There’s a lot to love about the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia which effortlessly blends beautiful medieval buildings and Soviet-era landmarks creating a fascinating city. Even after you’ve spent a couple of days sightseeing in Riga, there is more in store for you in the area. That’s because the city makes the perfect base from which to venture out for the day and explore some of the best places to visit in Latvia.
By taking a day trip from Riga travelers can experience things that they won’t find in the city, such as awesome castles, gorgeous beaches, and stunning natural landscapes. Regardless of what you’re interested in, the best day trips from Riga will show you something in Latvia that will make you love the country even more.
So without further ado, here are some of the best day trips from Riga.
Easily one of the best places to visit from Riga is the beach resort city of Jurmala. Just a short trip from Riga on the Baltic Sea coast, this is where everyone goes for a day at the beach. Before hitting the beach though, it’s nice to explore the city a little. Head for Majori to admire the classic art nouveau villas which populate the area. The quaint seaside vibe is accompanied by countless spas, many of which date back to Latvia’s period under Soviet rule. Heading towards Dubulti you’ll see the gorgeous House of Aspazija and the rather striking Dubulti Lutheran Church. Only then is it time to finally make your way to Jūrmala Beach, the sandy beach which stretches from one end of the city to the other.
Getting there: Of the easy train trips from Riga, Jurmala is definitely the easiest. Regular trains make the 35 minute trip from Riga, while there are also buses that take the same amount of time.
Just a short trip from Riga, the town of Sigulda with its many attractions is another day trip not to be missed. That’s because you not only have Sigulda to visit but other gems nearby like Turaida and the Gauja Valley. Begin with the wonderful pairing of Sigulda New Castle and medieval castle ruins, the latter of which were built in 1207 by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword. Down below you’ll find the Gauja Valley, a gorgeous valley of forests around the banks of the Gauja River. The most famous landmark in the valley is the Gūtmaņala grotto, the largest cave in Latvia and the country’s oldest tourist attraction. Heading up the other side of the valley you’ll reach the Turaida Museum Reserve, home to yet another brilliant medieval castle.
Getting there: To reach Sigulda from Riga, there are regular trains and buses which make the 1 hour 10 minute journey. However, if you also want to explore more of the area and visit Cesis as well, it’s best to go with a guided tour.
One of the best things to see in Latvia outside of Riga and a place that is sure to make your day, is the quaint town of Cesis. There’s really only one way to begin a visit to Cesis and that is with the town’s castle complex. The ruins of Cesis Medieval Castle are not just striking but also incredibly atmospheric as you actually explore the ruins by the light of an old school lantern. After the ruins, visit the neighboring Castle Manor House to learn more about the town of Cesis and Latvia’s struggle for independence. In town, walk down the cobblestone streets, past old-fashioned wooden houses and pay a visit to the historic St. John’s Church which dates back to the 13th century.
Getting there: There are regular buses and trains that take around 2 hours to get from Riga to Cesis. In order to combine Cesis with sights of the nearby Gauja Valley, take a guided tour.
It may not be one of the best known places in Latvia, but the city of Jelgava is one of the most underrated Riga day trips. Before going any further, it’s best to start out with the Jelgava Holy Trinity Church Tower, an important historical landmark. The tower hosts museum exhibits which take visitors through the city’s history, helping them get to know the city they’re about to explore. To further dip into the city’s history, head over to the Old Town street quarter to see some great old buildings. After walking around the gorgeous waterfront along the River Lielupe, visit Jelgava Palace to see its baroque architecture and regional museum, and the nearby Lielupe flood meadows where you can find horses in the pastures and an observation tower with great city views.
Getting there: Hourly trains head to Jelgava from Riga, taking just 45 minutes to get there. However, if you want to visit other palaces in Latvia, you’ll want to take an organized tour.
5. Rundale Palace
One of the best side trips from Riga which people often make is to the lovely Rundale Palace. This stunning baroque palace is widely agreed to be of the most beautiful spots in Latvia. Even your first glance at the palace as you arrive hints at the palace’s elaborate design. Walking through the palace, visitors are able to see some of the palace’s most exquisite rooms including the Gilt Hall, the White Hall, and the Great Gallery. Then it’s on to the Rundāle Palace Museum to learn more about the palace’s history and the Dukes of Courland. Last but not least is the formal gardens which extend out from the palace. The French Garden. which is not only attractive on its own but also perfectly frames the palace, makes a great spot for photos and a stroll.
Getting there: Reaching Rundale Palace from Riga requires a 3 hour bus ride. An easier approach is to take a guided tour of Latvia’s palaces which includes Rundale Palace.
Typically overshadowed by Rundale Palace nearby, the town of Bauska is still well worth a day trip. Sitting at the point where the Mūsa and Mēmele rivers converge into the Lielupe River, the town is home to some gorgeous river scenery. But a big part of what makes Bauska’s riverfront so interesting is that the rivers come together around the fantastic Bauska Castle. With one half of the complex a 16th century palace and the other half medieval ruins, Bauska Castle displays an intriguing image of before and after. After seeing the castle and its exhibits inside, wander through the castle’s peaceful park. Don’t neglect the town center either as the Old Town Hall on the main square is quite a pretty sight.
Getting there: Regular buses run from Riga to Bauska, with the trip taking 1 hour 10 minutes. If you just want to see the castles of the region, consider taking a castle-themed guided tour instead.
7. Kemeri National Park
One of the preferred day tours from Riga for a trip out into Latvia’s nature, is Kemeri National Park. Latvia’s third largest national park, visitors to Kemeri get to experience the park’s picturesque wetland environment and hopefully spot some of the local wildlife. The main focus of a visit is the boardwalk trail which forges through the raised boglands, swamps, and forests which cover Kemeri National Park. Be sure to stop at Kanieris Lake and climb up one of the Kemeri’s bird watching towers to spot some of the park’s 190-species of birds. Close to Kanieris Lake, visitors can find the Kanieris Hill Fort for more great views of the park. Other beautiful landscapes found in Kemeri National Park include sand dunes and gentle meadows.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach Kemeri National Park from Riga is to take a 50 minute train to Kemeri station and walk into the national park from there. To be shown where to go and learn more about the habitat, it’s better to visit as part of a guided tour.
Another destination with a curious collection of attractions is the city of Jekabpils, southeast of Riga. You’ll actually find two cities here, Jekabpils on one side of the Daugava River, and Krustpils on the other. Most of the attractions here are found on the Jekabpils side, but a highlight of the area is Krustpils Castle. This 13th century castle has been progressively restored with certain rooms and halls showing what kind of effect that work has done. Walking through the town center of Jekabpils to Memorial Park you’ll get to see some old-fashioned Latvian houses. Besides taking a stroll along the scenic riverfront, the other main thing to do here is to see a section of the Struve Geodetic Arc; a set of survey points across Europe that helped calculate the shape of the Earth.
Getting there: Taking one of the regular buses from Riga to Jekabpils is the easiest way to reach the city, with the trip taking 2 hours 20 minutes.
9. Cape Kolka
If you want to visit one of Latvia’s most beautiful coastal spots, a trip to Cape Kolka is definitely in order. This cape is where the waves from the open Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga clash. It boasts both beaches and expanses of forest. Start out by enjoying a wander along the Cape Kolka Pine Trail and take in superb views from the observation tower there. Next, it’s time to follow the soft sandy beach up to the point of the cape and look off to the island lighthouse in the distance. Other spots to visit in the area include small fishing villages like Melnsils, and the nature and birdlife of Slitere National Park.
Getting there: As the furthest of the day trips from Riga, Cape Kolka can be reached by bus, but the trip takes around 3 hours 15 minutes. A better alternative is to hire a car or book a tour.
10. Nature Park Piejūra
More of Latvia’s wonderful nature can be found at Nature Park Piejūra, which is the meeting point of the scenic Gauja River and Latvia’s stunning coast. This coastal nature park around the Gauja River delta boasts many different ecosystems, from sandy beaches to cascading lakes and plenty of pine forest. The best way to explore the park is on a hike which will bring you to each of Piejūra’s different habitats. Best of all, once you’ve had enough of exploring the park’s natural attractions you can head to the beach, and if you’re there in summer you can enjoy a sunbathe and swim.
Getting there: To reach Nature Park Piejūra from Riga, take a 45 minute train to either Gauja or Lilaste and walk into the park from there. Alternatively, have someone show you all the park’s best spots on a guided tour.
Once you feel like you’ve experienced all Riga has to offer, a day trip or two is a great way to see more of Latvia which has so much more to offer than just its capital!