Latvia’s capital has long been a trading port between Russia and Central and Western Europe. It became a member of the Hanseatic League in the thirteenth century and thus became widely known. A trade alliance between the Netherlands and Riga also bore fruit. Unfortunately, Riga also had to endure many oppressions. Thus, the USSR and later Germany left a considerable mark on the city and the country. It was not until 1991 that independence was achieved and Riga was able to recover again. According to Sportsqna, modern Riga is a city with a lot of history, culture and art to discover. The Old Town ‘Vecrīga’ is part of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites and for good reason. The New City ‘Centrs’, which is also on the UNESCO list, can be described as modern and innovative. Jugendstil or Art Nouveau architecture is nicely mixed with modern buildings from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The characteristic appearance of Riga can in any case be called photogenic. Its location on the Western Dvina certainly helps. The legend of Riga says that every hundred years the devil sticks his head out of the water to ask if Riga is finished yet. Oh woe if the answer is ‘yes’. Then the Dvina River quickly overflows its banks to take the city to the bottom. Riga will then go further into the future like the story of Atlantis, the sunken city. The fact that the city of Riga is always in motion architecturally, could very well have something to do with this.
Top 10 sights of Riga
#1. Town Hall Square
Riga’s Old Town is located around the Town Hall Square. This market square is very centrally located and has beautiful sights such as the old town hall and the ‘House of the Blackheads’, a guild for unmarried German merchants. The Gothic stepped gable is very similar to our own Dutch guild houses. The old town hall, House of the Blackheads and other surrounding buildings took a lot of blows during the Second World War. At the end of the nineties of the last century, the town hall and the House of the Blackheads were completely restored. The current appearance of Riga Town Hall, ‘Rīgas rātsnams’, is based on the reconstruction that took place around 1793. But much earlier during the thirteenth century, Riga’s city council and merchants gathered here. A reference to German traders is interpreted in the statue of knight Roland on the market. You often come across these in German cities. It symbolizes the freedom of the citizens. Various restorations and maintenance ensure that Riga’s semi-old Town Hall and Town Hall Square do not lose its allure again.
#2. Architecture in the Old Town
For lovers of old architecture, Riga’s Old Town is an open-air museum to enjoy. Besides the Town Hall Square with buildings such as the Town Hall and the House of the Blackheads, there are also the medieval Riga Cathedral ‘Rīgas Doms’, the Lutheran Petri Church ‘Rīgas Svētā Pētera baznīca’, the Riga Stock Exchange ‘Rīgas Fondu birža’ and the castle of Riga ‘Rīgas pils’. The 17th century house containing the museum ‘Mencendorfa Nams’ is also a typical piece of architecture. This museum is part of the large Riga History and Navigation Museum ‘Rīgas vēstures un kuģniecības muzejs’ at the Palasta iela in Riga.
#3. Riga Cathedral
The ‘Rīgas Doms’, built in Gothic style, is a heritage from the Middle Ages. At the time it was the largest church in the Baltic States and well beyond. The first stone was already laid in 1211 under the leadership of Bishop Albert. The current appearance was obtained between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The stained glass windows and the richly decorated pulpit really stand out in the fairly sober interior. Another nice detail is the organ. This one comes from Zaandam.
#4. Freedom Monument of Riga
In the city park Bastion Hill is the freedom monument of Riga ‘Brīvības piemineklis’. The image of a woman holding three stars high above her head was created by Latvian architect Ernests Štālbergs and Kārlis Zāle, a Latvian sculptor from Riga. The memorial commemorates the soldiers who died during the Latvian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920.
#5. Livu square
Livu laukums pleim is loved by both the residents of Riga and the tourists visiting the city. Livu laukums is in fact a district where there is always a lot of fun and festivities. During the summer months, the terraces are well visited and bustling with liveliness. You will also find cozy restaurants and nice bars here. A skating rink is usually built during the winter months. The colorful facades and beautifully landscaped green zones give Livu laukums a particularly pleasant appearance. It is special to know that the Riga River once flowed here and that there was a lot of trade in all kinds of merchandise.
#6. Petri Church
The stately ‘Svēta Pētera Evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca’ is a Lutheran church in the old center of the city of Riga. The oldest parts of the Petrikerk refer to the beginning of the thirteenth century. The first tower was added almost three centuries later, and the second only sometime in the seventeenth century. Damage was also suffered here during the Second World War. The more than one hundred and twenty-three meters high tower was restored fairly quickly after the war. Since 1976, the Latvian national anthem has been played from the bell tower several times a day. By means of an elevator it is possible to look out over the city from the galleries in the tower.
#7. Central Market
On the river Western Dvina you will find five steel industrial halls that are connected to each other. This is the famous Central Market in Riga, where you can buy your groceries cheaply. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea for a central market hall in Riga was born. eventually this location was chosen and construction started in 1924. The popular market is now well adapted to the public and you can also enjoy ready meals, enjoy a drink and/or snack on the terrace and you can regularly discover street artists. Riga’s Central Market has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
Also in Riga a “trend” has arisen to breathe new life into old trading districts. This is also the case in the Spīkeri district in Riga. Nineteenth century warehouses are furnished in all kinds of hip and creative business premises in which art, society and culture are central. For example, film and music festivals are regularly organized and you can enjoy a snack and a drink. For example, a new museum was recently opened: The Latvian Center for Contemporary Art. Spīkeri is not called the creative center of Riga for nothing.
Museum The educational museum about occupied Latvia, built in dark stone, can be found on the Raiņa bulvāris. The building was put away during the Soviet period in Latvia. The museum uses photos, documents, film and objects to tell how the occupation and oppression by the USSR and Nazi Germany affected daily life in Riga and Latvia. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991 was founded in 1993 and is visited by at least one hundred thousand people every year.
#10. Latvian National Museum of Art
The National Museum of Latvian Art is housed in a beautiful building on K. Valdemāra Street. Latvian National Museum of Art has all kinds of works of art that come from between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries. Among the mainly Latvian works of art are also a number of Russian productions. Well-known works include those by Jānis Rozentāls, Boriss Bērziņš, Emile Poetou, Roman Suta and Ruta Bogustova.