Riga is the largest of the three Baltic State capitals with a population of 750,000. Since independence from the Soviet Union Latvia has developed its own strong identity due in large to the growing popularity of Riga with weekend break visitors. This growth has been facilitated by the rapid growth of Ryanair and Riga’s own low cost airline, Air Baltic, both flying direct from London with fares regularly under £100.
The centre of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its old town built at the time as part of the Hanseatic League which put it in close trading contact with cities like Amsterdam and Bruges, two cities now also heavily dependent on tourism.
The main draw for many tourists in the next few years is Riga’s upcoming role as European Capital of Culture in 2014. This title has dramatically boosted tourism for many cities in recent years including Lille, Liverpool, and more recently its Baltic neighbours Tallinn in 2011 and Vilnius in 2009.
The cheapest way to get to Riga is with Ryanair from Stansted Airport. Air Baltic flies direct from London Gatwick which is easier for many to get to but the fares are almost always higher. Air Baltic has code shares with SAS, LOT, KLM, and Brussels Airlines which will help you reach Riga from UK regional airports. Use our cheap flight search to find the cheapest and quickest option.
You can reach Riga by surface travel if you want. There are two ways: the first is by taking the ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg with DFDS Seaways, the train from Esbjerg to Copenhagen, staying the night at Copenhagen then transferring to Stockholm to catch an overnight ferry from there to Riga. This amounts to over three days of travel. The other route is by train all the way. This involves a Eurostar to Brussels, a change to Cologne, on to Berlin, and then to Warsaw where you need to buy an additional ticket unavailable in the UK to Vilnius. There is now no direct train from Vilnius to Riga, instead its best to take a luxury coach. You can book the London to Warsaw portion of the journey with Deutsche Bahn UK on 08718 80 80 66. (Yes, a bit of a mission).
Arriving in Riga
At the time of writing the conversion rate was 1.2 Latvian Lats to the Pound (or 1.86 US Dollars).
Riga Airport is just 10km from the Old Town so a taxi transfer shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes really. It’s better to book a car ahead to avoid getting fleeced, otherwise use one of three licenced taxi companies with ranks at the airport. Avoid strange men offering a cheap transfer to the city at arrivals they always mess you about. The taxi shouldn’t cost more than LVL10 (or about £8).
The bus transfer from the airport is very simple, you simply go up to the upper level at the terminal to catch a number 22 which takes you right into Abrenes Street for a grand total of 0.5 LVL. A 24 hour pass will put you back a saintly 1.9 LVL (about £1.50, boy, is it bliss to be on holiday from London?!).
Where to stay
***** Hotel Bergs (Highly Recommended)
This 5-star boutique hotel is located in the business centre of Riga, in a charming pedestrian oasis called Bergs Bazaar, only a short walk away from the old town.
***** Grand Palace Hotel
The magnificent Grand Palace Hotel is an attractive property located in Riga’s cobble stoned 15th century Old Town, within 50 metres of the Town Hall and Opera.