While Riga’s cultural history made it European Capital of Culture a few years ago, the town is also beloved by travelers for its nightlife. Most bars are in the Old Town but new trendy establishments are now increasingly popping up all over the place, and it can be difficult to choose that perfect spot to meet locals, have a drink, or just enjoy a quiet evening with friends. To simplify matters, here we profile the top 10 bars in Riga.
Chomsky is probably the only bar in the world honoring linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky. It is also as unusual as its name implies: here visitors will find run-down furniture, experimental musicians, noise artists, lectures, and a mixed but generally student-heavy clientele. The setting: a former glass cutting and jewelry workshop a little out of the center, only adds to the atmosphere. The drink selection isn’t extensive but there are a couple of excellent Latvian beers like Bruvera and Medalus on tap.
Spread over three floors, Aussie Backpackers Pub is, as the name indicates, an Australian pub with a down-to-earth, laid-back atmosphere. As it is owned by the nearby Riga Old Town Hostel, it is often full of tourists and expats, and therefore provides a quick remedy to a bout of homesicknesss. The Australian aspect is, not overdone, opting for drinking games and Australian craft brews instead of cheesy stuffed koalas or kangaroos.
Stepping into Café Leningrad is like travelling through time. The interior is the splitting image of a Soviet-era room, complete with vintage furniture, television, photographs, books, busts of Communist figures, and even, oddly enough, skis. But this place is not just about nostalgia, it is actually particularly popular with younger crowds thanks to regular live music, playing anything from punk rock, heavy metal to neofolk. The drinks selection is great; beer lovers will especially appreciate the range of local beers, as well as the many Scottish ales.
For a rustic Latvian experience in the heart of Riga, head to the “folk club” ALA Pagrabs, a surprisingly gigantic bar and restaurant entirely underground (pagrabs means basement). The long wooden table which guests share, Eastern European snacks and dishes, and labyrinthine layout with cozy nooks and crannies call to mind an old-time tavern, something the management is keen to encourage by organizing folk concerts and dances. ALA’s main asset is its selection of 28 beers on tap, the largest in Riga.
Skyline is a cocktail lounge on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel. The view is absolutely incredible, possibly the best in Riga: see the Old Town on one side, and the Art Nouveau district on the other. It’s worth seeing at least once. This unmatched location makes it very busy in the evenings; we recommend going on Mondays or Tuesdays to avoid paying a cover charge. The cocktails are also amazing, if a little pricey by Latvian standards.
A legendary bar in the Old Town, Rock Café has it all: a place to sit down for a drink but also a busy dance floors with a variety of music (including live concerts), a pool room, and karaoke, the only problem being choosing a song from the huge list of available titles! It is extremely lively, especially on Saturday nights, but the atmosphere is friendly and it is very easy to start chatting to just about anyone. Its proximity to the center and most of the city’s hostels make it especially convenient.