As inviting as Riga is – with its ornate Art Nouveaux architecture, twisting cobblestone lanes and quaint cafes – it shouldn’t be the sole destination on a trip to Latvia. The country is too diverse to see only one part of it! We were never at a loss for Riga activities (read our recommended list of top things to do in Riga), yet we explored beyond the capital city to get a glimpse of the country’s nearby natural splendors. On day trips from Riga, we strolled on sandy beaches in Jurmala and hiked through the shaded mountains of Sigulda.
Day Trips from Riga, Latvia
Latvia is a small country – roughly the same size as the U.S. state of West Virginia. The long stretch of coastline, open pastures and forest-covered hills are within easy reach of the country’s most-visited city, Riga. The two most popular Riga excursions – to Jurmala and Sigulda – are close enough that they could both be visited in a single day, although we wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, plan on spending a full day in each location to fully enjoy your day tours from Riga.
Both destinations can be reached using inexpensive public transportation. However, for those who prefer organized tours, there are both private and group tours that depart from Riga daily.
Trips from Riga to Jurmala
Looking for a Riga beach? Go west until you reach the beachfront town of Jurmala. With miles of white, powder-sand beaches along the Gulf of Riga, Jurmala is a top summer destination.
We, however, visited in the autumn and quickly realized there is more to do in Jurmala than get a tan. We walked (and walked and walked) along the beach even though it was a bit chilly. Occasionally, we diverted into the wooded parks bordering the sandy shore. We followed crisscrossing trails and were astounded by the number, variety and size of mushrooms we spotted (apparently, mushrooms are quite prevalent in the region during the fall!). The least crowded beaches – and our favorite forests – were west of Jurmala, near the Kaugurciems neighborhood.
In the center of Jurmala, a pedestrian-only street (Jomas Iela) runs from the Majori Train Station (where the Riga-Jurmala train stops) to the popular Dzintaru Park. Along the wide street are art galleries, tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. We stopped at Alus Krodzins, a cozy pub (with lots of outdoor space for the summertime!) that serves inexpensive local beer and traditional dishes.
Throughout the city are historic buildings and sculptures. Among our favorites were The Turtle sculpture at the Sea Pavilion, the Jurmala Globe at the east end of Jomas Iela and the former bathhouse of E. Racene, a 2-story wooden structure right on the beach.
In Dzintaru Park, we beelined to the lookout tower. The 110-foot-tall tower peeks out over the tree tops. It’s free to make the climb to the top for 360-degree views of Jurmala and the sea. Park visitors can also bring their rollerblades to cruise around the skate park or test their balance on the ropes course (for a fee).
Before leaving Jurmala, we again ventured west of the town center to the Kaugurciems neighborhood and dined at Kurins for a Latvian meal by the seaside. The wooden house sits right on the beach and serves enormous portions of local comfort food. (Making prior reservations is recommended!) We feasted on meaty dishes covered in mushrooms. A fantastic ending to our time by the sea.
Getting from Riga to Jurmala:
It is easiest to get from Riga to Jurmala by personal car. However, we relied on public transportation to get us to our destination.
Riga Jurmala Train
To get from Riga to Jurmala by train is straight-forward. Trains depart from the Riga Central Station (Riga Pasazieru) several times a day. The station closest to the center of Jurmala is Majori. It takes about 30 minutes to travel from Riga to Jurmala. Tickets cost €1.40 each way and a Riga Jurmala train timetable can be found on the 1188.lv website.
Tips for your Riga to Jurmala Day Trip:
- There is a Riga Jurmala Bus, but we found it difficult to decipher the schedule online – and it’s simply much easier to take the train from Jurmala to Riga and vice versa.
- If you plan on leaving the center of Jurmala to the Kaugurciems neighborhood (for the less-crowded beach, quiet forests or a meal at Kurins), you will want to take a local bus or taxi. The bus stop is across the street from the Majori Train Station; ask at the tourist information office for bus info.
- The Jurmala Tourist Information Office (official website) provides free maps that highlight the top sights and attractions in Jurmala.
Riga Day Trips to Sigulda
A Riga itinerary wouldn’t be complete without making a short trip to Sigulda, a fairytale town just an hour train ride away from the city. Forest-covered mountains topped with castles and ruins are the highlights of Riga day trips to Sigulda.
We started our day in the city center and set out on foot to see the region’s top attractions. Unlike Jurmala, where we simply wanted to breathe in the fresh sea air, in Sigulda we had specific sights we wanted to see – Sigulda Castle and Turaida Castle – and were using the suggested routes outlined on the free map from the Sigulda Tourist Information Office.
The Sigulda Castle – a medieval castle dating to the 13th century – is much closer to the city center than it looked on the map. Once we had taken in the views, our next stop was the pretty, white Sigulda Lutheran Church. We stepped inside to take a peek and learned that visitors could climb the stairs to the top of the bell tower…which, of course, we did.
To cross the Gauja River Valley, we opted to take the Air Cableway. The 1.2km-long cable hovers 43 meters above the river and it takes seven minutes for the cable cars to cross from one side to the other. While waiting for the next cable car to arrive, we walked to a lookout point and got our first look at the Turaida Castle in the distance.
Once we arrived at the west bank of the river, we explored the grounds of the Krimulda Manor and then found the crumbling ruins of the 13th century Krimulda castle. Winding our way through the forest trails, we eventually came to Gutman’s Cave, which is rumored to have healing waters flowing from it. After dipping our hands into the stream, we continued our hike through the forest, taking turns on a whim until we reached the Turaida Castle.
Since the time was ticking by and we had a train to catch, we hopped on a bus to take us from the Turaida Castle back to Central Square Station.
Getting from Riga to Sigulda:
It is easiest to get from Riga to Sigulda by personal car. However, we relied on public transportation to get us to our destination.
Riga Sigulda Train
To get from Riga to Sigulda by train is fairly simple. Trains depart from the Riga Central Station (Riga Pasazieru) multiple times a day. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to travel from Riga to Sigulda. Tickets cost €1.90 each way and a Riga Sigulda train timetable can be found on the 1188.lv website.
Tips for your Riga to Sigulda Day Trip:
- There is a Riga Sigulda Bus Route that makes the trip in about the same time, but costs slightly more. Taking the bus, rather than the Riga to Sigulda train, would be an option if the timetable worked better for your schedule. Bus information can be found on the 1188.lv website.
- The Sigulda Tourist Information Office (Official Tourism Website), conveniently located in the same building as the train station, provides free maps with highlighted routes to sights (but limited sight information). The map is also available in the Riga Tourist Information Office (located on Ratslaukums in Riga); we recommend picking up a map a day in advance to plan your Sigulda sightseeing.
- To maximize our time on the hiking trails, we packed a picnic lunch with us. There are benches and picnic tables located along the trails and near the sights.
Tips for Day Trips from Riga, Latvia
With just 2 days in Riga it is possible to take one – or both! – of these day trips. On a Riga weekend break, you could see city, beach and mountains!
Day trips from Riga to Sigulda and Jurmala do not require much in the way of pre-planning. Just remember: if taking public transportation, it’s a good idea to have a copy (or screenshot) of the return schedule prior to setting off on your trip.
If you would rather take one of the organzied Riga day tours, you can find more information about what tours from Riga are available on Viator. Full-day, private tours to Jurmala include the beach, fisherman villages and nature trails. To visit the castles in Sigulda, take a half-day Sigulda Tour. Want more castles? Take a full-day tour from Riga to visit five Latvian Castles and Palaces.
Looking for more Riga day trips? Check out this list of day trip ideas!
Searching for more Riga sightseeing tips? Look at our list of 8 Things To Do in Riga.
Our Top Tips for your Trip to Riga, Latvia
Where To Stay in Riga
During our visit to Riga, we stayed in this awesome Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Riga holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Riga hotels (search Booking.com) to choose from in – or close to – the city center (which is the best place to stay in Riga!). Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Relais Le Chevalier, Neiburgs Hotel and Grand Palace Hotel. Or, find a deal on a hotel room by bidding on Priceline.
Budget travelers can search for Riga Hostels – like Tree House and Green Cat Hostel. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free.
Getting To/From Riga
Depending on your location, Riga can be reached by plane, train, bus, boat or car.
- Riga Airport information can be found here. Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub. Tip: You can book your transfer from the Riga Airport to the city in advance.
- There are five regional train lines, but only a few international train connections (Estonia, Russia and Belarus).
- Several bus routes connect Riga internationally. We used Eurolines to get from Riga to Tallinn.
- To get from Riga to Stockholm, there is a ferry. For a glimpse of Stockholm from Riga, you can book a Riga-Stockholm-Riga Cruise (2-nights).
- We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.
Before You Go
- Riga is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- Make sure to have a good guidebook before arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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