Riga by Water: A Sunset Cruise Down the Daugava

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One of the things that has most surprised me about life in Riga is the reality of the long summer days. In the U.S., we’re taught to seek protection during the “peak sun” hours of 11 am – 3 pm; here that period is probably twice as long. The sun is blazing well before I get up in the mornings, making me grateful that I packed a bottle of SPF 70 and a hat! Often the sky is still a dusky blue when I go to bed. It’s been ideal for exploring, less so for sleeping. Thank goodness for the blackout curtains on my windows!

Latvia is situated along the 56th parallel north, a distinction it shares with places such as Sweden, Alaska, British Columbia and Siberia. This northern neck of the woods gets a whopping seventeen hours of sunlight in summer and a measly seven hours in winter. Riga’s daylight hours peaked on the summer solstice, June 21, when the sun finally set at 10:21 pm and twilight lasted until midnight. One month later, on July 21, the sun went down at 9:57 pm. That’s nearly 25 minutes of daylight lost.

With the short, dark days of winter looming on the calendar, I’ve been spending as much time outside as possible, storing up reserves of vitamin D and serotonin like a squirrel hoarding nuts. That’s been easy, with inviting temperatures in the high 70s (or the mid-20s for my friends on the metric system) and fluffy white Magritte clouds floating across crystal blue skies. (That’s also why it’s been a little quiet on the blog – I’d rather take photos than edit them!)


I’ve been looking for different vantage points from which to enjoy my new city. Having gotten a breathtaking birds-eye view from atop St. Peter’s Church, I was eager to appreciate Riga’s skyline from another angle. So when the opportunity to join a sunset cruise on the Daugava River presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Of course, with the days being so long, that meant we didn’t set sail until 9 pm.

Our boat, which featured open-air rooftop seating, left from the dock near the Presidential Palace (Riga Castle). We cruised for about 30 minutes southeast, passing under three bridges and turning around at the TV Tower. It was still so bright out that we needed sunglasses to keep from squinting. We sailed northwest back into port just as the sun dipped below the horizon. Old Riga was aglow and the modern Vansu Bridge was silhouetted against the evening sky. It was a truly beautiful sight!




The striking new National Library of Latvia will open to the public on August 29, 2014.




The Latvian Academy of Sciences building stands behind the zeppelin hangars of Riga’s Central Market.



Riga’s Radio and TV Tower is the tallest structure in the Baltics, and is an interesting contrast to the historic architecture across the river.





The summer sun sets behind Vansu Bridge.

We paid eight euros per person for the hour-long cruise and were allowed to bring our own food and beverages – including alcohol – on board.

What’s the prettiest river cruise you’ve ever taken?


25 thoughts on “Riga by Water: A Sunset Cruise Down the Daugava

  1. What a beautiful evening for a river cruise. The
    pictures are gorgeous as usual. You look very pretty
    too. What’s on the other side of the river? I can’t wait
    to go through the market. Good job!!

    • Thanks, Mom! We really have been blessed with perfect weather this summer. Across the river is mostly residential, though I’ll take you over there to the Botanical Garden. That’s also the way to the ocean, which is about 30 kilometers away.

  2. I think I would LOVE having all that sunlight (although you’re right…come winter it may be a little tough!) But it looks like you’re doing a great job of soaking up the sun and exploring while you can, what a beautiful cruise! Your photos are really incredible!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…Bye Bye Starbucks, Hello Save Bucks!My Profile

    • Thanks, Jess! The one good thing about winter here is that I’ll get to see a lot more sunrises and sunsets, since they’ll happen at 9am and 4pm!

  3. Those old buildings are beautiful. They are so elegant and yet timeless. No modern building can match them in grandeur.

  4. Looks like a very enjoyable evening! I’ll have to make time for a river cruise the next time I’m in Riga (if I’m there during warm weather months, of course!). Absolutely agree with Arun and you regarding old buildings – nothing built recently is as beautiful.
    Daina recently posted…Riga: A Busy Week in the Big CityMy Profile

    • I definitely recommend taking a cruise, the photos hardly do it justice! I just kept exclaiming, “it’s so beautiful!” 🙂

  5. This post and photos make me want to visit Riga so badly, it’s a part of the world that I still have to explore and that really attracts me. I’m wondering how it’s going to be in the winter though, do you know how cold it gets?
    Franca recently posted…Our Vegan Travel Challenge, Week 1My Profile

    • I think you would enjoy it here, Franca. The architecture is unlike any I’ve ever seen. Summer definitely seems to be the best time to visit, but I imagine it’s beautiful year round. I’ve been told the temperatures can get down to -25 degrees, but that this past winter was very mild. I think the short number of daylight hours will be the biggest issue. I’ll let you know after I’ve survived my first winter here 🙂

  6. Gorgeous pics! The Skyline Bar is another vantage point but unfortunately from behind glass – still, nice in winter 🙂
    Linda recently posted…It drives me crazyMy Profile

    • Thanks, Linda! Is that the bar inside the Radisson? I heard that was nice. Too bad you won’t be here this winter to go with me!

      • That’s the one! Nice place to bring your mum – I bring all my visitors 🙂 Also check out Albert Hotel – they have a great outdoor terrace. It’s only 11 storeys high but still a nice view – and cheaper than the Radisson 😉 The Radisson also have the nerve to charge in on a Friday and Saturday night…
        Linda recently posted…It drives me crazyMy Profile

  7. The darkness in winter and seemingly eternal sunlight in summer was one of the most difficult things to get used to in Norway. Thank goodness for blackout curtains! We still have ours and use them here to keep our room nice and dark because it’s best for sleeping.
    Andrea recently posted…Woodlands Weekend At Hyatt Market StreetMy Profile

    • I don’t know what we’d do without those blackout curtains! Now, if only our apartment (or any building around town) had air conditioning! It’s projected to reach 37 degrees next week and this place is stifling!

    • Isn’t it lovely? I hope you plan to take a sunset cruise in Amsterdam and share the gorgeous scenery with us! 🙂

    • Thanks! A cruise down the river Seine sounds lovely! We hope to visit Paris in the spring so I’ll have to remember that idea!

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