Riga is Latvia’s capital city and is the largest city in the Baltic states. It sits at the mouth of the river Daugava. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well renowned for its wooden buildings. There are many museums, monuments and architecture to explore including the Freedom Monument and St Peters Church. The old town has a bustling nightlife which includes restaurants which has recently made the city a very popular destination for stag and hen dos.
This is the old centre of Riga and can be found on the bank of the Daugava River. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and here you will find some of the oldest houses and churches found in Riga. The cobblestone streets are awash with restaurants, bars, galleries and museums. There is always something to on offer here.
Try a Vecriga dessert in one of the cafes and head to the narrow street of Rozena iela. You can reach both sides of the street from here. The Skarnu street has an arts and crafts market where you can purchase souvenirs.
If you head to the Great and Small Guild Halls, this will take you back to a past era. A time when Riga was a bustling Hanseatic City that traded throughout the Baltic and Northwest of Europe. During the Second World War, Riga lost a third of the historic monuments that once resided here. Although, many were rebuilt after its independence in 1990.
During medieval times, Riga was protected by a huge wall that had 20 towers and a moat that was 90 metres wide. There were eight gates that controlled who entered the city. The only one that survives now is the Swedish gate. The reason for it standing the test of time is that it was turned into an apartment when it became obsolete following the completion of the bastions that were built in the 17th century.
The tenant of the Swedish Gate was the city executioner. According to tradition, he would place a red rose on the window sill on those days when execution was taking place. During the Soviet occupations, the stretch of wall along Torna street was restored.
The park is formed around the Freedom Monument. Itstretches across the two sides of the Pilsetas Kanals which crawls along the route of the old moat. This elevated area was the site of Riga’s Easter fortifications up until 1856 with the name translating to Bastion Hill.
Through the course of the 19th century, a glorious boulevard, gaslight and sculptures. Flowerbeds and a man-made waterfall were created on the hill while iron bridges were placed over the canal. Alongside the park, you will find the opulent Latvian National Opera and the University of Latvia. Both of which add to the charm of this wonderful place.
Riga Motor Museum
After undergoing a makeover, the Riga Motor Museum reopened in 2016. If classic cars and Soviet artefacts are your thing, then you can spend a few hours here. Walking around you will find models from the Soviet occupation such as Volga, Moskich and Zigouli. This is as well as a ZIS-115 armoured car designed for Josef Stalin and Lincoln Continental 53A that was gifted to Leonid Brezhneve by Nixon in the 70s. You will also see a replica of the Auto Union Racing Car Type D that was made by the company that would soon become known as Audi. There are cars here from Western Europe including a Jaguar Mk 2, a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE.
Ethnographic Open Air Museum
A short trip from the city centre takes you to this open-air museum position on the bank of Lake Jugla. In this museum you can learn all about the culture of Latvia. There are 118 traditional buildings to look at from the four Latvian provinces. All of which were deconstructed, transported and then rebuilt right here.
The oldest property that you will find dates back to the 1600s with the most recent property dating back to the 1930s. Here is where you can really explore the cultural difference between the provinces of Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme and Zemgale and this is the only place where you can do this.
Inside all of the buildings, you will gain an understanding of traditional methods of self-care at saunas as well as traditional weaving and a selection of tools used for historical trades. You can make your own pottery, forge coins and even try Latvian cuisine. You will also discover and learn all about their seasonal celebrations.
It is spread over 87 hectares of pine forest and in the winter months, you will find cross-country ski trails.