With its captivating blend of Art Nouveau architecture, Old Town charm and vibrant food and drink scene, Latvia’s capital is a complex and engaging destination perfect for a city break. Often associated with budget airlines and unruly British bachelor parties, in recent years Riga has tried to crack down on stag tourism and I s emerging as an exciting, cosmopolitan food and drink destination.
Going out in Riga
Riga offers up a magical mix of drinking establishments, from cool cocktail lounges and craft beer bars to hip watering holes and traditional taverns. Whether you are looking for a couple of quiet drinks or somewhere to party the night away, it’s an excellent location for discovering Baltic’s excellent nightlife.
Riga’s famous Black Balsam
Wherever you choose to spend an evening in Riga, one thing is certain, you’ll find the dark and mysterious Riga Black Balsam on the drinks menu. Latvia’s national drink is an ink-colored herbal liqueur crafted from 24 all-natural ingredients including a mix of roots, buds, flowers, juices, spices and honey. It’s been around since 1752 and claims to be the oldest living bitter brand today. “If you haven’t tasted Riga Black, you have not been in Riga!” says Justs Kiscenko, Riga Black Balsam’s Global Brand Ambassador.
Black Balsam can be enjoyed in a range of different ways and is even incorporated into cooking at some restaurants around the city. Justs suggests starting off with a ‘Riga Black Shooter,’ a shot of the liqueur with peach or mango juice. The sweetness of the juice is said to bring out the complicated taste profile of the spirit.
The best bars in Riga
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to bars in Riga, so to make things easier for you we’ve pulled together a list of the capital city’s best bars.
For the best view of resplendent Riga, head to the 26th Floor of the Radisson Blu Latvija Conference & Spa Hotel, Riga where you’ll find the stylish Skyline Bar. One of the more lavish options on our list, it’s the perfect place to sip on an inventive cocktail and marvel at Riga’s unique architecture. “The cocktail menu is very vast,” says Justs. “I would recommend trying something from the Riga Black World Classics.”
This chic bar and restaurant located just off Riga’s main square is all about the Riga Black Balsam. Try it as a digestif after something tasty from their mouthwatering food menu, or choose one of their inventive cocktails. From Monday-Friday, 4pm-7pm, the bar operates a 2-for-1 Happy Hour on cocktails. At weekends, the party gets started with DJ sets, XXL drinks and snack platters.
Left Door Bar
Justs also recommends trying a RICO cocktail at the Left Door Bar in the Art Nouveau quarter of the city. The award-winning concoction sees Riga’s Black Balsam teamed with an unusual mix of red wine, coffee and lemon juice resulting in an interesting and unforgettable flavor.
Translated as ‘Grandma’s Diamonds’ this hip hangout serves up banging beats, reasonably-priced cocktail jugs and a great selection of Latvian beers. With plenty of seating and a spacious dancefloor, it’s a fun place to spend an evening.
Folkklubs ALA Pagrabs
This classic tavern serves up modern and traditional Latvian cuisine alongside an impressive selection of beers, their own distilled moonshine and home-brewed cider. Live Latvian folk music most nights adds to the authentic ambience.
I Love You
Bar I Love You is a cool and cozy bar, perfect for music fans. Alongside great drinks and comfortable couches, this popular hangout hosts intimate gigs and DJ sets and even has its own record label. Spend a leisurely day drinking your way through the menu and playing one of the bar’s many board games.