Sigma sights.

Sigma sights.

Riga is the capital of Latvia and one of the largest cities in the Baltics, annually attracting millions of tourists from all over the world. Here are the cathedrals and houses built by the best architects of bygone eras. Riga’s streets are filled with living history, which, at first sight, charms and captivates travelers.

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Video: Riga


Riga has always had a high economic and political status, which was also reflected in its appearance. Now, Riga is a curious example of the many architectural styles that have made the city’s street space so unique. In 2014, Riga was selected as one of the European Capitals of Culture.

Spread across two banks of the Daugava River, the city demonstrates visual and cultural integrity. The city’s long history, which began in 1201, has been imprinted on ancient buildings and some streets still bear traces of the Middle Ages. The facades of many of Riga’s houses are decorated with original carvings and drawings.

If you are going on a trip here, it is worth bearing in mind that the city is conditionally divided into two parts – Old Riga and the historic center – each of which has its own unique atmosphere and curious sights. Therefore, you should plan your walking route according to this division, so that you can logically move from one area to the other.

View of Old Riga

Old Riga: a riot of architectural styles

Old Riga has existed as the center of its region for the past eight centuries. Because of its geographical location and economic status, the city has hosted many visitors and immigrants. Moreover, at certain times there have been more Germans than Latvians living here. Although at present the Latvian population clearly expresses its ethnic identity, the architecture of the city still bears witness to its multiethnic past. The fact is that visiting intellectuals and wealthy people from other countries built houses in the styles accepted in their homeland, so that the streets of Old Riga are overflowing with buildings by Italian, Dutch and German architects.

Swedish Gate in Riga A street in Old Riga The Dome Cathedral’s tower peeks through a narrow street in Riga

The main attraction of these places is Riga Castle. The palace was originally built in 1330, but over the following eight centuries it was regularly rebuilt by the rulers and had various functions. At the moment the residence of the president of Latvia and the National Museum of History are located on the territory of the complex. Visitors can walk around the castle and take a tour for free every day from 11:00 to 17:00.

The Powder Tower of Riga

If you are in Old Riga, it is worth a visit to the Dome Cathedral, founded in 1211. The decoration of the temple is one of the richest in Europe, as each era has made its architectural contribution to the appearance of the cathedral. Elements of the Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque styles can be discerned here. But the highlight of the cathedral is the organ. Its construction consists of 6,768 pipes, and their maximum height reaches the mark of 25 meters.

Despite the fact that regular services are held here, the doors of the temple are open to all visitors. From May to September you can see the interior from 9:00 to 18:00, and from October to April from 10:00 to 17:00. There are also organ concerts on Wednesdays and Fridays at 19:00, which are worth a visit in order to appreciate the magnitude and beauty of this musical instrument.

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Historic Center: Territory of Freedom

Riga was for a long time divided into two zones: the old town, where wealthy residents and the government lived, and the rest of the territory, where there were ordinary citizens’ homes. But from the middle of the XIX century the situation began to change and the dividing line between the two estates began to disappear. After the defensive walls of the old city were demolished, the so-called historic center appeared, which was rushed to be built by architects of international fame. The uniqueness of this area consists precisely in the fact that each house is a work of art, which has no analogues. Due to the stylistic diversity, this part of Riga is particularly popular among tourists, because here you can simply spend hours wandering the streets and contemplating masterpieces. This creative freedom of architects and artists has found its logical dominant in the Freedom Monument, which is the main attraction of the historic center.

Attractions in Riga

Shopping in Riga

Every traveler knows from his own experience that it is absolutely impossible to resist the desire to buy at least one souvenir of the trip, because it is precisely these little things over time revive memories of past adventures. But lately, buying things is increasingly becoming the main purpose of the trip, turning the vacation time into a full-fledged shopping tour. Riga is one of those European capitals that has quickly responded to the needs of tourists.

Shopping centers here are not just stores with things, but real cities, although on a smaller scale. The space of the complexes is so ordered and equipped with everything you need, that the buyers are able to walk the long corridors and halls all day long, not denying themselves any desire. Stores of famous brands constantly delight customers with seasonal discounts, about which you can find out in advance on the websites of manufacturers. The food court areas are crowded with all kinds of cafes and restaurants from all over the world, and a guest from any country can find exactly what he would definitely like to try. Most shopping centers also have an entertainment floor with movie theaters, skating rinks and children’s rooms.

Winter in Riga Origo Shopping Center

Perhaps the most popular shopping destination among tourists is the Origo shopping center. The secret of success of the complex is very simple – it is located right on the railway station, so everyone who leaves the city, be sure to walk through the avenues of stores and get something for the road. It is also convenient to wait for your train in one of the cafes or bookstores, where you can find a wide range of Russian-language publications.

Luckily, Riga’s urban planners have succeeded in combining consumer desire and cultural leisure, and that’s why they have built the Galerija Centrs complex in the heart of the Old Town. The whole building is designed as a glass passage, which blends in harmoniously with the surrounding architecture. In addition to its external appearance, Galerija Centrs also attracts visitors with an assortment of goods, the prices of which are tax-free.

A little farther from the center of Riga there are less popular supermarkets, but they are also worth a visit. At Spice, for example, in addition to clothes, you can find interesting furniture made by Latvian craftsmen. In the Domina Shopping Center, you can browse through models by local designers and buy something unique. But for those who went to Riga exclusively to buy things from the most popular brands, the most suitable place is Podium. Here you will find the most current collections of Dolce & Gabbana, Just Cavalli, Tru Trussardi, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and other famous fashion designers.

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Going shopping, it is worth bearing in mind that shopping centers in Riga open at 10:00 and continue their work until 20:00 or 21:00. Because of the density of development of the city not all complexes are equipped with parking lots, so it is worth thinking ahead about how to get to the right place. But once you walk through the doors of the center, be prepared for a leisure time filled with entertainment, pleasant shopping and cozy conversations over a cup of coffee.

Small Shops on Riga Street Vegetable Market in the City Centre

Hotels in Riga

Hotel selection by hotellook

Getting to Riga

Due to the fact that Latvia is a neighboring country to Russia, tourists have at once a few convenient options for transportation.

Those who value their vacation time and want to get to their destination as quickly as possible should consider flying. There are regular flights to Riga from the airports of Moscow and St. Petersburg, but you should buy tickets in advance. This direction is always crowded, because the Riga airport is the closest to Russia, where the low-cost low-cost Ryanair flies. In addition, pre-purchase gives the opportunity to buy a ticket with a big discount.

Another convenient way to get to Riga are the trains that run daily from all major cities of Russia. For example, from Moscow and St. Petersburg train leaves every evening and in the morning passengers step on the Riga platform. Trains of this direction are quite comfortable and, thanks to existing international agreements, very quickly cross the border of the two countries.

The third option – buses, the ticket for which is cheaper than the train. Unlike the train, passengers have to sit in the bus for the entire journey, which can take from 10 to 14 hours. But this method of travel has its advantages, because you can always choose a flight that makes stops in major cities in Latvia, and visit in addition a few more interesting places.

Sigma sights.

On June 25, 1211 in Riga Bishop Albrecht von Buxhoeveden opened a new cathedral. He diligently supervised the construction of the church, invested considerable sums of money and employed the best craftsmen. The oldest museum in Latvia – The History and Navigation Museum – is located in the Dome Cathedral ensemble.

House of Blackheads

An architectural monument dating back to the first third of the 14th century, the House of Blackheads was originally a meeting place for various public organisations in Riga. In the 17th century it was mainly owned by members of the Association of Foreign Merchants, whose patron saint at that time was St Maurice.

The historical center of Riga

The historical center of Riga began to be created only at the end of the 19th century after the demolition of the city fortifications. It was then that the first features of the canal embankment began to appear here, which became the boundary of old Riga and the city center.

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Cat House in Riga

There is also the Cat House in Riga, although it has nothing to do with the fairy tale, but it has its own no less interesting legend. A rich merchant built this house in 1910 and placed cats on it, with their backs to the Guild building, where the Latvian hero was not accepted.

Monument to the Musicians of Bremen

The sculptural composition of the Bremen Musicians monument in Riga is represented by four legendary characters from the Grimm fairy tale – a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. The monument to the Musicians of Bremen was cast by Bremen sculptor Krista Baumgartel and bears a deep political “subtext”.

Riga Castle

Today not a trace of the former might of the Riga Castle, which once served the valiant knights of the Livonian Order, is left. With the establishment of the castle by Poles and later by Swedes, its defensive functions practically ceased and during the years of Russian rule its defensive role was completely lost.

St. Peter’s Church in Riga

Due to its high spire, equipped with an observation deck, St. Peter’s Church is visible from afar. An elevator takes visitors up to 72 meters high, where the immense expanses of the city on the Western Dvina River are visible.

Small and Big Guilds

The Small Guild or Guild of St. John was among the craftsmen who operated in Riga from 1352 until 1936. Alongside the Small Guild, there was also a Big Guild or Guild of St. Mary (located opposite the Small Guild), which united Riga merchants and later also writers.

Daugavgrīva Castle

The history of Daugavgrīvas fortress dates back to the beginning of the 13th century, when a monastery was founded between the Gulf of Riga and the left tributary of the river Bulļupe. In the middle of the 13th century there was a fierce struggle between the church, knights and townsfolk for the monastery, and at the beginning of the 14th century the clergy sold the fortress.

Kalnciema Street quarter.

Why do tourists go to Riga? First of all, for the sake of the Old Town – losing sight of the fact that the Daugava River has the left bank. Meanwhile, to visit “the other side” is very worthwhile. If you need only to see the TV Tower from outside, you may find something no less interesting in the quiet old neighborhoods.

Latvian Museum of Architecture

Latvian Museum of Architecture is located in a residential complex of medieval buildings in Old Riga, known as the “Three Brothers”. The museum does not have a permanent exhibition, but its collection of more than 1,000 items is comprised of the architects’ original works – sketches, drawings and schemes.

Latvian National Museum of Art

The Latvian National Museum of Art is the oldest museum in Riga and was established in 1869. At that time the art gallery was housed in the building of the city gymnasium, but in 1872 it merged with the Riga German Art Encouragement Society and in 1905 a building was erected for the museum.

The Museum of Decorative Art and Design in Riga

The Museum of Decorative Art and Design exposition is devoted mainly to works of art, as well as design objects created by Latvian artists. The museum presents several themes: textile art, ceramics and porcelain, artistic leather, metal and glass processing.

Museum of History of Riga and Navigation

The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation is the oldest public museum in Latvia and the Baltics and one of the oldest in Europe. The basis of the museum’s exposition is the collection of natural science, art and historical objects of the doctor Nikolaus von Himsel from Riga.

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Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The museum’s exposition is dedicated to the 50 years of totalitarian rule during the occupation of Latvia up to the restoration of Latvia. The collection includes historical documents and photographs which reflect the history of Latvia from 1939 to 1991.

The Museum of Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova

The Romans Suta and Aleksandra Beļcova Museum is located in the former home of two of the most outstanding representatives of classical modernism in Latvian art history. The collection of the museum consists of more than 4,000 works of art, including paintings, hand-painted porcelain objects.

Old Car Museum in Riga

Riga Motor Museum is quite a long trip by car, but it will take even longer by bus or streetcar. But that’s okay, because then you’ll be stuck here for more than an hour. The museum stands in Mežciems, in a rather deserted residential area.

Porcelain Museum in Riga

The basis of the collection of the Museum of Porcelain is formed by the items produced at the Riga Porcelain Factory in the 1950s and 1990s, as well as items from the Kuznetsov Factory founded in 1841 and the Jessen Factory founded in 1886.

National Museum of History of Latvia

The National Museum of History of Latvia, founded in 1869, is dedicated to the history of Latvia from ancient times to the present day. The museum is located in the Riga Castle and it is the largest collection of valuables of the Latvian people. The museum has about 1 million items.

Park “Arcadia”

Arcadia Park is one of the oldest landscape projects in Riga. The citizens of Riga came to love these places for walks at the end of the 18th century. In the middle of the 19th century the Riga City Council bought these private territories, introduced exotic plants and equipped gardens with greenhouses.

Riga – a classic European city, light and cozy, it beckons tourists with its natural and cultural beauty. Here you can go on a grandiose journey through time, visiting the Middle Ages, to the beginning of the 19th century, and in the evening tired and happy to stop at the nearest bar and recall the pleasant gifts of 21.

For someone who grew up in the Soviet and post-Soviet space, Riga is an unaccountably familiar, recognizable and almost native Middle Ages. Meanwhile, in the years after perestroika, the city did not stand still. Today’s beautiful Riga is not only the House of Blackheads, Dome Cathedral or House with Cats (although, of course, all of these must be seen). But Riga is also excellent restaurants, modern spa and shopping centers, newest designer boutiques, superb zoo and slumbering Zadvinie, renovated TV tower and excellent museum of old cars.

The left bank of the Daugava and the city’s outskirts conceal many interesting things, and the city’s recent history has enriched it with some very interesting sights.

The Old Town is certainly the place to start looking around Riga. Gothic buildings and mansions with a history can be found here literally at every step. Unlike, for example, Tallinn, whose historical center can be walked around in half an hour, Riga’s Old Town is larger. You will not miss the cathedral, and sooner or later you will definitely end up in the Town Hall Square with stalls (and you will be tempted to buy knitted socks with traditional patterns, felt flower brooches, or a pound of candied or peppery almonds). On the way you will definitely come across stores of wool and handmade handicrafts, all beautiful but exorbitantly expensive. You will see St. Peter’s Church, which successfully competes with the Dome Cathedral in beauty and grandeur, and the monument to the Bremen musicians next to it.

London sights, details about the city

You’ll certainly appreciate the thick, green-red ivy-covered Powder Tower. Listen to Autumn leaves played by a colorful saxophonist on the beautiful square in front of the House of Blackheads. Walk through the Art Nouveau district near Albert Street. Fragments of the film “17 Moments of Spring” were shot there, including the famous scene of tragic end of professor Pleishner. The Hotel Eustace and restaurant “Alex”, which is located in front of the house, through the window of which the ill-fated professor made his last journey, are evidence of that. You’ll visit the cozy courtyard of the Convent, where you can have a nice cup of coffee and buy some handmade pottery as a memento. Take a walk through Riga’s lovely parks – you can start in Kronvalda Central Park and walk along the City Canal, where when the weather is nice and the sun is shining, and you’ll enjoy delicious local ice cream. And you can finish your busy day at the Riga Opera, where classical and modern music is staged and performers of very high caliber perform.

The famous black balsam of Riga, a must-see souvenir of the city, is almost impossible to drink in its pure form: it’s very strong and bitter. In recent years, a more humane version has been produced: a concentrated blackcurrant liqueur with a reduced strength of only 30°. In the bars of Riga, it’s mixed with cranberry juice and made into a deadly stomach shout.

But in this abundance of Riga’s ancient heritage, you should not limit yourself to the tourist center. The left bank of the Daugava and the city’s outskirts hold many interesting things to see, and the city’s recent history has enriched it with several landmarks. The soaring Freedom Monument on the Boulevard of the same name symbolises Latvian independence and commands respect. The futuristic National Library building on the other side of the river looks suspiciously like a radar station. Museum of old cars will occupy the boys (little and grown-ups) for several hours, and the perfectly arranged zoo – for all half a day. And the Riga TV Tower, still the highest in the EU, can be climbed to visit the observation deck with a view over the entire area.

Of course, it is impossible to ignore the Riga Covered Market right in front of the central railway station – a huge complex hallowed with glory already in the Soviet times. Here you will try and definitely want to take with you such delicacies, which you will hardly find at home: traditional blood sausage, fresh cream cheeses, amazing sour milk products. Be sure to find cheap and seemingly simple cookies “piparkukas”. The peculiarity of its recipe is a sweet shortbread dough with mustard and pepper. These cookies are usually made for the holidays – Christmas, Easter – and are still not exported to Russia.

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