Living in Riga: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Living in Riga: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Latvia is a small country with a huge presence of nature. More than 52% of its territory is made up of woodlands. Over 20% of its land is protected. Many Latvian surnames originate from the names of animals, plants, trees, or flowers. In the heart of this harmonious nation lies Riga - the largest city across all Baltic states. At the same time, even though ⅓ of the Latvian population lives in that city, it still remains one of Europe’s smallest capitals. This balance of nature and urbanism, of big and small, makes Riga a charming destination - even if not an obvious one.

 

1. Work in Riga, Latvia

2. Getting around Riga, Latvia

3. Housing in Riga

4. Living like a local

5. Fun things to do around the city

6. Cost of living in Riga, Latvia


 

  1. Work in Riga, Latvia

 

Jobs in Riga with English can be found in international companies opening their branches in Latvia’s capital. This is why a popular way of becoming an expat in Riga is through an internal transfer. Outside of the capital, finding work without the knowledge of Latvian may be challenging, but it is possible directly in Riga. The knowledge of Russian is also highly appreciated while searching for a job in Latvian cities. 


 

Useful job boards when living in Riga, Latvia

 

Not all job boards in Latvia will be available in English, but aside from the international ones such as LinkedIn or Europe Language Jobs, there are quite a few local ones to choose from:

 

  • Visidarbi.lv - the most popular one among locals, given the wide variety of positions collected from different sources (both job portals and individual corporate websites).

  • CV Online - the largest database in the Baltic States. It operates Visidarbi, as well as Algas - a website where you can find an overview of the salary ranges in Latvia.

  • CV Market - internet recruitment company present in all the Baltic States. 

  • Like IT - focused on jobs in the IT sector. 


 

Sectors and languages in demand

 

The sectors most intensely recruiting English speakers in Riga are: middle and upper management, IT, and language schools. 

 

The sought-after languages include the Nordic ones: Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Danish. As mentioned before, knowing Russian is also a big advantage when looking for a job in Latvia.

 

Working culture

 

Latvians share a formal approach to business. They don’t mix it with pleasure, and even if friendships occur between coworkers, they are left outside of the office door. Relationships in the workplace, even between good friends, remain professional. 

 

Latvian businesses follow a strictly hierarchical structure - decisions are expected to be made at the top levels, and information is passed downwards. Older and more experienced coworkers are respected and oftentimes approached for advice.

 

Introductions are generally made using the first and last name. Titles are also important - in case of the lack of an official academic or professional title, “Kundze” is used to address a woman, and “Kungs” to address a man. 

 

Environments dominated by younger employees adopt a less formal, more relaxed approach, but punctuality remains crucial everywhere. All of that is not to say that Latvian workplaces are always frigid - you can expect helpfulness and kindness. The workers there just like to get their job done with a limited amount of distractions standing in their way. 

 

The national minimum wage in Latvia in 2022 is set at €500/month. The average salary in Riga, however, stands higher than that, at around €850/month as of 2021. If you are used to seeing bigger numbers in other EU states, remember that the cost of living in Latvia is also much lower. 


 

Work permit

 

If you are a third-country citizen, you need to obtain a temporary or permanent residence permit before applying for a work permit in Latvia. You also have to be granted the Type D visa (working visa) first. Work permits are issued by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs of Latvia (OCMA). 

 

The documents required for a work permit application are:

  • Passport with a D-type visa

  • Latvian residence permit

  • A letter from a Latvian employer

  • Documents supporting the applicant’s qualifications (CV, certificates, diplomas, etc.)

  • Proof of accommodation in Latvia

 

You may be asked to provide additional documents depending on your individual situation and country of origin, so make sure to always consult your local Latvian embassy for personalised advice. The processing of a work permit request can take up to a month.

 

Remember that every time the circumstances surrounding your job change (different employer, position, sector, company, etc.), you need to apply for a new work permit! You have to do it ASAP, as you can’t remain in Latvia as a foreigner if you’re unemployed. 


 

Other visas

The first document you need to apply for is the visa. If you are coming to Latvia for work, it will be the D-type visa, also known as the long-term or work visa. All foreigners coming from outside of the EU need a visa to enter Latvia. 

 

Documents required to apply for the D-type visa:

 

  • Passport (valid for at least 3 months after the intended date of departure from Latvia)

  • Filled out D-type visa application form

  • A letter of invitation (usually from the employer) approved by the OCMA

  • An employment agreement signed by both the employer and employee

  • Passport photo

  • Proof of accommodation in Latvia

  • Travel insurance (valid for the entire stay in the entire Schengen zone, for a certain minimal sum)

  • Booked flight ticket

  • Proof of the covered visa fee

  • *you may also be asked to submit proof of previous employment and education


 

Residence permit

 

If your plan is to reside in Latvia for more than 90 days over a period of 6 months, you will need to apply for a residence permit. EU citizens are exempt from obtaining this particular document, but they will need to register with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) if they wish to stay in the country for more than 90 days. 

 

Residence permits are issued by the OCMA, which constitutes part of the Ministry of Inferior. These are the steps you need to take to obtain the permit:

 

  1. Make an appointment at one of the divisions - be clear about needing the appointment to be conducted in English! You can do it via phone or email, depending on a particular branch. Find your nearest one on the list of divisions

 

Important: When you book your slot, you will receive your reservation confirmation number. Don’t lose it! Write it down, as you will be required to present it during your appointment, and neither you nor the officer will be given a copy of it! If you book an appointment but lose your reservation confirmation number, you will lose the appointment and will need to book a new one.

 

  1. Arrange for health insurance - proof will be required, and you won’t be granted a residence permit without it, so you must do it beforehand!

  2. Fill out the application form - it can be done on the spot, but doing it in advance saves you time at the actual appointment. 

  3. On the day of the appointment, go to the division, take a number when you enter, and wait for your turn. It shouldn’t take long!

 

Attention: It’s unlikely you will get any reminders about your appointment, so make sure to remember the date so you don’t miss it!

 

Documents you need to bring to your residence permit appointment:

  • Passport

  • Filled-out application form

  • Proof of health insurance

  • Proof of address

  • Proof of employment (including salary details - you need to be able to prove you have the means to support yourself financially)

  • Reservation confirmation number

  • 2 passport photos

  • Information about any family members relocating with you

  • The fee - the costs of issuing a residence permit in Latvia can be anything between €100 and €400, depending on how quickly you need the documents to be processed.

 

As usual, bring originals and copies of everything! You never know when an original will be needed, or when the officers can’t copy something themselves for whatever reason. 

 

After the first appointment where you apply for the residence permit, you will need to book a pick-up appointment. It will usually be set for about a month later, unless you pay more to receive your document sooner. Do bring all the documents to the pick-up appointment again - just in case anything has gotten lost or you’d forgotten to submit something during your first appointment. 

 

The time the residence permit will be valid is different for each individual - it depends mostly on the family and employment status, but other factors can also influence it. However, it will usually not exceed 5 years. 

 


 

  1. Getting around Riga, Latvia

 

Public transport

 

Public transport services in Riga consist of trams, buses, and trolleybuses. They are overseen by Rīgas Satiksme and operate between 5:30 and 23:30. 

 

The tickets are sold at customer service centres, in ticket machines, in kiosks, and online. They can be purchased for a set number of rides or for a certain period (daily, weekly, monthly). All the information about the fees can be found on the Rīgas Satiksme website.

 

There are 3 main types of tickets in Riga:

 

  • Yellow - made of cardboard, can be recharged.

  • Blue - made of plastic, can be recharged and personalised (student, elderly, etc.) and require a small deposit.

  • White - sold on board for a single trip, usually more expensive. 

 

The city has prepared the Riga Card for those who use public transport or parking a lot. It’s more convenient, as you can charge it online, and even helps you save money!


 

Buses

 

They are a great way to get around Riga itself, but also to travel around the country in general. The main station for both national and international connections is the Riga International Coach Terminal. 

 

Buses run more frequently than trains and operate in cities outside of the rail network. Because of that, they are slightly more expensive, but the pricing still remains reasonable. You can see the details on the Rigas Autoosta (Coach Terminal) website.


 

Trains

 

A cheap way to travel between the largest towns in Latvia, as well as to the neighbouring countries such as Estonia or Russia. Tickets can be bought at the counters at the train stations. All the prices are available on the website of the Latvian train service provider, Pasazieru Vincens.


 

Bikes

 

The entire city doesn’t sport a flawless cycling infrastructure yet, but there are quite a few trails enjoyed by cyclists. You can find them described in great detail by Live Riga.

 

If you don’t have your own bike - don’t worry. Bike rental schemes, including Bicyclerental.lv, are available in Riga for a reasonable price. Electric scooters are also available, for those who’d rather roll along than pedal. 


 

Taxis

 

You can hail a taxi by waving your arm along the street, approaching a parked one, calling, or using a mobile app. The last two options are the most secure way, as they can help you avoid scams. Remember that official, registered taxis always have to sport the classic “taxi” sign on the roof and a sticker with fees on the side. 

 

There is no official limit on taxi tariffs per kilometre in Riga, nor for the ride duration and boarding fees. Therefore, you should always ask about the estimated cost of the ride beforehand to make sure you have enough money on you. A safe option is also booking a taxi through an app - that way, you will always know the fee right away and won’t be tricked by the driver. Bolt remains a popular option among Latvians.

 

Other popular reliable taxi companies in Riga include:

 


 

Driving

 

It’s a challenge to find free parking in the city centre, so get ready to pay in the parking metres lining the pavement. The pricing can vary, the fees increasing the closer to the centre you get, and decreasing as you move towards the suburbs. 

 

Riga is, however, compact enough that many citizens report an absolute lack of need for a car. If they can’t get somewhere on foot, the public transport will get them there for a reasonable price. National travel is accommodated by the wide net of train and bus connections, so the need for a car is secondary.


 

Riga Airport

 

Riga International Airport (RIX) is the largest airport in all the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). In its offer, you can find flights to more than 80 destinations worldwide. It is located just 10km from Riga’s city centre.

 

AirBaltic, the Latvian national airline, offers comfortable and wallet-friendly connections to major European cities. 


 

Shuttle - there are no direct shuttle services connecting Riga Airport with the city centre, but if you are staying at a hotel, you can inquire there about any transport offered.

 

Bus - line 22 courses between the city centre and the airport every 10-20 minutes. 

 

Train - there are no direct train connections running to the airport.

 

Taxi - the most comfortable option. A reasonable fare for a ride from the airport to the centre (and vice versa) is between €10-20 (with €20 being on the higher side, you should usually expect around €13-15, but better safe than sorry). 


 

  1. Housing in Riga

 

Flat hunt

 

It is possible to find a flat before moving to Latvia, but it is recommended to do the flat hunt while already on the spot. The housing style can be a little bit different there than what you’re used to in your home country, so it’s better to view the interior and meet the landlord in person before signing anything. 

 

The monthly costs of renting a flat in Riga can vary between €150 and €900, depending on the size of the flat, its location and condition. Flats in Latvia usually come fully furnished, but the utility bills most likely won’t be included in the monthly rent. Make sure to ask whether they need to be paid on a month-to-month basis, or if a balanced payment is possible.

 

A balanced payment is based on paying a set sum every month, and then recalculating at the end of the year. It’s a more convenient system in countries like Latvia, with warm summers and cold winters. In the winter months, the bills will rise considerably due to increased heating, so a balanced payment might be more financially comfortable.

 

Easy Expat prepared a great compilation of top trusted gas, electricity, and water providers in Riga, complete with their websites and contact details.


 

Helpful websites for finding accommodation in Riga:

 

  • SS.lv - the most popular among the locals, but only available in Latvian and Russian.

  • Reklama.lv - less variety than the previous one, but worth giving a try. Also only available in Latvian and Russian.

  • City 24 - the Latvian branch of a Baltic real estate website, available in English.

  • RentInRiga - the largest website with real estate ads in Latvia in English, expect high-end listings. 

 

About 85% of real estate properties in Latvia are found online. The first 2 websites are originally only available in Latvian and Russian, but try the good old trick of clicking on the right mouse button and selecting the “Translate to English” option!


 

Where to live? Districts in Riga

 

Riga is divided into 6 main administrative districts. Since the area of the Central District is only 3km², finding accommodation there is extremely difficult - especially at a reasonable price. Luckily, flats in the surrounding districts are more affordable. 

 

Mežaparks - a very family-friendly district, famous for its proximity to a forest and the presence of multiple parks, including the zoo

 

The Moscow District - home to the famous Central Market, which means fresh groceries right outside your doorstep. Dotted with many beautiful churches - even if you’re not religious, they add to the charm of the neighbourhood. You may be met with the old stereotype of it being a crime spot back in the 90’s, but that is long gone and you can feel safe there now.

 

Pārdaugava - the left bank of the Daugava River. Beautiful river views, a slow-living attitude, relaxed lifestyle in proximity to nature. Multiple running and cycling trails, a suburban feeling close to the city centre. 


 

  1. Living like a local

 

People

 

Latvians may not be the most expressive people on Earth, but they are very friendly. They respect their personal space and won’t let you in right away, but once they do, you can count on their kindness and loyalty. 

 

People in Latvia also like to keep their private life private. Personal matters are hardly ever discussed with friends, leave alone strangers. Small talk might seem forced, as Latvians are not very comfortable with it. They also prefer the low context style of communication: the fewer details, the better. They are very direct and like to get to the point quickly - you might risk annoying them if you try getting into too much unnecessary detail.

 

However, despite the reserved attitude, Latvian people are incredibly helpful. They may not share their life story with you, but they will drop everything and come running if they see you struggling. They’re also known for their hospitality - if a Latvian happens to host you, you won’t go around hungry or uncomfortable!

 

Nature is important to the people in Latvia. They respect it and like to be close to it. Solitary walks in the forest are a common form of spending free time, as fresh air and the proximity of nature effectively clears their minds and gives them energy. 

 

However, please do not imagine Latvia as the land of distanced forest people. It’s actually lovely to see a nation demonstrate so much respect for nature and so much selfless kindness towards others. They may be far from the loud openness of the citizens of Southern Europe, but they are no less friendly or welcoming. 


 

The LGBTQ+ community in Riga

 

We won’t hide the fact that Latvia is not yet at the forefront of most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. Small countries make for tight-knit communities, which accept change at their own pace.

 

That is not to say, of course, that all representatives of the LGBTQ+ community should expect discrimination once in Riga - absolutely not! Latvians are just not as forthcoming as other countries in expressing themselves and manifesting who they are. Equality might not be celebrated as widely as in top LGBTQ+ friendly nations, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be respected by individuals. 

 

No one should resign from moving to Latvia out of fear of discrimination - just don’t expect to see gay bars scattered around the city, witness public shows of affection or attend events such as LGBTQ+ parades. At least - not yet. 


 

Language

 

Latvian is a challenging one to learn - we won’t lie to you here. What’s more, did you know it’s divided into 3 main dialects? Riga/Vidzeme (also known as the “standard” dialect), Kurzeme, and Latgallian. The last one is sometimes even considered a separate language. 

 

As Latvia used to form a part of the Soviet Union for a long time, many of its citizens still fluently speak Russian. In fact, especially among the generation that remembers the communist times, it’s more common to find a Russian than an English speaker. 

 

Even if you know English or Russian, however, it might be helpful to learn a few of the most basic phrases in Latvian before coming to Riga:

 

  • Labrīt! - Good morning

  • Labdien - Good afternoon

  • Labvakar - Good evening

  • Sveiki - Hello

  • Uz redzēšanos - Goodbye

  • Atā - Bye

  • Jā - Yes

  • Nē - No

  • Labi - okay

  • Paldies - Thank you

  • Lūdzu - You’re welcome

  • Atvainojiet - Excuse me

  • Man žēl - I’m sorry

  • Mani sauc … - My name is…

  • Kā jums klājas?  - How are you?

  • Prieks iepazīties! - Nice to meet you!

  • Cik tas maksā, lūdzu? - How much is it?

  • Kur ir tualete? - Where is the toilet?

  • Cikos tas it? - What time is it?

  • Vai jūs runājat angliski? - Do you speak English?

  • Es nesaprotu - I don’t understand

  • Es nezinu - I don’t know

  • Es gribētu kafiju, lūdzu. - I’d like a coffee, please.

  • Pateicos par palīdzību. - Thank you for your help.

 

Save the Date

 

National Holidays in Latvia

 

As a Christian country, Latvia shares the main holidays with other nations dominated by this religion. However, there are a few national celebrations that are less popular or unique just for this nation that Latvians celebrate. 

 

  • May 1st - Labour Day

  • May 4th - Independence Day

  • June 23rd/24th - Jāņi: Summer Solstice celebrations. Bonfires, music, dancing well into the night, traditional rituals, and welcoming the rising sun. Both the 23rd and 24th are public holidays. 

  • November 18th - National Day. The commemoration of the Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia. 

Yes, you actually get 2 days off to celebrate the Summer Solstice in Latvia! Who’s moving with me?

 

Events in Riga

The festive season in Riga usually stretches over the summer months - from June until August. 

 

Jāņi (23-24th June) - midsummer celebrations all around the city. You can expect lots of food, lots of music, and lots of bonfires!

 

Positivus (July) - the largest music festival in the Baltics. It’s not actually in Riga, though… The festival takes place in a town called Slacgriva, located some 100km down the coast from the capital. But it’s definitely worth the trip!

 

Rigas Ritmi (July) -  another music festival that actually does take place in Riga. This international event is organised in several venues across the whole city, and is a truly one-of-a-kind experience!

 

Riga City Festival (August) - three days of food, drinks, music, and all kinds of performances - all in honour of Latvia’s capital city.

 

White Night (September) - a celebration of art in all forms: music, visual arts, literature, dance, and more!

 

Rimi Riga Marathon (October) - although the name suggests a marathon, you can choose different distances: the full 42km, half-marathon, 10 and 5 km. The event is for everyone, regardless of their level!

 

5. Fun things to do around the city

 

Latvian cuisine

 

Like most Eastern European countries, Latvian cuisine is heavy, hearty, and full of flavour. It is heavily influenced by Russian cuisine, but it always comes with its own twist and sports some very special dishes original to Latvia itself.

 

  • Pelēkie zirņi (grey peas) - a classic. At a first glance, the dish doesn’t look extremely sophisticated, but it’s very filling. It came to be when farmers needed a simple, hearty dish that would fill their bellies for a long day of work. It’s a mix of grey peas, lard, fried onions, and pieces of meat (speck).

  • Aukstā Zupa (cold soup) - based on kefir or sour milk with beetroots, fresh cucumbers (sometimes also radishes), and hard-boiled egg. Perfect for when you want to enjoy a bowl of soup on a hot day. It’s very thick, thanks to the kefir and the generous amount of chopped ingredients.

  • Speck - a type of smoked bacon from the pork belly. Used in dishes (such as the grey peas) or eaten on its own, as it’s very aromatic. 

  • Herring - popular in all forms, particularly in siļķe kažokā. It’s a sort of a salad consisting of a salty, tender herring in-between layers of egg and boiled vegetables, slathered with sour cream or mayonnaise. It originates from the Russian cuisine, but is equally popular in Latvia.

  • Smoked and pickled fish - not just herring, all kinds. A true Latvian speciality.

  • Kotletes - a Latvian take on hamburger patties. Minced meat mixed with fried onions and an array of aromatic spices, shaped into patties that are fried and served with potatoes and mushrooms or vegetables. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.

  • Rasols - a rendering of the internationally-known Olivier salad. The recipes vary, but usually, they base on potatoes, eggs, beetroots, carrots, green peas, cucumbers or pickles and meat or herring - all bathed in mayonnaise. Due to its Soviet origin, it’s popular in many countries, in slightly varying versions. 

  • Aukstā Gaļa - aspic, aka meat in jelly. It might sound… peculiar to those who are not used to this dish since childhood, but it’s worth trying for the experience. It’s heavily spiced, which gives it a unique, strong flavour. Served with horseradish sauce or mustard. 

  • Soups - this part of the world is known for its appreciation for soups. In Latvia, apart from the Aukstā Zupa, the most popular ones include beetroot (Biešu), meatball (Frikadeļu) and sorrel (Skābeņu) soup. 

  • Potatoes - in all forms. Served in the form of golden, crispy, fried pancakes, with chantarelle sauce, or with herring. 

  • Pīrādziņi - pastries stuffed with cabbage, minced meat, cottage cheese, onions, or bacon. They can come in different sizes - bigger consumed on their own, smaller as a tasty addition to soups. 

 

Desserts

 

  • Rupjmaizes Zupa (Rye bread soup) - the Latvians love soups so much, they even have a sweet version! You won’t find it anywhere else - your only opportunity to try it is in Latvia. Made of roasted bits of rye bread boiled in water. Served with a selection of dried fruits and whipped cream. 

  • Rupjmaizes Kārtojums - another dessert sporting rye bread (a true Latvian speciality). It consists of layers of rye bread crumbs spiced with cinnamon, jam, and whipped cream. Garnished with grated dark chocolate and fresh berries, it’s chilled before serving. Yum!

  • Kliņģeris - a traditional Latvian birthday cake shaped into a large pretzel. It contains lots of aromatic spices such as cardamom, lemon zest and saffron, and can sport raisins. 

  • Honey - Latvia produces lots of this golden treasure in very high quality. It’s the most common souvenir brought home by tourists visiting the country. 

 

Rupjmaizes Kārtojums 

Drinks

 

  • Kvass - a drink characteristic of Eastern Europe, but difficult to find anywhere else. It’s made of rye bread, and its taste resembles a very sweet beer. It’s a non-alcoholic drink, although it may contain a very small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process. 

  • Rīgas Melnais balzams (Riga Black Balsam) - a special kind of liquor made of various kinds of herbs, roots, and berries. The recipe itself dates back to the 18th century, but nowadays modern bars in Latvia experiment with its characteristic flavour, basing many cocktails on it.


 

Riga’s best food places

 

So you know all about the Latvian cuisine already. Now - where to try it? It was hard to select only a few suggestions for you, as Riga’s gastronomy scene is massive! This relatively small city hides a huge number of great places to eat, so we encourage you to conduct your own research. There are so many restaurants, cafés and bars that deserve recognition in that city, they would require a separate post!

 

Restaurants

 

Annas Dārzs (Anna’s Garden) - you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the rocking chairs, enjoy the sun on the terrace throughout the day at lunch, or order an evening menu at night. 

 

Kolanāde. Mūsu Stāsti - enjoy the beautiful view of the park while staying in the very heart of the city. Experience Latvian cuisine with a modern, surprising twist.

 

Mio - the vintage interior welcomes you from the very threshold, making you feel at home. It’s a very popular wedding venue due to its truly romantic climate. On the menu, you can find everything from salads to seafood to meat. Very family-friendly.

 

Province - the name of this venue speaks for itself. Nestled in-between meadows and a forest, it invites with its truly rural vibes. It’s the best spot if you want to try traditional Latvian cuisine and experience the famous Latvian hospitality. You can also admire the regional folklore interior made by local craftsmen. 

 

Skyline Bar - this one is more for the fans of sleek and modern. Located - as the name suggests - on a rooftop, it offers breathtaking views of Riga and more exotic cuisine. During the day, you can enjoy a nice meal, and at night, drop in for a heavenly cocktail. 

 

Green Pumpkin - a fully vegetarian restaurant with a wide selection of all kinds of dishes. Regardless of what you’re craving today, you’ll probably find it on the menu!

 

For more suggestions of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Riga, head over to this amazing guide by Live Riga!


 

Cafés

 

BakeBerry - they offer a mix of traditional specials from all corners of Europe. A French croissant? Check! A slice of Spanish bizcocho? Check! Make sure to stop by for a freshly-baked cake and a freshly-ground coffee.

 

Pienene - when you come in, you will be hit by two things: first, the cosy interior, and second, the heavenly aroma. This place puts great focus on using only eco, locally-grown ingredients. They produce their own sugar-free jams and offer a wide selection of natural herbal teas.

 

Rocket Bean Roastery - a high-end coffee spot. They put emphasis on the highest quality of both the product and service possible, rightfully having gained the title of one of the most popular coffee places in Riga. The staff share their extensive knowledge by organising courses and educational trips.

 

Apsara - the team of Apsara recognises that coffee is not everyone’s cup of tea. They come forth to all tea lovers and do their best to deliver the best experience possible. It will take you a while to choose from the wide variety of kinds and flavours!

 

Mīkla bakery - hop in for a cup of coffee with a tasty pastry on the side. The cute interior and yummy snacks make it the perfect place for all those with a sweet tooth out there!

 

Better Bread - it’s not really a café, per sé, but it simply couldn’t be missing from this list! This tiny spot with a huge mission definitely deserves local support. It’s the perfect place to try the traditional Latvian rye bread!


 

Bars

 

Beer

 

Two More Beers - drop in for a taste of one (or more!) of the 100 different craft beers on the menu, and a meal carefully paired with it. If you’re not in the mood for food, watch a live game or participate in various games - with beer as the focal point, of course! Expect more than just the classic beer pong. 

 

Taka - an obligatory stop on Riga’s craft beer map. Come for both beer and entertainment - enjoy board games, live events, and a cosy atmosphere.

 

Nurme - another important player on the craft beer stage. You will get the opportunity to try pints in flavours you have never imagined.



 

Cocktails

 

Thirsty - creative, tasty cocktails and a breezy terrace. What more could one wish for?

 

Herbarijs - a fruity cocktail, friendly staff, and a beautiful view of Riga’s panorama. The holy trinity of a good night out. 

 

Snob - high-end flavours in a friendly atmosphere. Visit for a sophisticated, one-of-a-kind experience. 


 

Places to go / Things to do

 

Don’t be misguided by Riga’s compact size - it has a lot to offer. Countless museums, hectares of parks, state-of-the-art architecture, cinemas, eight theatres - and more!

 

Parks

 

There are over 20 parks and public gardens in the entire city. Below, you can find just a small fraction of them:

 

Bastion Hill - the paths wrap around the hill, creating different levels. They wind around trees, flowers, water cascades, and sculptures. As you stroll, you can encounter ducks and swans. Numerous bridges decorated with padlocks left there by happy couples make the park a very romantic spot.

 

Esplanade - a huge green area stretching over more than 8 hectares. A beating, humming, green heart of the city. On its perimeters, it hosts the Latvian National Museum of Art and the Art Academy of Latvia. The blend of art and nature is a true treat to the eye and the soul.

 

The Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia - on this massive, 15ha area, you can admire a variety of plants and flowers literally all year long - watch them change month after month, as different species awaken when seasons change. For more wanderlust, visit the Tropical Butterfly House. Used for educational and research purposes, the garden connects the beautiful with the useful.

 

Lucavsala Island - recent renovation works have turned this island on the Daugava River from an abandoned piece of land into a popular chillout spot. It connects nature with the city centre, allowing the citizens of Riga to enjoy the sunny days, swim, relax, play sports, jog, and watch their children go wild on the playgrounds.

 

Daugava Promenade - it’s not really a park, but it still makes for a great hangout spot. Stroll down the promenade and enjoy the sun kissing your skin and the gentle breeze tugging at your hair while you gaze out at the smooth surface of the river. Neighbouring with the Old Town, it’s also the perfect place for a jog, bike ride, or a rollerskating/skateboarding adventure.

 

Museums

 

Latvian National Museum of Art - a collection of works from the greatest Latvian artists of all times. Even the building itself is an architectural masterpiece. Recently renovated, it still maintains its original charm. An interactive app (Mākslas muzejs) is available to guide you through the gallery’s halls.

 

National History Museum of Latvia - more than a million items in stock will take you on a true journey through time, starting with ancient times, right to the beginning of the 20th century.

 

Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit 118 traditional buildings from all over Latvia, beginning with the 17th century. The history of the place itself is also rich - it’s one of the oldest open-air museums in all of Europe!

 

Zuzeum Art Centre - if you’re more into the modern climate, this one is for you. A new approach to Latvian art - the museum aims to promote it in an international context. Lectures, evenings with DJs, meditation sessions, a café, and a sculpture garden are just a few of all the things it has to offer.

 

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia - learn Latvia’s difficult past from 1940 until 1991 told through historical documents, photographs, and other objects. The museum also features the project of the “Corner House”, where visitors can see the former KGB and Cheka headquarters and tour the jail cells where the interrogated were being held.


 

Other spots

 

Old Town - this charming part of the city figures on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can admire different styles of buildings from various eras, and climb on top of St. Peter’s Church to glance at its beauty from above.

 

Art Nouveau District - because more buildings in this style have survived in Riga than anywhere else, it is often called “the metropolis of Art Noveau”. You can see around 800 Art Noveau buildings around the city, most predominantly in this district around Alberta and Elizabetes streets.

 

Kalnciema Quarter - a 19th-century complex of traditional wooden buildings. Various fairs, exhibitions and workshops are organised there, promoting education about Latvia’s history. 

 

The Three Brothers - three famous buildings built in a traditional style. They’re said to be the oldest residential complex in Riga, dating back to the 15th century. 

 

Freedom Monument - somewhat a symbol of Riga. This 2.7m tall work of art made of granite and copper commemorates Latvia’s long struggle for freedom and independence. It has witnessed turbulent times, but after the break of the Soviet Union in 1991, the honour guard appeared once again at its base. 

 

Riga White House - home to Latvian National Opera and Ballet. The performance season runs from September until May, and ballet is balanced with the opera. The building itself is a work of art in itself. 

 

Beaches - Latvia’s coastline is more than 500km long, and its beaches, although not as sunny and hot as the ones in the South, are oftentimes acclaimed as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Many of them are just a short train ride away from the city centre, for example Daugavgrīva, Mangaļsala and Vecāķi.

 

Jūrmala - one of the closest resorts by the Baltic Sea, about a 30-minute ride from Riga. There are several stations within it, but the most popular summer destinations include Lielupe, Dzintari, Majori, Bulduri and Dubulti.


 

Sports

 

Latvians are very sporty and outdoorsy people. The national sport - and also the one the closest to everyone’s hearts - is ice hockey. Latvia is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IICF) and has been playing in the federation’s A pool since 1997. As for Riga itself, the most popular local team is Dinamo Riga - they compete in the Kontinental Hockey League (HKL). 

 

Other sports enjoying popularity in this country are football, basketball, and rally racing. You can also find Latvian athletes achieving great success in areas such as beach volleyball (very popular among the locals in the summer, too!), BMX, skeleton, and bobsleigh. A true variety of both winter and summer sports!

 

When it comes to more leisurely activities, Latvians also enjoy jogging, strolling, or cycling along the coast or the riverbanks. The proximity to water makes water sports, swimming, and boat rides very popular. In winter, ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding are all the rage - even though there aren’t any considerably tall mountains to speak of in Latvia. That doesn’t stop its citizens from pursuing their favourite sports, though. That’s the spirit!

 


 

Shopping in Riga

 

The two largest supermarket chains in Latvia are Maxima and RIMI. If you’re more interested in an old-school shopping experience, here are some of the most popular markets in Riga:

 

Riga Central Market - one of the most popular spots in the city. Spread across four characteristic pavilions, it’s the oldest and largest food market in Riga. Visit for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and locally made products. 

 

Kalnciems Quarter Market - definitely a high-end market experience. Here, on the left bank of the Daugava River, you will find all kinds of things: organic products, jewellery, traditional Latvian wine, clothes and various hand-made crafts, and much more! Available every weekend, it is attended by local farmers and craftsmen offering their goods. 

 

Āgenskalns Market - after a visit to the Kalnciems Market, you can stop by to grab a bite at one of the many food stalls. Many fill their picnic baskets here and then head over to one of the many parks Riga has to offer for a chill meal on the grass.

 

Latgalīte - a flea market. Prepare to find things you never expected to find - people sell all kinds of stuff there, even the sort you wouldn’t think could be sold! Definitely a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon. 

 

As expected, the main shopping areas in Riga are located around the centre and the Old Town. Fans of fashion will feel at home in the many shopping passages and high-end boutiques such as Berga Bazars and Besteja Pasāža. There are also multiple shopping centres scattered all around the city and its outskirts, for example Galerija Centrs in the Old Town or Galleria Riga.


 

5. Cost of Living in Riga, Latvia

 

Those coming from the Western part of Europe are often positively surprised by the lower prices in the East. The official currency in Latvia is the euro, so most of you won’t have to worry about converting each shopping into your own currency. 

 

Food/Grocery shopping 

 

Below you can find an example of a shopping list with approximate prices you can expect in Riga:

 

Other expenses

 

Other than the utility bills that - remember - are usually not included in the rent, another thing that you need to calculate into your monthly expenses is the phone and broadband. 


 

Latvians enjoy very fast internet connections. The most popular providers in the country are:

 


 

When it comes to telephone companies look up:

 


 

Taxes

 

Latvia does not adopt a progressive income tax system - the individual income tax, regardless of the income, is set at 23%. On average, ⅓ of each taxpayer’s income is dedicated to various taxes. 

 

It is not obligatory to submit annual income declarations - it can be done when one wants to obtain refunds for overpaying tax on matters such as: private pension funds, donations, insurance, education, or therapeutic services. Only those registered must regularly report their income to the State Revenue Service

 

The tax-free threshold is €75/month, plus €165/month for each dependent. The tax for the additional income from capital is set at 10%. 

 

The current VAT rate in Latvia is 21%. It is already included in the price of goods and services. 


Medical care

 

The public health system in Latvia is free, but many expats coming from other countries may find the quality disappointing. The wait for particular health services can be long, so many choose to secure private insurance. To receive state-funded medical treatment, one must be referred by the family doctor. 


 

Private health insurance

 

The best private insurance deals are usually secured through the employer. Some companies offer similar packages for individuals, but the range of services included in the insurance available through companies will usually be broader.

 

For more information about private health insurance for individuals, inquire at the two biggest providers:

 


 

Standard private insurance deals usually cover services such as:

  • Family doctor

  • Specialist visits

  • Hospital stays

  • Ambulatory care

  • Vaccination

  • Rehabilitation services


 

Additional packages include:

  • Medicine

  • Dental care

  • Optician services

  • Fitness clubs


 

Most popular companies offering private health insurance through the employer in Latvia:

 

 

We hope an emergency never happens to you - while in Latvia or anywhere else - but just in case, these are the hospitals in Riga that offer 24/7 emergency services:

 

 

To figure out the nearest spot to pick up medicine, have a look at this map of pharmacies in Riga. It’s only available in Latvian, but if you can navigate a map in any language, you’ll be fine!

 

Films and books set in Riga 

Riga might not be the first to come to mind when you think about popular filming locations. However, you can spot it in quite a few movies. There are also books you can read if you'd like to get to know the city better - here are some suggestions:

 

Movies

 

  • The Good Neighbor (2022)

The story talks about one of the characters, David, who has recently moved to Riga, Latvia, and develops a friendship with his new neighbor, Robert. Things take a turn when one of them runs over a young woman. To avoid being arrested in a foreign country, they decide to leave her for dead. However, guilt starts to crumble up and things between the players become dangerous. 

 

  • WarHunt (2022)

WarHunt was shot in Riga, and its events evolve during  World War II. It’s all about the retrieval of an important and secretive material that fell along with a U.S. military plane. During this journey, not only Nazis are found, but also supernatural forces and magic symbols. Will they be able to survive and get the material back?

 

  • Bille (2018)

Bille is a movie based on a novel by a very famous Latvian writer, Vizma Belševica. The plot showcases the growth of a child in Latvia during the 1930s. It touches on topics related to personal connections, dreams, and the reality of a child at that time. The book shows that children’s dreams are the same as they are today.

 

  • Rigas sargi (2007)

This movie features the life of a soldier after the end of World War I. He now goes back home to his bride and the new Latvia state. Many obstacles are about to appear and he will need to fight for what he wants. 

 

Books

 

  • The Book of Riga by various authors

The Book of Riga is composed of 10 short stories by Latvian authors. It speaks about the history of the city, its culture, people, and the Baltic region. The stories speak about the past, present, and what the city may look like in the future. 

 

  • Among The Living And The Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe by Inara Verzemnieks

This book speaks of war, exile, and family’s reconnection after difficult times. The story is about loss, perseverance, care, and the wish to survive being a refugee and away from one's own. The main character is raised by Latvian grandparents in the US away from her sister, who she didn’t get to see until after 50 years.

 

  • The Dogs of Riga: Kurt Wallander by Henning Mankell

This mystery book gained international bestselling and inspired the Netflix crime drama called Young Wallander

The protagonist, Detective Kurt Wallander, finds the bodies of people tortured and executed in Sweden. He needs to figure out what happened and along the way, is led to Latvia to find himself in an even more interesting and peculiar scenario.


 

  • The Merry Baker of Riga: An American Entrepreneur Ventures Into Eastern Europe by Boris Zemtzov

Despite not having roots in Latvia, an American businessman decides to open a Western-style bakery there in 1992, after the Soviet Union collapsed. He then finds himself having obstacles with the culture, the language, and people wishing to ruin and end his business. 

 

  • The Mascot by Mark Kurzem

This is the entrancing true story of a Jewish boy who became the Nazi’s “darling”. After escaping a terrible fate that caused the death of his family and friends, the protagonist (Alex) escapes and hides his Jewish roots. He ends up being taken by the soldiers and manages to survive and assimilate. Years later, he stars in a Nazi propaganda film and when older, searches for vindication.

 

Riga Playlist

Have you looked at photos of the beautiful Riga yet? Tried a traditional dish? Read a book featuring the city? There is one thing missing - in order to fully get to know the Latvian capital better before moving there, you need to feel it. Try with our tailor-made playlist inspired by the vibes of Riga!

 

That’s all you need to know about Riga. What part do you find the most attractive? Is it the presence of nature wherever you go, even if you’re in the very city centre? Is it the connection to tradition that still leaves space for innovation? Maybe the many must-see spots and buzzing open-air markets the city is famous for speak to you? If you decide to make Riga your new home, you will definitely be happy there - surrounded by kind people, nature, and beautiful architecture. 

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