Are you planning a trip to the Riga Christmas Market? I recently went and sussed it out for you!
The sun sets early in the capital city of Latvia in December. But, as soon as the sky turns inky black, soft Christmas lights turn on throughout the city as if all locals had come to a universal agreement to fend off the winter chill.
At the centre of the city sits the Riga Christmas Market. As I walked through the entrance archway, I felt like I’d come under some kind of Christmas enchantment.
I crunched through the snow, gazing at the ice sculptures of the mulled wine stall and tastefully decorated seating areas, wondering why the entirety of Europe wasn’t shouting and screaming about this market.
Small, but perfectly decorated and formed, visiting the Riga Christmas Market should be on the bucket list of any Christmas fans. Here’s why!
This blog post may contain affiliate links.
What’s the Riga Christmas Market like?
The sun goes down early in Riga in December; but as soon as it disappears over the horizon, the city lights up in thousands of gentle lights.
Follow these lights to the Dome Cathedral and you’ll find the Riga Christmas Market.
I can’t promise there will be snow (although it’s fairly likely!), but you’ll likely find a gloriously eccentric mishmash of market stalls selling everything from mulled wine (or mulled gin) to dumplings to locally made crafts.
There’s even a gingerbread house, an indoor bar (it’s cold in the Baltics!), a few indoor pop up shops and a post office (where you can send your letter to Santa!).
It’s not a big Christmas market by any means, but it felt like stumbling upon Santa’s secret festive village.
Plus, while the market is self-contained in one area, the entire city joins in on the Christmassy atmosphere, with decorations in full swing throughout!
I’d definitely name it as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
There are plenty of things to do in Riga in winter too – I’d highly recommend it as a festive break.
Food at the Riga Christmas Market
What food can you expect at the Riga Christmas Market?
Delectable dumplings, Latvian BBQ and vegan chilli burritos to name but a few!
I ended up opting for a double serving of potato and cheese pelmeni – glorious dumplings with sour cream and dill.
But if meat’s more your thing, there’s a grill section and places selling traditional Christmas market sausages!
The Gingerbread Hut also served up a vegan chilli burrito!
Drinks at the Riga Christmas Market
There’s mulled wine aplenty in Riga – traditional and with various different infusions (I got a gingerbread mulled wine from the gingerbread hut, which was interesting!).
If you fancy something a bit different, how about mulled gin?
Or, if you want to go local, Balsam is the Latvian spirit. It’s a bit like Jagermeister; I didn’t try it as I’m not a huge fan of Jager, but I’ve been told it’s the perfect winter warmer!
Mulled wine started at four euros per cup and everywhere I went accepted card.
Entertainment at the Riga Christmas Market
Unless you count a palpable festive atmosphere, there’s not a huge amount in the way of entertainment at the Riga Christmas Market.
It has bars, shopping, well-decorated places to sit and more food than you could possibly consume on a festive market trip, but at least when I was there, there wasn’t any singing or performances.
That said, the decorations only added to the festive cheer, and I easily spent half an hour taking them all in.
Plus, the whole city bursts into festive glory in December, and there are plenty of festive things to do elsewhere!
Go on a winter bobsleigh ride, take a trip out to the snowy forests and go husky sledging or head to “This Cafe Doesn’t Need a Name” which dubs itself “The Christmas Cafe” in December, and cosy up with a hot chocolate!
Other things to do in Riga include history in House of the Black Heads and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, a Riga Free Walking Tour, the Riga Central Market (the biggest market in Europe), Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral and the snowy park around it.
Did you know? The first Christmas tree was apparently set up in Riga in 1510. Estonians have debated this, as they claim to have set one up in the late 1400s! It may be that Tallinn had the first Christmas tree, but Riga had the first decorated Christmas tree. Nonetheless, it makes both cities excellent festive destinations!
Shopping at the Christmas market in Riga
Local products abound at the Riga Christmas Market, with plenty of knitwear; I saw thick socks, slippers and lovely woollen sweaters.
You’ll also find Christmas tree decorations (some adorned with the Black Cat of Riga) and ornaments for your house!
There’s plenty to browse, but as it’s not the largest market, I wouldn’t count it as a go-to for all of your Christmas shopping.
Riga festive market need-to-knows
Here’s all you need to know about the Riga Christmas Market in 2023 (and into 2024!)
When is the Riga Christmas Market on?
The Riga Christmas Market is on from 3rd December 2023 to 7th January 2024, from 11am – 9pm Monday to Thursday, 10am – 10 pm Friday and Saturday and 10am – 8pm on Sunday.
Where is the Riga Christmas Market?
It takes place in Dome Square in the city centre (by Dome Cathedral).
What are the costs of the Riga Christmas Market?
I paid 7 euro for a portion of pelmeni and 4 euro for a mulled wine.
On a budget? Head to Lido restaurants, which are large buffet restaurants serving Latvian food (with veggie options) to fill up first!
Does the Riga Christmas Market accept card?
Latvia’s a very tech-friendly country, and they do accept card throughout the Christmas markets, including for mulled wine.
Unlike the Wroclaw Christmas Market in Poland (which I visited before!), there is no cup deposit scheme (drinks are sold in disposable cups unfortunately!), so you don’t need to worry about getting any deposits back.
Where to stay near the Riga Christmas Market
I stayed in Wellman Riga Hotel and Spa. It was decent, a good price for the large room, although it was a little dated. I liked the spa in the basement – although it did come at an extra 15 euro cost!
The Wellman Riga Hotel was in a fantastic location, close to Riga’s main attractions and around a 10 minute walk from the Christmas market.
How to get to Riga
Riga has an international airport with flights to many main European destinations.
You can also access it by Flixbus from Vilnius or Tallinn. I visited all three countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) in the same trip, so got buses to and from Riga main station.
If you need taxis when in Riga, I’d recommend using the Bolt app for affordable rides.
Check out my video!
Here’s my full vlog of my trip to Riga, including the Riga Christmas Market!
Are you planning on visiting the Riga Christmas Market?
The crunch of snow underfoot, the smell of mulled wine in the air and the taste of glorious Latvian dumplings… the Riga Christmas Market is certainly somewhere special.
The menagerie of stalls and offerings, coupled with the soft lights reflecting off the bright snow made me feel like I’d stumbled upon a delicious hidden secret that markets like Vienna and Prague could only dream about.
I’m not a fan of the over-used phrase “winter wonderland”, but if there was ever an appropriate use for the phrase, the Riga Christmas market is just that.