Having lived in Riga for over eight months now, I’ve gotten to know the city pretty well. As I’ve walked around admiring the stunning architecture, I’ve also taken frequent breaks in the many cafes that line my path and beckon me with display cases full of tempting treats.
This list is in no way exhaustive, but it includes what I’ve found to be the best cafes in Riga so far; I fully expect to write part two later this year. But for now, here are my favorites:
Art Cafe Sienna
The standout of Riga’s cafe scene is tucked away in the Quiet Center, a few steps from the magnificent Art Nouveau buildings on Albert Street. Sienna exudes old world charm, with its abundance of antique furnishings and chivalrous waitstaff. The windowsills are stacked high with vintage art books and, should you wish to flip through one, white gloves are on hand. The sumptuous quiches and tarts come from Vincents, one of the finest restaurants in town. This is a place I could – and often do – linger for hours.
I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before moving to Europe, but that has certainly changed. The reason? All Cappuccino. This tiny espresso bar was recommended by nearly everyone I met, and is always packed even late into the night. And once I tried one of their cappuccinos, it was easy to see why. The smooth, rich coffee is topped with towering peaks of foam, making it as fun to drink as it is delicious. I don’t even need to add sugar! (For someone who never used to drink coffee, that’s really saying something.)
A visiting friend recently said that Rigensis “felt like Europe,” and I completely agree. As Americans, we have an idealized vision of the European cafe and Rigensis fits the bill. The counter overflows with scrumptious cakes, pies, and pastries while loaves of bread cover shelves on the wall. The rustic interior is barn-chic and the cappuccino topped with chocolate shavings is one of the best I’ve tasted – think caffeinated chocolate milk. Yes, please!
Safie Turkish Bakery
I was not expecting to find an authentic Turkish bakery in Riga, but am thankful for small miracles. Safie has the best baklava this side of the Bosporous! Try the chocolate version – you won’t be sorry. And the cappuccinos are (much) better than those we had in Istanbul.
I popped into this unassuming place near the Powder Tower by chance and it was love at first bite. KD Konditoreja offers a delectable array of baked goods, made fresh daily, and reasonably-priced breakfast and lunch dishes such as omelettes and potato pancakes. The custard- and strawberry-filled croissant is the stuff of dreams!
A Latvian friend described Index Cafe to me as Riga’s only “American style” restaurant. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is one of the few places where you can get a simple, pre-made sandwich or wrap for lunch. It’s also a great spot to try the Riga “business lunch” special of two courses for a set price. The menu changes daily, but always includes a soup, sandwich, entree and vegetarian option. I’ll be dedicating a separate post to the best business lunches in town. This is a phenomenon the world needs to know more about. As for Index’s coffee? I need to add sugar.
In 1910, Vilhelms Kuze opened a confection shop in Riga and soon became one of the city’s largest chocolate producers. While the unfortunate Kuze died in a Soviet labor camp in 1941, his name – and his chocolate – lives on at V. Kuze cafe. Here you can sample chocolate truffles and assorted cakes and pastries in true 1930s style. V. Kuze also has the best hot chocolate in Riga!
Not really convenient to anything, Pietura is a neighborhood cafe well-worth seeking out. I was first taken there by a Latvian food blogger and we were both impressed by the fresh food and large portion sizes. Bonus: the staff often have the TV turned to Animal Planet, my favorite channel.
Aspara Tea House
Blink and you’ll miss this cozy tea cafe hidden away in the corner of a quiet park. Housed in a two-story Chinese-style building with floor-to-ceiling windows, this is the perfect place to indulge your inner emperor. Simply choose your tea from the dozens on offer and recline on pillows strewn about the floor. The staff will bring the tea to you!
What are your favorite cafes in Riga? Tell me which spots I should try next!
Art Cafe Sienna Address: Strelnieku iela 3, City Center, Riga, Latvia Pricing: €€€ All Cappuccino Address: Antonijas iela 11, City Center, Riga, Latvia Pricing: €€ Rigensis Address: Tirgou iela 8, Old Town, Riga, Latvia Pricing: € Safie Address: Gertrudes 37, City Center, Riga, Latvia Pricing: € KD Konditoreja Address: Smilsu iela 20, Old Town, Riga, Latvia Pricing: €
Index Cafe Address: There are locations all over town. Click here to find the one nearest you. Pricing: €€ V. Kuze Address: Jekaba iela 20/22, Old Town, Riga, Latvia Pricing: € Pietura Address: Krisjana Valdemara 67, City Center, Riga, Latvia Pricing: € Aspara Tea House Address: Kr. Barona iela 2a, City Center, Riga, Latvia Pricing: €