Summer is the hottest tourist season in every country. Both literally and figuratively. The warm weather, various recreational opportunities and cafe terraces entice guests from both near and far. But winter in Latvia has a special magic, so it is definitely worth thinking about your next holiday in Latvia during the dark months of the year.
This is the time when fewer tourists visit Latvia, but visiting in winter has several practical benefits: cheaper flight tickets and less occupancy of hotels and guest houses make the overall cost of the trip much more pleasant. In addition, the flow of people is also smaller during the coldest time of the year. Travelling during the off-season allows you to get to know the lives of local residents without getting lost in the hustle and bustle of tour groups. Also, at this time various attractions are not visited as much as in summer, and it is a time when you can also take advantage of seemingly exclusive opportunities, enjoying nature at times even in complete solitude.
What tempts everyone - young and old - in winter? Snow, of course. Although it is never really possible to predict in which months of the year Latvia will be covered with a blanket of white snow, no winter in Latvia has been without it. Latvia is located in a temperate climate zone, which means that the country has four distinct seasons: hot summers, golden autumns, cold winters and spring, when nature awakens. Winters in Latvia tend to vary; the temperature can even reach -30 degrees. It's a magical time when the rivers, lakes and sea freeze, when the whiteness stretches as far as the eye can see, and there's nothing quite like warming up with a cup of tea after a day spent outdoors.
The best winter day is one spent outdoors! Besides, everyone can choose their favourite pastime that matches their interests and physical fitness. A great way to spend time with the family is often to simply go for a walk in the woods or along the sea and bring your sleds or get ready for a snowball fight. Nature trails are different in winter than in summer. Nature trails with rapid ascents and descents, especially in the Gauja Valley, tend to be especially challenging in winter. If the winter is cold enough and the waters are frozen, you can also go on more extreme hikes, accompanied by professionals, or ice skating, for example, on Lake Alūksne. There are also several cross-country skiing tracks available both in Riga and outside of Riga, and although there are no high mountains in Latvia, there are enough slopes with ski hills and snowboard parks. Those who love speed can try their hand at winter go-karting, winter bob-sleigh on the Bobsleigh and Luge Track Sigulda or enjoy a ride in a dog sled. You can find out more about various options for active recreation and sports in Latvia in winter here.
This is also a good time to relax, recuperate and rehabilitate. Latvia has a wide range of spas, and Jūrmala is the largest resort in the Baltics. Autumn and winter are usually the quiet season for spas as well, which means they are both quieter and calmer for guest visits, and special promotions and offers are often available. There are also options to enjoy rituals only available in winter, such as cold water swimming. The numbing bath after visiting the sauna gives almost extreme sensations; not everyone is ready to try it out.
When the body is rested, it is time to feed the mind. In autumn Latvian performing arts institutions start the new season, various cultural festivals take place, new expositions are placed in museums and new exhibitions are opened. Winter is the time to take shelter indoors and “disconnect” from everyday life at an opera, ballet or theatre performance, get to a different world by visiting a cinema or explore new spaces in one of the museums. Summer belongs to festivals, but in winter, world-class musicians often perform in one of the concert halls in Riga, and their concerts in Riga are often more affordable, both in terms of price and occupancy, than in other European capitals. Read more about cultural opportunities in Riga here.
December is a great time to visit Latvia to capture the Christmas feeling and to prepare gifts for your loved ones. The Old Riga Christmas Market in Dome Square is one of Riga's traditions: in the very heart of Old Riga, artisans and merchants from all over Latvia gather to offer their creations. The Christmas tree is decorated in Dome Square, festive music is playing and the smell of mulled wine is in the air. And that's not all: different themed Christmas markets are also held every year. For example, Jarmarka is a market that gathers students and graduates of the Art Academy of Latvia. It is possible to see and buy the works of young artists, painters, sculptors, textile makers and other creative artists. Riga Design Market gathers artists, designers and craftsmen from all over the Baltics in one place every year to allow them to offer their products to market visitors. Likewise, a Christmas market is held every year on Kalnciema Street, where you can buy not only handicrafts, but also products created by Latvian farmers.
For those who take advantage of remote work, it may be the right time not to hibernate in warm lands, but to enjoy the best that winter has to offer. Latvia is perfect for remote work: one of the fastest internet connections in Europe is available here, both short-term and long-term accommodation prices are lower than the average in Europe, and Riga has plenty of cosy cafes where you can also do your work. Latvia is a small country; almost everything is within driving distance from the capital: sea, forest, larger and smaller towns. Various transport sharing services are available in Latvia, as well as a well-thought-out public transport system that allows easy and convenient travel. If you choose to work remotely in Riga, you can spend winter evenings in one of Riga's restaurants, bars or cultural entertainment venues, and on weekends go to enjoy nature and get to know other cities in Latvia.
Regardless of how long and what destination you choose for your trip, Latvian winter has a lot to offer everyone.