10 Riga Travel Tips: Off-the-beaten-path, Unusual Riga Tourist Attractions
Here are some travel tips for Riga, Latvia some of these tips will take you off of the beaten path and others will help keep you on it!
1. Take a trip on either of the Riga waterways, the large Daugava River or on the smaller canels which make their way through the city. The Daugave boat trip can be taken all the way down to the seaside towns (Jurmala) on the Baltic coast, these boats leave from the dock side near the Castle in the Old Town by the Akmens Bridge. The ride takes about 2.5 hours and costs 10.00Lt one way, these Riga boat trips run hourly from May to September.
The canel boats make a shorter trip of 40 minutes through Riga passing many of the tourist sites and also passing through the beautiful Riga parks as well as part of the larger Daugave River. The slow and romantic wooden barges leave from the park which separates Riga Old Town from the new. The leaving point is near the Lovelocks Bridge and Bastion Hill, it is the park on your left if you are coming from the Old Town and facing the Freedom Statue. For the circular route you will pay 6Lt on a Saturday and Sunday, 5Lt from Tuesday to Friday and 4Lts on low-cost Monday. Children's tickets are 3Lt and children under 3 years old go free. For a beautiful Riga hotel next to the park try the Gallery Park Hotel.
2. The Riga Sun Museum is no longer open and the Emils Gustav Chocolate restaurant is no longer open in Berg's Bazaar (Marijas Street) but you can find it opposite McDonalds in Riga's Old Town. Make sure you double check your Riga travel information as in this dynamic city tourist attractions often change.
3. For the best currency exchange rates don't change your money in Riga's Old Town, rather go to one of the many change points in the newer areas. One of the best currency change point I found in Riga is on Basteja Bulvaris street near the Freedom Monument in a small exclusive mall and you will see a sign saying Vailutas Maina. You won't have to wait in line and the open hours are convenient as they open at 09:00 all week and 11:00 on Sundays.
4. If you want to visit one of Riga's shopping centers try Alpha which is a 15 minute tram ride away from the center. Catch tram number 6 from the city center.
5. Going to the cinema in Riga is quite cheap and the films are not dubbed so you can enjoy them in the original English. If you want to see a film, go to the Alpha mall or one of the other shopping centers. Riga movie tickets cost 2-3Lt.
6. For top quality second hand clothes pop into one of Riga's Humana stores. You will find the trendiest Latvians doing their clothes shopping here, profits go to charity and all items are between 0.50Lt – 5Lt. If for no other reason a look in this store will give you a glimpse of ordinary life in Riga. The most convenient of these stores is in the Riga central market.
7. For an unusual specialty store try Medus (1a A.Kalnina Street) a store which sells everything and anything to do with bees. You can buy a full bee keepers outfit, honey based cosmetics, medical remedies made from honey, numerous bees wax candles in all shapes and sizes and even pollen. Try getting a piece of honey sliced from the large cakes of honey. The candles here and the honey also make great gifts for those at home.
8. For an unusual market experience try the "Latgales tirgus" market at 9 F. Sadovnikova Iela where Gogola Street crosses Dzirnavu Street. The market is open all week except Mondays. You will probably not find anything you want to buy here but it is worth visiting for the experience. Junk is piled high, all kinds of electrical gadgets old and new, wires, pots and pans, bicycles, knives and guns are on sale. You could probably pick up some Soviet memorabilia – pins, hats, gas masks and even uniforms. As the hotel receptionist told me, this market is where you go if you are looking for something that was stolen from you the day before.
9. In Riga you are spoilt for choice of cafes and interesting restaurants, but if you want to discover some quieter spots in Riga's Old Town head down to the area around the Swedish Gate, there you will find narrow lanes with interesting cafes less geared to tourists. Try Francu Maize on Aldaru Street, the entrance is from Troksnu Street.
10. Another not well advertised Riga tourist attraction is the changing of the guard which takes place on the hour at the Freedom Monument. The guards do not stand there all day but they arrive a little before the hour and do a short guard changing ceremony. The highlight of this for me was seeing the unusual goose step march the soldiers perform. Perhaps not worth planning your day around this brief guard change but if you are in Riga's Old Town it is worth seeing.
As a bonus here is a list of FREE Riga tourist attractions!