Bordered by Lithuania to the south, Estonia to the north, and giant Russia to the east, the Republic of Latvia, or just Latvia as it is more commonly known, is home to just 2 million inhabitants. But don’t let its small population fool you, this small Baltic nation is full of charming towns, old castles, intriguing history, and beautiful landscapes.
We always love exploring on our own, but when arriving in a new country, a guided tour can be a great way to get the lay of the land quickly. And since Latvia is a relatively small country, many of the highlights are easily accessible via day trips from its capital city, Riga. A guided tour is also perfect if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of renting a car and driving in a foreign country.
Check out our list of the top Riga tours and excursions so you can experience the best of the city and the surrounding Latvian countryside even if you’re short on time.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The Best Tours & Day Trips in Riga
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How to Book Tours in Latvia
While there are several travel agencies around Riga, we always prefer to book our tours online. GetYourGuide is one of the best sites for booking tours and excursions and we always use it when we travel through Europe. The site allows users to see all of the available Riga tours and excursions, as well as ratings by fellow travelers. We find this type of crowd-sourced knowledge to be superior to what you’ll get from a local tour agency.
Like Latvia, the guided tours in Riga are diverse, historic, educative, and natural. And guided tours offer you the ability to gain interesting historical and cultural information, meet and socialize with new people, or simply save time with hassle-free traveling. Good luck!
Riga, Latvia: The Best Tours and Excursions
1. Explore Riga’s Historic Old Town
When it comes to Europe, one of the best things to do when you arrive in a new city is to explore the historic old town. European cities are quite charming with cobblestone streets, well-preserved architecture, and tales of those who call them home.
Riga was first established as a city in 1225 and is arguably one of the most alluring cities in Eastern Europe. In the Old Town of Riga, you’ll find almost every architectural style imaginable – Gothic, Baroque, Romanticism – some dating back to the 15th century. With over 500 historic landmarks nestled in this picturesque medieval setting, Riga has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
And the best way to experience the quaint old town of Riga is alongside a local! Book this vintage 2-hour Riga walking tour and let the passionate guide not only reveal intriguing historical details of the city but also take you through the time-lapse of almost 7 centuries. It’s a history lesson that you won’t soon forget. It’s one of the best tours of Riga!
2. Discover Delicious Latvian Cuisine
Chances are, you’ve never had the opportunity to try Latvian cuisine at home. And you may have no idea what to expect. The most common ingredients used in Latvia are potatoes, barley, eggs, pork, wheat, onions, and cabbage, and there is a strong influence from other Baltic countries. Milk products and seafood add to the richness in flavors, and tastes.
One of the best ways to discover a new country or region is to experience the local cuisine. And diving right into it can be overwhelming. You’ll need to research the best dishes to try, where to eat them, and be sure you’re selecting reputable restaurants to reduce your chance of an upset stomach.
That’s why our second favorite Riga tour is the food tasting experience at the central market. The location is one of the biggest markets in Europe which delivers a unique setting and is a heaven for food lovers. You’ll have the opportunity to explore Riga through local produce with your guide and gain invaluable insights on where to eat and drink once the tour is finished.
3. Get Out in Nature
Nature-lovers rejoice! If you thought you’d be spending all of your time in the city during your trip to Riga, then this lovely half-day hike through natural ecosystems will be a pleasant surprise.
Latvia is comprised of 4 national parks, 42 nature parks, 9 protected landscapes, and hundreds of nature reserves and monuments that harbor over 100 animal species both inland and underwater. And the best way to explore the natural beauty of the area is on a guided day trip from Riga where you’ll learn about Latvian nature, culture, and traditions.
This half-day guided nature tour will unveil four unique ecosystems in the spectacular Nature Park Piejūra. The hike is 6 to 9 miles and it’s done at a leisurely pace so that you can marvel at the secluded beaches of Riga Bay, the coastal pine forests, and silent lakes. This easy hike is suitable for children so you can make it a fun outing for the whole family!
4. Visit Rundales Palace
Rundales Palace is the largest and most famous palace in Latvia and will absolutely be a highlight of your trip to Riga. Built in the 18th century by Italian architect Franchesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, this amazing structure was designed as the summer residence of the Duke of Courland, Ernest Johann von Biron.
With lavish Baroque exteriors, incredible details, and elegant gardens, Rundales Palace is sometimes referred to as the Versailles of the Baltic states. The splendid grandeur of Rundales Palace is truly hard to match. And despite taking heavy damage in both World Wars, it is still a masterpiece that thousands of travelers admire today.
Luckily, Rundale Palace is easily accessible via a day trip from Riga. Book this tour of Rundales Palace and enjoy a one-hour comfortable ride from Riga where you’ll enjoy views of the Latvian countryside. During your tour of Rundale Palace, your guide will entertain and educate you with stories of the palace’s history, including a few scary tales.
5. Explore the Canal of Riga
If you enjoy exploring the city of Riga but want to escape the crowds, then a cruise on the Daugava River is the perfect excursion for you! You’ll get to experience the beauty of the city and the culture of Latvia but from a slightly different perspective.
You’ll board a small, eco-friendly canal boat for a relaxing cruise where you’ll be enchanted by the premier landmarks, historic bridges, and the iconic old Town, all without having to contend with any crowds. By booking this wonderful riverboat tour, you will get to experience the Daugava River, an important landmark in the Medieval ages for navigation and trading.
You’ll set sail from the pier next to the Freedom Monument and get a front-row view of historic bridges and landmarks during this one-hour Riga canal cruise. Boats depart every 20-30 minutes depending on weather conditions.
Pro Tip: The canal trip also offers an audio guide, but you’ll need to bring your smartphone and headphones to enjoy it.
We hope you enjoy touring around Riga. If you have a favorite excursion we missed, let us know in the comments below!
Planning a trip to Latvia? Check out our favorite books and resources!