Riga, Latvia: one of the Baltic states crown jewels

Riga, Latvia is a happening place. Really, Riga, Latvia? Yep, the city has a spectacular variety of architecture including one of the largest representations of Art Nouveau, it’s got lots of entertainment options, shopping, fabulous food and its fair share of quirky places to visit. Riga is one of the places you can enjoy during our July 2022 cruise from Copenhagen to Stockholm. More details here — Baltic tour — or give us a call at 262-538-2140. 

 Riga fun facts 

Located on the Baltic Sea, Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States with a population over 630,000. Its Old Town is a UNESCO site and it has churches that date back to the city’s origins in 1201. It has medieval buildings, wooden buildings and fabulous examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Five religious denominations existed peacefully in Riga, each with its own church. Latvia’s president lived in a palace in Riga. Latvian is the oldest European languages and most of the country’s population speak Russian, Latvian and English. 

It has the fifth fastest internet in the world! 

Old Town is one of the most popular entertainment districts in Europe, the city has some great experimental cuisine restaurants and it has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe with more than 500 buildings, mostly in Old Town. 

 Old Town: Architectural and entertainment center 

 Old Town is the geographic center of Riga. Buildings in Old Town were constructed during different periods of history so a walk in Old Town means you can see fabulous examples of Romanticism, Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Eclectic, Modernism and Art Nouveau architecture. The streets in Old Town are narrow and winding. In fact, Rozena Street is so narrow you can stand in the middle, spread your arms and touch buildings on either side. 

There are some fine examples of arts and crafts buildings in Old Town. You can purchase souvenirs at the stalls on Skamu Street. 

The churches and their courtyards are worth viewing. Restaurants as well as shops open off the courtyards. 

Riga Dome Cathedral is the seat of Latvia’s Lutheran Church’s archbishop. It dates back to the 13th Century and has a magnificent organ. It is the largest medieval church in the Baltics. 

Riga Dome Cathedral – interior

St. Peter’s Church has the highest church tower in the city with a viewing platform offering panoramic views of the city. St. Jacob’s Church is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church’s cardinal. 

 More architectural wonders… 

 The Latvian National Opera and Ballet is a unique architectural structure. It had its grand opening in 1863 after it was damaged by fire and restored. Major opera stars have launched their careers here and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was born in Riga, returned to dance here in 2015. 

Riga Castle sits on the banks of the River Daugara and it’s an impressive example of medieval castle architecture. It has undergone extensive remodeling and is an interesting melding of old and new architecture. The Bay Tower is constructed in Early Baroque style, but there are a number of rooms in the castle which can be classified as having Art Nouveau influences. Artwork from the 1920s and 1930s is throughout the castle and don’t miss the painted ceiling in the Hall of Ambassadors. 

Riga Castle

The Powder Tower, named because gun powder and cannons were stored here, has 11 canons on display as well as a cannonball catcher. It is an impressive military museum with collections featuring documents, photos, orders, weapons and uniforms. 

Fascinating, quirky places to visit 

 Three Brothers is three houses built right next to each other by three members of the same family in three different centuries. The oldest medieval homes in Riga, they now house the Latvian Museum of Architecture and the State Inspectorate for Heritage Protection. 

Intricate stonework and unusual gargoyles are visible on many of the large collection of Art Nouveau buildings on Albert iela Street. The Art Nouveau Museum has an extensive permanent exhibit of art nouveau items made or used in Riga as well as interior design items, clothing and accessories, artwork, photos and memorabilia. 

Close to Albert iela is Kronvalda Park. A former hunting ground, the park features a dancing fountain, Chinese pagoda and roller skating tracks. Another great park is Bastejkalna. It has romantic water features, flower gardens and a picturesque canal. The Corner House used to be KGB living quarters and is a permanent exhibit in the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. The Castle of Light is actually the national library and amidst the thousands of books, are quaint spaces to sit and read. Helicopters, gliders, fighter jets and more are on display at the Riga Aviation Museum. The World of Hats (yes, hats) is a museum with hats from around the world. See new cars, hot cars, custom cars, cool cars and old cars at the Riga Motormuseum. 

Bastejkalna park

Do your shopping at Riga’s Central Market, the largest market in Europe occupies five WWI Zeppelin hangers near the edge of River Daugava, and you will surely find what you want among the 3,000 plus vendors. Adaris Beers is one of Riga’s oldest and largest breweries and it runs the Beer Museum with interactive beer-making exhibits. 

And you certainly won’t go hungry — there’s schnitzel, rye bread, smoked fish, cold beet soup. Black Balsam, an interesting herbal liqueur with a 45% alcohol content, Krass which is fermented from rye bread and an amazing variety of tortes and sweets. 

 Riga, Stockholm and Copenhagen are stops on our Baltic vacation package. Need more info or want to make a reservation — As always, we can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 



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