36 Hours in Riga: A Cyclist’s Guide
This is the second in our series of blogs that highlight several cities along the route of our Trans-Europa cycling tour.
“With stunning Art Deco architecture, a vibrant night life and varied and inventive restaurants, the city’s Soviet gloom has been replaced with a sense of Baltic optimism.” – Jon Fasman, NYT, October 21, 2007.
Cycling in Riga is a great way to explore the city, especially as Riga is as flat as a pancake. Not a hill to be seen, unless you have to cross a bridge! There are also a number of bike paths that will get you off the roads. The city, however, lacks bike lanes, you can’t take your bike on public transit and bike theft is a growing concern.
In case your bike needs TLC or a day off, Riga, like many cities around the world has Bike Share program with 250 bikes available at 28 locations. Of course, you will need to register before you get the bike.
Alternatively, there are several bike rental places. Check out Riga Bike Rent in the heart of the Old City.
Riga’s cycling community is slowly growing. Riding a bicycle was for years looked upon as a recreational thing to do on the weekend, not as a realistic method of commuting. However, that is changing and was illustrated by some actions taken in May 0f 2017. On one of the city’s main streets, Brivibas Lela, on the night of May 26th, “decently-sized cycle lanes were put in place by unknown urban activists and people on bikes started using them right away”. While city workers quickly removed them, the battle for better cycling infrastructure will continue.
The best way to experience Riga is with a bicycle tour. There are a number of companies that will show you the city’s charms. Riga Bike offers an interesting take – a night tour – “Rule the streets, hear some spooky ghost tales and see the city of Riga in a new light (or dark)” while E.A.T. Riga offers tours ranging from a traditional city tour all the way to a 6 hour ride to Jurmala, Latvia’s most popular beach resort.
Eat, drink, relax
After a long day cycling around Riga’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cornucopia of architectural styles from Romanticism to Modernism, you can reward yourself with some beer and snacks at the Valmiermuiža Beer Kitchen. Perhaps a Mulled Wheat Ale with honey and sea buckthorn paired with Baltic herring, preserved cranberries, onion and egg?
On the way to Riga, 60km north of the city, be sure not to miss the incredible Latvia Bike Museum. One of the first bicycles – “the high wheel”, the “Simplex”, produced in the Netherlands in 1886, as well as “Coventry”, produced in England, the first bicycle with inflatable tyres, can be seen here as well as the largest collection of bicycle insignia in eastern Europe.
For more information on this fascinating Baltic city, please see 36 Hours in Riga, Latvia (New York Times)
Experience Riga on the 2018 Trans-Europa Cycling Expedition.