DO stay in Old Town if you’re looking for walkability and proximity to bars, good food, and things to do. Old Town has a slower pace than other parts of the city, for better or worse, so don’t stay here if you want to be on the go the whole time.
DON’T stay in a hotel. We checked rates for hotel and Airbnbs and the hotels were always more expensive, even during the spring before tourist season really hits.
DO pack warm clothing. At its warmest Riga has the temperature of a San Francisco fall (which I love, by the way) and the drizzly rain to match. Don’t worry about an umbrella as you’ll be ducking in and out of cafés and buildings; wear a jacket with a hood.
DON’T plan to try every traditional Latvian meal. They are too heavy and you’ll just want to take a hundred naps when you should be out exploring.
DO visit a café at least once a day. I’d go more, but not everyone loves coffee as much as I do.
DO get pastries for breakfast. This is the place to indulge because the berries here are divine.
DO research Art Nouveau architecture before you go so that you can fully appreciate Riga’s storybook look. Seriously, most streets are like walking around in a fairytale.
DON’T go in the winter. I mean, if you have to do so, pack extremely warm and beware deadly icicles. That’s what they say, anyway.
DO make a point to check out the views atop towers or from around the river. The city is stunning from above with its few Gothic spires and many short buildings that look like candy topped with frosting trim.
DO plan to see a live band or two. Many of the establishments in Old Town have a new one every night. The traditional folk bands are worth a listen.
DO visit some of the artisanal markets and shops, especially those outside Old Town where the city is gentrifying. The prices are more than reasonable for handmade goods and in most places you’ll get to meet the artist and learn about their inspirations. One of our favorite purchases was a set of masks molded and painted by an elderly woman in a tiny village who didn’t start creating art until she was sixty and done caring for her family.
– M. Ray Hall