I Love You
I Love You is one of Riga’s hippest bars and is always packed on a Saturday night if the weather’s not too forbidding (it’s a bit more empty when there’s a snowstorm outside). It’s beloved for its great music choices and is probably one of Riga’s best spots for small, local gigs. There’s also the occasional DJ set, which is perfect for those who want to dance a little without going to a club. Despite how busy it gets at weekends, I Love You still manages to feel cozy and intimate, thanks to its unpretentious decoration and comfortable nooks and crannies.
Address: 9 Aldaru ielā, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 225 304
Riga might seem like an odd location for a Cuban-themed bar but Cuba Café is a success. The key lies in it not overdoing its theme by relying on Cuban cliches; there are pictures of Fidel Castro, for example, but they are just one element in an eclectic decor full of quirky items like a stuffed fox and old lamps. There’s always something to look at. It’s an ideal spot for a few mojitos and some salsa dancing.
Address: 15 Jauniela iela, Riga, Latvia, +371 67224362
The legendary Rock Café is huge and has something to suit everyone. Spread over three floors, it offers busy dance floors, live music, a pool room, a regular bar, and karaoke. It stays open until 6am, making it a drinking spot for any occasion, whether to chat with friends over a pint in the early evening or to keep on partying after all the other bars have closed. It’s extremely lively on Friday and Saturday nights, and the atmosphere is so friendly it’s easy to just start chatting with anyone.
Address: 2/4 Mārstaļu ielā, Riga, Latvia, +371 26678555
Aussie Backpackers’ Pub
Owned by the nearby Riga Old Town Hostel, this Australian pub offers a down-to-earth, laid-back atmosphere. It’s a hotspot for tourists and expats, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; more often than not they’re happy to talk to just about anyone who speaks English, so it’s a good place to meet people. The Australian aspect is not overdone, opting for drinking games and Australian craft brews instead of cheesy stuffed koalas or kangaroos.
Address: 43 Vaļņu iela, Riga, Latvia, +371 67223406
Folkklubs ALA Pagrabs
For an authentic Latvian experience in the middle of Old Riga, head to Folkklubs ALA Pagrabs, a bar and restaurant in a surprisingly big basement full of rustic wooden tables and cozy nooks and crannies. The atmosphere strives to recreate an old, rustic Latvia, complete with Eastern European dishes, folk concerts, and dancing evenings. This also means there’s a great selection of beer, both local and international; 28 on tap, the largest selection in Riga. ALA is often crowded at weekends, but it’s so big there’s always a free table somewhere.
Address: 19 Peldu iela, Riga, Latvia, +371 27 796 914
Not far from Aussie Backpackers’ Pub, Omas Briljants, literally ‘Grandma’s Diamonds’, is a seamless blend of retro kitsch (think ceramic chandeliers) with contemporary hipster cool. It’s a great cocktail place, with excellent drinks served in glasses or very reasonably priced jugs. There’s even a second floor – with a second bar- if the first one’s full.
Address: 7 Audeju iela, Riga, Latvia, +371 26121266
This friendly, hip bar is…pharmacy-themed. Trust us, it’s better than it sounds. The interior recreates an old apothecary, with drinks served among old brick walls, medieval scales, old bottles, tables embedded with pills, and painted outlines of old-fashioned medicine cabinets. This original backdrop was thought up by Latvian-American Kristaps Krēsliņš, an important name on the Washington DC nightlife scene before he turned to Riga for his latest endeavor.
Address: Mazā Miesnieku 1, Riga, Latvia, +371 27830077
If it’s shots you’re after, don’t hesitate to try out Shot Café, at the edge of the Old Town. There are over a hundred kinds of shots served here, from the typical Jagerbomb to the more original ‘Sex in a Wolkswagen’. Another great aspect of Shot Café is the playlist, sure to make anyone want to dance.
Address: Torņa iela 4, Riga, Latvia, +371 6722 4165 or +371 26433549
Though it bills itself as a New Zealander bar, the Kiwi Bar is better-known as one of the Old Town’s best sports bar. Tucked away in a corner just opposite Saint Peter’s church, it can be quite difficult to find despite its central location. It is nevertheless absolutely packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Like the Aussie Backpackers’ Pub, it’s a favorite for expats and it’s not rare to hear more English than Latvian here. The main draw is the high number of TV screens with great visibility from just about anywhere in the bar and the friendly enthusiasm of sports fans during matches. It’s a popular spot for Latvian rugby fans in particular.
Address: Skārņu iela 7, Riga, Latvia, +371 67 211 917
Nabaklab is probably the Old Town’s best alternative venue. More club than pub, this hotspot nonetheless offers a bar where clients can relax with a beer, as well as an outdoors area—perfect to chat with friends or new acquaintances while having a smoke. It’s known for its live music and cool Electro beats to which a young, bohemian crowd enjoys dancing. The live acts are extremely eclectic, making it a great place to discover new groups and even new genres; Latvian rock, Polish ska, house DJs…you name it.