After spending a little longer than planned in Riga – I realized very quickly I had fallen in love with the city and it became my favorite of the Baltic capitals. Arriving in early summer we were lucky enough to get the first of the good weather in Latvia and knew that this would only make our exploration of Riga more enjoyable.
The towering church spires, stone streets of the old town and the infectious cafe culture that radiates the central Old Town have left fond lasting impressions of my time in Riga. But, a budget can be an issue when traveling in Europe and high costs often deter tourists from spending time in large cities and exploring ancient old towns.
When it comes to traveling the Baltic region it is not as budget friendly as you would suspect and many of the attractions in the Old Town of Riga can be overpriced. But, the city still offers free or budget savvy things to do.
Free things to do in the city of Riga, Latvia.
1Take a free walking tour
When in Riga it’s likely you’ll want to get to know the city. There are two options for walking tours in Riga and I’d suggest you do both. First up, take the Old City free walking tour of Riga around the historic center of Riga. Find yourself weaving in and out of tourists, cafes, bars and more as you get to know that Riga’s Old Town is in fact quite new.
Then, take Riga’s alternative free walking tour for a bit of perspective. The guide takes you to Riga’s suburbs and around the lesser known but authentic and old areas of Riga. Leave the Old Town behind and discover Riga’s Soviet history through unique streets and curious architecture.
Although walking tours are usually free it is often polite to tip the guide based on the experience you had. Always remember this element of a ‘free’ walking tour.
2Explore Riga’s market
Another great free thing to do in Riga is exploring Riga’s market. Riga Central Market is actually one of the largest in Europe and is located in the most bizarre World War Two zephyr hangars. The market space and location itself are worth a visit and you’ll understand exactly why from the outside when you see the imposing structure that was relocated to Riga after the end of World War Two.
Inside the market and the three buildings, you can find almost anything. Local seasonal fruit and veg in all shapes and sizes can be found along with locally sourced meats and fish with a traditional Latvian twist. Preserving food by pickling is common in the Baltic countries and Latvia is no exception, so expect lots of jars with pickled contents. The market is free to enter and a great way to spend an afternoon or morning in Riga.
3Visit the beach
This one is semi-free because your train ticket to Jurmala will cost you around €4 return. But, it’s worth it. Head to Jurmala from Riga’s central train station and spend a day on the Baltic Sea.
Jurmala is a fun little tourist hub just outside of Riga that tends to attract locals and Russian tourist. The small shopping street can be explored and enjoyed – its quaint styling of wooden buildings and colorful decor is worth a photo. The beach itself in Jurmala is clean and well kept, the blue water and yellow sand are well complimented by the backdrop of varying trees and nature that frame the sands of the beach.
Walk the length of the beach and enjoy the sun. Events such as volleyball tend to take place on the beach and are usually free to watch. Take your own drinks and snacks to avoid spending money whilst in Jurmala to make this the ultimate budget excursion.
You’ll also find a water park close to Jurmala, outside of the city of Riga – worth nothing for the summer months or travel with young children.
Alternatively, if you don’t like the coast it’s worth taking a scenic train journey towards the coast to experience the lush forests that lace the side of the train tracks. The trains themselves in Riga are slow moving but it’s certainly a fun experience to take a ride on these retro locomotives.
4Enjoy Riga’s green spaces
Riga is filled with stunning green spaces and picture-perfect parks. Experience the great outdoors and indulge in some nature. Remember the name Victory Park – spend a few hours enjoying the lush greenery and fit in with the locals who you’ll find enjoying the outdoors especially in the warmer weather. There is wildlife and great weather in Riga, especially during the summer months, enjoy the outdoors with a picnic as a budget option and free thing to do in Riga, Latvia.
5Appreciate the Gulf of Riga
Riga famously sits on The Gulf of Riga and the Daugava River. Take a stroll along the banks of the river and cross the impressive traffic and footbridge into the suburbs of Riga away from the old time. Enjoy an evening stole and prepare for a colorful sunset with great views of the spires of Riga’s Old Town Churches from across the water.
Test out your photography skills trying to capture some of the boats that pass below you from the bridge. Have a walk along the lengths of the Daugava River and experience the activities that take place during the warmer months along the stretch of road that runs adjacent to the water. We were lucky enough to watch some cycling – free of course!
The bottom line
There are many great and free things to do in Riga that suit all tastes and trips. Depending on the amount of time you have to explore Riga, you might be a lot more inventive and adventurous with your days. Try and head to the markets in Riga and don’t miss out on the Alternative Free Riga Walking Tour if any. Get to know the city as a local and use local’s knowledge and insider advice to help plan your stay in the beautiful Baltic city of Riga.