Riga, Latvia: Discover what to know before you go with this virtual tour

Welcome to Riga

Riga, Latvia’s capital city, ranks as the largest of the three Baltic capitals – a hub for Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, UNESCO World Heritage charm and a cool, modern edge. Explore the city from afar through these 20 photos.

The Daugava

The Daugava River passes through the heart of the city before emptying into the Gulf of Riga on the Baltic Sea. The river has long been an important trade corridor – there’s still a railway running along its northern bank.

Riga history

Riga’s history dates back some 800 years to its founding in 1201. The city has seen its fair share of tumultuous history, including periods of German, Swedish and Soviet rule. Latvia gained its independence from the Soviets in January 1920 but was later re-occupied. The nation reinstated its independence in 1991.

Miera Street

Miera Iela, or “Peace Street,” ranks among Riga’s hippest neighborhoods. This bohemian quarter brims with art galleries, cute cafes and shops filled with vintage finds.

Swedish Gate

In 1698, when Riga was part of the Swedish empire, the Swedish Gate was built as part of the city’s medieval walls. Today, the gate is the last remaining, and it opens up onto Trokšnu iela, one of the city’s narrowest streets.

Local lore tells that the apartment above the gate once belonged to the city executioner, who’d put a red rose in the window the day before an execution.

Art Nouveau

When Art Nouveau came into fashion near the turn of the century, Riga was at the forefront of this architectural trend. Today, it’s considered the Art Nouveau Capital of Europe. As many as one third of the buildings in the city center follow the style, giving Riga the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world.

House of the Blackheads

Built in 1334 as a banquet hall (and rebuilt in 1999), the House of the Blackheads is one of Riga’s most impressive structures. The Dutch Renaissance façade faces Town Hall Square. It gets its name from the Brotherhood of Blackheads – a social organization for unmarried men known for throwing wild parties.

Inside the House of the Blackheads

The interior of the House of the Blackheads is equally impressive. Tour the building to see its crystal chandeliers, painted ceilings, 19th century replica furniture and various items that once belonged to the Brotherhood.

Video: The South’s Best Small Towns 2021 (Southern Living)

  • calendar, whiteboard

    50 Inspiring Quotes for the Month of May

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a close up of Miranda Lambert and a dog posing for the camera

    Miranda Lambert's MuttNation Foundation Is Giving $5,000 Grants to 50 Animal Shelters

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a bowl of food on a plate

    The South’s Weirdest Sandwich Starts with Leftover Potato Salad

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • Reba McEntire posing for a picture

    Reba McEntire 2011 Concert at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, to Stream for Free on

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a close up of a hand

    "It’s a Monster in Person": Huge Prehistoric Shark Tooth Turns up at South Carolina Constr

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a cat that is lying down and looking at the camera

    5 Things Cat Owners Should Know Before Adding a New Pet to the Family

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a girl in a blue shirt

    Ree Drummond Shares Update on Husband Ladd and Nephew Caleb Following Terrifying Truck Cra

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a large waterfall

    This Georgia Gateway to the Appalachian Trail is the Ultimate Weekend Getaway

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a person standing in front of a building

    Chef Maneet Chauhan Says There Is No Place Like Nashville, Tennessee

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a small bird perched on top of a cage

    South Carolina Wildlife Officials Asking Homeowners to Remove Their Bird Feeders

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a man holding a kite while standing on a beach

    Unwind In Mexico Beach, Florida, An Underrated Emerald Coast Destination

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a train crossing a bridge over a river in a forest

    Pisgah National Forest Is Western North Carolina’s Favorite Playground

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a close up of many different types of food

    Hey Y'all – St. George Island Oyster Roast

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a green plant growing out of the window

    How To Choose the Best Window Treatments

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • a sunset over a body of water next to a palm tree

    Your Guide to Alabama's Gulf State Park—A Coastal Gem You'll Want to Visit Again and Again

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • Paint Your Bathroom This Color If You Want to Increase Your Home's Listing Price

    Paint Your Bathroom This Color If You Want to Increase Your Home's Listing Price

    Southern Living Logo

    Southern Living

  • calendar, whiteboard
    50 Inspiring Quotes for the Month of May
    "You are enough just as you are."

    Southern Living Logo
    Southern Living

  • a close up of Miranda Lambert and a dog posing for the camera
    Miranda Lambert's MuttNation Foundation Is Giving $5,000 Grants to 50 Animal Shelters
    That's $250,000 total!

    Southern Living Logo
    Southern Living

  • a bowl of food on a plate
    The South’s Weirdest Sandwich Starts with Leftover Potato Salad
    My grandmother taught me to love it.

    Southern Living Logo
    Southern Living

UP NEXT

Latvian National Opera and Ballet

The building that now houses the Latvian National Opera and Ballet opened in 1863 as the Riga City Theatre. Each year, the stage plays host to five new opera and ballet productions – a mix of classic and contemporary.

Freedom Monument

The granite and copper monument that towers over Riga symbolizes Latvian statehood. Often called the ‘Latvian Statue of Liberty,’ the Freedom Monument stands around 140 feet tall and is topped with the copper figure of a woman holding three gilded stars.

UNESCO City Center

The historic center of Riga, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was once a major trade center of the Hanseatic League. These days, it maintains its historic charm, thanks to its cobbled streets and numerous architectural gems.

The Three Brothers

Three of the oldest (and most photogenic) buildings in the old city are called the Three Brothers. Legend has it that three men of the same family built them. The medieval buildings date back to 1490, 1646 and the late 17th century respectively.

Riga’s canal

An old moat that once protected Riga’s medieval walls now serves as a charming canal that winds its way between the old town and Central Riga. Boat tours take visitors along the canal and Daugava River, past some of the city’s most prominent sights.

Midsummer festival

One of Latvia’s favorite holidays is the summer solstice. The festivities take place on the night of June 23 to June 24 and include making wildflower garlands, drinking beer and eating caraway cheese, visiting the sauna, and leaping over a bonfire.

Dome Square Christmas Market

Riga in the wintertime means Christmas markets. The market at Doma laukums ranks among the city’s best, complete with the wafting scent of gingerbread and mulled wine. Stalls in the market sell a variety of crafts, including wool clothing, wooden toys and ceramics.

Christmas treat

Visiting the Christmas market is an excellent excuse to sample some local foods. A favorite is called sakotis (“spiked”) or raguolis (“branched”), or a Lithuanian tree cake in English. This treat is made by dripping a batter onto a stainless steel rod that rotates above a heat source. The dripping batter forms spikes that look like the branches of a Christmas tree.

Gauja National Park

In addition to being a worthy destination in its own right, Riga also serves as a base for exploring Latvia, with several excellent day trip options nearby. One such destination is Gauja National Park – the oldest and largest national park in Latvia.

Turaida Castle

A highlight of Gauja National Park is Turaida Castle, a reconstructed medieval castle. The structure houses the Turaida Museum Reserve, a museum outlining the history, culture, art and archaeology of the castle dating back to the 11th century.

Jūrmala

During the summer months, locals flock to the seaside resort of Jūrmala for fun in the sun. Jomas Street, a pedestrian street in town, is one of the oldest and most popular areas of town.

Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, head to Kemeri National Park. The Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk leads visitors past pools, lakes and areas of moss and pine trees for the chance to spot several bird species.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

Source: Read Full Article