Latvia is a country of unspoiled lakes and forests with a fantastic coastline and sandy beaches. The capital city, Riga is a city of rich culture and beautiful architecture and was awarded the European City of Culture in 2014. Part of the city, the Old Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Riga is divided in half by the Daugava river and the skyline is dominated by church steeples and the new National Library building.
Over the past few years, Riga has undergone an amazing transformation into a modern, chic, and bustling European capital city. In fact, Riga has much to offer tourists who flock here throughout the year.
Riga is a city of parks, museums, theaters, beautiful tree-lined streets, and hip outdoor cafes and restaurants. During the summertime, there is plenty happening in the city – everything from concerts to exhibitions and festivals.
In this short city guide to Riga, you will find out the top 7 points of interest in Latvia’s capital city.
Points of Interest in Riga
Most of the points of interest in Riga are in the city’s Old Town or within a short distance from it.
Freedom Monument (Brīvības piemineklis) is place that is close to the heart of all Latvians. The monument is dedicated to soldiers who were killed in Latvia’s fight for independence from 1918 to 1920. It depicts a young woman holding 3 stars representing the 3 historical provinces of Latvia. There are great photo opportunities to get your picture taken with the 2 guards in traditional soldier’s uniforms who guard the monument.
Museum of Occupation
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia stands in Strēlnieku laukums (Square of the Riflemen) beside the House of the Blackhead and the monument to the Red Latvian Riflemen (at present the Occupation Museum is located at Raiņa Bulvāris 7, not far from the Freedom Monument). This depicts life in Latvia under Nazi and Soviet occupation.
House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads has been beautifully restored to its former glory when it was a guild hall for German merchants. It is traditionally considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in Riga.
Art Nouveau District
Believe it or not, Riga boasts some of the best examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Northern Europe. In fact, over one-third of all Riga’s buildings are in the style of Art Nouveau architecture. These buildings feature elaborate facades, floral motifs, and amazing statutes. To see the best examples of Art Nouveau buildings in Riga, head for Albert street and the surrounding area.
Did you know that Riga has the largest market in Europe? Visit Central Market which features pavilions constructed from old German Zeppelin hangars. There you can buy anything you want including fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh and smoked fish, fresh meat, beer, clothes and even pots and pans. During the summer months, you can sample fresh produce from local suppliers.
Open Air Museum
If you want some peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city center, then head to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. This is one of the oldest and largest outdoor museums in Europe and features nearly 120 historical buildings from Latvia. This gives an insight into traditional Latvian life and culture.