Eating Out

Riga's food scene offers traditional Latvian food, which is dominated by typical Russian and Eastern European dishes, and many international favourites that range from Italian cuisine and Japanese specialities to American steakhouses. Restaurants tend to serve seasonal produce, meat, and fish (thanks to Latvia's position on the east coast of the Baltic Sea), and guests should make a point of trying the dark rye bread called rupjmaize, as it's considered a national staple. Visitors must try Riga's famous Black Balsam. The 45 percent alcoholic liqueur is thick and black yet smooth and velvety, and is said to cure sore throats as well as hangovers.


Riga is a good place to buy local crafts, alcohol, and foodstuffs, but imported goods are very expensive. The highest concentration of shops is in the Old Town and the city centre. One of the best souvenirs to buy in Latvia is amber, for which the country is world-famous. Travellers should look out for amber set in silver jewellery. Other quality buys include woollen jerseys and hats with distinctive Baltic patterns, the local liqueur Black Balsam, and World War Two memorabilia. Bargaining is not expected and unlikely to be successful. A great shopping experience is a visit to the huge Central Market, located in five cavernous pavilions. Everything can be bought here, including fresh fish, fruit, honey, and cheap clothes.


Riga has a varied nightlife, mostly centred round the Old Town, where many clubs, bars, casinos, and live music venues can be found. Riga is also famous for its classical entertainment, with symphonies and operas taking place throughout the year. Close proximity makes walking between nightlife venues a viable option, though visitors should be cautious late at night, as muggings are often reported. The larger clubs attract stag groups from the UK and Scandinavian duty-free tourists. Travellers should stick to the smaller bars if they want a less rowdy experience.