxis can cost much more compared to others. Traveling by taxi in Riga can be useful, especially at night, when most public transport is stopped, as only few trolleybus and tram lines are in operation.
In fact, if you are on a budget, you will not need public transportation in the city because almost all of the places to visit in Riga are within a walking distance to the city center. The Old Town is located in a circle of only 1 kilometer so most points in the city center can be discovered on foot.
Accommodation in Latvia
Latvia is not a country that challenges you about accommodation. In this country, the main tourist attractions are clustered around the capital Riga. Almost all of the accommodation options are located in the same region and it is a good base for traveling around Latvia. We recommend you to choose the old city or Miera, Riga's hipster district. The Art Nouveau area is a good alternative for more luxurious options. You can find out the place to stay in Riga with our Riga Area Guide as the most important thing to consider when deciding where to stay is how you get from there to the main things you want to see.
Some of the best rated accommodations in Riga, Latvia:
Our pick of the Latvia capital's best places to stay can be found here: Top hotels to stay in Riga.
As in every country, we recommend you to try local tastes and taste interesting dishes in Latvia. Latvian cuisine is similar to both Finnish and Lithuanian cuisine. The Latvian dishes include potatoes, fish, cabbage, mushrooms, meat and black bread. In addition, since Riga is a port city, the range of seafood is quite wide.
The most delicious and common among traditional Latvian dishes are as follow:
Kotletes: Latvian Meatballs
Aukstā zupa: One of the classics of Latvian cuisine is cold beet soup. It is very pleasant to eat in summer.
Maizes zupa: This is actually a pudding dessert, but they call it soup. This dessert is made from rye bread, black Latvian bread.
Jāņi cheese: A traditional fresh cheese made from milk and curd.
Biezpiena sierins: Sweetish snack made from curd.
Biesu Zupa: A type of soup prepared using beets.
Pīrāgi: A traditional Latvian bacon bun which is filled with sautéed onion and bacon.
Gray Peas: Latvian people love soups made with peas and peas are among their traditional dishes.
You can discover the true taste of Riga on a Riga Culture and Food Tasting Tour. You will have a chance to explore Riga Central Market and try tasty specialties of Latvia.
Best places to eat in Latvia
There are many restaurants where only typical Latvian food is sold. In some of them, prices for the main meal can be low and start at 5 EUR or less. If you eat at the restaurants on a large square, you pay more for the atmosphere, live music, location and the more international dishes. For the main meal, with a drink and dessert, expect to spend around 20-30 EUR per person.
The list of restaurants in Riga that are recommended:
Lido: A self-service style restaurant chain with affordable prices. They offer a wide variety of Latvian dishes. Generally, prices are around 2 EUR for each type of meal.
Rozengrāls: The best medieval restaurant in the center of Old Riga on the Rozena Street, where you can have a pleasant meal in a Middle Ages atmosphere.
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs: Local people call “Ala”, the most famous restaurant in Riga with traditional atmosphere. The place is like an underground cave. Good spot to experience not only Latvian cuisine and most popular beers but also great music and culture venue.
Black Magic Bar: The unique apothecary style bar and chocolate boutique. It's the best place in Riga to taste traditional Latvian liqueur.
Hard Rock Cafe: Modern and stylishly decorated cafe which is furnished as a living room with wall-mounted bookcases and comfortable sofas. This place is recommended if you don't want local dishes.
Vincents Restaurant: Famous chef Martins Ritins hosted many celebrities in his restaurant, from Elton John to Prince Charles. Definitely try 6 course tasting menu with matching wines.
13 krēsli: The restaurant, which means 13 chairs, is located on Dome Square and still maintains the breeze of Soviet times. You can also find delicious drinks and snacks for tea time in the restaurant, which serves as a pub and Steakhouse.
Skyline Bar: The bar on 26th floor of Radisson Blu Latvija Hotel where you will have a breathtaking views of the city. Entrance costs around 5 EUR. Drinks and food are not much more expensive compared to other places. The view makes it all worthwhile.
Nightlife in Latvia
Latvia nightlife is colorful, especially in Riga. Nightlife in Riga begins after 22:00 and is very lively on weekends. There are plenty of entertainment options for every budget from Irish pubs to long bars, from discos to tea houses. Most of these are concentrated in the Old Town, or Vecriga, where in the summer outdoor areas are also set up with tables and chairs.
If you wonder what to drink in Latvia, it is absolutely Black Balm. Black Balm is an award winning, traditional Latvian herbal liqueur made with many different natural ingredients. Apart from Black Balsam, Latvian beers are also worth trying. Especially for whatever you find produced by Labietis and Malduguns. Local beer is around 2-3 EUR in bars and cocktails in clubs are around 5-10 EUR. Drinking alcohol in public places is prohibited and may result in detention and a financial penalty.
The nightlife in Riga is not just about night clubs. If you especially want to watch opera and ballet shows, you can enjoy it at the Latvian National Opera.
Shopping in Latvia
Latvia is a pleasant city for shopping and has its own local items. Jewelry made of amber stone known as Baltic gold or silver jewelry with old pagan motifs are very famous. You can also buy textile products or shoes with different designs at affordable prices from boutiques in the central region. Riga is also the place where the best chocolates Laima are produced.
You can go to Central Market to see the local market. You can find a wide range of products there and observe the daily shopping culture of Latvian people. The boutiques in the Old town area and stores such as Galleria Center, Galleria Riga, Stockmann and Origo can be nice choices for shopping in Riga. There is the Alfa park, the largest shopping center in Riga, with clothing, furniture, accessories, as well as restaurants, and a multiplex for night shows.
How many days to visit Latvia?
As with any city trip, the ideal time for this city will vary according to your activities. A 2 or 3-day duration is comfortable for visiting Riga. You can make a nice plan, especially when going there on Friday evening and returning on Sunday evening. However, you should spare more time to fully experience the country and its surrounding area.
Where to go after Latvia?
- You can reach Vilnius from Riga in 5-6 hours by bus. The price is 15-20 EUR.
- You can also reach Tallinn from Riga in about 4.5 hours by bus. The price is 16-20 EUR.
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