From stunning snowshoeing to festive Christmas markets to architectural walking tours, here are the 13 best things to do in Riga in winter.
Are you thinking about heading to Riga this winter? Well, December through to the end of March are great months to visit this beautiful and underrated Eastern European capital.
Often with a blanket of snow, medieval architecture, and plenty of outdoor activities to try, it’s an affordable winter wonderland getaway. And don’t worry, if you prefer cozying up with a cuppa out the cold, there’s plenty of that too.
Riga in winter provides plenty of festive experiences like Christmas markets, Christmas tree competitions with neighbouring Tallinn, and ice skating rinks galore. But it’s also a great time to experience the city’s indoor attractions, like the Museum of Occupation or the Dom Cathedral.
I love a wintry city break, especially one that is full of snow that really brings the festive spirit to life! So, when you consider that some of the best Riga winter activities include cross-country skiing, checking out frozen sea ice, and a bobsleigh experience, I’m completely sold on a trip to the Latvian capital!
So, whether you want to have some winter fun on skis or on a snowmobile, are looking to learn more about Eastern European history and life, or just want to try out some traditional Latvian warming cuisine and festive vibes, Riga has you covered.
With that in mind, let’s find out the 13 best things to do in Riga in winter!
Visiting Riga but want to get out of the city? Then don’t forget to check out my guide to the best day trips from Riga!
Riga winter weather
It’ll come as no surprise that Riga is very cold during the winter months. With dizzying highs of 1°C (34°F) and average lows of -6°C (21°F), you’re going to need a whole load of layers.
Like most of Latvia during winter, snow is expected across Riga and welcomes in the winter sports season with many locals strapping on their snowshoes or skis to make the most of the colder months.
Best things to do in Riga in winter
Visit Riga’s Christmas Markets
First and foremost, who doesn’t love a great Christmas Market? Well, Riga has one of the best Christmas Markets in the Baltics. There are a few different ones spread out across the city, but the most popular one has to be held in Esplanade Park.
Of course, this is mostly a Riga winter activity for those of you traveling at the start of the season. The markets and the accompanying Christmas tree are normally around from mid-November until early January.
Be amazed at the sea ice formations at Vecaki Beach
Now, stay with me here. Going to a beach in the peak of winter with freezing Baltic temperatures might not sound like the best idea, but Vecaki Beach on the outskirts of Riga holds a cool secret. When the freezing temperatures hit, there is a whole range of sea ice formations that occur. You can literally see waves frozen and about to crash – it’s kind of insane!
Check out the Bohemian vibes on Miera iela
Otherwise known as Peace Street, Miera Iela is a street in Riga that’s known for its Bohemian vibes. Here you’ll find great coffee shops, independent stores, and warming bars which are ideal after a long day of shopping in the snow. If you’re looking for a Christmas present that’s a little bit different, head to Miera Iela and you’re bound to find something cool.
Try cross-country skiing in Uzvaras Park
Snow means one main thing in Riga – it’s time for cross-country skiing. As well as being a fun Riga winter activity, it’s also a great way to get around during the winter months. Rent a pair of skis from one of the many ski stores around the city and head to Uzvaras Park, one of the most popular spots for cross-country skiing, thanks to its wide open layout.
Go ice skating in Spikeri
Fancy taking a spin around the ice on your trip to Riga? While there are a few ice skating rinks around the city during winter, one of the best places to ice skate is in the Spikeri neighbourhood, otherwise known as the Creative District. You can skate surrounded by entertainment complexes, historic buildings, galleries, and more. It’s a great area to explore and having the ice skating here is just the cherry on top.
Enjoy a historical walking tour of Old Town
One of the main draws of Riga has to be the beautiful Old Town. Even in winter, the best way to experience this area is on foot with a local guide.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site still has plenty of buildings and features from Medieval times, despite World War II leveling most of the city. As you can easily wander from one end to the other in 15 minutes, it’s the perfect way to explore the city if you’re short on time.
Visit the Dom Cathedral
Want to visit the largest medieval cathedral in the Baltics? Wander across the Old Town to the Dom of Riga. Harking all the way back to the 13th century, this Medieval masterpiece has stood the test of time.
During the lead-up to Christmas, there are plenty of festive services to enjoy and even a carol concert or two! Check out the events calendar and see what’s on while you’re in Riga in winter.
Speed around the outskirts of Riga on a bobsleigh
Do you feel the need for speed? Well with this Riga winter activity, your adrenaline is definitely going to spike. Just on the outskirts of Riga, you’ll find an Olympic standard bobsleigh track which you can speed down, slipping and sliding down the icy tracks.
Fans of Cool Runnings, this is definitely an excursion for you! Leave your fear at home, strap on your helmet, and fly down the icy track!
Warm up and relax at Black Magic
Let’s be honest, if you’re spending all day out in the snow and ice, you’re going to need to warm up at some point – I know I love coming in from the cold with a nice warm mulled wine or hot tea. Black Magic is the place to go in Riga to warm up. Located in Old Town, the Medieval-themed cafe and bar is famous for serving Black Balsam, Latvia’s alcoholic drink of choice. It’s sure to warm you right up!
Try snowshoeing at Vienkocu Park
Now, you might not have snowshoed before but if you want to try a wintry sport but don’t want to ski or snowboard, this is an awesome, low-impact way to explore snowy terrain. You’re essentially wearing tennis rackets on your feet which allow you to glide and remain balanced on the slippy snow.
There are plenty of snowshoe trails at Vienkocu Park, which basically follow the hiking trails from the summer months!
Check out the architecture in the Art Nouveau district
As well as the Medieval architecture from the Old Town, Riga is also famous for its Art Nouveau scene. Take a walking tour with a local expert is the best way to see the best spots and learn more about the 19th and 20th-century design aesthetic. In fact, around a third of buildings in Riga have art nouveau features!
Visit The Museum of Occupation
If you want to learn more about the dark history of Latvia and the Soviet era, you have to visit the Museum of Occupation. It’s honestly such an important place to visit during your stay as it’s an occupation that many people in the West don’t know a whole lot about – it’s definitely eye-opening!
Enjoy a performance at the Latvia National Opera
For many Latvians and people across the Baltics, the winter months represent ballet season. Running from mid-September to May, winter is when the peak ballets and opera performances are scheduled at the Latvia National Opera. See stunning performances like the Nutcracker, Aida, Don Giovanni, and many more.
Where to stay in Riga
Luxury: Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga
Five-star hotels don’t get grander than this. This huge old-world hotel stands in the centre of the city, surrounded by attractions like the National Opera House. Inside, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time with beautiful sweeping staircases, marble pillars, and spacious suites! If you’re looking for luxury, check yourself into the Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga.
Mid-range: Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel
If you’re looking for bright and airy accommodation with intriguing design notes that bring pops of colour into your rooms and communal areas, you’re going to love the Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel. From the herringbone flooring to the luxurious and modern bar area to the world-class location in Riga’s Old Town, there certainly is a lot to love about a stay at the Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel.
Budget: Hotel Valdemars Riga
Visiting Riga on a budget? Check out the Hotel Valdemars Riga. With spacious suites, balconies overlooking the city, and gorgeous outdoor seating areas that are perfect for a warming coffee, this is a thoughtfully designed hotel with all the amenities you’ll need without breaking the bank. There’s even a really well-stocked gym in the hotel if you want to work up a sweat after freezing yourself outside in the Latvian winter temperatures!
So there you are, the best things to do in Riga in winter. Which activities are your favourite? Have you already done some of these in Riga before? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re planning a Europe trip, then check out my Eastern Europe itinerary. This guide is packed full of all the best things to do.
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