The capital of Latvia is called the Scandinavian blonde with a fiery heart. It is the largest metropolis in the Baltics and home to one third of the entire population of the state. Youth is in the air in Riga, which manifests itself in a vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants, high-tech buildings. The city has an exciting 800-year history — the Medieval Hanseatic League, the authorities of Sweden, Poland, the Russian Empire and the USSR had an influence on its formation.
Who and why should come to Riga
Many sights of central Riga are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are medieval buildings, as well as wooden structures of the 19th century and striking examples of Art Nouveau architecture that are unlike any other. On the streets of Albert and Merlec, even ordinary residential buildings with their bizarre facades are worth the attention of connoisseurs of beauty.
Visiting Riga is also an exciting adventure for real gourmets. The huge Central Market is truly a treasure trove of flavors. The famous black pudding, cheeses, black bread, smoked fish — you will not be able to try any delicacies here. For drinks, travelers prefer tasting Riga Black Balsam, which is served in many bars throughout the city.
It is worth going to the capital of Latvia for a few days to enjoy not only urban recreation, but also countryside. Active tourists explore the natural beauties of Sigulda with its fabulous castles and romantic streets. And others go to admire the magnificence of the baroque and rococo of the Rundale Palace in the village of Pilsrundale.
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Despite being one of the best museums in the country, it is considered an eerie reminder of what Latvia went through in the 20th century. The scale of the destruction caused by the bombing of the city during the Second World War, the result of the struggle of local residents for independence — all this is reflected in the unique exhibits.
Ethnographic open-air museum
The museum is located outside the city and is a great place to get acquainted with the culture of Latvia. Especially it will appeal to those who have little time. The compositions provide an opportunity to see the entire spectrum of local culture: the life of the people of the 18th and 19th centuries is well represented in the form of artifacts, re-created wooden houses, churches and even windmills.
Previously, the museum was part of the Riga Porcelain Factory. The plant was founded in the 1960s and closed in the 90s. After the evaluation of porcelain products by an expert commission, the Riga Porcelain Museum was created, which stores unique products.
Latvian War Museum
One of the largest and oldest museums in Latvia was founded in 1916. Then it was called the museum of the Latvian riflemen. It is located in a historical building — in the Powder Tower of the XIV century, which was once a fortification.
The museum was created with the aim of educating visitors about the complex military and political history of Latvia, with a special focus on the struggle of Latvians for independence.
“World of Hats”
The collection of this museum includes headdresses from different eras, collected all over the world. Here visitors will find antique jeweled crowns, shaman hats, African masks and helmets, human hair caps, Balkan Sindhi topis, Mari shimakshis and much more.
Cultural and historical sights
National Opera and Ballet Theater
The Latvian Opera and Ballet Theatre, built in neoclassical style, was built in 1863. Its interiors were designed and designed by August Foltz, who also worked on the creation of the statue of Roland and the allegorical sculptures of the facade of the House of the Blackheads.
The Old Center of Riga on the right bank of the Daugava is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cobbled streets and squares of Vekriga are home to old houses and churches, art galleries and museums.
Rosen Street in the Old Town is the narrowest, and on Skarnu you can find an arts and crafts market selling exquisite souvenirs, including edible ones. Vekriga lost a third of its historical monuments during the Second World War, but most of them were restored after the independence of Latvia in 1990.
The majestic classical building, located on the banks of the Daugava, was built in 1330. A fire destroyed it six years ago, but the authorities managed to restore the damaged castle. Today it serves as the residence of the President of Latvia and has several museums open to the public.
On Maza Pils street at numbers 17, 19 and 21, there is the oldest complex of houses in Riga, which was built in the 15th century. In the first building, Gothic and Renaissance styles were mixed, in the second — the Renaissance with Dutch mannerism, in the third, the Baroque dominates. House No. 19 houses the Latvian Museum of Architecture.
In the Middle Ages, Riga was protected by a powerful wall with 20 towers and a 90-meter-wide moat, which later became the Pilsetas Canal. Of the eight gates that were installed at the entrance to the city, these are the only ones that have survived — Swedish.
True, a hundred years ago they were almost demolished along with the house in which they were cut through. But the society of architects managed to defend the monument, and then the building itself was seriously repaired.
Town Hall Square
In wartime, most of the medieval buildings and structures of the square were destroyed. However, within a few years, the city authorities managed to restore them. Now here medieval monuments of architecture coexist with modern buildings.
On the streets leading from the Town Hall Square deep into the city, there are numerous cafes and restaurants, there are shops where you can buy memorable souvenirs.
House of the Blackheads
One of the most luxurious houses in Riga was built in 1300 and is a recognizable landmark of the city. It can be seen on almost all postcards and many local souvenirs. In the 14th century, the building in the style of the Dutch Renaissance was built by the union of craftsmen for public needs.
Blackhead is the name of St. George, the patron saint of knights and warriors. A brotherhood was created in his honor, which included foreign merchants and itinerant traders.
Located in the very center of the city. The building of the Small Guild was designed by the outstanding architect Ya.D. Felsko, and from 1352 to 1936 it was a kind of headquarters for craftsmen.
The interiors of the premises are as beautiful as the building itself. Inside you can admire terrazzo mosaics, stained glass windows, window shutters with Gothic symbols. Today, the Small Guild is mainly used for celebrations, business meetings, conferences, presentations, balls and concerts.
“The Bremen Town Musicians”
On Skarnu Street there is a sculpture created based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm “The Bremen Town Musicians”. The story of four aged domestic animals — a donkey, a dog, a rooster and a cat, who went to Bremen to play music, is known all over the world.
It is believed that the monument in Riga, which was donated by the Bremen authorities in 1990, symbolizes Gorbachev’s perestroika. Tourists also believe that if you rub the face of each animal, you can find good luck. As a result, for 29 years the Bremen town musicians have been polished to a shine.
Like most landmarks and landmarks that symbolize the land’s freedom from its oppressors, the Freedom Monument is a tall structure with a proud woman standing on top of a column. She has three stars in her hand — each symbolizes the regions of Latvia.
It was for their independence that the locals fought. During the annexations, they belonged to different colonizers, and the authorities sought to unite them.
No tour of Riga is complete without a visit to the House of Cats. This is a building located at 10 Meistaru, on the roof of which there is a statue of a cat arching its back and preparing to jump.
The legend says that the merchants refused the owner of the house to join the Riga Merchant’s Guild. As a sign of silent protest, he built this sculpture with a tail to the Guild building. Later, he was accepted into society and turned the cat in the other direction.
Memorial of Zanis Lipke
Zanis Lipke was a dock worker and a brave man who saved about 50 Jews from the Nazis during World War II by hiding them in a sheltered bunker.
The German police never found the hideout, and Lipke was never caught, and none of the people involved were betrayed. The memorial was built right next to Lipke’s house in 2012. The building has a collection of testimonials from the lives of people rescued by the loader.
The street is known for its Art Nouveau residential buildings. Many of the buildings were designed by the famous architect Mikhail Eisenstein. Lovers of art, history and architecture will definitely appreciate the facades of buildings numbered 2, 2a, 4, 8 and 13. Yes, and the photos here are amazing.
The Dome Cathedral
St. Mary’s Dome Cathedral or Riga House is a popular tourist attraction in the city. The construction of the building began in 1211. A stunning architectural monument is visited with pleasure not only by believers and pilgrims, but also by lovers of beautiful photographs, history and medieval objects. This cathedral houses one of the largest organs in the world.
Church of Saint Gertrude
This is a Lutheran church, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. The actual date of the creation of the Old Church of St. Gertrude in Riga is unknown, but according to chronicles, it existed even before 1418.
St. Peter’s Church
The masterpiece of Riga architectural art has 800 years of history. Peter’s Church was reconstructed several times, the last restoration was carried out in 1941. Despite the fact that the interior of the cathedral is rather sparse, tourists love to visit this place. Here you can climb to the observation deck, which offers a stunning view of the whole of Riga.
Cathedral of the Nativity
The Riga Nativity Cathedral was built between 1876 and 1883 and is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the Baltics. The exterior is made in neo-Byzantine style, and the interior is decorated with traditional icons of Orthodox cathedrals. Some of them were written by the famous Vasily Vereshchagin. In Soviet times, the cathedral was turned into a planetarium.
Natural attractions and parks
The zoo was founded in mid-October 1912, and only 80 years later it was included in the list of the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Here you should definitely go to the animal feeding show.
Employees arrange such events with hippos, wild boars, giraffes, reindeer, meerkats, seals and other pets. The zoo covers an impressive area of 20 hectares and is home to 3,000 animals, not counting insects and invertebrates.
This is the old fortification moat of Riga. Once it protected the city from invaders, but today the area around the moat has turned into a beautiful park area. Latvians come here with their families to spend an unforgettable day in nature. And for tourists organize small trips by boat through the canal.
The park is located in the very center of the city and is the second oldest public park in Riga. Created at the beginning of the 19th century, it is named after Anna Gertrud Wehrman, a wealthy widow who provided a plot of land and a generous donation for the formation of the garden. Here you can see several sights at once.
Among them are sculptural structures, including the statue of Anna Gertrude and the Four Seasons fountain, monuments dedicated to famous Latvian personalities, and a wooden amphitheater.