When you think about Christmas Markets one of the first images that springs to mind is wandering through an array of traditional wooden market stalls in a picturesque market square with the snow falling all around. The 2022 Riga Christmas market, located in Dome Square (Doma laukums) in the heart of the old town was exactly what I had pictured.
Due to the worldwide chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic it had been three years since I last visited a Christmas market, but in December 2022, the travel industry was finally returning to pre-pandemic levels, so I decided that it was time to re-start my annual pre-Christmas trip to Europe to visit for some festive cheer.
Over the years I have visited a range of fantastic European cities for their Christmas markets, but I decided that this year I wanted to visit somewhere new. Admittedly, I had left the booking quite late and it was mid-November when I finally decided to plan my trip. By this time the prices for many European cities were far too cost prohibitive and I was almost at the point of giving up when I had one last look on Skyscanner to see if there was any last minute availability to somewhere that I had never been. It was then that I stumbled across some very reasonable flights to Riga in Latvia.
Finding a Hotel in Riga
After a quick bit of research to find out where the location of the Christmas Markets was in Riga, I got on my hotels.com app to see if there were any hotels close to the markets. I found so many hotels with availability in the old town, all within a ten minute walk from the markets, with rooms ranging from as little as £35 per night to in excess of £300 per night.
For this trip I chose the 5* Riga Pullman hotel. Not only was this hotel just a short two minute walk from the markets, but also incredibly good value with prices starting at £89 per night for a superior room.
I booked my room though hotels.com and received a members discount, making the room only £79 per night. When booking hotels I usually try to book though hotels.com as I find they are usually the most cost affective option. As well their very competitive prices, I often benefit from receiving members discounts on many rooms. Another advantage of using hotels.com is their generous rewards programme where you can earn a free night for every 10 nights that you book, which is based on your average spend for the 10 nights booked.
The front of the hotel consisted of a traditional building that is in keeping with the local architecture, but when you step inside and pass through the old part of the building, a more modern building has been added to the rear. The decor throughout the hotel reflected this with a fine balance of modern meets traditional.
The hotel has a bar and restaurant as well as meeting spaces, gym, pool and spa. On this occasion I didn’t use the restaurant or bar area, but I did make use of the pool and spa. The spa complex is located on the top floor of the hotel, with large glass windows providing panoramic vistas over Riga old town.
I booked a superior room, and despite the room being quite compact the decoration was very tasteful and in keeping with the rest of the hotel. The room had an ‘open-plan’ bathroom which gave the illusion that the room was bigger than it actually was, which was a very quite clever tactic to create an illusion of a bigger room.
The basic room rate didn’t include breakfast, and at a cost of €25pp I decided against it on this occasion as I had to checkout at 9:30am to arrive at the airport in time for my return flight home.
One drawback of the Riga Pullman hotel was that they stopped their room service at 10pm and during our stay we returned to the hotel at 10:30pm and we were a bit disappointed that there was no option to have any food in the hotel restaurant. However, one member of staff did let us know that there was a food delivery service (similar to Deliveroo and Just Eat) called ‘Bolt’ that would bring food to the hotel. You will need to order from the Bolt app which can be dowloaded on your Apple or Android phone. They take card payments up front, or you can pay cash on delivery.
Flights to Riga
There are various flight options to get to Riga from the United Kingdom. From London there are services from Gatwick on Air Baltic, Ryanair from Stansted and Wizzair from Luton. Since this trip British Airways have also launched a service from Heathrow to Riga.
On this occasion I choose Wizzair from Luton based on two factors, the times of the flights, leaving Luton early in the morning, getting me to Riga before lunchtime so I could maximise my time in Riga, secondly I have Wizzair Discount Club membership, meaning my return fare was only £16. The flight time to Riga was just over two hours.
The Riga Christmas Market
The Riga Christmas Market is located in Dome Square, which is right in the heart of the old town. The market was not the biggest I have been to, but it was by far the most rustic and traditional market I have visited in a long time. There were plenty of food and drink stalls serving everything from mulled wine and cider to delicious sausages, meats, stews and soups, all cooked in front of you on open fires and stoves. As well as all the delicious food and drink, there were stalls selling everything from toys and clothes to beautiful handmade Christmas decorations.
When we arrived the temperature was -2 degrees and the snow was falling on and off all day, which gave the markets a fantastic Christmassy feel, but due to the bitterly cold weather, which felt much colder due to the cold winds off the Baltic Sea, our trips to the market were short and sweet. We broke up our day by taking refuge in a warm bar or cafe now and again to enjoy coffee and lunch.
The easiest way to reach Riga city centre and the old town is by Taxi. A taxi rank can be found outside the arrivals hall at the airport and they were offering fares to the city for a fixed price of €25. The journey is only 6 miles and takes about 10 minutes.
As Latvia is in the EU, for travel from the United Kingdom on a UK passport you need to make sure you have at least 6 months left on your passport to travel into the EU.
I would highly recommend a trip to Riga for a Christmas Market break, it’s by far one of the best I have visited to date. This year I will be visiting two Christmas Markets, the first in Innsbruck, Austria and then a week later in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Will either of these markets impress me as much as the Riga Christmas Market?