Riga is Latvia's capital and largest city; its population of more than 600,000 inhabitants makes it the biggest city in all of the Baltic states.
It is located on the Gulf of Riga, a natural harbour that has been used by German traders since 1150. The city was founded in 1201 by Bishop Albert of Riga and since then, for a long period, it was under the Livonian Order. After that, Riga changed hands quite a few times, at different points coming under the rule of the Kingdoms of Poland and Sweden, as well as that of the Russian Empire. In 1918 Latvia proclaimed its independence and managed to stay a free country until World War II, when it became a republic within Soviet Union. It finally declared its independence in 1991.
In 1997 the city centre in Riga was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was due to its "outstanding universal value": the quality and quantity of its architectural monuments in the Art Nouveau style, as well as all the remnants from its time as a part of the Hanseatic league.
There is only one airport in Riga - Riga International Airport - the largest airport in the Baltic states, which offers direct flights to over 85 destinations in 30 countries. The busiest routes from Riga are to Moscow, London and Frankfurt. The airport serves as a hub for airBaltic, SmartLynx Airlines, RAF-Avia, Vip Avia and Inversija and as one of the base airports for Wizz Air. In 2014 4.8 million passengers passed through its gates.
Getting from Riga International Airport to the City Centre
Riga International Airport is located only 10 km away from central Riga.
Bus route 22 runs from the airport to the city centre, where it stops at the bus terminal in the vicinity of the Old Town. Buses run every 10-20 min and cost €1.20. The journey should take approximately 40 minutes.
The Airport Express shuttle bus travels between Riga Airport, the Radisson Hotel Latvia and Riga International Coach Terminal in the city centre. This takes roughly 20 minutes and costs €5.00. A selection of international bus routes exist, going from the airport to Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia.
A taxi ride from the airport to the Riga's city centre takes about 15-20 minutes, and costs between €10–13.
The airport and European route E22 are connected by the P133 highway.
Riga Central Railway Station is located at Stacijas Square, directly east of the Old Town border and close to the Central Market. It is not only a mere train station, but a huge complex, which has within it two big supermarkets, a cinema, and a variety of different cafes and restaurants.
Getting from Rīgas Centrālā dzelzceļa stacija to the City Centre
The station is right in the centre of the city, so no journey is necessary.
Riga International Coach Terminal serves both international and domestic bus lines. The terminal is located right next to the Riga Central Railway Station, directly at the border with the Old Town and Central Market, two of the main tourist attractions in the city.
Getting from Rīgas Starptautiskā autoosta to the City Centre
The same applies as with the central railway station, it's right in the centre!
Riga is on the E77 European motorway which goes from Hungary to Russia via Budapest, Warsaw, Kaliningrad and Pskov. It is also on the E22 which goes from the UK to Russia via Manchester, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Kalmar and Moscow. The E67 from the Czech Republic to Finland via Prague, Warsaw, Tallinn and Helsinki passes through it too.
Although it is possible to drive right into the city centre, many of the streets in the Old town are closed to vehicles and careful driving is advised due to the fluctuating quality of the road surface.
Rigas satiksme is the municipal transport company which runs the trams, buses, minibuses and trolleybuses in the city. All of these use the same e-ticket system - e-talons. Tram lines are numbered 1-11; bus lines are numbered 1-55; trolley bus lines are numbered 1-27. Minibus lines have numbers 200-280 and night buses are numbered N1-N10.
Cost of a Ticket:
If you are the owner of a reloadable e-talon card purchased in advance from a ticket office, vending machine, press kiosk, Narvesen shop, or any other locations listed on the Rigas Satiksme website:
Multi-ride tickets are also available:
The cards all are activated by using the yellow device in the vehicles. Note that you must activate your card every time that you enter a vehicle.
Cycling is really taking off in Riga - every year new bike paths and rental points are added to the network. Going purely by number of bikes, Riga looks set to hit the levels of two of the most bike-friendly cities in Europe - Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Taxis are reasonably-priced and fairly common. To ensure the cheapest price, order a taxi by phone. The average price per kilometre will be around €0.67, but, as in many places, some of the taxi drivers might not necessarily choose the shortest way, so paying attention to where you're being taken is advised.
The easiest and the safest options for parking are the guarded parking lots (Latvian: autostāvvietas). There are two big parking lots located next to the Old Town:
Much of Riga is accessible on foot; indeed most of the Old town and Central Market can be reached this way.
The Old Town of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of Gothic spires and Art Nouveau architecture and is surrounded by a cosmopolitan city full of hip galleries and experimental cuisine. Away from the city are beautiful forests and coastlines of white beaches backed by sand dunes. This important port city is split by the Daugava River and during its history has come under the control of Sweden, Russia and Germany, all of which have influenced its culture and buildings.
Riga International Airport is 10 km South-West of the city centre and is linked by bus and minibus shuttles as well as taxis and rental cars. It is always cheaper to pre-book taxis while buses operate until late evening. International buses to Riga arrive at a bus station located within a short walk of the Old Town. Bus routes serve most major European cities. Trains from Russia and Estonia terminate at Riga Central Station, also located in the city centre.
The best way to explore the historic heart of Riga is on foot while transport services are made up of trams, trolleybuses and buses, including many night routes. Bikes can be rented from public cycle stands across the city while rental cars are widely available, although city centre traffic can be slow.