Last Updated on January 11, 2019 by

Planning a trip to Riga? Renting a bike can be a good way to explore and get to know the city. Here’s my experience exploring Riga by bike. 

“Welcome to Riga, our young and small country!” says Artus, our guide for the day.

Like many young generation Latvians, Artus is a well-spoken and bright guy, full of ideas and drive.

He is one of the partners of E.A.T Riga, an explorers club that aims to show the alternative side of Riga in a fun and exciting way. They pride their tours as fun, active and stress-free. As locals, they know how bikes can be best used in the city, where it is possible to ride and where are the most bike-friendly.

“We want you to see that Riga is actually a bike-friendly city. And on this tour, we hope to show tourists there are other interesting sights in the city besides the Old Town.”

In the past years, the Latvian capital city of Riga has undergone some big developments, with new bike lanes installed and a new wave of bicycles hitting the streets. It is becoming more bike friendly these days, and there’s no better way to explore the city than on two wheels.

In the past years, Riga has undergone some big developments, with new bike lanes installed and a new wave of bicycles hitting the streets. It is becoming more bike friendly these days, and there’s no better way to explore the city than on two wheels.

A Taste of Riga’s History

We start off our three-hour bike tour at E.A.T Riga’s headquarters in the heart of Old Town. This historical part of the city is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets and red-bricked houses.

Despite having witnessed numerous wars, Riga is still standing proud with a multitude of Medieval architectural wonders and beautifully restored monuments. Known locally as Vecrīga, Old Town Riga is officially labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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But Artus wants to bring us to see a different side of Riga that few tourists see, so we are leaving the Old Town behind and heading towards Kronvalda Park. I’d admit I’m not the best biker around but once we veer off the cobblestoned streets and into the calm and quiet park,  I find myself easing into the ride.

But Artus wants to bring us to see a different side of Riga that few tourists see, so we are leaving the Old Town behind and heading towards Kronvalda Park.

The greenery of Kronvalda Park is extremely welcoming especially on such a warm and sunny summer’s day. The red tulips are in full bloom, the fountains are dancing, Mandarin ducks are frolicking in the canal, while couples and families sprawl out on the green patches to soak up the sunshine. It seems like we’re here at the best time of the year.

We make a stop in the park, right in front of some ruins, and Artus explains the story behind them.

Biking in Kronvalda Park

“In the old days, Old Town Riga was protected by a city wall as part of the defense system together with the moats. What you see here are the remains of the city walls,” Artus continues, “When the wall was torn down, the waters from Daugava filled the space creating the Riga Canal.”

Continuing our bike tour, we pedal further into the park, along the Riga canal. This narrow water channel was formed in 1857, when the walls were removed. The area around the canal was made into a recreation area and garden. This decision turned out to be wise as the green area has survived until the present day, and is loved by Riga’s citizens and visitors alike.

The canal is best seen on a river boat cruise, which I’d done earlier that day to get a feel of the city from its water. The trip takes you through the Old Town, towards the Central Market and into the Daugava River. The river itself actually originates in Russia, and it flows through Belarus and Latvia. Today, the river and canal continue to be important features of the city.

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Riga canal cruise

Into a Different World

Not long after, we are pedaling towards the waterfront and onto the Vanšu Bridge, one of five bridges crossing the Daugava River connecting the outer islands to Riga. This suspension bridge was built during the Soviet period and opened to public use in 1981.

Before then, there was literally nothing to connect the bustling city of Riga with Ķīpsala island, which used to house the construction workers’ quarters which were built right on the Daugvara River banks, with the best view of the Old Town.

These days, many things have changed: Ķīpsala has become a prestigious area for living in Riga. The river bank has become prime property for the rich and well-heeled.

Biking on Kipsala Island

Back on two wheels, we weave our way along the most expensive street on the island, Balasta dambis, where many ambassadors and expats. The street runs right along the coast of Daugava and offers great views of Old Town, Riga Port and the river.

The architecture here is a highlight. Beautiful, traditional wooden houses built in Baltic style have been reformed to include modern touches and even old factories have been restyled to become high-end lofts and apartments. The exclusive, waterfront location is what draws people to buy their homes here.

We spend the next hour or so pedaling further inland, through more beautiful houses and green patches of forest. There’s hardly any traffic and the streets are so quiet and calm that it feels as if we are in the countryside. It’s so easy to see why people choose to live in Ķīpsala — beautiful nature and waterfront location, just a hop from the city.

Beuatiful architecture in Kipsala

Latvia’s New Found Freedom

Soon, we’re making our way back onto the suspension bridge and back into Old Town Riga.

Our last stop on the tour is the Freedom Monument, an iconic landmark that’s clearly the centerpiece of the city. Built in honor of soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence(1918–1920), the monument is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia.

The sculptures and bas-reliefs of the monument depict Latvian culture and history. The core of the monument is composed of tetragonal shapes on top of each other, completed by a 19-metre (62 ft) high travertine column bearing the copper figure of Liberty lifting three gilded stars that represent the three cultural regions of Latvia (thou now there are four).

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I notice several bouquets of flowers laid on the floor of the monument. Artus explains that they are offered by people to commemorate the anniversary of the Baltic Way, a quiet protest in 1989 where 2 million people across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania held hands and formed a continuous human chain that spanned 675km.

…to commemorate the anniversary of the Baltic Way, a quiet protest in 1989 where 2 million people across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania held hands and formed a continuous human chain that spanned 675km.

The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities. It also illustrated solidarity among the three nations. It has been described as an effective publicity campaign, and an emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene.

Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia

“Latvia is still a really young country, and we have so much to work towards.” Artus says with much fervor. Indeed, in a country as small and young as Latvia, you have to create your own path and do things differently, just as the guys at E.A.T Riga are doing.


HOW TO:

This bike tour was organized by E.A.T Riga, a funky explorers club that organizes bike tours and city walks in Riga.

From the start of May through to the end of September, they run two daily bike tours  at 12:00 and 15:00 from Rātslaukums – near  the Town Hall. The bike tour only costs 15 euros per person.

It is best to book in advance to guarantee your spot. Private tours may be booked in advance with us all through the year but are dependent on good weather, especially in the winter!

Riga bike tours


Disclaimer: This trip is a collaboration between iambassador and Latvian Tourism Development Agency with the support of the European Union Regional Development Fund. As always, all opinions remain my own.