Riga City Guide travel tourist sightseeing attractions information

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Related pages Coach services to and from Riga Rail services to and from Riga  Tallinn Guide / Vilnius Guide  

Local pages:     Riga Airport and Riga Public Transport  /  Latvia Country Profile  Riga Night Club Reviews

Riga History Overview

Modern Riga is on the grounds of an ancient   settlement established by the Finnic tribe Livs.The city’s   river, the Ridzene was originally called the Riga River and it thought that the   this where the city derived its name. Historians generally agree that Riga’s   modern origins can be attributed to German traders and Religious crusades that   travelled to Latvia in the 12th century. It is known that the merchants   established a trading post within the Liv settlement in 1158 and a that an   Augustinian Monastery was built there in 1190.

In 1201 the Arcbishop of Hamburg landed 1500 armed   Christian crusaders in Riga board 23 ships and declared Riga to be a city. In   1282 Riga joined the Hanseatic League – an informal political and trade union of   Northern German and Baltic cities. This gave Riga economic stability and military   stability until the 16th century.n In 1581, Riga joined the Polish and Lithuanian   Commonwealth but was occupied three years after the start of the Thirty Years   War in 1918 by Sweden. In 1656 the army Russian Army unsuccessfully laid siege to   the city during its war with Sweden.

A further Russian Swedish war in 1710 resulted in   Russia invading Riga and in 1721 by treaty, it became Russian terrority. By 1900   Riga, in industrial terms, was the third biggest city in Russia. In 1891 Russia   imposed its own language on Latvia (which had previously had been Germanic in an   administrative context) even though they made up only 6% of the population.In 1917 as a result of WW1 and the Russian   Revolution, Germany Invaded Riga, but the occupation ended on November 11th 1918   when the Armistice Treaty forced the Germans and Russian to leave the Baltic   States and give them their independence. Riga became the Capital of Latvia. In   the following two decades Riga flourished and increased its economic and   political relationships with Western Europe and distanced itself from   Russia.

In 1940 after the the outbreak of WW2 the Soviets occupied Riga and Latvia followed by the Germans in 1941. During the three year   German occupation, the indigenous Germans (about 25% of Riga’s population) were   forcibly repatriated to Germany. The Latvian Jewish community were forced into   the Makavas Ghetto and then the Kaizerwald concentration camp. At the end of the   war when the Soviets occupied the country Latvia had lost around a third of its   population.

The Soviets deported many Latvian to Russia and   Siberia for alleged collaboration with the Nazis and replaced them with Russians  and other non Latvians from Eastern Europe. By 1975 only 45% Riga’s population where Latvians.

Following the fall of communism on September 6th 1991 Russia slowly withdrew its military forces over three years.Since Latvia’s independence it has rapidly  developed as an industrial centre, with an increasing amount of investment from   European and American Companies, with service industries and tourism growing significantly.

Attractions And Sightseeing in Riga

Riga is a most fascinating and creative city, Whether you enjoy the arts or sightseeing with architectural masterpieces and historical landmarks. You will never be left twiddling your thumbs with so many wonderful attractions at your disposal. Riga has been financially flourishing in recent times and is easily the most visited city in Latvia. A quick weekend getaway would prevent you from witnessing all the magic that this charismatic city has.

There is the unrivalled atmosphere of the thriving ”Old Town” and the Architectural delights of the Art Nouveau District. Tourists are finally realising that Riga is a burgeoning Capital city and not just because of the cheap air travel attracting tourists on drunken Stag weekends but also because of the  undoubted history, culture and art which is here  in abundance.

The Freedom Monument -Brivibas Sttreet Bulvoris Riga –  This is the most symbolic sightseeing attraction in Riga, certainly from a Latvian perspective.  At some angles from a distance this 42 metre monument could be mistaken as a radio transmitter. Close up this construction is a statue of a female clasping three joined gold stars which represent the historic Latvian provinces of Latgale, Kurzeme and Vidzeme. Inscribed on its base are words which translated mean ‘For the Fatherland and Freedom’. Built in 1935 to celebrate Latvia’s recent independence from Russia it’s importance was to become more poignant as a simple of hope with coming of WW2 and the loss of freedom for the next fifty years

St Peters Church, 19 Skarnu, Riga [no website] St Peters has undergone many renovations in its long history. St Peter’s first dates back to 1209  and was a Catholic place of worship until 1523 when it reformed as a Lutheran Church. It has seen its fair share of adversity over the years with fires, collapsing and the sheer devastation caused by  World War II. The church practises Lutheranism which is a Western  form of Christianity created by 16th century German Priest and professor Martin Luther. There’s an elevator inside which takes you 70 metres in the air to where you can enjoy splendid views of Riga. Photo exhibitions and musical concerts take place here on a regular basis. The interior of the church is designed in a Gothic style. Open 10 am till 7 pm closed on Monday’s. Entry to tower is 3 L’s

Riga Opera House Aspazijas bulvaris 3 Riga –  Latvians view Opera as an integral part of their heritage. This opera house possesses an astonishing repertoire. This majestic building built in 1863 was one of the  first to be refurbished after the Soviets were defeated and the country gained its Independence in 1991. The Latvian National Opera is lead by the mysterious director  Andrejs Zagars. The Opera company has established a reputation for their courage to put on risque or controversial performances. For those who are not captivated by the Opera there are also regular Ballet performances held here. Notable Operatic performances include Giuseppe Verdi’s classic ”Aida”. website http://www.opera.lv/lv

National Art Museum, Riga Valdemara 10a – The National Art Museum is situated to the north of the Old Town and has become one of Riga’s defining cultural centres. This spectacular structure was designed by German architect W.Neumann in 1905.  They have a plethora of fascinating exhibits from some of the most talented and notorious artists to have picked up a paintbrush. They possess a lovely collection of 19th century Vanguards. Russian/Latvian Impressionist pieces are one of the Museum’s main attractions. Admission is 1.50 to 3 L’s and English spoken guided tours are 10 L’s. Open Sun-Thurs 11 am to 5 pm and  11 am till 8 pm on Friday’s. website  http://www.lnmm.lv/lv/lnmm/Riga

Central Market, Negu iela 7, Riga  – Riga Central Market is the biggest Market in the Baltic. This thriving institution was initiated in 1930. They have five pavilions and each one has a particular speciality. One pavilion may be a Meat or Fish market and the next Groceries or DVD’s. There are plentiful stalls around the pavilions which sell affordable clothing, computer games and Fresh Organic produce. It’s an eclectic shopping centre which has plenty of bargains to be taken advantage of. You may wish to pick up a unique gift  for a friend or a souvenir  to commemorate your time in Riga. website http://www.rct.lv/

Riga Railway Station Shopping –  More conventional shopping can be found in the shopping malls at. Though not as big as a similar set up in Leipzig apart from normal shops it contains dozens of cafes, fast food shops and even a cocktail bar. The station itself is a centre for domestic and international rail services

Riga Castle, Pils Laukums 3 Riga – Riga Castle is the regal residence of the Latvian President located on the banks of River Daugava.  This 14th century building was resurrected after destruction hit it. There are two popular museums on the premises . The castle was initially found in 1330 and was eventually built in 1515. The castle used to house the Swedish administration when the Swede’s ruled over Riga hundreds of years ago. You are forbidden from visiting most of the Castle except for the Museum of Foreign Art and the History Museum of Latvia. Foreign Art Museum is open from 11 am till 5 pm Tues-Sun and the castle itself is open on a daily basis. website http://www.president.lv/

Powder Tower, Smilsu iela 20 Riga – The Powder Tower[Pulvertornis] is a historical 14th century Tower which used to hold the City’s Gunpowder. The Tower’s original use was to defend the people of Riga. The building was completely restructured between the years of 1937 and 1940. This statuesque building is part of the City’s Museum of War. Those fascinated by War will be pleased to hear that weapons such as Guns and Swords are a huge part of the Museum. open 10 am to 6 pm. website  http://www.karamuzejs.lv/

Nativity of Christ Cathedral, South of Esplanade Brivibas Boulevard 23  Riga tel no: 371-67-211-216 – The Nativity Cathedral is the biggest Russian Orthodox Church in all of the Baltic states. It took  7 years to build, with construction finishing in 1883. You will find a large number of Riga’s Russian speaking community congregate here for weekly mass. The Cathedral had been transformed into a planetarium during the Soviet’s reign. This spectacular building was the brainchild of Russian architect Nikolai Chagin, a pioneer in the style of Neo-Byzantine design. During the first World War the Cathedral was turned in to a Lutheran Church but they restored it as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral again in 1921

Old City Walls, Situated at  corner of Torna and Aldaru, Riga – Riga had to build walls in medieval times to prevent intruders from storming the city and wreaking havoc.  The infamous walls were built between the 13th and 16th centuries  The majority of the walls have disappeared after being demolished by invading foreign armies, but the Old Walls and the Swedish Gate still remain to this day. The Gate was built by the Swedish dictatorship at the end of the 17th century  and is now utilized to separate the quieter part of Old Town from the hustle and bustle of Riga’s nightlife

St Savour’s Church at Pils iela Riga is an attractive red brick Church of England Church. It was built in 1857 by British Traders on soil shipped over from Britain. During Communist rule it served as a music club. Since then it has become inaugurated as a church again – but it still holds occasional classical music concerts

The Riga Ghetto at Maskavas. This a very sobering is a visit as in 1940 about 5,000 Latvian Jews were deported from here to Siberia by the Russian army. The following year the Nazis locked 300 Jews into the local synagogue and threw grenades through the windows. Those who were not killed by the grenades were burnt to death by the fire that followed.

Historic Wooden Architecture Up until the 1930s many buildings in Riga were constructed from wood – a practice which had largely died out in other European town and cities by the end of the 19th century. Across Europe the practice of building homes from wood had become unpopular because several cities where these buildings were commonplace had suffered extensive fires and in some quarters wooden homes were often frowned upon by the middle classes as they indicated poverty.

Post WW2, many cities in Soviet controlled Eastern Europe had these buildings replaced by state controlled sprawling housing projects, but in Riga these projects floundered. Consequently Riga is not saturated with examples of this hideous architecture which was rife in the 60s and 70s an it has quite a few older buildings constructed out of wood. Some of these buildings date back to the 18th century. They include the and Depkina, Hartmaņa, Kleistu and Nordeķu estates along with Daugavgrīvas Street 28. The latter is an interesting residential manor building.

One building that is particularly well preserved is Daugavgrīvas Street 67 built in the first half of the 19th century. Generally these buildings are one or two or levels. In the second half of 19th century many such buildings were constructed and some Latvian architects designed some notable buildings – (often with very impressive staircases) these include including: in O. Vācieša Street 5 (1872 Bars), in Brīvības Street 100 (1899 Felsko) and at Balasta dambis 38 (1907 Alksnis).

The Museum of Natural History at Barona 4 Riga – This museum contains a somewhat bizarre collection of exhibits including exotic animals, fossils and an interactive learning game.

The Lido Recreation Centre at Krasta 76  This is a good place to take the children as is which has many child activities including an enormous skating ring.

Restaurants In Riga  There are a number of good restaurants in the shopping mall at the main railway station but there are quite a few in the old town .One surprising local custom is that in many self-service restaurants in Riga you are charged according to the total weight of your selection

.One example of this The Kirbis at Doma Laukums 1 in the Old Town. This very good vegetarian restaurant is thus very good value for money.

The Lido Recreation Centre at Krasta 76 also offers good salads and rice dishes plus yoghurt and fruit. Healthy eating!

The Marrutku Maizites at Krama 4 offers a range of Eastern Europe food and a compatible range of Vodka! The food is good and very cheap. It’s main attraction is the old decor which gives you the impression that one of Stalin’s foot soldiers may appear at any moment.

Vermanitis at 65 Elizabeth Iela ( Tel: 728 6829 ) is another self service affair selling Latvain and some international dishes. Plenty of good meat dishes but a little cramped. The Cau Rasma at 20 Aspazijas bulv. (Tel: 704 4226) is particularly atmospheric. This restaurant and bar in a cellar sell traditional Latvian food. The portions are generous and it sometimes has live music as well.

The Sveiks at 23 Stabu iela is a basement pub selling czech food and beer . The knedli and veggie dishes are good fayre. The Tower at 7 Smilsu iela (Tel : 721 6155) in the Old Town is a Scandinavian restaurant with some traditional specialties. The gravad lax and kalvrulader are very good and so is their version of the famous Finnish blueberry pie. Exceptional value.

Crime and Personal Safety & Security In Riga –  Some tourists are the targets of criminals. There have been several reports of tourists in casinos have their drinks spiked before leaving and subsequently being robbed Some areas of this city, especially those away from the main centre, particularly at night, are a problem with street robberies on those travelling alone. At night always avoid unlit streets and parks, at night travel by taxis whenever possible. During the day pick pocketing occurs in tourist areas.

Riga Tourist Board Information  http://www.riga.lv/EN/Channels/About_Riga/default.htm
Riga City Latvia Weather Details:
Riga City Latvia Weather Forecast
monthly average and extreme temperatures Riga Latvia::

sun hours per day

Temperatures
Average Daily
Records
Minimum
Maximum
Lowest
Highest
January
1
-10
-4
-28
4
February
2
-10
-3
-28
5
March
4
-7
2
-23
21
April
6
1
10
-11
24
May
7
6
16
-5
29
June
11
9
21
-1
32
July
10
11
22
4
33
August
9
11
21
0
32
September
6
8
17
-1
29
October
3
4
11
-7
23
November
1
-1
4
-16
17
December
1
-7
-2
-27
7
extreme cold
hot
Hungary Village + editorial comment

 

 

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