Riga is the European capital of culture this year, and rightly so! The Latvian capital is packed full of events for tourists and locals alike.
Whatever your taste, there's something for everyone, including: free concerts, exhibitions and movie showings.
Here's 10 top things to do in Riga during Jan. 17-19
1. Amber Through the Ages exhibition
The Museum of Natural History exposition will be the first stop along the Amber Road. It will throw light on Baltic amber, demonstrating its natural forms, richness of tones and its significance in terms of the world's amber deposits. It was amber which first created awareness of our region among ancient the various European cultures. The exhibition displays natural amber, its application in a wide variety of spheres, the potential of amber thread (an outcome of scientific research) in particular being a highlight.
Jan. 17 – Dec. 31, Museum of Natural History
2. Opening Ceremony of the European Capital of Culture Year / Richard Wagner’s opus in images: Rienzi. Rise and Fall
Richard Wagner began composing his third opera Rienzi in Rīga and it was the work which launched him on the path to world renown. The opera’s and composer’s links to Rīga are also emphasized in this new production and Wagner’s opus launches Rīga's year as European Capital of Culture. The production has been developed by an international creative team and Danish director Kirsten Dehlholm, familiar to Latvian audiences for her multi-media stagings Operation: Orpheus and the Nature of War. The performance will not only feature music from the opera Rienzi but also the electronic music of the young Latvian sound artist Voldemārs Johansons. The Rīga Doms Boys Choir and students of the Rīga Choreography Secondary School will also participate.
Jan. 19 (premiere), Jan. 21 and June 3, 5, Latvian National Opera
3. Tasting of the Rīga 2014 Program
Rīga Central Market and its pavilions present a unique event, an opportunity to ‘taste’ all of the 2014 program. Visit each of the pavilions and the Rīga International Coach Terminal to feel the ambience of each Program Chapter and, of course, the traditional market offerings.
Jan. 18, Rīga Central Market and the Rīga International Coach Terminal
4. The Path of Light action – Chain of Book Lovers
This action of the people, in which books from the old building of the National Library of Latvia are passed from hand to hand to the new building on the other bank of the Daugava river, is one of the 2014 inaugural events. The library's new building is a significant addition to Latvia’s cultural infrastructure. The joining of hands for a common aim – the Baltic Way of 1989 – brought independence. The Chain of Book Lovers is a symbolic joining of hands, attesting to the value system prevailing in Rīga and Latvia. We will join hands for cultural values, their preservation and continuation
The streets of Rīga between the old and new National Library of Latvia buildings, Jan. 18
5. 1914 exhibition
The 1914 exhibition highlights the impact of the First World War on culture, presenting both the works of artists of that period – eyewitnesses – and contemporary interpretations of war by the artists of today. Visitors will not only discover unique photographs and the works of Latvian classical modernism, but also paintings, graphic art and unique examples of sculpture from other countries – Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Hungary – representing their most prestigious art museums and national galleries.
Jan. 18 – April 20, Arsenāls Exhibition hall
6. World Fire Sculpture Championship
The life of a fire sculpture is short. They are created to experience their most beautiful time while burning, sometimes for as little as ten minutes. The teams of two professional sculptors from 12 countries – USA, Australia, France, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Great Britain, Lithuania, Finland, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden – will, over three days, build wooden structures up to 6m in height. These will be lit on Saturday – the day of the competition, when the jury will select one as world champion. A fiery musical atmosphere will be provided by Pulsa efekts. Master classes will be held in a special yurt and tepee, where visitors can make candles and get practical knowledge on making fire sculptures. The area will be specially set up with a stage and video screens showing the activities close up, and cafes and stalls will be operating. Everything concludes with a ceremony at which the international jury nominates the fire sculpture world champions and awards the top prize of € 2500. The runners-up will receive € 1500, and third place gets € 1000.
Jan. 16- 18, Ķīpsala beach by Vanšu (suspension) bridge
7. Riga resounds
This concert, featuring the Latvia’s most outstanding classical, world and popular music artists, choirs and orchestras, is a gift from the City of Rīga that is not only for the Latvian public, but will also be broadcast live on TV to our neighboring countries, Estonia and Lithuania. The concert’s message is a testament to Rīga’s historical and contemporary charm and diversity. Rīga’s visual symbols and signs, which vibrantly relate the city’s story to ourselves and to our visitors. Places, feelings, and the people in whom we have pride. Rīga, sung about and cherished in folk songs and contemporary poetry. With memorable musical compositions from Richard Wagner, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Emīls Dārziņš, Marģeris Zariņš, Imants Kalniņš, Raimonds Pauls, Artūrs Maskats, Ēriks Ešenvalds and Jānis Lūsēns, Rīga in concert address its audience as a contemporary city of culture and the arts.
8. Sigulda 2014 Opening Events
Fifty kilometers from Riga lies one of Latvia’s most picturesque towns, Sigulda, official partner of European Capital of Culture Rīga. Sigulda will present a program featuring the interaction of culture and sports in creative forms.
On this Sunday, a special train – the Festival Express – will leave Rīga for Sigulda. Throughout their journey, passengers will be entertained by songs, musical performances and other artistic endeavors. Svētku laukums will be home to large-scale works in the snow by British artist Simon Beck. Sigulda launches the European Capital of Culture year with a Walk of Light, large-format installations by French creative company Picto Facto, electronic music in a Concert for Seven Synthesizers, a cooperation between keyboard player Kaspars Tobis and video artist Artis Dzērve, Dzelzs vilks present their latest record Jauno Jāņu orķestris, special activities and the major event in the Sigulda castle complex. The opening event is part of the Nature. City Urban. Future. environmental art festival with which Sigulda announces the new, innovative and interesting events it will be hosting.
Sunday, Jan. 19, Sigulda Livonian Order Castle, throughout the day (The Svētku ekspresis departs from Rīga for Sigulda at 15.00)
9. Exhibition of Kinetic Art: Visionary Structures. From Ioganson to Johansons
The exhibition, organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art, is an excursion into Latvian avant-garde art of the 20th and 21st centuries. It features the works of seven innovative Latvian artists, providing insights into the experimental, even utopian artistic values of their eras. The exhibition is a dialog between different time periods, revealing the interconnectedness and continuity in the works of art, each of which belongs to a different era and another ideological epoch. Artists represented in the exhibition: Karl Ioganson (1890–1929), Gustavs Klucis (1895–1938), Valdis Celms (1943), Jānis Krievs (1942), Artūrs Riņķis (1942), Gints Gabrāns (1970) and Voldemārs Johansons (1981).
19 January to 16 March National Library of Latvia (new building) (dates may change)
10. Christian Boltanski: Heartbeats exhibition
French contemporary art coryphaeus Christian Boltanski arrives in Riga to present his installation Heartbeats which, in its singular fashion, perpetuates the memory of humanity. The artist brings down the boundaries between life and death, between past and present. Heartbeats reminds us that death's frontier is crossed incessantly. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to register their heart rate in the Heartbeat Archive, maintained in Japan. Conceived in cooperation with the Institut français de Lettonie.
19 January – 20 April, Arsenāls Exhibition Hall