20 Great Day Trips From Rome

20 Great Day Trips From Rome

There are many incredible day trips from Rome and you can easily leave the city and feel a world apart from it. 

Rome literally is the ultimate place to visit in Italy, and it is only fair that it receives the amount of attention it gets from tourists. It’s a fantastic city; a perfect mixture of historic and archeological sites, beautiful churches, museums and art galleries, lively vibe, delicious food and fun nightlife.

Make sure to read my post 27 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome.”

One thing is true about Rome, however. It can get overwhelming: the traffic, the noise, the crowds of tourists in all the  major sites – after a couple of days, you’ll need a chance of scenery or you may well go crazy.

Do you want to save some time and skip the lines to major tourist attractions in Rome? Check out my incredible hacks:

The good news is that Rome is so centrally located in Italy, and so well connected, that you can easily get out of it even just for a day. You’ll have a great choice of day trips from Rome.

In this post, I highlight some of the best Rome day trips and share a few tips on how to fully enjoy your day out of the city. For the sake of clarity, I will divide my selection of day trips by larger topics – archeological sites; cities; smaller towns; countryside; wine tours; islands and coastal road trips.

Please keep in mind that this list of day trips from Rome is by no means exhaustive.

The following is a selection of the nicest Rome day trip:

Continue reading for a more in depth guide to the most interesting day trips from Rome.

Day trips from Rome

Ostia Antica is a perfect place for a day trip from Rome

20 Day Trips From Rome To Feed Your Wanderlust

Day trips from Rome to nearby archeological sites

The immediate surroundings of Rome, as well as places that are a bit further away, are packed with beautiful archeological sites – some are very famous among foreigners; others well known to Italians but virtually unknown to tourists, but just as interesting to visit. I can’t possibly mention them all, so I am going to select the ones I find unmissable.

Ostia Antica

One of the nicest day trips from Rome is that to Ostia Antica. While the medieval quarter of Ostia makes for a nice walk, it’s the archeological site that is really worth visiting.

Located at only 30 km from Rome, Ostia used to be the commercial port of the Eternal City. Facing the sea, it was here that goods were stored and then shipped to Rome via the Tiber river.

In its heyday Ostia got to count around 100000 inhabitants – it was very large for that time. The ongoing excavation have confirmed that Ostia used to be twice bigger than Pompeii. It was also a very wealthy city, which was reflected in the presence of villas and residential areas for its rich inhabitants. The city was packed with shops, taverns and temples, a political forum, an amphitheater and thermal baths.

Guided tours of Ostia Antica from Rome

I recommend taking a guided tour of Ostia Antica so that a guide can share as much information as possible about the site, and help you put things in context.

The following are some very good tours of Ostia Antica departing from Rome:

Visiting Ostia Antica independently

Ostia Antica is easily accessible by public transportation, and you can even use your Roma Pass to hop on the train. Take the train from Roma Porta San Paolo Station towards Roma-Lido. The trip to Ostia Antica takes around 40 minutes.

For more information about the Roma Pass, make sure to read my post “The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.”

Rome day trips

The gorgeous Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, Tivoli

Tivoli is one of the nicest Rome day trips. It is home to two of the best preserved Roman villas – Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este.

Hadrian’s Villa was built in the 2nd century by Emperor Hadrian. It was so grand that in his final years he decided to make it his official residence; and it was so large that it was more like a village proper. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, despite the passing of time Hadrian’s village is in incredible conditions and inside you’ll find the remains of temples, palaces, libraries and barracks. You’ll also be able to enjoy the gorgeous park around it.

Villa d’Este, where the son of Lucrezia Borgia used to live, is a 16th century villa with beautiful gardens complete with some of the prettiest fountains and waterfalls in the area of Rome. With such a beautiful park, Villa d’Este is one of the best places to visit on day trips from Rome, and in fact it is quite a popular destination in the good season.

Guided tours of Tivoli from Rome

I recommend joining a guided tour to make the most of your time in Tivoli. Guided tours usually include entrance tickets to both villas.

These are some of the best guided tours or Tivoli departing from Rome:

Visiting Tivoli independently

Getting to Tivoli by train is fairly easy. There are train that leave from Rome Tiburtina station and take you there in less than one hour. You can buy tickets to Villa Adriana here or here.

Day trips from Rome Italy

Cerveteri is a UNESCO site

Tarquinia and Cerveteri

Located in the province of Viterbo, at about 90 minutes drive from Rome, Tarquinia is actually fairly close to the capital and hence a perfect place for day trips from Rome. I have visited multiple times when in either Rome or Viterbo, and enjoyed it immensely. Very known to Italians, it’s not a very popular destination among foreigners – yet. But those who do are inevitably charmed by it.

Tarquinia is an ancient Etruscan town whose best site is a necropolis where there are some incredibly well preserved paintings and murals. When visiting, make sure to also pop in the very well curated archaeological museum.

Cerveteri is a beautiful medieval town where you’ll find some very well preserved Etruscan ruins. It also has a very well preserved necropolis and a good museum.

The necropolis of Tarquinia and Cerveteri is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Guided tours of Tarquinia and Cerveteri from Rome

There are several good guided tours departing from Rome that go to both cities.

These are some good tours of Tarquinia and Cerveteri departing from Rome

Visiting Tarquinia and Cerveteri independently

You can reach Tarquinia from Rome by train from Roma Termini Station – make sure to check the train timetable and buy train tickets here. Once in Tarquinia, you can either walk to the Etruscan necropolis or take bus D.Once in Tarquinia, you may want to join a guided tour of the archeological site. You can book it here.

The best way to get to Cerveteri from Rome is by car. Alternatively, you’ll have to take the train from Rome to Marina di Cerveteri, where you’ll have to catch bus D to Piazzale Moretti or Piazza Aldo Moro and from there bus G to the necropolis.

Rome day trips

Pompeii can be visited on a day trip from Rome

Pompeii

One of the best day trips from Rome is that to Pompeii. Most people visit this astonishing archeological site from Naples, but the good news is that Rome is close enough for you to be able to enjoy it even if you aren’t really heading south.

Pompeii is one of the most famous archeological sites in the world. The city was completely abandoned as a consequence of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD which killed more than 2000 people and buried it under a large coat of volcanic ash and pumice.

Nowadays, you can visit Pompeii to explore the remains of the many beautiful buildings and even of the bodies that were covered in ashes.

Guided tours of Pompeii from Rome

A lot of times guided tours of Pompeii also include a hike to the summit of Mount Vesuvius, which goes through old lava flows. These are some of the best guided tours of Pompeii that depart from Rome:

Visiting Pompeii independently

Alternatively, you can go to Pompeii independently by train. You have to catch the train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale and then head to Napoli Piazza Garibaldi station nearby and catch the train to Salerno, stopping in Pompeii. Count around 2 hours for the overall journey. You can check the train timetable for all of Italy and buy train tickets here.

If you are traveling to Pompeii independently, you may want to buy skip the line tickets beforehand. Remember this is one of the most visited sites in Italy! This are some good options:

Rome day trips

Viterbo is the best choice for cities to visit near Rome

Day trips from Rome to other cities

Rome is so centrally located that you can easily reach many other cities from it, and in a short time. I have selected a few of my favorites.

Viterbo

Viterbo, at about 100 km from Rome, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets and a perfect place for Rome day trips. I feel particularly attached to this small medieval city, as my dad was born there and that’s where he lived before moving to Sardinia. We regularly visit to see family and to just enjoy the incredible sights.

The city has a very well preserved medieval center, surrounded by well kept walls. Viterbo was the seat of the pope for about 24 years in the 13th century, and it has a magnificent Papal Palace. Other places of interest are the Duomo of San Lorenzo and the Church of Santa Maria Nuova. The oldest area in the city is San Pellegrino, a maze of narrow cobbled alleys and tiny squares.

If you happen to be around Rome at the very beginning of September, make sure to head to Viterbo in time for Santa Rosa, a fantastic festival held on the evening of 3 September in honor of its saint. During the festival, a team of 100 porters carries an enormous papier-mache statue that is beautifully illuminated, moving it along the narrow streets of the historic center. In 2013 Santa Rosa festival was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

In Viterbo you’ll also find some beautiful thermal baths where you can relax for a real steal.

Guided tours of Viterbo departing from Rome

Guided tours of Viterbo departing from Rome often stop at various other places in the region of Tuscia.

These are some of the best tours of Viterbo that leave from Rome:

Visiting Viterbo independently

You can reach Viterbo by train from Rome Aurelia train station. The journey takes around one hour and 45 minutes. You can check the train timetable and buy train tickets here.Once there, you can walk around on your own to take in all the beautiful sights, or join a guided tour of the city. The Viterbo guided tour with Cathedral and Priori Palace entrance is quite expensive, but worth it. You can book it here.

Florence

Florence deserves a lot of time, but if this is lacking, you can go on a day trip

Florence and Pisa

Florence is at about 300 km from Rome, which seems quite far from Rome. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Florence on day trips from Rome – there is too much to see and do there, and this is a city that deserves more time. However, the train journey to get there is actually quite quick and if you only have limited time in Italy you may want to give it a go, despite my advice.

Florence has a wealth of fabulous attractions and such a deep history that you’ll only be able to scratch the surface on a day trip. Among the places you shouldn’t miss there are the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio.

Pisa is another lovely city whose center is fairly small and can be visited in just a few hours. The most famous sight there is the Leaning Tower, which dates back to the 12th century and is located in the gorgeous Piazza dei Miracoli.

Guided tours of Florence and Pisa departing from Rome

Since Florence is so packed with things to see and do, if you really want to only go there on a day trip you may consider joining a guided tour. Some of them even go to Pisa.

These are some of the best guided tours of Florence that depart from Rome:

Visiting Florence and Pisa independently

You can get to Florence by train in less than 1.5 hours on the Frecciarossa and Freggiargento trains that depart regularly from Roma Termini station. I recommend getting an early train – make sure to check the train timetable and buy train tickets here.

To get to Pisa, you will have to travel to Florence Santa Maria Novella station and then change for Pisa. The overall journey will take you more than two hours.

Once in Florence, skip the line tickets may be the best options if you are interested in visiting any of the local attractions. Here are a few good ones:

Rome day trips

Naples has a lot of interesting sights

Naples

Much like for Florence, I think Naples deserves way more time than just a day trip. This is one of Italy’s biggest cities, with so much to offer to its visitors, and with a truly unique, somewhat crazy atmosphere that it’s best enjoyed for a few days. I appreciate that not all people have as much time as I do to travel around, though – hence why some opt to go there on day trips from Rome.

Naples has some gorgeous places to visit . Among the places you shouldn’t skip there are Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel d’Ovo, San Severo Chapel, San Gennaro Catacombs, the Archeology Museum, the Royal Palace and the Cathedral.

However, if there is one thing you shouldn’t miss when in Naples that is the mouthwatering food. This is the place where pizza was invented in 1830, and I wholeheartedly recommend to make it a point to eat pizza when in Naples. you can pick from the traditional one to the “pizza a portafoglio” – which is folded in two; to the pizza fritta. Just build up an appetite before you go! Before you visit Naples, make sure to check out this guide to the best pizzerie in town.

Guided tours of Naples departing from Rome

If you only have a short time, you may want to optimize by joining a guided tour that departs from Rome. These are some good day trips to Naples that depart from Rome:

Visiting Naples independently

There are regular Frecciarossa (fast) trains departing from Roma Termini train station that take you to Naples central station in little over one hour. Since there is so much to see in Naples, make sure to get an early train. Check the train timetable and buy train tickets here.

To make the most of your short time in Naples, you may want to book a guided tour or a skip the line entrance ticket. These are the best options:

Tuscia

Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the prettiest villages in Tuscia

Day trips from Rome to lesser known places

Not far from Rome, there are a few regions and smaller villages that are very well known to Italians but not as famous among foreigners. They are perfect places for day trips from Rome.

Tuscia

Few places in Italy call for a road trip as much as the lovely Tuscia. For as pretty as it is, this small region attracts very few foreign tourists – so it is the perfect place to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. The main city there is Viterbo, which I have already mentioned above. However, the whole region deserves to be visited.

The name Tuscia comes from the Roman word for Etruscans, who ruled this part of the country that spreads across northern Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany’s lower Maremma between 700 and 300 BC.

This is a place of sweet hills scattered with beautifully kept medieval villages, and while it would be perfect for a long term hike (there is a trail that goes right through it and that takes you from village to village across lakes and the gorgeous countryside), if you lack time a road trips is a fantastic way to enjoy it.

Among the villages you shouldn’t miss there are Bolsena, right by the lake of volcanic origins that has the same name; Bomarzo, one of the most beautiful villages located in the Cimini Hills (and while there, why not visit Soriano nel Cimino and its beautiful castle as well?); Calcata, located on top of a hill and whose views from a distance are breathtaking; and Bagnaia, where you have to visit the beautiful Villa Lante.

To me the prettiest looking town is Vitorchiano – it’s the closest one to Viterbo, and one of the best kept one. I promise that the photo of Vitorchiano my dad took and my parents have framed and placed in their living room hasn’t influenced my opinion!

Guided tours of Tuscia

There aren’t many guided tours of Tuscia that can be easily booked online. The only one is a Tuscia and Viterbo wine tour, but it doesn’t really go to all the lovely villages. Your best bet is to enquire your hotel about it, and book the tour locally once you are in Italy.

Visiting Tuscia independently

In all honesty, however, this is one of the cases in which I think that you are better off without a guided tour. The best way to visit Tuscia is on a road trip, where you can drive along the windy roads, stop in as many villages as you want, take in the splendid views, and try the local specialties – lombrichetti is the local pasta, and it is delicious! You can check out the prices of car rental here.

Castelli Romani

Frascati is one of the nicest towns in the Castelli Romani

Castelli Romani 

Many songs in the Roman dialect celebrate the beauty and the wines of Castelli Romani. The most famous one is “La Società Dei Magnaccioni” (you can listen to it here) – it’s the song that always ends up being sung at large family gatherings in Lazio, and I think I have lost count of how many times I have joined my father singing it even at karaoke (you really do not want to listen to me sing, trust me).

This is to say that the area is gorgeous, and also one of the best and easiest day trips from Rome. It’s located at about half hour drive south of the city, and it is a plethora or lovely picturesque towns. You can go there to hike through the beautiful Alban Hills, to eat and drink wine and just take in (and photograph) the amazing views.

The most popular place there is Frascati, where the main attractions are the Renaissance and Baroque villas built by noble Roman families. The ones you shouldn’t miss are Villa Aldobrandini and Villa Falconieri. Make sure to also visit San Pietro Cathedral. When lunch time comes, head to one of the many osterie and try the porchetta (slowly roasted pork on the spit).

Other places to visit in Castelli Romani are Nemi, Rocca di Papa, and Castel Gandolfo – which is famous for being the summer residence of the Pope.

Guided tours of Castelli Romani departing from Rome

There are a few good tours of Castelli Romani departing from Rome. A lot of them involve a good deal of food and wine tasting. These are the best ones:

Visiting Castelli Romani independently

The only town of Castelli Romani that is connected to Rome by train is Frascati, so your best bet if you want to visit the area independently is by car. Check out the prices of car rental here.

Rome day trips

Orvieto is a nice place for a day trip from Rome

Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto

Visiting Civita di Bagnoregio is thought to be one of the ultimate things to do in Lazio. This lovely tiny town of Tuscia is known as the dying village (though tourism is bringing it back to full like) because it stands on a hill that is slowly eroding and collapsing into the Valle dei Calanchi below. It makes for an excellent day trip from Rome.

Located at little over 440 meters above sea level on top of a tuff hill, on the border with Umbria, Civita di Bagnoregio has received the title of one of the prettiest villages in Italy. It was founded between the 9th and 8th centuries BC, and subsequently inhabited by the Etruscans.

The village is blissfully isolated, connected to the surroundings only through a narrow bridge that has had to be rebuilt several times – the Nazis destroyed the original one during WWII. You’ll have to walk into the village through the only gate, the Romanesque Arch of Porta Santa Maria, and once there you will be able to explore the marvelous medieval remains, with the beautiful cathedral, the gorgeous main square, and the many tiny shops.

Orvieto is located at around 25 km from Civita di Bagnoregio. It’s a lovely small town located on the hills of the region of Umbria. It’s most notable place is the Cathedral, but the undergrounds are worth visiting too. This small town is never crowded with tourists, so it is a nice break from the crowds of Rome.

Guided tours of Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto

There aren’t many tours that just go to Civita di Bagnoregio departing from Rome. However, you can go on tours that also visit the nearby Orvieto (more about it below). These are the best options available:

Visiting Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto independently

Orvieto can be reached by train from Roma Termini station – regional trains take about 90 minutes, whereas fast ones will get you there in 50. You will find the train timetable and buy train tickets here. To get to Civita di Bagnoregio you have to take the train to Orvieto and from there the Cotral bus to Bagnoregio.

These are some guided tours that depart directly from Civita di Bagnoregio or Orvieto: 

day trips from Rome

Assisi is an excellent destination for a quick getaway from Rome

Assisi

Christians will definitely know about Assisi. This lovely small town of Umbria is famous for being the birthplace of St. Francis, and it is a great destinations for Rome day trips. There you will find one of the most beautiful Basilicas in Italy, as well as a maze of tiny cobbled alleys and small shops, local restaurants and cafés.

Guided tours of Assisi departing from Rome

Guided tours of Assisi that depart from Rome often include Orvieto in their itinerary. These are the best options:

Visiting Assisi independently

It takes little over 2.5 hours to reach Assisi from Roma Termini train station. For a faster trip, you may want to take the train to Santa Maria degli Angeli which takes little over 1.5 hours, and from there take a taxi or a bus. Check out the train timetable and buy train tickets here.

Once in Assisi, you can explore independently or join a guided tour. These are a few good options:

Tuscia

One of the nicest towns in Tuscia, Bracciano is a good day trip destination

Bracciano

Bracciano is located on the shores of a volcanic name from which it takes its name. It’s a lovely small medieval town in the province of Viterbo that can be easily visited on day trips from Rome. It used to be a fishing an farming village but at the beginning of the 15th century the pope gave it to the Orsini family.

This one built the local castle, now known as Odescalchi Castle, which is the most famous local attraction. This mansion has been disputed by Roman aristocrats throughout the 15th century and was finally confiscated by pope Alexander VI in 1496.

Other attractions include the beautiful Santo Stefano cathedral and the lake and nature reserve that are a perfect place for a relaxing walk.

Guided tours of Bracciano departing from Rome

The following are a couple of good tours of Bracciano departing from Rome:

Visiting Bracciano independently

To get to Bracciano, you can take the train from various stations in Rome – Trastevere, Ostiense, San Pietro or Valle Aurelia heading to Viterbo. All trains stop in Bracciano.

wine tours from Rome

There are some fantastic vineyards near Rome

Wine tasting tours departing from Rome 

A lot of people who want to go on a wine tasting tour when in Rome opt to go all the way to Tuscany. With all due respect for Tuscan wines, which I love, I think it’s a real pity – not to mention a waste of time and money – not to opt for something closer. The surroundings of Rome have some fantastic vineyards and you will easily find some excellent day trips from Rome that include a lot of wine tasting.

The best area for wine tasting that is very close to Rome is that of Castelli Romani. There are some excellent wineries in Frascati. The one thing to keep in mind if you want to do a wine tour is that you may want to avoid driving, so joining a guided tour may be a better idea. Wine tasting tours often also include olive oil tasting – olio nuovo (fresh olive oil) is a specialty from the Tuscia region.

These are some of the best wine tasting tours departing from Rome:

Amalfi coast

Amalfi Coast can be visited on day trips departing from Rome

Day trips from Rome to the Amalfi Coast

I’d never go to the Amalfi Coast on just a day trip. There is too much to see and do there! However, I appreciate that some of you only have limited time in Italy, and that it may be years until you come back – and you may want to squeeze in as many activities and places as possible.

The good news is that you can go to the Amalfi Coast on day trips from Rome. Once there, you can stop in the scenic villages of Sorrento, Amalfi and Positano to take in the beautiful views, try the delicious local food, and even spend some time at the beach.

Guided tours of the Amalfi Coast departing from Rome

There are several guided tours of the Amalfi Coast that depart from Rome. Some also stop in Pompeii. These are the best options:

Visiting the Amalfi Coast independently

If you aren’t keen to join a guided tour, you won’t be able to see as many villages: you’ll have to rely on public transportation, having to wait for it at times. From Rome, you can take the train from Roma Termini station to Napoli Centrale, and once there transfer to Napoli Garibaldi station, which is a few minutes walk, and take the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento (this also stops at Pompeii). Check out the train timetable and buy train tickets here.

Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive all the way yourself. Check out the prices of car rental here.

Rome day trips

Ponza is a good place for a day at sea that is not too far from Rome

Day trips from Rome to the nearby islands 

The one thing that I find is missing in Rome is beautiful beaches. Don’t get me wrong – there are good, well equipped beaches in Ostia and Fregene, but when you are used to the splendid beaches of Sardinia, those just won’t do.

If you are desperate for a beach day but want something very scenic, where you can count on clear waters, you should head to one of the nearby islands. These can be visited on guided day trips from Rome.

Ponza

Lesser known compared to Capri, Ponza is a small island of the Pontine Archipelago, located between Rome and Naples, on Italy Thyrrenian Sea. It’s a fantastic place with dramatic cliffs, clear waters and sea grottoes, where you can enjoy a day beach hopping and snorkeling.

Since the best way to enjoy Ponza is on a boat tour, I recommend joining a guided tour from Rome that include all sort of transportation. These are two good options:

Capri

Located in the Bay of Naples, Capri is a real gem of an island. It’s best enjoyed on a boat trip. Once you are there, you can enjoy the picturesque views, go to the Blue Grotto (a coastal cavern where you will be able to admire the bluest water you can imagine) and the Faraglioni cliffs, as well as enjoy a drink in one of the many local bars.

The best way to get to Capri from Rome is on a hassle-free, guided tour. These are some good options:

Florence

I wouldn’t visit Florence on a day trip – but it can be done

5 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Day Trips From Rome

Join a guided tour

My best advice to make the most of your day trips from Rome is to join a guided tour. These have been designed by experts who know the territory inside out, and who are masters at organizing – so they run in an efficient way. You will have transportation and a driver, so won’t have to worry about things such as speed limits and parking spaces or alcohol consumption (especially in case you have a wine tasting tour). You’ll also have a guide who will shower you with useful information about the places you’ll be visiting.

Here’s a selection of the best guided day trips from Rome:

Pick your transportation wisely

If you really dislike guided tours and would rather go around independently, you need to consider your transportation options wisely. Depending on what you plan to do and where you want to go, you can travel by train or by car.

By train

If the Rome day trips you are considering are to big cities with lots of traffic such as Florence or Napoli, traveling by train will save you the hassle of spending precious time looking for a parking spot and will avoid you the hassle of having to consider things such as speed limits and limited traffic areas (ZTL). Train stations in Italy are usually located in the heart of the city, so you’ll find yourself in the historic center, ready to explore.

You can consult the train timetable for all of Italy and buy train tickets here.

By car

If you are a fan of road trips or are going to visit the countryside, renting a car may be a good idea. You will have to pay attention to speed limits, and consider that Italian laws when it comes to drinking and driving are pretty strict.  You can check out the prices of car rental here.

Use Google Maps to get around

Whether you are walking around a city or exploring the Italian countryside, make sure to have a phone data plan that allows you to get online if necessary, and to check Google Maps if needed. Alternatively, download maps on your smartphone, so that you can also use them offline. You will find that it is incredibly easy to get lost in the narrow alleys of a small Italian town, or to take a wrong turn when driving through the countryside – and having a navigation apps installed will help you sort out your orientation during your day trips from Rome.

Bring a guide book with you

This is especially relevant if your Rome day trips are independent rather than guided. A good guide book will have at least some background information on the places you will be visiting – ie information about historical sites; good restaurants and bars to have a meal; and anything else that may help you make the most of your day.

These are some good guide books you may want to read and take with you:

Get travel insurance

I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, no matter the duration of your trip or the destination. Make sure to read my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get a good travel insurance here.

Check out my guide on How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.”

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Find out which are the best day trips from Rome - via @clautavani

The 10 Best Places To Visit In California (That Aren’t Just Cities)

The 10 Best Places To Visit In California (That Aren’t Just Cities)

There are many gorgeous places to visit in California. This in my opinion is one of the most beautiful states in the United States of America. California has a lot to offer to any kind of traveler.  

California is known to be evergreen throughout the year – every season always looks beautiful there. However, if you ask me summer is the best season to visit California. Flowers blossom elegantly and the weather is just perfect, bound to guarantee a fabulous getaway.

The best places to visit in California during the summer are quite numerous and intriguing. However, those inland and in the central valley may be best avoided during those months, as the temperatures are blasting.

Furthermore, destinations like the San Francisco, San Diego or Los Angeles may not exactly be ideal during summer – what with traffic, crowds and what not. Your best bet for a great summer holiday in California is either the mountains or the coast.

In this post, I highlight the 10 best places to visit in California where you should head for your summer holidays. At the end of the post, I share some useful tips to plan your trip there.

Looking for more things to do in California? Make sure to read my post 15 Unmissable Things To Do In California.”

best places to visit in California

The huge sequoia trees are a must see!

The 10 Best Places To Visit In California For A Great Getaway

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia is one of the best places to visit in California during the summer, significantly less crowded than Yosemite, and as such a very good alternative to the most famous park in California. That’s the season when you will have full sight of what this national park is all about. In Sequoia National Park you will get to see the largest trees in the world. Summer is by far the best season to camp there – which you really should be doing for full enjoyment.

Summer is also an excellent time to explore Kings Canyon National Park, where one of the deepest canyons in North America is located. This is a great place to admire wildlife – if you are lucky, you can spot bears and even cougars.

Lake Tahoe California

Such clear waters call for adventure sports!

Lake Tahoe

Another place in California that is best explored in the summer is Lake Tahoe. During this season you will find mild temperatures during the day, and nice and cool ones at night. It’s a much better place to visit than the boiling hot Central Valley!

In Lake Tahoe you will have no shortage of things to do – though you can surely relax there, this is a place to go in search of the most fun-filled activities. From hiking to mountain biking to boating and more water sports, this is the place to go if you are looking for action. If you visit, make sure to stop by the Donner Memorial State Park and Museum, a small museum opened in 2015 to portray the history and experience of emigrants.

You can even go on a photographic tour of Lake Tahoe. Book yours here.

Places to visit in California

Pismo Beach is one of the most charming places to visit in California

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach may well have everything you are looking for in a summer getaway. There is a small downtown with plenty of souvenir shops and local restaurants; a gorgeous beach where you can hang out, go sunbathing, enjoy swimming in the ocean. You can even rent an ATV to explore the beach.

TIP: If you intend to visit Pismo Beach, make sure to book your hotel in advance as this an increasingly popular destination!

Fishing pier of Monterey

Monterey is a lovely place to visit

Monterey

If you enjoy a little bit of culture and history during your trip, then you will love visiting Monterey. There you will find several museums and art galleries; a beautiful aquarium; and an excellent selection of good restaurants. Monterey is also home to great beaches.

TIP: Since Monterey is one of the most famous places to visit in California during the summer, make sure to book your stay in advance.

TIP: Try to visit Monterey on weekdays, as it will be less crowded.

best places to visit in California

Volcano junkies must head to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta 

Located at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, Mount Shasta is a potentially active volcano and one of the best places to visit in California, especially if you enjoy nature and outdoor activities. Needless to say, summer is a great time to visit, for you will be able to go hiking, biking and camping. There are various good hotels and camping sites in Mount Shasta, so there will be no shortage of good places to stay.

TIP: If you like fishing, make sure to spend some time at Lake Siskiyou.

Santa Catalina Island

If you like action, you won’t be disappointed by Santa Catalina Island. This island off the coast of California offers all sorts of adventurous activities, such as zip lining, as well as things for nature and wildlife lovers such as dolphin watching cruises. You will be able to go sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, camping, boating, horse riding and much more.

And if you are in need of something a bit more sophisticated, head to the many museums and art galleries on the island. There is so much to see and do that it definitely should be mentioned as one of the best places to visit in California.

Anaheim 

Anaheim is a small city outside Los Angeles, in Orange County. It is best known as the home of Disneyland Resort. It is the best place to visit as a family during summer. But the Disney themed park isn’t the only place you should visit there!

If you enjoy the ocean, make sure to head to Huntington Beach. This beautiful beach is perfect for surfing.

But there is more! If you are in search of a bit of culture, you will find some interesting museums. A few minutes drive from Anaheim you will find Santa Ana, home of The Discovery Cube Orange County, which was once known as the Discovery Science Center and the Taco Bell Discovery Science Center.

If science is not your thing, head to the Bowers Museum, which has a great art collection.

beaches in California

Santa Barbara guarantees beautiful sunsets

Santa Barbara

Among the best places to visit in California it is worth mentioning Santa Barbara. This is the kind of place where no matter your taste in travel you can find something you will enjoy. Great beaches and coves? Check. Good weather? Definitely check. Culture, history and art? Once again, check.

One of the things you are bound to love in Santa Barbara is the presence of Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture. Head to Casa Del Herrero and the Old Mission for great examples of it.

If you are in search for something a bit more active, you will find plenty of rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, boating, fishing opportunities. And if you are in search of good wine, you will find it no shortage of it in the surrounding vineyards, where you will have plenty of chances to go wine tasting.

For a fabulous wine tasting tour of Santa Barbara, click here.

California

Easy to see why Santa Monica is a favorite of travelers and locals alike

Santa Monica

You will have heard of Santa Monica from movies and TV series, and will definitely know it’s one of the places where Hollywood celebrities love to live. Other than that, it is a great place to visit.

Among the places to visit in Santa Monica, don’t skip Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Pier. You will have a chance to go surfing or – waves permitting – stand up paddle. And you will find plenty of excellent dining opportunities.

TIP: Santa Monica is a fantastic place to go for a romantic getaway.

San Clemente Beach Coastal Trail 

Also located in Orange County, San Clemente Beach Coastal Trail is a roughly 3 km trail that gives access to the shoreline of San Clemente. It’s open every day from roughly 4:00 am to midnight, and you can easily walk it, bike it or run it and get to access San Clemente beach and Calafia beach.

It’s a favorite of locals as well as tourists, so a great place where you will find a mixed crowd.

sunset in California

A beautiful sunset in Santa Monica

Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To California

Getting a visa for the United States

Before even considering a summer trip to California, you should ask yourself: “Do I need an ESTA to travel to the USA from UK?”

Yes, you do. ESTA is a total compulsory requirement for UK citizens (in fact, for all citizens of the European Union) to visit USA. The ESTA actually is an authorization that allows the British citizens or nationals to visit or pass through the United States. It lasts for just 90 days; after which it expires.

Getting to California

California is well connected to the rest of Europe via direct flights from most capital cities and not only. The cheapest flights are those to Los Angeles, so I would suggest to look into those first.

Moving around California

California calls for a road trip! This is the kind of place where you should rent a car and drive around endlessly, especially if you have time. You can check the prices of car rental here.

To better prepare for your road trip, head over to my post 13 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Summer Road Trip.”

Other useful information

As always, I strongly advise you to get a good travel insurance for all your trips. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For more readings about California, you can also check one of these books:

For more places to visit and things to do in the United States, read my posts 10 Things To Do For A Fabulous Trip To Miami,” 13 Classic Things To Do In New York City” and Seven Adrenaline Filled Things To Do In Yellowstone.”

Legal Disclaimer: This post was written in cooperation with Esta Visa USA. Needless to say, the views expressed are my own.

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Discover the places to visit in California - via @clautavani

A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino

A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino

A week in Trentino is definitely not enough to uncover all the beauty of this region of Northern Italy. I have been there multiple times, both in the summer and in the winter, and I am hardly done with it. Each time I visit a different place, a different valley, and marvel at the incredible landscapes.

Trentino is a place of gorgeous mountains, home of the Dolomites. It’s a place of charming cities and gorgeous small villages. It’s a land of lakes. It’s a region where you’ll be able to challenge yourself with all sorts of adventure sports and then relax completely at some of the best spas in the country.

In Trentino, you will find delicious food, fabulous wines, excellent liquors. Locals will welcome you and your loved ones (including your pet!) with a smile on their face.

If you are planning a trip to Trentino, you should restrict yourself to just a couple of valleys and explore those in depth, rather than trying to cover too much in one go. Trentino deserves slow travel! I can assure you that you will love it so much that you will end up wanting to go there again and again – much like what happened to me.

In this post, I have put together an itinerary for a week in Trentino. If you are pressed for time, you could probably do it in less time – but you may have to skip a place or two. The itinerary starts in Trento, the main city of Trentino, and ends in Primiero Valley, one of the most scenic ones of the region.

For each stop, you will find a set of places to visit and things to do as well as recommendations on where to stay and eat. At the end of the post, you will also get practical tips on how to organize your trip to Trentino.

Continue reading to discover your itinerary for a week in Trentino.

Are you still not convinced that Trentino is the place for you? Head over to my post Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer.”

week in Trentino

A view of Trento from Sardogna – photo courtesy of The Crowded Planet

A Day By Day Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino

Days 1 and 2 – Trento

If you are planning to spend a week in Trentino, Trento should be your starting point. The main city in Trentino, Trento is often overlooked by people who visit the region as they usually head straight to the beautiful mountains or the scenic lakes. I say they are missing out and I wholeheartedly recommend spending at least a couple of days in the city to enjoy all that it has to offer!

Trento is a great combination of interesting sights and excellent museums; relaxed atmosphere and fantastic dining opportunities – not to mention, it’s a very good starting point to explore the rest of the region.

The following is a selection of the things to see and do in Trento. Check out The Crowded Planet’s post “18 Unmissable Things To Do In Trento” for even more inspiration.

If you want to make the most of the city, you can even join a guided tour. Book it here.

Unmissable sights in Trento

Duomo

If you visit Trento, you simply can’t skip the Duomo. San Virgilio Cathedral’s construction was started in 1212. This is a Romanesque-style church located in the heart of the city, in a very airy square where locals and tourists alike love hanging out.

The Cathedral is very famous for having been the place where the decrees of the Council of Trento were issued between 1545 and 1563, in response to the Protestant Reformation.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

Probably the most famous place to visit in Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio is located in the heart of the city. It used to be the residence of the local royal family between the 13th and the 18th century. It now hosts a variety of exhibits.

Things to do in Trentino

The lovely Duomo Square in Trento

MART – Modern Art Museum

If you are a lover of modern art, MART is the place to go. It’s actually located in Rovereto, an easy 15 minutes train ride from Trento Piazza Duomo station. MART is a huge museum that combines a very beautiful, state of the art structure, and an incredible exhibit of modern and contemporary art of both Italian and foreign artists.

Cable Car to Sardagna

For breathtaking views of Trento, make sure to ride the cable car to Sardagna. The ride lasts only a few minutes and once at the top (at around 600 meters above sea level) you’ll have beautiful views of Trento and the surrounding mountains.

TIP: Riding the cable car is free if you have the Trentino Guest Card (more about it below).

TIP: For an even better experience, go to Sardogna for sunset!

On a clear day, take the cable car and climb up to Sardogna for a full view of Trento and the Bondone mountain up close.

Orrido di Ponte Alto 

For an easy trip outside of Trento that requires minimum effort, head to Orrido di Ponte Alto, where you’ll be able to admire a canyon that over the course of time has been carved by the strong waters of the Fersina River, an estuary to the Adige River.

The Fersina River used to run fiercely and regularly flooded the city, causing much damage to it, so already in the 16th century dams were placed to it in the area of Orrido di Ponte Alto, creating two very scenic waterfalls.

Practical Information: Orrido di Ponte Alto can be visited on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can get there from the center of Trento in about 20 minutes by bus. Once at the site, you will have to join a very interesting guided tour (which lasts about one hour). Admission is free for Trentino Guest Card holders.

Stay tuned as I will be writing a more detailed guide to visiting Orrido di Ponte Alto.

week in Trentino

Panificio Moderno is a nice spot for aperitivo

Where to stay and eat in Trento

Trento has some excellent accommodation options, as well as a bunch of fabulous restaurants, so you won’t have troubles finding something that is within your budget and that suits your taste. The places I mention below are all places that I have tried, tested and approved.

Best places to stay in Trento

Hotel America is located in the heart of Trento and features beautiful, comfortable rooms. The buffet breakfast is excellent. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

NH Trento is a modern hotel run in an eco-friendly manner. Rooms are spacious, comfortable and spotless. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

TrentoApartment is perfect if you’d rather have the possibility of self catering. It’s modern, clean and close to all the main attractions. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Best places to eat in Trento

Pizzeria da Albert is a great pizzeria located a bit outside the center of town. Pizza is prepared using top quality ingredients. The dough is crispy, fragrant and at the same time melts in your mouth. Service is super friendly and prices are fair.

Oblò Comfort Food a good place where to get a burger, a sandwich or a gourmet salad. They have vegetarian and vegan options.

Al Duomo nice restaurant and pizzeria located right by the main square. They offer a variety of traditional and gourmet pizzas. There are some excellent starters too.

Porteghet lovely spot for a quick lunch. There is a daily menu that changes seasonally, and lots of salad options. Prices are mode than fair; service quick and friendly.

Antico Pozzo fabulous restaurant hidden in a very narrow alley; it serves dishes of the local tradition cooked with a modern twist. Make sure to try the risotto.

Gelateria Cherry is the newest and easily the best gelateria in Trento. The selection of flavors isn’t the biggest, but you’ll surely get the best quality gelato. The vegan chocolate flavor is mouthwatering.

Panificio Moderno is a lovely coffee shop in an airy square, perfect for aperitivo. You can select from a variety of drinks, though I recommend trying Hugo, the local version of a Spritz.

Levico Lake

A relaxing morning on Levico Lake

Days 3 and 4 – Valsugana

Valsugana is a perfect addition to this itinerary for a week in Trentino. This very scenic valley is within very easy reach from Trento (it’s just a 30 minutes drive) but offers a completely different vibe. The main attractions in Valsugana are the two lakes – Caldonazzo and Levico – where you will be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches, swim in the clear waters, and practice all sorts of water sports.

This beautiful valley is also a great place for biking, hiking and nature walks; and if you feel the need to relax you will also find a few good spas.

It will take more than just 2 days to enjoy all that Valsugana has to offer, so I have selected just a handful of the things to see and do in Valsugana.

What to see and do in Valsugana

Enjoy the lakes

As I have already mentioned, there are two beautiful lakes in Valsugana and if you are visiting in the summer, you will be able to enjoy them at their best. Both of them are fantastic places for water sports and you can easily rent a sailing boat to go around the lake, or a kayak to visit all the hidden corners. You can also SUP your way around it.

Though both lakes are pristine and they have gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, I prefer Levico Lake for it has very clear waters and several beaches – some right by the village and that actually get quite crowded (though never overwhelming), others a bit more hidden. Levico is also accessible to dogs – so it’s a perfect place if you are traveling with your furriends.

In Levico, I also recommend going on a walk around the lake. The trail is very easy to follow and you will be able to spot several swings from where people love to jump directly into the water.

Go to a castle

There are more castles in Trentino than I can possibly mention, and you should make it a point to add at least one to your itinerary for a week in Trentino. A few of them are scattered around Valsugana and are open to the public. Pergine and Ivano can both be visited and from there you will get splendid views of the valley. Castel Selva is located in Selva di Levico, a small fraction of Levico Terme and can reached by foot via a tral that starts in the village.

views from Cantina Romanese

Cantina Romanese has a lovely family history – and fantastic wines!

Visit a winery

Trentino produces some excellent wines, and it would be a pity not to try a few of them. If you are in Levico Terme, make sure to visit Cantina Romanese, a tiny vineyard that makes fantastic wines and that has a very interesting story.

Enjoy your wine as Giorgio, one of the young owners, tells you the beautiful history of his family and how they came about making wine. As you sip a glass of Gabriella, their signature one, you will also discover the history behind the label of the bottle – let me not unveil it here and ruin the surprise effect.

BONUS: From the winery you will be able to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the lakes.

Where to stay and eat in Valsugana

I recommend looking for accommodation in Levico Terme, one of the nicest villages in Valsugana where you will find plenty of good hotels and restaurants, and from where you can have very easy access to the lake. Below is a selection of the places I have tried, tested and recommend.

Best places to stay in Levico

Hotel Al Sorriso is a nice hotel right by the lake in Levico Terme. Rooms are very spacious and have a beautiful view. There is a pool, an excellent breakfast buffet, a bar and great common area. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Best places to eat in Levico

Ristorante Riviera is a nice restaurant with a huge terrace right by Levico Lake. The menu selection is huge – just as the portions. Food is good, service friendly although a bit slow.

Ristorante Boivin is one of the best restaurants in Levico. It serves dishes of the local tradition with a modern twist, in a beautiful setting. The owner / chef / manager is worth chatting to – he may seem brusque at first, but he turns out to be a very friendly man. Try the canederli, one of the local specialties, and the fish.

La Taverna is a beautiful restaurant by the lake where you will be able to taste some of the best food in Trentino, accompanied by an incredible wine selection. You may want to enquire about the food and Trentodoc (the regional version of sparkling wine) pairing.

Fabbrica di Pedavena is an easygoing pub and pizzeria that serves all sorts of food – from pizza to burgers, from steak to schnitzel. Beware of the huge portions!

week in Trentino

There is no shortage of gorgeous views in Primiero Valley

Days 5, 6 and 7 – Primiero Valley

Despite having been to Trentino many times, I had yet to visit Primiero Valley. During my last trip to the region I finally managed to make it there and was so wowed by it that I decided to add it to this itinerary for a week in Trentino.

Driving from Levico Terme to Fiera di Primiero, where I recommend basing yourself to explore the valley, should take you little over one hour. Once there, you will have no shortage of places to visit and things to do: in Primiero Valley you will find a wealth of gorgeous small towns and mountain villages; beautiful mountain lakes; hiking trails galore and – as anywhere else in Trentino – fabulous food.

Mine is a small selection of the things to see and do in Primiero Valley in 3 days. If you decide to spend longer in the area, rest assured you won’t have time to be bored!

What to see and do in Primiero Valley

Hike

There is little doubt that one of the reasons why you should visit Trentino in the summer is hiking. The trails in this part of Italy are simply stunning! Primiero Valley is an excellent stating point for some of the nicest hikes in the Dolomites – you will find short, easy trails for excellent views and a few more challenging ones.

Among the trails I recommend there’s the one that goes from Passo Rolle to Baita Segantini. It’s an easy hike of no more than 3 hours (including stops for photos) that will take you to a viewpoint where you will be able to admire the gorgeous peak of Cimon della Pala.

Another hike is the one that goes from Lago Calaita to San Martino di Castrozza. It’s a moderate hike during which you will be afforded spectacular views of the Pale di San Martino.

For a more in depth description of these and other hikes and for more information about hiking in Trentino, read my post Five Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino.”

Welsperg Lake Trentino

No words needed!

Enjoy the gorgeous views

There is no shortage of beautiful views in Primiero Valley, but if you are a photography geek you may want to head to Welsperg Lake. It’s a very short drive from Fiera di Primiero, and you will be rewarded with the precious reflection of the mountains in the waters of the lake.

TIP: Make sure to walk around the lake, as the views and the reflection aren’t that obvious from the side of the parking lot where you have to get off!

Explore a lovely village

There are many pretty villages in Trentino. Mezzano di Primiero, also known as Mezzano Romantica can be easily reached on a short walk from Fiera di Primiero, and it a great place to spend an hour or two wandering the narrow streets.

The village it known as one of the most beautiful in Italy, and for a good reason: it’s incredibly well kept, and at one with nature. You will find wooden statues and colorful wooden piles so well organized that they became real works of art. They are scattered around the village, so you will have to hunt for them while at the same time admire the lovely houses built in the traditional local style.

I will be soon be writing a more detailed guide to visiting Mezzano Romantica.

Try local beer

I have already mentioned that wines in the region of Trentino are fabulous, but beer lovers won’t be disappointed either. Located in Mezzano there is Bionoc – a small, local brewery that makes excellent craft beers. You can go on a beer tasting tour with the friendly owners and their sweet dog, and once you sit down for dinner you can enjoy more beer.

Where to stay and eat in Fiera di Primiero

Primiero Valley has some excellent accommodation and eating options. The places I recommend are those where I have eaten, slept and that I have truly enjoyed.

Best places to stay in Fiera di Primiero

Hotel Isolabella is in the center of Fiera di Primiero. This nice hotel has comfortable, modern music themed rooms with gorgeous mountain views. There is a panoramic elevator that brings guests to their floor, a bar that serves excellent cocktails and an on site restaurant with a set daily menu. Breakfast is very good. There also is a spa – perfect to relax after a day of hiking in the Dolomites. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Best places to eat in or near Primiero Valley

Il Caminetto, in Fiera di Primiero, is an easygoing pizzeria where pizza are prepared using strictly local ingredients. They have a great selection that goes from the most classic margherita pizza to the most gourmet ones. They even have vegan options.

Rifugio Caltena is a beautiful mountain hut in Caltene, from where you will enjoy gorgeous mountain views. Several hiking and walking trails depart from the area where the rifugio is located. There, you will find some of the best food in the area, with delicious dishes of local pasta and polenta.

Malga Rolle is a great place to try local produce – they make their own cheese! This restaurants with gorgeous mountain views serves ridiculously large portions of local specialties. Service is fast and friendly.

food in Trentino

Trying local food is a must when in Trentino

Practical Tips To Plan Your Week In Trentino

Best time to visit Trentino

Any time is a good time to visit Trentino. I have been there in the summer, and loved it, and I have also been there in the winter time, when it is a fantastic destination for winter sports. Having said so, this itinerary contains activities such as hiking or SUP that are best enjoyed in the summer, so if you plan to follow this route make sure to visit between June and September.

If you are planning to visit Trentino in the winter, make sure to read my posts A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole” and 10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole.”

How to get to Trentino

There are no airports in Trentino, but thanks to the great web of rail and bus transport it is still very easy to reach. You will have to fly to Verona, then take the bus to the main train station in town and once there take one of the many trains headed north (Trento or Bolzano). The overall trip from the airport to Trento should take you around 2 hours. You can check the train timetable and train fares for all of Italy and buy train tickets here.

How to move around Trentino

Buses work well in Trentino and connect the main towns to the smallest villages. However, you only have limited time and would like to hit the trails or the lakes, I wholeheartedly recommend renting a car so that you can save time moving from one place to the other. Besides, Trentino is a region that calls for road trips! You can check the prices of car rental here.

Trentino views

More incredible views in Trentino

What to pack for a summer trip to Trentino

Those who visit Trentino in the summer should make sure to carry comfortable clothes that allow layering up, as it may be quite warm in the middle of the day, but chilly in the morning and early evenings and night. Here’s what I recommend packing:

Other useful information

Make sure to get hold of a Trentino Guest Card for your time in the region – you are entitled to it if you spend at least two days in the region and can pick it up at your hotel. Trentino Guest Card gives you access to all local public transportation – including trains – and provides free or discounted entrance to museums, castles, parks and other attractions. For more information, click here.

You may be happy to know that pets are generally welcome in most hotels, restaurants and attractions or trails in Trentino.

As for any other trip, make sure you get a travel insurance when visiting Trentino. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For more readings about Trentino, you can check one of these books:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Trentino and Trentino Marketing during my last trip to Trentino, and wish to thank them for putting together an incredible itinerary and for welcoming me ever so kindly. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Discover how to spend a fabulous week in Trentino - via @clautavani

A Complete Guide To Cesis, Latvia

A Complete Guide To Cesis, Latvia

Cesis is a lovely well kept medieval town located in the North East of Latvia, in the region of Gauja. The first mention of Cesis dates back to 1206. Thanks to its vicinity to the Gauja River, this small town was a well known trading port and it even became part of the Hanseatic League.

Mostly famous for its beautiful castle, Cesis is a very pleasant place to visit and at such a short distance from Riga that, if you are planning to travel to Latvia, you should make it a point to go.

This small town can be easily visited on a day trip from Riga. However, I actually recommend spending a couple of days there to take in the fantastic, relaxing atmosphere and to visit all that the city and its gorgeous surroundings have to offer.

Continue reading this post to discover the many things to see and do in Cesis, Latvia, and to get some tips on how to plan your trip there.

For more things to do in Latvia, read my post “A Guide To The Things To Do In Latvia.”

Cesis Castle

The Medieval Castle is one of the unmissable sights of Cesis

10 Nice Things To See And Do In Cesis

Explore the beautiful Castle of Cesis

Cesis Castle is the most famous sight in town and the main reason people visit Cesis – and for a very good reason! Incredibly well preserved, the Castle is a beautiful sight from the outside, and if you take the time to do a guided tour you will discover its incredible and interesting history.

The Castle of Cesis was built in 1214 and back at the time it was the residence of the Knights of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. The Castle fell in 1577 when it was put under siege by the Russian army of tsar Ivan the Terrible, but continued being used as a residence until the end of the 17th century. It was abandoned after the Great Northern War and it was finally turned into a national monument in the 19th century.

Although you can explore the Castle of Cesis on your own, I wholeheartedly recommend joining a guided tour. This goes around the premises where various workshops have been established to show traditional crafts of the time when the castle was flourishing, as well as the vegetable and herb garden that once served the people living in the castle.

Once you are done visiting the outer parts, the guide will take you inside the actual castle, where you will be handed a candle lantern that you will need to illuminate your way through the darkest rooms and passages.

The guided tour costs €8 and lasts between one and one and a half hour – depending on how many questions you have for the guide.

Cesis Manor

The beautiful tower of Cesis New Castle

Visit the exhibition in Cesis Castle Manor House

Next to the medieval castle of Cesis there is a more modern one, known as Cesis new castle. This is a manor house that was built around 1761 and that was used as a residence by the Siever family until 1920. The castle now  hosts Cesis History and Art Museum. It only costs €3 to visit, so it is a nice and easy addition to the medieval castle.

Walk around Castle Park

Once the Siever family built the new castle, the head of the family, Count Carl von Sievers, also required the creation of a park around the castle that could be used as a recreation area. The park is free to enter since 1917 and it’s one of the most pleasant places to visit in Cesis. This is where festivals, concerts and other kind of performances take place. It’s a lovely place to spend some time finding refuge from the sun on hot summer days or – I can only imagine – appreciating the gorgeous foliage colors in the fall.

Admire St John’s Church

Currently under renovation, St. John’s Church is one of the unmissable places to visit in Cesis. It was built at the end of the 13th century and it’s the country’s largest basilica outside of Riga. The view of the Castle and the Old Town from the tower of the church are meant to be gorgeous. Unfortunately I was unable to climb there due to the renovation works – but if you visit when these are over, make sure to do so and confirm the information!

Cesis Latvia

The Old Man of Time is one of the symbols of Cesis

Take a look at the statue of the Old Man of Time

The statue of the Old Man of Time is the most curious sights in Cesis. Located right by St. John’s Church, the statue represents a hunchback monk holding a lantern, which according to legend he used to light other lanterns around town so that by illuminating the city at night he could keep watch over the safety of the town’s inhabitants.

Go to the railway station

Whether you travel to Cesis by train or not, make sure to spend some time admiring the beautiful building of Cesis railway station. I went there as there was a temporary exhibit of the Wabadus (Freedom), aka the Historic Armoured Train which was used during the Independence War, between 1918 and 1920, and which included a hospital wagon, a sleeper wagon and a combat wagon.

The exhibit ended on 22 June, but the station remains a beautiful building and a pleasant place to walk around for a little but.

Cesis Latvia

The lovely center of Cesis

Wander around the narrow streets of the Old Town

One of the nicest things to do in Cesis is wandering around aimlessly through the narrow cobbled alleys of the Old Town. This part of town is packed with beautiful, colorful, well kept buildings in traditional style and while most of the medieval buildings have long been gone, the layout of the city has been retained. Make sure to take notice of the beautiful buildings of the City Hall, the Merchant House, and the Princess House.

Pass by the Monument of Victory

Built in honor of Latvian and Estonian soldiers that fell during the Independence War of Latvia, the Monument of Victory was first placed in Cesis main square in 1924. It was then destroyed in 1952, when it was replaced with a statue of Lenin. This was dismantled in 1990 and in 1998 the Monument of Victory returned to its original status. You will walk by this monument on your way from the Old Town to the railway station, so it is virtually impossible to miss it.

Gauja National Park

One of the many gorgeous views along the bike ride from Cesis to Valmiera

Bike (or hike) from Cesis to Valmiera

If you are spending a couple of days in Cesis, you should make it a point to further explore Gauja National Park. One of the best ways to do so is by bike – a ride from Cesis to Valmiera will take you through some of the most iconic sights in the region, including the gorgeous sandstone cliffs; some tiny, quirky museums; the thick pine forest that runs along the Gauja River, and the gorgeous Latvian countryside.

The itinerary, which you can view here, runs for 45 km and it will take you around 6 hours to complete, depending on how often you stop. It’s a moderate to strenuous ride, as in some parts it goes through the forest where you will be biking over the thick roots of the trees.

You can follow the orange marks on the trees, rocks or on the ground, or the wooden signs with a bicycle symbol. You can even download Enter Gauja app on your smartphone so that you can always check where you are on the map.

Practical Information

You can rent bikes for the day at Ezi shop, which is located right outside Cesis Old Town, and return them in the Ezi shop in Valmiera. It costs €8.50 to rent the bike for a day, plus €3 more for the helmet.

From Valmira, you will have to get the bus to get back to Cesis. Buses depart regularly from the bus station. The ride lasts around 40 minutes and costs €1.60.

TIP: You can get a map of the itinerary at the Info Point in Cesis.

TIP: You will need to bring enough water and food for the day – there are no shops along the way!

TIP: If you aren’t into mountain biking, you can walk this trail – it will take you two days and you can spend the night near Sietiniezis cliff, where there is a camping site and a shed where you can stay in case of rain. You will have to bring enough food and water for the two days.

To find out more about Gauja National Park, head over to my postA Guide To Visiting Gauja National Park, Latvia.”

Admire the building of the oldest brewery in Northern Europe

Originally, Cesis’ brewery was located in the castle, where it was established in 1590. The brewery, which was moved to other premises, is called Cēsu Alus, is thought to be the oldest one in the Baltic countries. In 2001, the brewery was finally moved to its location in Palmu iela 13, while the old building is not in use anymore – it’s mean to become an exhibition and art center.

Railway Station

The beautiful building of the Railway Station

Practical Tips To Organize A Trip To Cesis

Where to stay and eat in Cesis

There are some excellent accommodation and eating options in Cesis and in the region of the Gauja. I have spent a few days there and stayed and ate at a few good places that I wholeheartedly recommend. Here they are:

  • Hotel Karlamuiza, is located in Kārļi, at about 10 km and 15 minutes drive from Cesis. This is a fantastic, family run countryside hotel with very large, comfortable rooms and that splendid countryside charm that will make you fall in love with it. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. All rooms have a view of the countryside and the area is so peaceful that you are guaranteed quality sleep. Guests can enjoy a home cooked, delicious meal – usually a traditional Latvian dish. Enquire beforehand about dietary requirements. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Hotel Vanadzina Maja is located in the main street in the historic center of Cesis. The comfortable rooms are decorated in modern Scandinavian style, so they are plain and extremely cozy. They all face a small courtyard. There is an on site restaurants known to be one of the best in Gauja. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Priede Café is a lovely small café right in one of the beautiful squares of Cesis. It has a fantastic selection of light and healthy as well as more earthy meals. Make sure to try the keto bowl.

How to get to Cesis

By public transportation

You can easily get to Cesis from Riga via public transportation.

By bus

Bus line 7730 leaves regularly from the center of Riga and takes about one hour and 50 minutes to reach Cesis bus station. The ticket costs €4.15.

By train

There also are regular trains that connect Riga to Cesis. Depending on the train, the ride lasts between one hour and 15 minutes and two hours. The ticket costs €3.50.

By car 

Since there is so much to see and do not just in Cesis but also around town, you may want to consider driving there. You can’t really park the car in the city center – there are strict time limits – but there is a large parking lot right outside. You can check the prices of car rental here.

Spending time in Riga? Make sure to read my post “A Guide To The Things To Do In Riga, Latvia.”

Other useful information

I recommend getting a good travel insurance for all your trips, including that to Latvia. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For more readings about Cesis and Gauja National Park, or for more about Latvia in general, you should consult the websites of the Tourism Board of Latvia and of that of Gauja. You can check one of these books:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Latvia and of Enter Gauja during my time in Cesis and I wish to thank them for welcoming me and for helping me organize a fantastic trip to this part of Latvia. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own.

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Discover what to see and do in Cesis Latvia - via @clautavani

 

A Guide To The Things To Do In Riga, Latvia

A Guide To The Things To Do In Riga, Latvia

There are many incredible things to do in Riga. The capital of Latvia is a fantastic mixture of history, tradition and modernity, to which you should add a buzzing cultural scene, fantastic dining opportunities and great nightlife.

This is the country’s biggest city: about a third of the total population of Latvia lives in Riga. In fact, it’s the most populated city of the three Baltic States. It has kept its identity while welcoming tourists as well as new residents who decided to move there.

Exploring Riga, you will be able to uncover the many layers of its history. Latvia has seen Swedish, Russian, Nazi and Soviet occupation and you’ll find hints of the occupation history across the city center. You will notice that next to medieval buildings there are some art nouveau ones that that back to the time when Riga started expanding beyond what is now known as Vecrīga, the Old Town.

Scattered around town there are many beautifully kept parks where locals and tourists alike enjoy spending time when the weather is nice. And the river that flows through the city is a perfect place to go for a walk or a bike ride.

In this post, I highlight some of the things to do in Riga, Latvia – keep in mind that this is only a selection based on my experience, and that more will be added once I visit the city again. At the end of the post you will find some tips on how to plan a trip there.

If you wish to join a guided tour of Riga, I have selected some of the best for you below:

things to do in Riga

A fantastic view of Riga

25 Fabulous Things To Do In Riga, Latvia

Go for a walk in the Old town

Riga Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the Old Town was destroyed during World War II, but after Latvia’s independence it was almost completely restored.
Vecrīga, as the locals call it, is a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys packed with colorful buildings, beautiful squares, and churches. There, you will be able to find some of the best museums in town as well as lovely small shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
It’s a lovely part of town to wander around and get lost for a day, exploring aimlessly and just taking in the atmosphere, discovering the main sights as well as the most hidden corners – that’s why I recommend starting your exploration from there.
Once you got a good feel for the Old Town, you should explore it more in depth and visit the most famous attractions, which I am highlighting below.
If you’d rather go on a guided tour of Riga Old Town, this is a good selection from which you can pick:

Climb to St. Peter’s Church viewing platform

One of the best things to do in Riga is seeing it from above. Now, this is easier said than done in a country where the highest peak is 311 meters and in a city that is virtually flat. However, rumor has it that the best views of Riga are from the viewing platform of St. Peter’s Church. This church, located in the heart of the Old Town, is one of the most iconic buildings in the city.
The church is open Monday to Saturdays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sundays (or 7:00 pm in the summer months). The entry fee is €9 and this gives access to the church, the exhibit and the platform from where you can take in the incredible views of the city.
TIP: If you are keen on getting inside and on the viewing platform make sure to check that St. Peter’s church is open on the day of your visit. Keep in mind that it is closed on national holidays – I wasn’t actually able to get on the viewing platform as I happened to be there on 23 June, which is a public holiday for the celebration of the summer solstice.
things to do in Riga

The lovely Cathedral of Riga

Visit the Cathedral of Riga

Riga is packed with churches – I think I lost count of how many I walked by when I was visiting. The Cathedral is in the Old Town, so there is no excuse to miss it.
Built in the 13th century, the church is famous for the beautiful wooden organ that was installed in the 1880s. It is the seat of the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. It underwent several modifications throughout the centuries.
what to see in Riga

The Three Brothers are among the most iconic sights in Riga

Find the Three Brothers

Another iconic spot in Riga is the Three Brothers, which are located in Mazā Pils Street. These are three buildings that are thought to be among the oldest complex of houses in town – they were built between the 15th and the 17th century.

The houses are honestly impossible to photograph because they are located in a very narrow street – you will need a very good wide angle lens if you want to take a good photo. But they are a nice sight nonetheless. Inside you will find a museum of architecture.

Admire the House of the Blackheads

One of the most beautiful buildings in Riga is the House of the Blackheads, which was built around 1330 century by an association of unmarried merchants which used it as a meeting place and for social gatherings.

The buildings underwent various modifications in the 16th and 19th century and it was almost completely destroyed during a raid by the German forces in 1941. It was only rebuilt after the end of the Soviet occupation, and finished in 1999.

what to do in Riga

The beautiful House of the Blackheads, in Town Hall Square

Hang out in Town Hall Square

One of Riga’s landmarks is the Town Hall Square, where the beautiful House of the Blackheads is located. The square has been completely rebuilt as it was destroyed during WWII. This is the place where Riga used to light its Christmas tree for centuries – now, a stone remains to show where the tree used to be located, but unless you know it is there you won’t really notice it. It’ also where the Town Hall is located.

Located in the Town Square you will find the famous House of the Blackheads which I have mentioned above, and the Museum of the Occupation, which I will talk about more in depth below. You’ll also see the statue of a knight which intends to represent the Medieval privileges which Riga used to have.

Riga Latvia

The Swedish Gate is one of Riga’s prettiest sights

Pass through the Swedish Gate

When you visit Riga, make sure to pass by the Swedish Gate, which is located in the Old Town. This takes its name from the time during which Latvia was under the control of Sweden. Back in Medieval times the city was protected by a wall and protective towers were built around it. There were various gates to enter the city, and the only remaining one is the Swedish Gate, which was actually built in 1698.

As the city expanded, the old walls and towers were of no use so they were destroyed – but right by the Swedish Gate there used to be the apartment of the city executioner, who according to legend would place a red rose on his window any time there was an execution.

Black Balsam

You have to try Black Balsam!

Try Black Balsam 

Black Balsam is one of the national drinks of Latvia. It’s a very strong liquor made with a mixture of various herbs, which in the past was used for medicinal purposes (hence the name balsam). The taste reminded me a bit of that of Jägermeister, and brought back memories of the glorious days in which I could hold my drink (just one, really!).

The best place to try Black Balsam is Black Magic, which used to be a pharmacy and now is a lovely chocolaterie and patisserie where you can enjoy a good tea or hot chocolate, a couple of pralines and – obviously – the country’s favorite liquor. You can even try a Black Balsam cocktail. It’s open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.

Riga Latvia

The Latvia War Museum is located in the Powder Tower

Walk by the Powder Tower

One of the most intriguing sights in Riga is the Powder Tower. This tower got its name in the 17th century when it was used to store gunpowder. It’s more than 25 meters tall and it has a diameter of more than 14 meters. The tower was also used as a prison and torture chamber, and to store weapons until 1883. If you observe carefully you can also see the cannon balls that were walled in the tower to remember the Second Northern War.

Annexed to the Powder Tower there is a wing that hosts the Latvian War Museum, which is a military history museum. This is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (or 6:00 pm in the summer months) and it admission is free.

Riga Central Market

Riga Central Market is a must see – mind you, it’s huge!

Shop at the Central Market

I always say that visiting a city’s market is a fantastic way to get to know it and the Latvian capital is no different. There is no doubt that one of the coolest things to do in Riga is visiting the Central Market. Located south of the Old Town, the building that now hosts the Central Market dates back to the 1920s.

Mind you, it is huge – factor in at least one hour to explore it. This is where you should go to buy food, to admire the colorful stalls and to try some local specialties.

The market is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sundays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Beware of national holidays, when the market is either completely closed or not nearly as busy as you’d hope for.

If you want, you can even join a guided tour of the Central Market. You can book it here.

things to see in Riga

The Freedom Monument is one of the symbols of Riga

Pass by the Freedom Monument

East of Riga Old Town and by a gorgeous park you’ll find the Freedom Monument, which was erected in honor of the soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920. The monument dates back to 1935 and the area is where commemoration ceremonies take place.

Visit the Church of the Nativity of Christ

Not far from the Freedom Monument there’s the Church of the Nativity of Christ, which is very different from all other churches in town. First of all, it is an Orthodox church – so it is mostly used by the residents of Riga who are of Russian origins. The construction of the church started in 1876. You will be able to see its golden domes from a distance.

The church is currently under renovation but you can still visit it.

TIP: If you with to walk inside the church, make sure to dress modestly.

things to do in Riga

The Church of the Nativity of Christ as seen from the Skyline Bar – you can even see the National Library in the distance

Take in the views from the Skyline Bar

Other than the viewing platform of St. Peter’s Church, another excellent place for views of Riga is the Skyline Bar. This is located on the 26th floor of Radisson Blu Hotel on Elizabetes, minutes walk from the Church of the Nativity of Christ. You will have to ride the panoramic elevator and then you can walk around the bar to take in the breathtaking views.

It is free to enter, but I honestly recommend sitting at one of the tables and grabbing a drink – it’s not one of the cheapest bars in town (at least not by Latvian standards!) but totally worth it.

TIP: Walk to the toilets for floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the city.

Visit the Museum of Occupation

I am a strong believer that traveling doesn’t have to be just merry and fun, but that it should also imply learning about the history and culture of a place, no matter how strikingly different from ours that may be; and no matter how violent or disturbing it may be. That’s why I encourage people to visit places such as Chernobyl, in Ukraine (though now it appears like it’s becoming the backdrop of pictures of insensitive so-called influencers – which I find extremely upsetting).

Discover more about Chernobyl in my post Everything You Need To Know To Visit Chernobyl.”

If you visit Latvia, you really should make it a point to learn about its difficult past. There are a few places in town where you can do that, and you should visit at least a couple. The Museum of Occupation, which is located in the Town Hall Square, is where you can learn more about the history of the Latvia between 1940 and 1991, when it was first under Soviet occupation, then under Nazi rule and once again under Soviet occupation.

At the Museum of Occupation you will be able to browse through documents and other artifacts that testify of the difficult times during which political opponents where subject to torture, imprisoned, deported to Siberia and brutally executed.

The museum is open daily from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. There is no entry fee but you have to pay a small fee for a guided tour.

what to do in Riga

If you visit just one museum in Riga, it has to be The Corner House

Take a tour of The Corner House

If you have time to visit just one museum when you are in Riga, then it has to be The Corner House. This is what to see in Riga if you want to learn about the time of the occupation.

The Corner House is the former KGB building, and takes its name from the entry location – right on the corner of a street in the center of Riga. It’s a building that was first used by the Nazi and then by the Soviet regime to interrogate, torture, imprison and kill anybody who was suspected to be a political opponent.

Relatives of people who had disappeared would go to The Corner House to enquire about their loved ones, but it was a well known fact that the majority people who entered that building would never exit it – not alive at least.

The Corner House is open every day from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. You can enter the permanent exhibition on the ground floor for free; but for a more in depth visit you need to join a guided tour which costs €10 and lasts little over one hour. I recommend booking it in advance here, as it is often sold out.

Keep in mind that much like other museums in town, The Corner House is closed on national holidays.

For more places to visit in Latvia, check out my post “A Guide To The Things To Do In Latvia.”

Admire the Art Nouveau scattered around town

Walking around Riga you’ll often notice people staring up, looking at buildings. If you look in the same direction, you’ll quickly realize that they are staring at one of the 800 Art Nouveau buildings scattered around town. In other words, Riga is an Art Nouveau extravaganza and if you like this style, you’ll be in for a treat.

Most Art Nouveau buildings in Riga date back to the time when the city started expanding beyond the Old Town, thanks to an incredible financial growth. The new upper middle class was looking for buildings to show off their wealth and they invested in gorgeous homes with curved doorways and windows, floral reliefs and statues of women and all the typical traits of this artistic trend.

Most Art Nouveau of Riga can be found north and east of the Old Town. Some of the best examples are on Elizabetes street.

If you are into Art Nouveau, I recommend joining a guided tour to make the most of what Riga has to offer. These are some excellent tours:

what to see in Riga

Riga is Art Nouveau extravaganza

Especially in Albert Street

If you want to see a huge concentration of Art Nouveau, head straight to Albert Street. It’s a small street, really – you can walk it in a matter of a couple of minutes. Unless you end up marveling at the many examples of Art Nouveau that all seem to be located there.

The street dates back to 1901 and most of the buildings were designed by Mikhail Eisenstein. Among the palaces you should observe there are those located on civic numbers 1 (built in 1901), 2a (built in 1906), 4 (built in 1904), 8 (built in 1903) and 12.

Visit Žanis Lipke Memorial

This small museum is located on the small Ķīpsala island in Riga. It was opened in 2012 to commemorate the life and doings of Žanis Lipke, who saved a number of Jews from deportation by hiding them in a shelter (first a woodshed then an actual bunker) right next to his house.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12:00 to 6:00 pm and it stays close on national holidays.

TIP: Make sure to check whether the museum is open on the day you intend to visit. Žanis Lipke Memorial is honestly a bit hard to find and out of the center of Riga, and you may discover upon getting there that it’s actually closed. To get there, follow the signs on the wooden planks scattered around Ķīpsala island.

Riga Latvia

Riga Radio and TV Tower as seen from Kengaraga Promenade

Marvel at the National Library building

Walking along the Daugava River you can spot a building in the shape of a sail. I kept wondering what it was until I actually went to check it out, and discovered it’s the building of the National Library. If the building is cool to look at, the views of Riga from it are just as great.

You will need to get a temporary pass to get in, but then can wander around the various floors and rooms that have stunning views of the city.

Stare at the Radio and TV Tower in the distance

Another building you will notice as you walk along the River is a tall antenna-looking building. This is Riga Radio and TV Tower, which is located at Zaķusala and was built between 1979 and 1989 – though it first started broadcasting in 1986 (however, documents revealed that its existence was thought necessary since 1967).

With its 368 meters, Riga Radio and TV Tower is the highest one in the European Union, and a sight you will notice pretty much no matter where you are in town.

Walk along Kengaraga Promenade

One of the things you will definitely appreciate in Riga is how much nature there is within the city, which is packed with beautifully kept parks that regularly attract local families, young couples and tourists alike.

If city parks are nice places to hang out, one of the things to do in Riga is going on a walk along Kengaraga Promenade. It’s a nice, long walk that goes along the river and goes to one of Riga’s prettiest neighborhoods (Kengaraga). You can get there from the Old Town if you follow the foot and bike path along the river, going south.

You will see lots of small river hangouts – places where the locals enjoy a bit of sun and fresh air and feel a million miles away from the city. Chances are you will be the only tourist around – if anything, because there is no information about it in English online!

Bike around

Though public transportation in Riga works well, the best way to move around is by bike. Bike lanes are pretty much everywhere and drivers seem to be quite aware of the presence of bikes. Biking is a fast, easy, budget and environmentally friendly way to go from one place to the other and visit all the main tourist attractions in town.

There are several places where you can rent bikes in Riga, and there even is an app called Nextbike that you can use to locate the nearest bike to rent. I don’t recommend the app though, as it is still in its developing stages and quite glitchy.

visit Riga

The famous Iron Bridge of Riga

Cross the gorgeous bridges

The Daugava River flows through Riga, and with it come several gorgeous looking bridges from where you can catch a beautiful view of the city and which are an impressive sight in and of themselves. My favorite ones are the Iron Railway Bridge, which was first inaugurated in 1914 and shelled during WWI and WWII and rebuilt each time – it’s  600 meters long; and Vanšu Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge which is 595 meters long and connects downtown Riga with Ķīpsala island.

Have a fabulous meal

There are plenty of good restaurants in Riga and if you feel hungry you are bound to find something for you. The Central Market is the perfect place to entertain your taste buds trying some local bites, but if you are looking for something a bit more filling you should sit down at one of the many beautiful restaurants in town.

Here are some places I have tried, tested and approved: 

Paviljons Ziedoņdārzs, in Aleksandra Čaka iela 100 is located at the center of a beautiful park. You will find many local staples cooked with a modern twist. Service is quick and the staff incredibly friendly.

Fazenda, in Baznīcas iela 14, is a nice, quirky looking restaurant with extremely friendly staff. You will find a great selection of local staples and international cuisine. The atmosphere is very easygoing – I loved the background music!

Kas dārzā, in Radio iela 1, has an extensive menu of Latvian and international cuisine, with ample choice to satisfy any kind of palate. You will also find an incredible selection of cocktails and a good wine list. It’s located at the side of a beautiful park, so in the summer time you can grab a table outside.

Fat Pumpkin, in Grēcinieku iela 11 in the heart of Riga Old Town, is a 100% vegan restaurant where you will find a selection of burgers and other ethnic food, as well as good desserts. It’s a bit more expensive than the local average, and service is a bit slow – but it’s worth waiting.

Street Burgers is a local chain and you will find several locations scattered around town. You can pick among the many burgers – they even have vegetarian and vegan options – or build your own. It’s budget friendly, quick, and extremely tasty.

Gauja National Park

You can visit Gauja National Park on a day trip from Riga

Get out of town to explore Gauja National Park

Riga didn’t give me the impression of a particularly stressful city, but it’s nevertheless nice to get out of the city for a day (or more) to enjoy everything else that Latvia has to offer.

One of the best places you can go for an easy day trip from Riga is Gauja National Park, which is the largest national park in the country, with several access points and can be reached in around one hour from Riga. Gauja National Park is a great place to hike, bike and just spend time in the pristine nature and enjoy clean air.

For more information about Gauja National Park read my post A Guide To Visiting Gauja National Park, Latvia.” Make sure to also read my post A Complete Guide To Cesis, Latvia.”

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Riga

Where to stay in Riga

Riga has some very good accommodation options and you won’t have a hard time finding something to suit your needs and budget. I have tried a few places in town and they were all good – though I have my preferences.

Here are a few places I recommend:

  • Tallink Hotel is located a bit outside Riga Old Town. It’s a large business style hotel with comfortable modern rooms and an excellent breakfast buffet. For an additional price, you can have brunch on Sundays. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Art Garden Rooms is a lovely small bed and breakfast located at about 15 minutes walk from Riga Old Town. Rooms are all different, very large and comfortable and the overall place is spotless. Breakfast is scrumptious – much better than hotel breakfast. It would be my first choice if I travel to Riga again. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
  • Tree House is a nice, well kept hostel in Riga Old Town. There is a twin and even a family room and a selection of dorms, all of them very clean. It’s perfect for travelers on a smaller budget. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Vanšu Bridge Riga

Clear sky and warm temperatures – and beautiful views of the Vanšu Bridge of Riga

Best time to visit Riga

I visited Riga in June and enjoyed the long, sunny days and pleasant temperatures. If you are looking to enjoy the outdoors, that is a perfect time to visit Latvia and spend some time in Riga.

The atmosphere is supposed to be truly magic in the winter, when it snows, and I am curious to experience that as well. All in all I think any time is a good time to visit Riga!

How to get to Riga

By plane

Riga International Airport is at about 13 km and 20 minutes drive from the center or Riga. The airport is well connected to the rest of the Europe and the world via regular and budget flights, with direct flights to most European capitals as well as Russia, Turkey and Israel.

By ferry

There are regular ferry connections between Stockholm and Riga.

By train or bus

Riga is connected via a web of bus routes to other cities in the Baltic as well as to Russia and Belarus by trail.

How to get to Riga City Center from the airport

You can easily reach Riga City Center from the airport. Below are all the options you have.

By taxi

Once you exit the main terminal, you will find taxis waiting for passengers to be taken to the city. The ride lasts about 20 minutes. Make sure to check the fares which are usually written outside the vehicle.

By private transfer

Another way of getting to Riga from the airport is by private transfer. Prices vary depending on the size of the group, and hardly ever go over  €35. You can check the fares here.

By bus

Several buses connect Riga airport to the town center. You can use bus n. 22 and minibuses n. 322 and 241. You can buy the ticket in advance (it costs €1.15) or directly on the bus (where it costs €2). There is a bus every 15 minutes with more frequent buses during peak hours.

How to move around Riga

The best way to explore Riga is on foot, and the city if very pedestrian friendly with very large pavements. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and make use of the excellent web of bike lanes.

Other useful information

As always, make sure to get a good travel insurance for all your trips. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For more readings about Riga and Latvia in general, head over to the website of the Tourism Board of Latvia. You can also check one of these books:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Latvia when I visited Riga and I wish to thank them for showing me all the classic sights and the most undiscovered and unique places. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are my own.

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Discover the things to do in Riga, Latvia - via @clautavani