The best destination comparison site!
The best destination comparison site!
Both Naples and Riga are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is an abundance of travel guides for both cities, but few actually comparing them, and advising you which is the better for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased and independent views of Riga and Naples, hopefully making your choice that little easier.
The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
Riga is a cool and collected Baltic capital. Bridging both sides of the Daugava River estuary, its laid-back districts effortlessly flit from elegant Art Nouveau to stoic northern cottages built from wood.
But it's the Old Town area that really draws the eye. That's a web of cobbled alleys and hidden squares. Onion domes and Gothic belfries loom overhead in those parts, and hearty Latvian taverns slosh with beers and burst with dumplings in cellars beneath the flagstones.
Be warned that Riga has developed a reputation for stag and hen do weekending. If you travel during the summer, you're likely to encounter at least one group of boozed-up Brits.
But that shouldn't put you off. There are enough craft beer joints, bohemian cafes, and restaurants to go around. What's more, the old guild houses and haunting churches can balance the experience out with a dollop of culture and history.
Which city would I go to?
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
Naples (via a guided tour)
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Which for my food obsessed friend?
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)
The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map).
The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.
We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!
Riga might be the largest of the three Baltic capitals, but it's still a relatively small city. You can get from end to end in less than 40 minutes in the car, while the districts that are of interest to travellers are all within walking distance of each other.
That helps if you're only planning a short weekend away. Fly-in, fly-out city breaks are totally doable. In fact, a couple of days is what the majority of travellers come for.
If you want to explore for longer, you might want to come during the summertime. Not only can the winters here get downright cold (more on that later), but Riga is close to the some of the most celebrated beach resorts on the whole Baltic coast.
That's a tricky one. Naples itself can be seen from tip to toe in just a couple of days. We'd say around 48 hours is perfect for tasting Neapolitan pizzas in legendary L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele and feeling the vibes down lively Spaccanapoli – the main drag in the historic centre.
For a longer stay of five to seven days, there's a catch: A lot of Naples's main draws are outside of town. Think the likes of Pompeii, the soaring crater of Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast. To add those on, you'll need to plan to come here for considerably more time.
Spring is the best time of year in Naples. This southern city gets warm nice and early, so you can expect April highs in the 20s and even enough sun to hit the beaches of Gaiola and the local lidos if you want to take a dip in the Med. There are fewer other travellers about before the summer rush too, which means you'll find it more pleasant strolling the historic centre and Pompeii.
Of course, that's not to say the summer is bad in these parts. It most certainly isn't. Reliable warmth and loads of sunshine, topped off with a buzz about town, help make the months between June and August great options. Just be prepared to pay extra for hotels and flights, and don't expect the city to be quiet.
The Baltic summers are a tamer version of the warm season in the south of the continent. It's pleasant here when the temperature squeezes into the low 20s. Then, Riga goes al fresco in earnest.
The cafes on the main squares in the Riga Old Town buzz with life and chatter. There are students and backpackers sharing stories in the beer bar gardens at evening. Those, coupled with the enticing beaches of Jūrmala, are all reasons to plan to arrive sometime between June and September.
Winter in this corner of the continent can be cold. Really cold. It's not uncommon to see whole weeks go by without the thermometers passing single figures, or even positive numbers! Snow is normal, too, so it's wise to pack underlayers and good boots to hit the sightseeing trail anytime from November onwards.
Riga does well to distil rich Baltic history, a touch of hedonism, and authentic culture into a bitesize destination. With a population of under 650,000, you're not going to have to navigate a colossal megacity to get stuck into the action here.
You can spend most of your time walking from sight to sight, and enjoy relaxed dining and nightlife scenes to boot. It's one for the more chilled traveller.
The flip side of all that is that Riga isn't some bucket-list-busting capital. It's not got huge, world-famous sights. Instead, it's about enjoying the atmosphere, the regional food, and the intriguing merchant heritage of the place. You also might want to steer clear of the city if you hate the sight of stag and hen dos. They are rampant between June and August especially.
Naples is a raw and immersive Italian city. It's got pizza places that are frequented by locals. It's got wine bars serving gorgeous Campanian tipples. It's lived-in and gritty and real. That makes it perfect for city hoppers who like atmosphere and energy. And the joys don't end there…
Just around the Bay of Naples are two of the country's most impressive archaeological sites: Pompeii and Herculaneum. They'll entertain the history lovers, along with the likes of the Castel dell'Ovo and the vast Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Loved-up duos might also want to make Naples a pitstop on a couple's break to the impossibly gorgeous Amalfi Coast that lies to the south.
Naples isn't for those who like small, easy-going towns where there's lots of room. It's crammed between the volcanos and the sea, so things are compact in the centre. It can also be quite hectic, with touts and traffic.
Hop between the charming plazas and Art Nouveau neighbourhoods of Riga with help from this curated itinerary. It lasts two days and includes most of the mainstream sights and some hidden extras for good measure:
Day 1: Breeze straight into the Riga Old Town. This medieval maze of a district is a fairy-tale place to be. It's also got a glut of sights. Start on the square topped by Saint Peter's Church. The oldest Christian building in the city, it's been rebuilt and reconstructed many a time.
You can scale the 120 or so metres to the top of the spire to get 360-degree views of the river, the capital, and even the Baltic coast. Back on ground level and a few streets over, you can see beautiful Town Hall Square. The most eye-catching building in the city looms on one side.
It's the so-called House of the Blackheads, where rich bachelor merchants held court for several hundred years. Delve inside for exhibits that unravel the enthralling past of the city since the age of the Hanseatic League.
Day 2: Hangover or not, you should rise early and make for the western area of Miera Iela. The cracked-plaster façades of the old buildings there herald what's surely the most hipster and creative corner of the city. Students and young professionals are everywhere, and there are some top brunch spots to kick start your morning. Then bear eastwards, back towards the Old Town.
On the way, you'll have to navigate Centrs district. Your first pitstop should be Alberta 12, where a grand edifice decorated with statues of nymphs and floral motifs commands the attention. It's one of the finest examples of the Art Nouveau style for which Riga is famous. Inside, you'll even find the Riga Art Nouveau Museum, which chronicles the architectural and design style from the turn of the century onwards.
Lunch can be had in the new town area to the south – Dzirnavu Iela especially has some charming café-bars and great shopping. The pretty walking paths of Vermane Garden can be perfect for an afternoon stroll if the sun is shining. They will take you all the way to the vibrant Pilsetas kanals garden, the home of the town's padlock-covered love bridge that's in good proximity to some hearty Old Town taverns for dinner.
Everything from millennia-old villas to rich art collections is on offer in this 48-hour guide to Naples. Oh, and there are plenty of chances to devour pizza – it's considered the very best in Italy.
Day 1: Start in the Quartieri Spagnoli. Ramshackle and rough around the edges, it's the perfect combo of Neapolitan grit and charm. There's bound to be a cafeteria serving cannoli (crunchy Sicilian pastries) and cappuccino there that takes your fancy.
You'll need the energy, because your next destination is the acclaimed Naples National Archaeological Museum. It's known to have one of the largest collections of Roman artifacts anywhere in the world, but the standout highlight is surely the Alexander Mosaic, reconstructed from the floors of Pompeii's opulent House of the Faun.
Once you're done in there, head south to the sleepless street of Spaccanapoli. Literally meaning 'the street that divides Naples', it does exactly as that implies. It runs right through the heart of the city, with drooping washing lines, street-food vendors and age-old churches looming on both sides. It will take a while to walk its two kilometres but it's all about breathing in the urban energy. What's more, the iconic L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele sits at the eastern end.
Day 2: Rise early and get to the platforms of Naples Centrale station. That's where the trains depart for Pompeii in the morning. You might just have heard of that place – it was once an entire Roman resort town for the nobles and elite of the empire.
That is, until Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted in 79 AD and flooded it with lava and ash. These days, the site is an amazing and haunting archaeological dig, with whole streets, entire villas, and even brothels complete with Roman wall art just waiting to be discovered.
It's likely Pompeii will take more than half of the day, while the most devoted history buffs can add on a trip to Herculaneum to boot. If not, head back to Naples city and go straight to the hilltops where the Castle of St Elmo keeps watch. That's the Vomero district, and it's famed for its sweeping panoramas of the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. With that as the backdrop, find yourself a traditional trattoria or pizzeria and dine with a view of the metropolis to cap off the trip.
Riga International Airport is the largest in all of the Baltic states. It's served by flights originating all over Europe, in Russia, and even the Middle East. Bus 22 and plenty of private taxi firms offer connections to the city, though you'll need to be wary of scam drivers who often crank up the price to €80 or more! The trip to the downtown from the terminals usually takes no more than 30 minutes.
You shouldn't need to deal with any public transport on a city break to Riga. The town is nice and compact, so a good pair of shoes and a willingness to walk is usually enough to get around. That said, there are streetcars, buses and minibuses on the same network. Grab yourself an e-talons ticket to use the lot. Each ride costs €1.15 and needs to be renewed if you transfer.
Keep your guard up when walking around Riga, particularly after dark or a few beers. The capital is generally safe, but areas like Maskavas Forštate should be avoided. Pickpockets and petty theft, along with taxi scams, tend to be the biggest dangers of all.
Capodichino Airport, or Naples Airport, is the main gateway to the city by air. It's the fifth largest in the country, so should have lots of low-cost and premium services jetting into its runways. There's a metro line to the terminal in the works, but for now arrivals will need to use the Alibus to Naples Centrale station. Tickets cost about €5 each way and the travel time is roughly 15 minutes outside of rush hours.
Centrale Station is a main stop on the north-south railway line through Italy. It's easy to get there on high-speed links from Rome and even Milan. That's one of the most glamourous ways to arrive in Campania, offering gorgeous views of the countryside before pulling right into the heart of the city.
Naples has a reputation for being Italy's roughest and most dangerous place.
It's true that crime rates are higher here than in the north. What's more, the mafia are still in action in these parts. You'll want to be a little more careful walking around areas like the Naples Centrale station and Quartieri Spagnoli.
Also try to stick to more touristy central districts, and don't walk alone at night. On top of that, be wary of street touts selling stolen goods, and be on the guard for pickpockets and drive-by thieves on scooters.