The ancient port city of Riga is a cozy and elegant Latvian capital that has carefully preserved the rich heritage of Northern Europe. Visitors to Riga do not have to look for things to see in the city - there are sights at every turn, and each of them hides its own unique history. The city wonderfully combines antiquity and modernity, restaurant glitz and medieval spirit of the historic center, where all the most famous sights of Riga are concentrated. To visit cozy taverns, to admire the remarkable architecture of Riga’s cathedrals, to experience the imperishability of history in medieval castles, and, finally, to taste Riga sprats - all this and much more can be accomplished when you find yourself in glorious Riga.
The number of interesting places in Riga is literally boggling, and sometimes it is quite a challenge to choose what to see in Riga in 1 day or during a limited time period. Therefore, for future guests of Riga, here is a rating of attractions, which should be included in your first trip.
Nowhere in Riga can you feel the atmosphere of the Middle Ages as clearly as in its historic Old Town quarter. Each of its old buildings features traditional Nordic architecture. You can feel all the charm of the Old Town by visiting at least some of its attractions, be it a cathedral, a castle or a monument, walking through its narrow and intricate cobbled streets and relaxing in one of the coziest cafes.
Moving on to a detailed review of historical monuments of the Old Town, it is worth starting with the most important cultural object - Riga Castle. The medieval fortress, located on the very bank of the Daugava, had its own complicated fate. Initially it belonged to Livonian Order, later it was defeated by the troops of Ivan the Terrible and fell into disrepair. Later rulers from Sweden, Poland and even Russia used to reside here, and each remodeled the building according to their needs. Today the castle represents the residence of the Latvian president, and museum exhibitions are held in some of its rooms.
Official website: https://www.president.lv
Historically the first town hall building was erected in the 13th century immediately after the city gained the right to independent politics. Since then it has been changed and rebuilt many times, and as a result of the war in 1941 it was almost completely turned into ruins, only some fragments of the facade survived. Only after the 90s of the 20th century restoration works were started and since 2003 the Riga City Council is located in the new Riga City Hall building which is essentially a reconstructed copy of the old one.
Directly opposite the City Hall is another interesting place, one of the most beautiful buildings in Riga. It is the 14th century House of Blackheads, and it got its unusual name when the house was rented by the Merchant Guild. It was not safe to travel to other countries to buy goods, so the guild had the most adventurous people, and the black saint Mauritius was chosen as their symbolic “patron”, hence the name “Guild of Blackheads”. Today’s building is a remodel, erected already in the 1990s in the style typical of cities in Northern Europe.
Official site: http://www.melngalvjunams
The unusual house with two figures of cats on its pointed roof was built at the beginning of the last century and belonged to a merchant who wanted to join the Great Guild. Since he was not accepted, the sly merchant decided to take revenge, and place the metal cats on the roof of his house, with their backs to the building that housed the Large Guild. After a while, the sly one was accepted into the guild, and he turned one of the cats around to face him. He was the only survivor of the Guild of Cats in the Guild.
Then the journey through the city leads to the Mencendorf House. A bit warped by time, with different windows, and therefore particularly unusual building from the 17th century is located in the historic district of Riga. It used to be an ordinary house with a store and a pharmacy on the first floor. There is a legend that Riga’s famous balsam, originally used as a painkiller, was first produced here. Today there is a museum in the house, where items from the everyday life of Riga’s inhabitants are on display.
Official website: http://www.mencendorfanams
Some ancient buildings in Riga, even if they are not famous for any historical event, still attract people’s attention. Reviews testify that a striking example of this is the complex of houses “Three Brothers” of three buildings of unusual architecture, built in different years in continuation of each other. Thus, the white “elder” brother was built in the 15th century, yellow “middle” - in the middle of the 17th century, and green “junior” - in the last years of the 17th century. The facades of the houses are an amazing mix of several architectural styles from different times.
One of the streets of Riga is tacitly recognized as an open-air museum - all of its buildings, most of which were built at the beginning of the last century in just two years, is a perfect example of Art Nouveau. The street was created to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Riga, and it took its name from the city’s founder, Bishop Albert. All buildings on the street are decorated in a single style - German Art Nouveau, called “jugendstil”. This is a very pretentious style with a lot of intricate decorative elements, located on the facades.
The Swedish Gate is the only gate in Riga that has remained in its original form to this day
Conducting a tour, guides in Riga do not leave without attention the only fortress gates, which have survived in the city until today. By the way, originally there were 8 such gates, but only one - the Swedish gate - have survived, and almost in its original form. It is believed that through this gate the Latvian allies - the Swedes - left the city, committing a valiant feat of defense of the Riga fortress from the Russian troops. Peter the Great, appreciating the courage of the besiegers, allowed them to gather the remnants of their garrison and leave the city.
During the time of the Russian Empire, the whole system of fortifications in Riga was demolished. But still, it was decided to leave a separate element in tribute to the memory. This is the Powder Tower - a structure that for many years reliably protected the city from enemy attacks. Back in the 17th century, several cannon shells stuck in its walls, and they remained there. Since the beginning of the last century there is a military museum inside the tower, where military equipment, weapons collections and various objects of Latvian soldiers are exhibited.
Official website: http://www.karamuzejs
When choosing where to go in Riga, it is recommended to visit the Latvian National Opera. It must be said that the art of opera in the country has deep roots - in the 18th century there was a theater, where works of German classics were heard, and the conductor was Wagner himself - the famous musician of the time. Only in the last century, the Opera was opened here, which became the center of art in Riga. The repertoire of the Opera includes world famous opera and ballet works, music by Latvian composers, children’s performances.
Official website: https://www.opera
The high school, built at the beginning of the last century, is one of the most beautiful sights in Riga. The facade of this architectural monument is designed in the neo-Gothic style, with an abundance of carved, “openwork” decorative elements. Originally the building had a more simple purpose - the building housed a stock exchange. Later, during World War I, an infirmary for the wounded was organized there, and then one of the commercial schools. Only in 1940 the first rector of the Academy of Art of Latvia decided to “move” the college of art to this beautiful building, where it is located to this day.
Official website: http://www.lma.
One of the most important museums in Riga is the oldest not only in Latvia, but also in Europe. It was founded at the end of the 18th century and is located in the Dome Cathedral complex. The museum’s extensive exhibition, assembled by the efforts of numerous historical and archaeological societies, covers 16 halls and presents the entire 8-century history of Riga and the history of navigation from the 10th century to the present. In total, the number of museum exhibits is already more than half a million, all grouped in chronological and thematic order.
Official site: http://www.rigamuz
Excursions in Riga, organized to familiarize with the national art of Latvia, necessarily include a visit to the Art Museum of Latvia - the largest collection of national art works in the country is located here. The museum’s exposition of about 50,000 works reflects the history of global and national painting: there are paintings by Latvian artists, as well as collections of foreign artists from Europe and Russia.
Official website: http://www.lnmm
One of the important symbols of Riga is the medieval St. Peter’s Church, whose tall bell tower is visible from many points of the city. It is one of the oldest churches in Riga and was first mentioned at the beginning of the 13th century. The cathedral was severely damaged during the Second World War and restoration work was not completed until the 1980s. The structure, including the slender spire topped with a golden cockerel, is 123 meters high. In addition to the spire, the tower is adorned with an ancient clock that plays the Latvian national melody several times a day.
Official website: http://peterbaznica.riga
The following recommendations will touch on one of the most recognizable architectural creations in Riga. It is the Dome Cathedral, the center of the spiritual life of the city and the entire country. In addition to religious services, classical music concerts are regularly held here. And the history of the cathedral began as much as eight centuries ago, marking the successful conquest of Livonia. During these centuries, the cathedral has been subjected to repeated changes and restorations, and it has acquired its present appearance only near the end of the 18th century. The building, designed in a mixture of medieval Romanesque and Northern European Gothic, is impressive in size. A huge 25-meter musical organ, installed here at the end of the 19th century, is a special attraction of the church.
Official website: http://www.doms
The majestic symbol of Orthodoxy in Latvia is the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church in the country. Although it is a Latvian landmark, but it was founded with funds allocated by the Russian emperor, who, in addition, gave the temple also several bells for the bell tower. In the middle of the last century, during the Soviet era of atheism, the interior was barbarically destroyed and a cafe, planetarium, and various other institutions operated here. It was only at the beginning of the 90s that the active restoration of the cathedral began, during which it was brought to the form it has now.
Official website: http://sobor.lv/
In turn, the symbol of Catholicism is St. Jacob’s Cathedral, famous for its 80-meter high tower, looking upwards and topped with a gilded rooster figurine. This tower is the only one in Riga that has not changed its gothic look since its creation, and it should be said that it was built in the 13th century. The exterior of the cathedral has the same style, but the interior is a mix of several styles - the premises are light and spacious, with lots of high arches. The unusual decoration of some elements with fresh flowers and even real flowerbeds makes a special impression.
The most famous clock in Riga is located in the heart of Riga - the original turret-shaped clock, which was installed here at the beginning of the last century. Since at that time wristwatches were a luxury for many people, large street clocks were necessary so that workers could know the time and not be late for work. The launch of the city’s first streetcar brought this need with it, so the public transportation stops needed to be ennobled. Since then, an elegant pole clock decorates one of Riga’s main streets, and every hour it plays one of 24 popular melodies.
One of the modern sights of the Latvian capital, which almost every tourist knows, literally descended from the pages of the famous German fairy tale “The Town Musicians of Bremen”. Monument to the Town Musicians of Bremen in the Old Town embodies that fabulous episode when the animals, sitting on each other’s backs, look through the window of the bandits and begin to shout loudly. There is even a belief among residents that if you rub the nose of one of the sculpture’s animals and make a wish, it will definitely come true.
Against the background of the usual museums of national art, culture and history, the Museum of Antique Automobiles in Riga stands out brightly. It is one of the largest museums on the territory of the former USSR. Its facade attracts attention from afar - it is designed in the form of the radiator grille of a vintage Rolls-Royce car model. At the beginning of the 20th century Riga was known as the cradle of automobile industry and the city of car lovers. Today the museum represents a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles from the beginning of the 20th century, including limousines from the 1930s, sports cars and truly unique trophy models.
Official website: http://www.motormuzejs
In the middle of the 19th century, the famous Kuznetsov Porcelain Factory was opened in the Latvian capital. Since that time, a collection of porcelain pieces was formed and began to grow, and many years later they became part of the exposition of the Riga Porcelain Museum. Today the collection already includes about 6,000 items, among which there are truly original exhibits, such as a huge human-size vase and statuettes of the famous leaders Stalin and Lenin. Besides, in the museum you can also take a master class and see the process of porcelain production.
Official website: http://porcelanamuzejs
The “Money World” Visitors Center at the National Bank of Latvia in Riga is an exhibition entirely devoted to money, its history, circulation and the country’s financial policy. The museum collection is of particular interest to those who wish to learn about the world of money. All in all, the museum has several stands, multimedia presentations in a modern format, films and even computer games.
Official website: https://www.naudasskola.
Another idea of what to visit in Riga is in the area of trade. The Riga Central Market is one of the city’s landmarks. Only the size of the market deserves attention - its area is about 70 thousand square meters, and the total length of the tunnel, uniting all the departments of the market, is 337 meters. One can buy the freshest products, especially seafood - it is delivered here by water transport directly from the place of extraction. There are plenty of souvenirs from Riga - at prices almost half as low as elsewhere in the city.
Official site: https://www.rct.lv/ru/
In the center of the city, on Freedom Street, is the monument of the same name, which has become a symbol of the country’s independence. On top of the high 42-meter stele is a 9-meter sculpture, depicting a woman with three stars in her hands, symbolizing the three historic regions of the country. We can say that the design of the monument captures the history of the country - a variety of bas-reliefs, carved on several tiers of the stele, convey important historical subjects of the country and high moral values of its people.
Official website: http://www.latvia.travel
Despite the fact that the main sights of Riga briefly present quite an extensive list, in fact, this is only a small part of the treasures that conceals the Latvian capital. Other interesting sights of Riga photo with names and descriptions are a kind of “reserve” for sophisticated visitors, continuing to get acquainted with the city.
In the picturesque area of Riga, not far from Lake Kisezers, there is a large and oldest zoo in the Baltics. It began its work in 1908 when a society “Riga Zoo” was founded. Four years later the zoo opened its doors to visitors, offering 267 specimens of different animals. Throughout its history, the zoo has experienced hard times. The events of the First and Second World Wars and later - the collapse of the Soviet Union have seriously damaged it. But nowadays the territory of the park is expanding, the number of inhabitants is growing, and visitors are given tours of different kinds, lasting from an hour and a half.
Official website: http://www.rigazoo
One of the most beautiful parks in Riga is the oldest landscape complex “Arcadia”, located on the left bank of the Daugava. Two centuries ago there was a private garden here, which was later purchased by the city authorities, enlarged and planted with exotic plants. Over time, the garden began to turn into a comfortable green area, and later - into a real entertainment complex. Under the state program of improvement was equipped with a system of waterfalls, and the Marupite river with a changed channel began to flow through the park. Today, Arcadia is one of the most popular places to relax, walk and date.
Official website: http://www.citariga
Another ancient park, worthy of the top of the best sights in Riga, is Vermanes Park. This complex is named after philanthropist Anna Verman, who opened a recreation area here in the 19th century for city residents. Before her death in 1829, she bequeathed the park to the city authorities with the condition that this place would never be privatized, closed, or reorganized. Surprisingly, all these years this condition has been faithfully observed to this day. Now it is a well-groomed recreation area with a system of water channels, fountains, decorated with sculptures and various landscape compositions.
Official site: http://www.citariga
On the island of Zakusala on the Daugava River is a modern landmark of the city - the TV tower is about 370 meters high, one of the highest in all of Europe. At the height of about one hundred meters, which can be reached by high-speed elevator in seconds, there is an observation deck - the highest place in Riga where you can climb to see the city panorama. The tower began broadcasting in 1986, but the construction work continued for another three years. The technical capacity of the tower is constantly being improved, opening up new possibilities for TV broadcasts.
One of the most interesting bridges over the Daugava River is the cable-braced bridge, which begins at Riga Castle and crosses Kipsala. Its construction is very unusual - the only pylon supports the bridge and is connected to the roadway with a system of steel cables - cables. Its unusual design makes this bridge one of the most beautiful bridges in Riga, reminding you of a string musical instrument. The total length of the bridge is more than 0.5 km, but the width is 30 meters.
Once in Riga, everyone wishes to return to its cozy streets, where still lurks the spirit of centuries. Even if you are a regular visitor of Riga, this sophisticated and stately city will always be a never-read book which leaves you longing to return to see it again. All the more, the tourist infrastructure of Riga provides all the possibilities for an unforgettable acquaintance with the city, and hotels of Riga offer luxurious accommodation and rest conditions.