Compact, very walkable and a mishmash of many striking architectural styles: the result of having been ruled across several centuries by the Germans, Swedish and Russians, Riga is one of those rare few cities that quickly gets under the skin, just by walking its streets and observing its architecture and its complex layers of history. It was one of the first cities I visited as a student back in the early 2000’s when Ryanair launched a direct route from Glasgow and remains a sentimental favourite. It has changed a fair bit since then. The city is booming with tourists and is perfect for a long weekend break – expect a great concentration of hip bars, affordable and excellent range of dining options for travellers of all tastes and vibrant nightlife. To help you scratch the surface, I’ve pulled together a guide on where to eat in Riga and also where to drink in Riga, based on a recent trip to Latvia. I hope this list will convince you to put Riga on your travel gastronomic bucket list.
Where to eat in Riga
1. Mārtiņa Beķereja, Riga’s oldest bakery
Address: Brīvības iela 80
For a tasty breakfast with a difference , head to the oldest bakery in Riga for breakfast, Mārtiņa Beķereja where you can savour local pastries for as little as € 0.50 cents! You will find a wide range of baked goods, ranging from pies and pastries to cakes. I would recommend trying their pastries. Mix it up, with their savoury pizza like Pikanta pastry and then finish off with their excellent sweet cherry Kirsu pastry. Both were delicious and cost just €1.65!
2. Āgenskalns Market
Address: Nometņu iela 64
Next stop is Āgenskalns Market. Dating back to 1898, it is the largest and oldest market in the city and recently re-opened last year after a massive renovation. On the first floor of the renewed pavilion, you can buy local products from farmers, home producers and traders.
There is a lot to choose from. I tried the Latvian style cottage cheese pancakes aka Biezpiena Placenisi , perfect with sour cream or cherry jam. Then I tried the local speciality- Sidonia aka Quince lemonade. This was fresh and very tasty. Locals describe it as non alcoholic Prosecco!
I finish up with a cup of coffee from Kalve Coffee , one of Latvia’s leading coffee roasters. On the second floor , you will find a food court that showcases some of Latvia’s best local eateries like the popular Ausmena Kebabs from Rezekne and Vīnkalni, probably Riga’s best pizzeria.
3. Riga Central Market
Address: Nēģu iela 7
Make time to visit Riga Central Market , one of biggest central markets and bazaars in Eastern Europe.The market has five pavilions that have been repurposed from the German Zeppelin hangars that date back to the 1920’s. The complex built in the Art Deco and Neoclassical style is a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with Riga Old Town.
You can find all kinds of local delicacies, like smoked fish and meat to pickled veggies, beetroot and local cheeses.
Personal highlights of the market include the Rupnicas Veikals kiosk at the back of the market which serves local beers, Kvass and generous glasses of wine for dirt cheap prices. I recommend trying a few of the maizītes aka Latvian open sandwiches, served on rye bread. Toppings ranged from pickled herrings to eggs with anchovies and smoked salmon. These were so so good and each costing a couple of euros.
My other top tip for the market is Registan, an Uzbekistan cafe and bakery. Everything here looked so good, especially the Uzbek flatbread straight from their tandoor oven. Try the goat curry samsa.
Address: Galerija Centrs, 4th floor, Audēju iela 16
Burzma is a new food hall concept in Riga where you can try everything from oven-baked pizza, traditional Latvian pork chops to Ukrainian, Mexican, Georgian & Asian cuisines plus delicious drinks, cocktails from Herbarijs.
I tried the delicious Juskaa soup with white garlic bread from Ukrainian restaurant, Borscs. ( €5 ) Other classic dishes you can savour here include grechanka, and pampushka and lesser-known delights like sirnik. Then there is the Boom Cafe buffet where you can sample some a mix of local and international cuisine, prices starting from €2-€3 per dish.
5. Lauvas Nams
Address: Brīvības iela 82
I wanted to visit an ednica, which is the Latvian version of the milk bar but could not make it to one so instead I came to this buffet restaurant , situated across from the local theatre. It is open 24 hours so is very popular with locals, especially after hours when people are hungry after a night out.
The dishes are very affordable and you have a lot of choice. I tried some goulash with mashed potato- was super tasty. The most interesting dish was definitely the cold beet soup aka Aukstā zupa With an unusual, deep pink color, this soup is made with beets, cucumbers, kefir and sometimes a hard-boiled eggs. There is a topping of dill and scallions a dash of vinegar to give that extra tart flavour.
Address: Ģertrūdes iela 32
Possibly the best Indian in Riga with a chef and many staff members from India. They will ask you how spicy you want your meal; and they will make things hot!
Address; Blaumana iela 9
Cheap and can easily be made to-go, this place specializes in large salads or a simple carbs + meat hot combo. If you like the food, get yourself a stamp-card for a free meal.
8. Tavs Banh Mi
Address: Ģertrūdes iela 9
Across from the Embassy, this is Riga’s only vendor of traditional banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich). Tavs Banh Mi understands the importance of sriracha sauce which is served with every order. Note that this place closes at 20:00.
Where to find good vegetarian , vegan food in Riga
9. Rama / Stock Pot / Terapija
Rama (Kr. Barona iela 56 ) is the only completely vegetarian restaurant in Riga as meat (including fish and chicken) do not even enter the premise. This restaurant is attached to the Hare Krishna Centre and charges by weight, after 19:30 prices are reduced.
PS: If you are looking for affordable Asian food, try Stock Pot. ( Ģertrūdes iela 6 ) Lots of tasty vegan and meat options are available and there’s always something interesting to eat here. Another fantastic choice for lunch is the fantastic Vegan restaurant Terapija where you can get a soup + main course ( I had a delicious falafel salad) for as little as €4.70 (12-4pm)
Where to drink in Riga
10. Tallinn Street Quarter
Address: Radošais kvartāls, Tallinas iela,
Another hip, cool emerging spot in Riga is the Tallinn Street Quarter (Tallinas kvartāls), a former ambulance depot that has been revived and now filled with hip bars, street food sellers. In between transformed abandoned buildings there is huge central courtyard hosting many events. In terms of vibe and character, this place reminded me a lot of Kasarna Karlin in Prague and LxFactory in Lisbon.
Address: Sporta iela 2, Vidzemes priekšpilsēta
Serving stonebaked pizzas and delicious cocktails in a lively atmosphere ( really good electronic music ) , Zefirs is in the upcoming Skanste neighbourhood of Riga, next to the very hip and cool wine bar, Paisums.
Address: Dzirnavu iela 67
Inside Burzuma you will also find the cool concept bar, Herbarijs where you can try delicious cocktails and drinks.
I recommend trying the Cascara Lemonade, a caffeinated lemonade with a balsamic citrus taste and also a pleasant grapefruit bitterness. Plus try the delicious Alica Ingvers, a ginger Lemonade made with Latvian-grown Caucasian plum.
13. Kanepas Kulturas Centre
Address: Skolas iela 15
This once derelict, 100 year-old building is now a hub for drinks, chat and cultural activities. The centre has a yard which hosts many gatherings on summer nights. Check the Facebook page for details of what’s on: https://www.facebook.com/Zoo.KKc/
14. Valmiermuiza Craft Brewery
Address: Aristida Briāna iela 9a
Enjoy tasty beers snacks, hearty Latvian fare and delicious beers at the Latvian brewery Valmiermuiža. The beer is brewed with great care from the highest quality ingredients. Sample everything from age-old malt beer, shandies and distilled lager. You can follow this up by beers at Labieties and then finish off at Piens.
I visited Riga as part of a storytelling project focussing on Latvian food culture with Magnetic Latvia (LIAA). While my trip was covered by LIAA, all the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Paldies to LIAA for bringing me back to Riga-I really hope to return soon.