We’ve spent so much time in small towns on this Baltic road trip, that arriving in Riga was like rejoining civilization. In addition to being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Latvia’s capital actually looks lived in. So could I join the locals and move there?
Riga is actually fairly large, so there are many areas and neighborhoods where an expat like me could settle down. Each neighborhood has a different level of activity, so I could enjoy really busy streets with sidewalk cafes or a quiet neighborhood as a home base. Outside of the Old Town center of the city, many more “authentic” areas of town are perfectly safe and livable. And I like that I can even feel safe around the train stations or outside the Riga Central Market (the largest in all of Europe).
But more than anything else, I like that Riga has some fine coffee shops and bars. That seals the deal for any writer. Riga would be a fantastic place to wake up every morning and go downstairs to have a latte and fire up the laptop. We also didn’t have one bad meal in Riga, and in fact, maybe some of the best food (and beer) from the whole trip.
The public transportation system in Riga is pretty fantastic. Though we walked nearly the entire time, there are buses and trams absolutely everywhere. And unlike other cities with totally mysterious public transportation systems, Riga has ticket machines all around. So you never have to run the risk of getting on a tram without knowing how to buy a ticket. And though Uber doesn’t operate there, Taxify is so cheap that it’s almost not worth it to use public transportation. Not to mention, walking is totally free. The city center and surrounding areas are very walkable and beautiful.
When we arrived in Old Town, we heard some loud gun shots. And I continued to walk directly toward the sound around St. Peter’s Church without even flinching. Because truly I couldn’t feel more safe than in the heart of Latvia. It turns out, they were filming a movie there. The suburban outskirts of the town, like the Moscow district, are also quiet and safe despite having a bad reputation online. In fact, you can take a walking tour through there, and anything that has a walking tour is definitely safe enough. Even at night when you’re leaving the bar, there aren’t dodgy characters lumbering around. Only some hipsters smoking cigarettes and riding a long board home.
For being such a large metropolis, Riga is super affordable. We rented a luxurious, roomy one bedroom apartment in Old Town for $50 a night. And if that’s the tourist pricing, a more modest apartment in another neighborhood would be quite cheap. And even if you wanted to be in the center of it all, you can probably get away with paying less than 600 euro a month. The food and drink, though very high quality, are totally affordable. Like anywhere else, the most expensive thing is a cocktail, but you can fill up with a good meal and a beer for less than the cost of a movie ticket.
Total Livability Score: 8/10
I honestly can’t think of one bad thing about Riga. I could live here.