Seeing the sights in Riga

  • 2010-02-03
  • By Ludmila Nikitina

RIGA - When you arrive in Latvia no one will ask you about the purpose of the visit. However, isn’t it natural that you would think about where to go and what to see in Latvia? Of course, all your plans would depend on the length of stay in the country. Sometimes just several days on a business trip do not allow one to see even the center of the city. Facing the tourist season ahead, The Baltic Times will give you some tips to get acquainted with the country and tell you about the most beautiful places in Latvia.

Latvia is a country which is rich in history and has many traditions. In Latvia there are castles from medieval times, great nature and picturesque old quaint towns.
The culture has a strong influence from Latvian folklore and by the people of the country and how attached they are to their homeland. Many Christian rituals are intertwined with ancient customs. Pagan symbols, which are geometric, are still seen throughout the applied arts of Latvia.
The language of Latvia is one of only two that have survived from the family of Indo-European languages. Around half of the people of the country speak it as their primary language, as there are different dialects in the east and the western parts of Latvia.

Tourism is growing every year as people are starting to visit this beautiful land which has only been open for a little over 18 years after the country gained its independence from the former Soviet Union.
Staying in Riga, there are many options, from hostels, hotels, exclusive hotels, bed and breakfasts, and apartment rentals. No matter what your budget is and how long your stay, Riga will have lots of what you are looking for.
A walk through Old Riga will take you through an unfolding succession of fascinating streets, many of them looking much as they did in the 14th century. Narrow lanes make way for broad squares and ancient buildings find new life as shops, cafes and offices. On Jekaba Street lies the Latvian Parliament [Saeima], built for the German nobility of Vidzeme (a region of Latvia) in 1867. Tours must be booked in advance at the information center.

Old Riga. This is the most beautiful part of Riga - beautiful old style houses with all those ornaments  and sculptures, churches, monuments and historical places going side by side with prestige art galleries, restaurants and hotel buildings all together making an unforgettable scene!    

Old Riga comprises a fairly small interior fortification system area (built during the 13 – 18th centuries), where unique middle-aged architectural monuments are concentrated.

Dome Cathedral. In the middle of Old Riga rests Dome Cathedral, the only true cathedral-type church in the Baltic States, constructed in 1300. The church is famous for its organ’s splendid sound and acoustics. Concerts and church services occur on a regular basis. Open every day.

St. Peter’s Church. This church has greeted visitors for centuries and stands close to the Daugava River. Though originally built in the 13th century, the church obtained its current shape in the 15th century. The spire is 132 metres tall and visitors in search of a panoramic view can take a lift to a height of 72 meters.

House of Dannenstern is one of the most impressive examples of the baroque style architecture. It consists of three mutually connected blocks – the main block at the street and two others bending at the courtyard, all connected by a driving passage.

Riga castle is the symbol and home of Latvian secular authority. The Castle’s construction began in 1330 as the construction of the residence for the Master of the Livonian Order. Inner dissents resulted in the degradation of the previous residence, White Stone Castle, belonging to the Master of the Livonian Order, and the inhabitants of Riga were forced to build a new one. When the Master’s residence moved to Cesis in 1484, the citizens of Riga raised the castle again, and after some time it was rebuilt once again. Since 1995 the President of Latvia is using the restored government’s premises. Some parts of the castle house museums and other cultural institutions.

The Central Market. It is worth to mention that this grandiose complex, which includes five pavilions with a total area of 16,000 sq. meters, is a very popular place in Riga among foreign tourists.   It was one of the most significant constructions in the 1920s. The market pavilion is founded on the constructions of hangars for zeppelins, which after World War I came into the ownership of the city.

Of course, there is much more to be told about Riga, about its towers and cellars, parks and waters, its suburbs and courtyards. Riga today is a dynamic and pulsating city and you will definitely have a good rest here and will get a lot of positive emotions.