Also known as the 'Art Nouveau Capital', Riga is located in the Baltic country of Latvia. Art Nouveau style of architecture in Europe, applies to buildings built around the 1990s, with elaborate facades with sculptures and intricate design. In Scandinavia, it is known by the term ‘Jugend' style. Riga also has a lovely Old Town. It is one of the Northern countries with a well-defined old town.
Top 5 Things To Do in Riga:
This is probably the first thing you will be doing in Riga! The old town ”Vecrīga” is perfect in the sense that it is packed with amazing sights and architecture and is not too large – you can easily cover the area on foot within a day, if you like. Walk on the cobblestone streets, sit in an old town café or pub and enjoy!
Riga's Old Town is part of UNESCO world heritage. It has undergone quite a bit of renovations to be in it's current state. There are some pretty impressive churches in Riga, mainly in the old town, but also outside, like the neo-gothic style Old Church of St. Gertrude. Some notable sights in Old Town are: St. Peter's Church, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, St. Jacob's Church, St. John's Church and the Riga Cathedral - a large medieval church that stands in the central square of the old town.
Other interesting sights include: The Swedish Gate - known as the ‘gateway to the city' this small passage was built in the 17th Century; the Three Brothers - old houses built side-by-side are known to be some of the oldest dwellings in this area; The Bremen Town Musicians - a sculpture based on a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, which tells the story of four ageing domestic animals, who after a lifetime of hard work are soon to be discarded and mistreated by their masters and they decide to run away. Can be found behind St. Peter's Church.
This is highly recommended and a must if you want to learn more about the sights in Old Town and not just walk around aimlessly 😉 There are free walking tours almost everyday in English where the guide will tell you a lot about the history of the place and take you to some interesting points. It lasts for about 1:30hrs. There are alternative free tours, but we would highly recommend the Old Riga tour! Check out their website at Riga Free Tours.
The Old Riga tours start at 10:00 at the entrance to St Peter's Church. The guides are local volunteers who have a passion for history and obviously guiding group tours! Our guide was super talkative and friendly, happy to answer questions about Riga. On the tour we stopped next to some important sights where the guide told us a little story about the place. Important stops included the Riga Synagogue - the only active synagogue in Riga - The guide highly recommended going in (subject to a fee); The Cat House (Latvian: Kaķu nams) and the House of the Blackheads - a popular landmark in Riga, which is a rebuilt version, basically a replica.
There are a couple of free museums in and around the old town which are worth checking out to learn about the history of the country. The Latvian War Museum, located in the lovely Powder Tower in the old town is highly recommended. The museum is several levels, spacious and there many interesting things to note. Reserve enough time – at least an hour for this.
You have to check out the Latvian Academy of Science tower! The historical building from the Soviet era stands distinct in Riga's skyline. A panorama viewing point at 65m can be accessed here. Open everyday from 10AM -10PM, April to November. Entry fee is 6€ / adult and you can take a lift to the 15th floor. From there, climb up stairs a couple of floors and enter the observation deck. More info on their website.
We enjoyed a few minutes looking over the city, the old town and Daugava river. Most famous sights can be seen from here – there's the TV tower that stands besides the Daugava, Old Town church towers, orthodox churches, Central Market and National Library. It does get quite windy but you probably don't need to stay out too long.
Feel the old market atmosphere and sample local goods, shop for fresh fruits, veggies and shrooms at the vibrant Central Market of Riga. It was on our last day in Riga so we didn't purchase anything but rather enjoyed the lively atmosphere. It was sunny and the outdoors stalls were filled with fresh produce. The most interesting thing about the Central Market is that it is housed in old German Zeppelin hangars. We also went into some of the first hangars where you find stalls selling bread, biscuits, other bakery items, more veg and herbs etc. Unfortunately we didn't sample anything in the markets. We did find some veggie samosas right outside the markets though.
We loved Riga, there was enough to see and do, amazing architecture and nice people – we would go back. Are you planning on visiting Riga? Save this post for later! We suggest a Baltic States trip route: Tallinn (Estonia) -> Pärnu (Estonia) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Vilnius (Lithuania)
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