For a coffee break and a taste of some local fare, head to: MiiT coffee in the central district, where there’s substance behind the style. Kitted out with ceiling pendant lights and wood-panelled surfaces, MiiT serve fantastic coffee as well as some delicious baked treats. They have a full vegetarian lunch menu, too. For Latvia’s refreshing aukstā zupa (cold beetroot soup), try Austra. Its laid back atmosphere and friendly service make it one of Riga’s most popular places to eat. For a taste of old Riga, Mierā is the quaintest of tea rooms, whose orange glowing lampshades and floral tablecloths will transport you to a bygone era. Sweet blini are a lovely accompaniment to your tea or coffee.
Drink in the city’s famous art nouveau architecture: Riga’s buildings are made up of a myriad of architectural styles. Art nouveau facades, Soviet monuments, and modernist superstructures all jostle for space in its intimate confines. Despite art nouveau being most heavily associated with Paris and Vienna, over a third of Riga’s buildings in the historic old town are designed in this early 20th-century style. But peering over this small quarter sits Rīgas Centrāltirgus — Riga’s Central Market — a phenomenal modernist structure comprising five pavillions, each made from old German Zeppelin hangars. Wander its stalls selling fruit, fish, and meat, and it’s as if you’ve crossed into another paradigm.
Discover Riga’s literary richness: If you haven’t heard of the Lativan dainas, you will have by the time you leave. Dainas are short quatrains of folkloric wisdom that have been sung by Latvians for over a thousand years. All 1.2 million of these are now stored in Latvia’s sparkling new national library across the river. If you want to buy a book however, visit Mr Page, a beautifully curated space of Latvian-, English- and Russian-language books spanning literary fiction, children’s literature, and photography. The selection is so precious you’ll be made to wear white gloves! If you want to have a more tactile browsing experience, Robert’s Books in the central district has piles of dusty second-hand titles you can peruse. Edgars — not Robert — will kindly sell you coffee and other beverages while you’re there.
For a night out on the town, head to: Chomsky Bar. A stirring triptych of a crying woman will greet you in the main room of this bohemian hangout in an old Riga townhouse. You’ll want to settle down with your cocktail or craft beer — Rūgtais brālis is a local hit — in one of Chomsky’s dimly lit corners, adorned with multifarious furniture from across the decades. For an even more sophisticated selection of beer, Taka bar has an eclectic offering. It also has board games and puts on comedy nights — one of Riga’s more cosy spots. Kaņepes Kultūras centrs — down the road from MiiT coffee — has become an evening mainstay of Riga’s artistic community. Formerly occupied by Baltic, German, and Russian aristocrats, this grand building now houses several bars, and regularly hosts live music and movie screenings in its desultory setting. In the summer, the bar’s outdoor terrace is bustling.
Get some fresh air: As you fly into Riga, you can’t help but notice the stunning sandy beach that stretches for miles along the Bay of Riga. This is Jūrmala, one of the most popular holiday destinations during the Soviet Union and one that still attracts crowds throughout the summer months. It’s only a short drive from Riga town centre and stays lively late into the balmy summer nights. For a brisk winter’s walk, try Kronvalda Park.