As the central Baltic state, Riga has a Western vibe in Eastern Europe with a twist. Beyond the borders of the Old Town you can see there’s much more to the city than its historical cobblestone streets – venture into the modern Riga, artsy Riga, Art Nouveau Riga, green Riga. Our local Riga editor Laura has come up with a list of the top 10 free ways to spend your time in Riga.
1. Wander on the wharves of Andrejsala
Andrejsala is a district near the city centre that used to be an industrial port. Now it’s being developed into a cultural and entertainment centre with new studios, clubs, cafés and exhibition halls popping up. Riga’s development plan for 2016–2018 envisions a cruise ship terminal at Andrejsala quay, however at the moment the area is still relatively abandoned and not flooded with tourists making it a perfect place for a relaxed waterside stroll.
Photo credit: Reinis Traidas
2. Take a romantic walk in Bastejkalns
Bastion Hill is a beautiful park in the heart of Riga. It was formed in the 19th century after the city’s ramparts had been pulled down. On one side of Bastejkalns you’ll find the Liberty monument and on the other the Blaumanis sculpture. The park is a favourite spot among locals for quiet romantic walks and also for spending a fun day with family or friends.
Photo credit: Antanas Kaziliūnas
3. Appreciate the peaceful atmosphere of Brāļu Cemetery
The Brethren cemetery was founded in 1936 as a memorial and burial ground for Latvian soldiers killed from 1915–1920, and it carries great significance for locals. It’s a nine hectare complex with 3000 gravesites, Eternal Light and Mother Latvia among its monuments. It may sound a bit odd to recommend taking a walk in a cemetery, but it truly is a scenic place.
Photo credit: David Holt
4. Try out local delicacies at Centrāltirgus Market
The iconic Central Market was once one of the biggest and most modern markets in the world. Today it’s home to a large and vibrant farmer’s market where the produce is always fresh and natural with an eco touch. The five market pavilions are housed in old German Zeppelin hangars making it very easy to notice. Bring your own shopping bag and shop like a local!
Photo credit: Jorge Lascar
5. Participate in various local events at Kalnciema Street Quarter
In a huge backyard surrounded by 120-year-old wooden architecture you’ll find a place that’s highly respected and valued by locals. Here you’ll find open air markets, concerts, movie nights and small festivals held almost every week. The pop-up markets will be your best bet for finding an authentic local souvenir.
Photo credit: Didzis Grodzs
6. Learn about Latvia’s history at the Museum of Occupations
Rated as one of most important museums in the Baltics, it strives to give an honest account of Latvia’s occupations by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during and after World War II. It has a magnificent collection of pictures, models, newspapers, posters, weapons and more. If you want to learn about what took place in Latvia during the occupations, then this is a museum you cannot afford to miss. Take your time and be prepared for a proper history lesson.
Photo credit: William Whyte
7. Discover the Moscow District and the Old Maza Kalna Market
In reality this market doesn’t exist anymore – in its place there’s a park and a tram stop. When you arrive at the old ‘hay market’ square, you’ll know you’ve reached the heart of the Moscow quarter from the old workers’ houses and the area of the former Jewish ghetto. The whole district with its old wooden houses and variety of churches is worth discovering.
Photo credit: Liam Dunaway
8. Admire the grand architecture of the Orthodox Cathedral
This is one of the largest and most decorated religious structures in Riga – a must-see for both believers and non-believers. The Cathedral was erected in the 1860s and was converted from a church to a planetarium, cinema and cafeteria during Soviet times. It has since been renovated and stands upright in gold (the golden dome is a new addition), always open for worshipers and visitors alike.
Photo credit: karendesuyo
9. Join in the Riga Free Tour
Riga Free Tour is a great way to fully discover this wonderful city even on a tight budget. The guides are mostly young enthusiastic locals who will show you their hometown as it really is. If you want to see more than just the Old Town and the usual tourist traps, then this is the tour for you. As a youth project the Free Tour operates on tips only, so if you like it feel free to make a donation. The tour starts every day at 12:00 in front of St Peter’s Church.
10. Stretch out and touch the walls of Rozena Street
Rozena Street is not only one of the shortest but also the narrowest street in Riga. If your arms are long enough you can touch both of the walls on either side. You might also fancy a beer in the beer garden at one end of the street, or at a medieval restaurant at the other.
Photo credit: Wikipedia