Riga (Photo:Chamille White/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Riga

Riga, founded in 1201, is the geographical center of the Baltic States and arguably one of Northern Europe's best kept secrets ... tourism is just now beginning to boom in what's quickly becoming one of Europe's top cultural capitals.

About Riga


Pro

Riga has a decidedly Old World feel, but at the same time it boasts a vibrant, trendy nightlife and restaurant scene

Con

Watch out for the strip clubs and roaming British bachelor parties

Bottom Line

This grand city of art nouveau architecture and cobblestone boulevards has what it takes to rival any major European capital of culture


Find a Cruise to the Baltic Sea



The city of 800,000 on the Daugava River is the capital of Latvia, a country finding its place in a new world after being occupied for 50 years (1941 to 1991), first by the Nazis and then by the Soviet Union. Today, visitors will see a city in transition: women embracing fashion trends, men following the latest news on American sports teams, and a Caribbean-themed bar serving mean mojitos (while patrons stare at a portrait of Fidel Castro). School kids are learning English as a second language instead of Russian.

Today, Riga is a happening place boasting big-city attractions for visitors. Opera, music and ballet flourish (even during Soviet times, Riga was known for its arts offerings). The city has museums that house displays on everything from art and textiles to fire-fighting and the history of medicine. Old Riga, the historic center of the city, has been recognized by UNESCO, and the city's Art Nouveau architecture is among the finest in Europe.

Nightlife is active, with hopping bars and dance clubs open until 6 a.m. on weekends. A large number of restaurants serve up an impressive diversity of international options (Russian, Armenian, Tibetan, Tex-Mex). There are shopping malls and hotels springing up, and new cars clog the streets.

But perhaps most intriguing is how the city still feels like a bridge between the Old Soviet and modern Europe -- our advice is to get here now before things rapidly change.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at the ferry terminal on the Daugava River, and it's about a half-mile (15-minute walk) to Old Riga. Other sights of interest, such as the Art Nouveau district, require a taxi or public transportation, unless you take a shore excursion.

Good to Know

There are easily avoidable strip clubs that have gained fame, especially among partying young Brits (prostitution is "illegal" but "allowed").

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The national currency is the lat (LVL). There are 100 santimi in the lat. One Latvian lat is about $1.70. ATM's can be found at banks all around the city.

Language

The official language is Latvian. Russian is widely spoken, as is English (particularly by younger people). School children are now learning English as a second language rather than Russian.

Shopping

Black Balzams is a potent alcohol that's the pride of Riga. Buy it in funky dark brown bottles. Considered medicinal, it's best enjoyed mixed with something -- ranging from berry juice, to champagne, to coffee. Other popular bring-home items include Soviet memorabilia, amber jewelry, Latvian national hockey team jerseys and colorful folk costumes.