The Ratway is divided into five sections:
- The Ratway
- The Ragged Flagon (the tavern used by the Thieves Guild)
- The Ragged Flagon - Cistern (the headquarters of the Thieves Guild; directly connected to the Ragged Flagon)
- The Ratway Vaults
- The Ratway Warrens
There are several weak enemies located in the Ratway Vaults and the Ratway Warrens.
During the main questline, the Dragonborn is sent here to find Esbern, one of the last Blades. There is an entrance near Honorhall Orphanage, down the stairs that are to the right of the eastern door, then left across the water, left from that short walkway, then the first right.
If there is trouble getting out, a lever next to a draw bridge in the first section will lower the bridge and allow exiting. In the Ragged Flagon Cistern, there is also a ladder up to Riften that may be used once the Dragonborn is a full member of the Thieves Guild.
After reading one of the Thalmor dossiers in the Thalmor Embassy during the quest "Diplomatic Immunity," the Dragonborn finds out about Esbern, one of the last remaining Blades, and asks Delphine about him. She says he may be found in the Ratway in Riften, and the Dragonborn sets out to find him before the Thalmor do. Access to the Ratway Warrens may require aiding a local thief named Brynjolf in the quest "A Chance Arrangement," in the marketplace of Riften. Once this is done, Brynjolf instructs the Dragonborn to go through the Ratway and get to the Ragged Flagon alive, where Brynjolf tells them that Esbern is hiding in the Ratway Warrens. The Dragonborn then goes through a series of tunnels being investigated by the Thalmor, and finds a heavy metal door: Esbern's room's door. Speaking to him about Delphine, the Thalmor, and the return of the dragons reveals more insight into the Blades and convinces him to join Delphine in the investigations, triggering the next quest, Alduin's Wall.
Retrieve Dravin's Bow
Dravin Llanith at the Merryfair Farm asks the Dragonborn to retrieve his bow from the Ratway, after it was stolen by thieves from Riften. The bow is located in the lowermost room in the Ratway Vaults.
- Inside the Ratway, on the way to the Ragged Flagon, there is a room full of plants and roots. In the middle there is a bloody stump, a basket and a dead lowlife, with an iron battleaxe close by. This implies that this room was used for executions.
- There's a pickpocket skill book, Beggar in the end of the Ratway.
- Getting to the lever which lowers the drawbridge requires going the long way around. However, one can simply use Whirlwind Sprint to get across.
- Gian the Fist can be found here. Looting his corpse yields the Gloves of the Pugilist, the only item with the Fortify Unarmed enchantment in the base game.
- Drahff and Hewnon's bodies never disappear.