'A' stands for 'ATTRACTIONS' in CHARMING RIGA
Rīga has an enchanting medieval Old Town with narrow streets perfect for walks and cosy cafes here and there. There are many medieval cultural and architectural monuments in the Old Town. Rīga's historical centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Nouveau (German Jugendstil) architecture, which UNESCO considers to be unparalleled anywhere in the world. Being close to the Baltic Sea and the River Daugava flowing through the city, Rīga also offers some boating attractions.
What to see?
The most characteristic and visible feature in the Rīga skyline most probably are the spires of the Dome Cathedral, St. Jacob’s Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church.
Dome Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the Baltic States and is famous for its organ with 6,718 pipes. It continues to serve as a Lutheran Church, but is also used as a concert hall. St. Jacob’s Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Latvia. Since there are no hills in Rīga, the greatest viewpoint over the Old Town and Rīga as such is the observation platform around the spire of St. Peter's Church, whic was the highest church tower in Europe up until World War II. It is definitely worth going up there!
Other significant landmarks in Rīga include the Town Hall Square, St. John’s Church, Convent’s Yard, Riga Castle, Powder Tower and the old city walls.
|The House of Blackheads, 1999 (1334)|
Town Hall Square (Town Hall, House of Blackheads, Roland’s Statue). Built in 1334, it was the central square in Rīga. The Square along with all the buildings was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999. Nowadays the Town Hall is still the building where Rīga Municipality is situated while the House of Blackheads is the home of Rīga Tourism Information Centre, a restaurant and is open to public.
St. John’s Church, Convent’s Yard and Jāņa Sēta form a small quartier of the Old Town with several historical buildings that are among the oldest in Rīga. In Convent’s Yard you can see the oldest stone building in Rīga – former St. George’s Church. In Jāņa Sēta you can see a fragment of inner city walls.
Riga Castle was built in 1340 for the Master of the Livonian Order and has traditionally been the building associated with the central government and power. Nowadays it is the official residence of the President of Latvia sharing the premises with two museums.
|Art Nouveau building in Alberta Street.|
Art Nouveau architectural style is one of the characteristic features of Rīga. The city is actually famous for the greatest concentration of 19th and 20th century Art Nouveau architecture in Europe. Rīga is one of the largest centres of Art Nouveau to this day since more than a third of buildings situated in the city centre are Art Nouveau (more than 800 buildings in total). Some of the best examples are found in Elizabetes Street, Alberta Street and Strēlnieku Street, so we definitely suggest going there (especially the Art-Nouveau Museum). You will be amazed by the wonderful shapes and forms of the buildings as well as exquisite details on the façade – be it flowers, lions, scary faces, angry dragons or even a sphinx or two!
Naturally, these are just some of the sightseeing places in Rīga. There are many more to see! However, Rīga is not just history, old buildings and museums. You will also find it to be a vibrant modern city with a rich cultural life.
What to do?
As in every big city there are many different leisure activities in Rīga. In summertime people like to visit Jūrmala – the seaside resort only 25 km away from the city centre. It is popular for swimming, spa facilities, walks and bike rides. However, Jūrmala is an active city in summer. If you are looking for quite walks along the beach, Vecāķi might be a better option. Situated on the Northeast of Rīga, Vecāķi is even closer to the city centre than Jūrmala (less than 20 km). You will not find developed tourist facilities there, but sandy beaches are just as nice as in Jūrmala.
Leisure activities on water are becoming more and more popular in Riga itself since there are several companies offering boat trips on the Daugava and on Rīga Canal. The National Opera as well as local and international film festivals are usually very popular.
As in every other city of Europe, there are many museums in Rīga that you can visit. We would suggest visiting Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Ethnographic Open Air Museum and Riga Art Nouveau Museum as well as Pauls Stradiņš Museum of History of Medicine.
If you enjoy nightlife, Rīga also offers many clubs and pubs/bars in the Old Town and the city centre. On Friday nights the Old Town is crowded with people partying and having fun.
|Ecotourism in Latvia
Uniqueness of nature and
its values, ecosystems,
national parks and reserves
Rīgans are becoming more sport orientated, for instance, a lot of people prefer cycling over public transport or own motor vehicles these days. Every year there is something new in the city that you can try – either a new sports or a sporting venue that you can use. You can even continue your sporting activities in winter with several ice skating rinks in Rīga as well as a cross-country skiing track in Uzvaras Parks.
If this is not enough for you and you want to explore some weird Latvian “sports” you can try mushroom picking in the forest, birch sap extraction or ice-fishing in winter. People are actually crazy enough to burn last year’s grass in spring. While it causes much danger/trouble and is illegal, fire fighters have to deal with these “sportsmen” every year. A local joke goes that Latvians are the coolest people in the world, since last year’s grass in Latvian is 'kūla', and it sounds the same as 'cool' in English.
For more information about Rīga, please see the Latvian Tourism website.