Welcome to historical Riga!
Riga is full of small squares where you can drink good local beer in the open air in summer, or huddle over a hot bar snack in winter, Riga's Old Town is one of the nices places to wander around aimlessly in the whole region. Tallinn might have more in the way of city walls and olde worlde goo, and Vilnius has a more rebellious soul, but Riga has a healthy dose of both. The Rigans arent frightened to wear their history on their sleeve, with Archetecture from the hellish Stalinist era sits uncomfortable next to allegedly ressurected-from-original-plans, and you'd think it would make the city look like an ugly mish mash, but its fantastic, and perfect.
The most famous street in Riga houses an impressive array of Art Nouveau architecture. Most notably you see buildings designed by the Architect Mikhail Eisenstein, Konstantin Peksens and Eugene Laube.
Riga's Dome Cathedral
One of the centrepieces of the Old Town, the Riga Dome Cathedral is not to be missed and it is seen from long distance. Red brick on the outside, the Dome (or 'Dom') Cathedral is also a beauty from within. Whitewashed walls tower over the faithful, while austere woodwork provides a pleasing contrast. Regular concerts give it a work out.
Art Nouveau Architecture
Art Nouveau has made itself known and was presented from 1880s to 1910s. This movement walked under the flag of an art that would break all connections to classical times, and bring down the barriers between the fine arts and applied arts. Riga has the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe.
The first castle built by the Sword Order named Wittgenstein Castle ("made of white stone") was mentioned for the first time in 1209. The castle was destroyed by town people in a war with the Order. Townspeople had to build a new castle for the Livonian Order at the site of the Holy Spirit hospital under condition to dismantle part of the town's fortification wall and to open the town from the castle's side.
St. Peters Church
An impressive feature of the Riga skyline since the Dark Ages, St. Peter's Church has seen a few refurbishments in its time. The jinxed tower has had a nasty habit of collapsing at the mere mention of fire, lightning or World War II. These days you can board an elevator 70 meters up the spire for panoramic views of the city (and who said the Soviets never built anything worthwhile). It's worth poking your nose in the nave too for a glance at the Gothic interior or better still for one of the photo exhibitions or concerts that often take place here.
One of the most interesting buildings in Old Riga is Swedish Gate. It belongs to the former fortification wall surrounding all of the Old City. In one of the wings the Swedish gate was built into the fortification wall in 1698 has situated. Except for the recently restored small exit from St. John Church's Courtyard into Kaleju Street, this is the only Riga gate that has survived in its original form.
The Occupation Museum
A must see for any visitor to Riga. Here you will find a well laid out modern museum that documents the occupation of Latvia from 1940 up until 1991. It is free to enter but donations are welcomed. The museum is housed in a soviet styled building that is has been compared to a square hand grenade.
The Blackheads House
When looking into the House of the Blackheads, you will find a big building that is situated in Old Town. The original building of the House of the Blackheads was constructed during the fourteenth century. It was created for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads Guild. This was a guild that was developed for foreign merchants that were not married in Riga. During the years 1580 and 1886, most of the ornamentations were added to this building. In 1941, the building was bombed by the Germans and went under reconstruction throughout 1995 to 1999.
The voluminous Freedom Monument is a sacred place in the hearts and minds of every Latvian. The image of Liberty holding three stars in stretched hands crowns the monument and symbolizes unity of the country.
National Opera House
The history surrounding the National Opera is more than 250 years long. During the period of time from 1837 to 1839 Richard Wagner was the chapel-master of Riga, and was involved into opera life. The current theatre, affectionately known as "The White House" was built as a national theatre in 1863, on the site of an old German theatre. After a fire in 1882, the theatre was rebuilt to its current state. The theatre became the National Opera House in 1919, and the National Theatre moved elsewhere.
Riga City Canal
Riga City Canal is a small canal in the centre of city, dividing Old Town and Riga Centre. Canal runs from Daugava river, passes through Central Market, Central Station, Radio Street, National Opera, Freedom Monument, Bastion Hill, National Theatre and Riga Port Area before flows into Daugava back.It is historical centre of Riga. Before being canalized it was a small river called Ridzene, which gave the name for Riga city.
The Central Market
Visit this busy market at see great local food at local prices. Well worth the visit to grab ingredients for a picnic. Do not miss out on the hemp butter.