Riga is a beautiful winter destination and definitely is one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe. The city organizes many Christmas events for the whole family in the beautiful Old Town having its idyllic Christmas markets as the main highlights. The market stalls sell locally produced Latvian products and snacks including traditional Christmas foods and drinks. Read more about Riga's Christmas markets.
Covered in the Article
- Riga - a Pearl of the Baltics
- Old Riga Christmas Market
- Līvu Square Christmas Market
- Esplanade Park Christmas Market
- Fair at Kalnciems District
- Christmas Homemakers' Market
- Good To Know about Riga
- How to Travel to Riga?
- Where to Continue?
- Bottom Line
Riga - a Pearl of the Baltics
Riga is the capital of Latvia. Latvia is one of the Baltic countries located between Estonia and Lithuania. The city can easily be reached from any European city by plane, ferry or car.
Latvia has an interesting but sad history. The country was occupied by the Soviet Union for a long time but it regained its independence in 1991. Since then, the country and its capital Riga have developed fast. Riga offers much to see and experience and the price level is affordable compared to other bigger European capitals. The city is a great destination whether you're visiting in the summer or in the winter. December is one of the best times to visit this pearl of the Baltics since the Christmas season makes the city livelier.
There are three Christmas markets in Riga and a few smaller Christmas events. Since the city is small, the Christmas markets are located close to each other which makes it possible to visit all of them on the same day. We visited Riga's Christmas markets last year and we enjoyed all of them. In this article, we share our experiences with the updated information for the year 2023.
Old Riga Christmas Market
Christmas Market on Dome Square is the main Christmas Market in Riga. It is also often referred to as Old Riga Christmas Market because its location lies in the heart of Riga's Old Town. Medieval Old Town is a lively area offering nice sights, bars, restaurants and beautiful architecture.
Old Riga Christmas Market is located just next to Riga Cathedral. It is easy to find with the aid of Google Maps. First, you need to reach the centre of Riga, for example by bus or tram. Almost all public transport routes go via the central station from where you can walk and reach Riga's Old Town in 10 minutes. From Old Town, you need to walk a few minutes more to reach Christmas Market.
In our point of view, the Christmas Market in Old Town has the best Christmas atmosphere in Riga. The alleys of Old Town combined with the tall cathedral next to Christmas Market gives you a feeling of being in a real medieval Christmas town. The feeling gets even stronger when the dark sets in and you can smell the flavours of Christmas.
Old Riga Christmas Market creates an international atmosphere. Famous Christmas music is played in the background and English is widely spoken. Christmas Market attracts tourists and locals alike - young and old come here to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of this market.
We visited Old Riga Christmas Market multiple times during our getaway in Riga.
In 2023, Old Riga Christmas Market will be open from December 3 to January 8, 2024, from mornings to late evenings. The exact opening times vary every day. From Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays it is open from 11 am to 9 pm while on Fridays and Saturdays, Christmas Market is open from 10 am to 10 pm. On Sundays, the market closes at 10 pm. There are lively programs every week, especially on the weekends.
Food and Drinks
Your visit to Christmas Market would be incomplete without tasting drinks and traditional foods. For example, we tasted mulled wine and traditionally oven-baked cheese bread. We ate also Latvian soup cooked traditionally with a woodfire at the warm Cafe Elizabete in the middle of the market. Even though prices in Old Town are higher, we recommend giving a try to these tasty products of Riga. Warm drinks help you also to stay warm in the cold weather.
In the market, you can buy mulled wine, rum and other alcoholic drinks. Naturally coffee is also available and hot chocolate for children. Market stalls sell also freshly baked Latvian food: for example bread, sausages and potatoes. The market won't leave a visitor hungry.
Last year, Cafe Elizabete served delicious soups with friendly service.
Old Riga Christmas Market is also a recommended place to buy souvenirs. Profits go directly to local producers. You are ensured that you are buying authentic Latvian goods from the market stalls at this Christmas Market.
From a few market stalls at Christmas Market, visitors can buy Latvian delicacies like honey, sweets, candies and locally produced cookies. Also, some of the market stalls are selling Latvian wool products. Local handicrafts are a nice Christmas present idea.
Different activities are being organized in the Christmas Market for both kids and adults. The activities for kids include:
- Children's carousel every day
- Gingerbread baking
- Sheep petting zoo during the whole month of Christmas market
- Pony rides in good weather conditions
- Meeting the real Santa Claus
- Performances and games
Every week, there is a free program to enjoy.
Līvu Square Christmas Market
Just a short stroll from Dome Square, you'll discover another delightful Christmas market located at the Līvu Square (Līvu Laukums). Perhaps, the most important building there is the Great Guild Hall which originates from the 14th century. Regrettably, Līvu Square Christmas Market was closed last year, preventing us from experiencing it firsthand. Nonetheless, multiple sources indicate that Līvu Square offers a festive Christmas ambience, complete with beverages and regional delicacies. Moreover, its proximity to the main Christmas Market means that you won't have to go to great lengths to visit it.
The Līvu Square Christmas Market is open from December 3 to January 8.
Food and Drinks
Similar to the Christmas markets in Riga, you'll have the opportunity to savour both warm non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, along with delicious Latvian cuisine. Your visit to Christmas in Riga ensures that you won't go hungry.
The market stalls at Riga's various Christmas markets share similar characteristics. Also in Livu Square, you can explore a selection of top-notch Latvian products, including artisan crafts, festive decorations, and cosy clothing. While we advise against unnecessary purchases, if you happen to need warm gloves, hats, or scarves, why not show your support for local producers and bring a smile to their faces?
It is still unclear what activities Livu Square Christmas Market offers.
Esplanade Park Christmas Market
Outside Old Town, there is another Christmas Market but still in the centre of Riga. The market is located in Esplanade Park 10 minutes walk away from the central station. Buses and trams pass the park, so it can also be reached easily without walking. The Esplanade Park is busy in the middle of downtown.
Even though Esplanade Park Christmas Market does not have the same atmosphere as Old Town can offer, it still has many nice attractions and is unique on its own. Esplanade Park Christmas Market has a rabbit park where children and adults can feed cute rabbits with carrots. They are so tame that they will bite your fingers if you are not careful. Another nice attraction for children is the colourful Ferris wheel.
Esplanede Park Christmas Market is surely a place you must visit. Also, it has many stalls selling food, drinks and souvenirs like the Old Riga Christmas Market. The park is crowded with people which makes it lively in the evenings. Rabbits, a big Christmas tree and a Ferris wheel make this park a great Christmas attraction in Riga.
Esplanade Park Christmas Market is also open from December 3 to January 8 from mornings to late evenings.
Food and Drinks
Like in Old Riga Christmas Market, Esplanade Park Christmas Market stalls sell similar drinks and food.
Market stalls in Esplanade Park Christmas Market sell similar products as in Old Town.
The rabbit park is perhaps the best attraction in Esplanade Park Christmas Market. Energetic and healthy-looking rabbits are moving freely in a fenced area and they are waiting for food from visitors. It is not allowed to feed them with your food but you can buy carrots from a market stall and feed them. These lovely rabbits make children and adults easily love this market.
The Ferries wheel is another way to make children happy. In addition to its colourful lights, the Christmas Market looks lively in the evening. There is also Christmas music playing in the background.
Fair at Kalnciems District
As an added treat, exclusively on Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm, you have the chance to explore the seasonal fair held at the Kalnciems District (Kalnciema kvartāls), situated on the opposite side of the Daugava River. The exceptional wooden architecture alone makes it a worthwhile visit. Additionally, a bustling and charming market featuring artisanal foods, handmade crafts, and live music will certainly infuse vibrancy into your time in Riga.
Christmas Homemakers' Market
While visiting Riga for the Christmas markets, you may want to explore the traditional Christmas Homemakers' Market. This market will take place at the Čiekurkalns Crossroads on December 17, 2023. It will feature a variety of products and food exclusively from Latvian farmers, artisans, and home producers. The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, giving you ample time to browse and purchase locally-made items. Make sure to mark this event on your calendar to experience the authentic flavours and crafts of Latvia.
Good To Know about Riga
If you visiting Riga for the first time in the winter, there are a few things you need to know. Riga is a friendly destination for travellers.
Weather in December
In December, the weather in Riga is typically chilly with temperatures ranging around -1 degree Celsius or even colder. During this time, it is common to experience snowfall or rain, making the streets frozen and slippery. Although Riga doesn't receive much snow, there is a possibility of occasional heavy snowfalls if you're fortunate enough
The most important advice is to dress up warmly so you will enjoy the whole day outside. This means remembering to wear many layers of clothes.
With enough clothing layers on, you will survive hours in the cold weather.
Riga is a safe city. However, we advise avoiding dark areas where there are no other people. Crimes can happen anywhere. Do not get too drunk in bars because some unethical restaurants may surprise travellers with a huge bill if you get out of yourself.
Where to Stay?
One of the best things about Riga is the low price level for accommodations. Especially in winter, hotels are cheap. We have a few hotel recommendations.
Bellevue Park Hotel Riga is a 4-star hotel and is just 12 minutes tram ride away from the centre. It can be accessed directly from the airport by bus, too. The hotel's location is perfect and the hotel is of high quality. We have stayed in this hotel and got value for the money.
Riga Hotel Islande is an affordable but good-quality hotel on an island on Daugava River. The location is good but the price is still low.
Those who prefer the best quality, should stay in one of the Radisson hotels in the centre. Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija is just next to Esplanade Park so the location is perfect.
How to Travel to Riga?
Riga Airport is near the city centre and a bus ticket costs only 1.50 euros one way. Taxis are affordable, too but avoid using non-licensed taxis.
Riga can also be reached by bus from Estonia Lithuania or even from Finland. There are many daily connections between these Baltic capitals. From Helsinki you can take Flixbus to Riga and the ride includes the ferry ticket to cross the Gulf of Finland.
Sometimes, there are seasonal ferry routes to Riga from Stockholm and Helsinki. An overnight ferry is perhaps the most comfortable way to arrive in Riga. Unfortunately, the routes are not normally available in the winter.
Where to Continue?
After enjoying Christmas markets in Riga, why not continue to Tallinn which is only 279 kilometres away? Tallinn has also a beautiful Old Town with an awesome Christmas Market. Like In Riga, the price level is low.
From Tallinn, you can continue even further to Helsinki by Ferry. The ride takes less than 2 hours. In Helsinki, there are many Christmas markets. After Helsinki, seeing Stockholm Christmas markets is a logical next step since Stockholm can be reached by ferry too.
Unfortunately, Helsinki is more expensive than these Baltic destinations but by making wise choices, you can still make the best of your travel budget. For example, use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to/from Helsinki.
- Where are the Christmas markets in Riga?
- The biggest one is located in Doma Laukums (Town Square) while the two others are in Livu Laukums and Esplanade Park.
- When are the Christmas markets held in Riga?
- In 2023, the Christmas markets in Riga will be held from 3rd December 2023 to 8th January 2024.
- How many Christmas markets are there in Riga in 2023?
- There are three active Christmas markets: Two in Old Town and one in Esplanade Park.
- What is the best Christmas market in Riga?
- The main Christmas Market in Doma Laukums (Town Square) is the best in Riga with its perfect location in the Old Town.
- Is mulled wine served in Riga's Christmas markets?
- Sure, you can purchase tasty mulled wine.
- Is there food available in Riga's Christmas market?
- Yes, you can buy local Latvian food like tasty traditional soups and freshly baked cheese bread.
- Do people speak English in Riga?
- Not all people speak but especially, young people do. In Christmas markets, booth merchants speak good English.
- How to travel to Riga?
- We recommend flying with a low-cost airline to Riga. Compare prices on Skyscanner.
- Is it cold in Riga in winter?
- Yes, it is. About -1 Celcius or colder, temperature varies every day.
- Is Riga an expensive city?
- Not at all. Everything is affordable.
If you're seeking a magical winter vacation in the Baltic region, Riga should be your top pick. Experiencing Christmas in Riga ensures a captivating and memorable journey, filled with charming markets, a lively atmosphere, and beautiful holiday decorations. Even on a modest budget, you can enjoy the city's excellent amenities, including efficient public transportation. Accessibility from Central Europe and the Nordic countries adds to Riga's appeal.
Beyond the numerous Christmas markets, Riga is counted among the most budget-friendly winter holiday destinations in Europe, providing a wealth of activities throughout the city, including the impressive Art Nouveau district. Despite the chilly and dark weather in December, the festive Christmas markets bring a warm glow to the city, making Riga an appealing winter destination. And since Riga's beauty transforms with the seasons, we recommend visiting this Baltic gem at least twice a year: once in winter and once in summer.
Have you visited Riga's Christmas markets? Please share with us your experiences below!
About the Author
Ceasar, an immigrant in Finland, co-founded Finnoy Travel out of his passion for exploring new horizons. His content primarily centres around immigration, travel, and life in Finland. An avid road tripper, Ceasar also shares insider tips on car driving abroad.
When not embarking on adventures, he meticulously proofreads every article before it gets published on the Finnoy Travel site. His responsibilities also extend to managing the social media channels of Finnoy Travel.