You are on page 1of 21



Riga - Capital of the North

3 Welcome to Riga, City of Inspiration by the Baltic Sea

6 Icons of Riga

10 Riga’s Architecture – splendid in its Diversity

14 Thriving Arts and Culture Scene

16 Riga – a Flourishing Environment for Creative Artists

18 Annual Events Welcome to Riga, City of Inspiration by the Baltic Sea

23 Business tourism opportunities in Riga The first, indelible impression that most Romanticism. Furthermore, Riga’s wealth
visitors get of the Latvian capital is its of Jugendstil or Art Nouveau buildings,
24 Accommodation to Suit All Budgets and Tastes majestic skyline, as viewed from the left complete with their fantastically ornate
bank of the Daugava River. The slender flourishes, stands out as unparalleled
25 Health, wellness, spa and beauty services Gothic spires of the Old Town’s many anywhere in the world. Yet equally unique
churches attest to the city’s long history, are the many 19th-century wooden buildings
26 A Pleasant Dining Experience at Riga’s Finest which stretches back to the 13th century. that have proudly withstood the pressures
Restaurants The panorama’s pleasing harmony is just of commercialization and gentrification,
the most visible indication of the superb retaining their place in Riga’s architectural
28 Fashion and Design aesthetic sense that has shaped much of cornucopia and currently undergoing state-
the city’s architecture up to the present day. of-the-art facelifts.
30 Shopping in Riga
Nowhere is that aesthetic more pronounced But Riga is much more than just its history.
32 Active Leisure for the Whole Family than in Centrs, the central part of Riga, Proud of its heritage, it is a thoroughly
which is the city’s economic, financial modern city with a highly developed
34 Jūrmala and its White, Sandy Beaches and cultural core, as well as a UNESCO- infrastructure and opportunities for a
designated World Heritage Site. One will variety of activities and entertainment. A
36 How to Weather Seasons in Riga find a breathtaking range of architectural city with rich musical traditions, today it
styles in the historical centre – from boasts an excellent opera, several world-
Baroque to Classicism, from Renaissance class choirs and outstanding classical
to Art Deco, from Romanesque to National orchestras, not to mention jazz, rock and

2 3
blues ensembles, plus a variety of other Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles,
popular music bands performing in both Jews, and other ethnic groups. All have
concert halls and clubs. left and are still leaving their mark on the
customs, cuisine, and the very appearance
At the vanguard of dramatic art not only of Riga. While the city’s relatively compact,
locally but on the European scale, the New urban space is ethnically mixed, it features
Riga Theatre has much to offer to locals and many distinct neighbourhoods, each with its
visitors alike. Riga’s museums are definitely own unique history and landmarks.
not dusty repositories of the past, but are
instead putting an increasing emphasis Among Riga’s many treasures are its
on interactive displays and modern beautiful, well-tended gardens and parks,
technologies, while the many art galleries which take up a substantial portion of the
compete with each other in trying to predict city’s territory. In fact, there are several
the trends of the future. Add to that the good-sized forests within the city limits,
varied shopping venues and myriad cafés, where the locals love to take Sunday strolls,
restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, and you jog, watch birds, pick mushrooms in the
get Riga in all its lively variety. autumn, and go skiing in the winter. In the
spring, when the city’s many orchards are
What has always been central to the energy in bloom, white petals can be seen drifting
of the city, however, is its people. Located by through the air; then come the purples
an important waterway, the Daugava River, and pinks of lilacs, which are particularly
which connects the city to the Gulf of Riga spectacular along the crooked, dreamy
and the Baltic Sea and thus to far-off lands, side-streets of Pārdaugava, on the left bank
Riga has always been a transportation hub of the river, to be followed in late June by the
and a crossroads, where different cultures pale honey of blossoming lindens that line
meet and intersect. Among its more than Riga’s stately boulevards.
700 000 inhabitants there are Latvians,

Having endured many wars, political regime

changes and economic upheavals,
Riga remains a lively, spirited,
and future-oriented city with its own
distinct aura, charm, and style.

4 5
icons OF RIGA

Like any metropolis with a long and illustrious history, Riga has its share
of icons – landmarks, symbols and legends. This brief list will help you to
familiarize yourself with some of them and to acquire a feel of the city’s
timeless spirit.

Riga Castle
One of the most striking features of the Old
Town’s classic skyline is the Riga Castle,
which has served as the seat of various
rulers throughout the centuries. After
independence was restored in 1991, the
castle became the primary workplace of the

Freedom Monument
Even the most cynical Latvians retain some
reverence for the Freedom Monument,
one of Riga’s central landmarks. Unveiled
in 1935 and financed entirely from public Dome Cathedral
donations, the stone and metal structure In terms of age, size, and overall majesty,
was originally built in memory of those who nothing in Riga can equal the Dome
fell during Latvia’s War of Independence, Cathedral, the largest medieval church in
which lasted from 1918-1920. The the Baltic States. The Dome’s interior holds
monument rapidly became the main symbol many unique treasures that offer insights
of Latvia’s statehood, national unity and into the art history of the Baltic region. The
independence. Dome’s famous organ – once the largest in
The motto “For the Fatherland and the world – was constructed in 1884 and
Freedom” is inscribed upon the base. has more than 6700 pipes.

6 7
Wörmann Garden public park Sakta flower market
This central park was created by the widow Latvians often give flowers as gifts when
of a wealthy merchant in 1817. It is known visiting their friends and family members.
affectionately as Vērmanītis – the diminutive This national, floral cult amazes tourists
of Anna Wörmann’s surname that has since and reflects a Northern weakness for these
been Latvianized and turned into a toponym. living embodiments of the sun and its
Guarded by two lions, a monument to Anna warmth. Mangaļsala Jetty can remember. During the late 19th-century,
now stands in a circular rose bed. On the Mangaļsala is the first part of Riga that Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs penned the
Merķeļa street side, posing like the dandy visiting ships reach as they enter the city classic and legendary Bearslayer epos,
he sometimes was, is a bronze of Kārlis from the Baltic Sea. The jetty on Mangaļsala based on popular Latvian folktales that he
Padegs, one of Riga’s most fascinating, early is located right where Latvia’s “river of fate,” himself had once heard.
20th-century artists. the Daugava, flows into the Gulf of Riga.
The best place to experience the wonder of Brethren Cemetery
Cobblestone streets the place where these two great bodies of The Brethren Cemetery, with its powerful
Cobblestones have covered Riga’s water meet is by standing right on the jetty. artistic expression of Latvia’s national
streets for more than five centuries. They At sunset, if you walk along the concrete struggle for self-determination, is a sacred
are simultaneously loved (real Rigans “tongue” that stretches into the sea for place for many Latvians. On the last Sunday
sometimes call themselves “cobblestone several hundred meters, it feels like you’re in November, when people light candles
kids”) and lamented – like when the heel walking on water. at the fog-shrouded graves of their loved
of a woman’s shoe catches in a narrow gap ones, hundreds bring candles to the statue
between the stones. Latvian money of Mother Latvia at the Brethren Cemetery,
In terms of design, the Latvian lat is one of between the Forest (Meža kapi) and Rainis
Laima Clock the more unusual and attractive currencies (Raiņa kapi) cemeteries in Riga.
The Laima Clock, erected in 1924 and in the Western world. Storks, ants, The remains of more than 2000 of fallen
located close to the Freedom Monument, mushrooms, chimneysweeps, and other soldiers of the First World War (1915-1918)
may very well be the most popular motifs grace the coins, which have become and the War of Independence (1918-1920)
rendezvous point in Riga. The logo of the popular collector’s items. have been buried here. Between 1924 and
most popular local confectioner, Laima, 1936, the sculptor Kārlis Zāle –
appeared on the clock during the 1930s. Bearslayer who also designed the Freedom
Bearslayer is Latvia’s mythological Monument – developed this remarkable
superman, whose superhuman exploits cemetery, together with other artists and
have been recounted to practically all architects.
Latvian children for as far back as anyone

8 9
Riga’s architecture – splendid in its diversity

Riga’s diverse architectural heritage spans almost the entire range of

the city’s 800-year history, from the 13th-century to the present. With over
4000 magnificent buildings representing a variety of artistic styles, Riga’s
historic centre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

As you stroll through the Old Town’s in the world, with over 800 buildings
winding, cobblestone streets, you erected in that style at the turn of the
will discover numerous other elegant 20th-century. It would probably not be
buildings – including the Three an exaggeration to say that one can spot
Brothers complex on M. Pils iela, the at least three noteworthy Art Nouveau
Hotel Neiburgs on Jauniela and the buildings from any place in the city’s historic
recently rebuilt Blackheads’ House centre.
on Rātslaukums – reflecting traces of
Baroque, Renaissance, Classicist, Art Here one can see shining examples of
Nouveau and other architectural styles. different branches of this architectural
style, starting with the splendidly ornate
Old Riga is enclosed on one side by the building facades on Alberta iela and
Old Riga’s classic skyline The stately, church steeples of these Daugava River, and on the other by the ending with unique, National Romanticism
Old Riga lies at the heart of the city and is landmark buildings are the most prominent city canal, with its ring of parks and green pearls designed by the first generation of
the best place to see how each historical features of Riga’s classic skyline, along with boulevards. Beyond the canal lie various, Latvian architects. One such gem is Riga
era has left its mark. The oldest surviving the stalwart Riga Castle by the riverfront. eclectically-built neighbourhoods dating Secondary School No. 40 (Rīgas 40.
buildings were built as houses of worship You can catch a breathtaking, bird’s-eye from the 19th-century to the present. ģimnāzija) on Tērbatas iela 15/17. Opened
in the Gothic and Romanesque traditions, view of the city’s rooftops from one of these in 1905 with elements that recall the ancient
with subsequent renovations conducted in steeples – the spire of St. Peter’s Church, Art Nouveau pearls homesteads of the Latvian countryside, it
Baroque and other styles. which for nearly two centuries was the Riga stands out as one of the most still functions as a school.
tallest wooden structure in Europe. prominent Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) centres

10 11
Riga is also known for its eclectically- authenticity – which from an architectural
constructed buildings, many of them standpoint, can be seen as a bonus, rather
residential apartment houses, which than a drawback.
encompass elements of more than one
architectural style. Among the prominent The modern era
edifices built in a single style are the Latvian Riga has retained certain vestiges of its
National Museum of Art (built in Neo- turn-of-the-century, industrial heritage. The
Baroque style) and the red-brick Latvian old port in Andrejsala has become a thriving
Academy of Arts right beside it (built in centre for contemporary art, while the busy
Neo-Gothic style). Central Market complex is housed in former
zeppelin hangars dating from the First World
Wooden architecture gems War. Nearby, a group of formerly neglected
Wood is a plentiful resource in Latvia and warehouses by the riverfront was recently
other Northern European countries, which turned into the Spīķeri Creative Quarter,
is why a considerable number of buildings which has now become a vibrant business
in Riga were built of this material during and cultural centre.
the late 19th and early 20th-centuries.
Although many wooden structures During the 1920s and 1930s, modern,
have not withstood the ravages of time functionalist architecture made its lasting
and have since been torn down, some mark upon the city. It was during this period
neighbourhoods outside of the historic that such nationally significant sculptural
city centre (notably in Pārdaugava, on complexes as the Freedom Monument and
the left bank of the Daugava River) have the Brethren Cemetery came into being.
retained the unique atmosphere conveyed The buildings that were constructed in
by thoughtfully constructed wooden Latvia’s capital city after the Second World
residences. War were of varying quality and artistic
merit. Nevertheless, some of these edifices
A number of wooden buildings in have been skilfully refurbished, generating
Ķīpsala and on Kalnciema iela have been a renewed interest in the city’s Soviet-era
painstakingly restored to their former architecture. Among the most illustrious
splendour, as a shining indication that the examples are the Daile Theatre, the
simple, wooden houses of yesteryear can Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and
still be put to practical use in the current the Latvian Academy of Sciences building.
Most recently, the Sun Stone headquarters
A great number of wooden, residential of Swedbank in Ķīpsala, the new Parex
buildings can also be found in the banka headquarters near the Riga
traditionally working-class Latgale suburb, Passenger Port, the LMT headquarters
which Rigans affectionately term as on Ropažu iela and other new, corporate
Maskačka. This part of Riga begins to buildings testify to Riga’s continued growth
the east of the central train station and and dynamism – not to mention the newly
Central Market. While many of the houses rebuilt City Hall in the heart of Old Riga and
in this area are badly in need of a paint job, the future National Library building, which
they have retained a great deal of their is still under construction.

12 13
A thriving arts and culture scene

For centuries, Riga has been a city with an undying, creative spirit. Even
under the most oppressive occupying regimes of the past, the arts have
always found a means to flourish in one form or another. Currently Riga
is experiencing an artistic and cultural revival of particular intensity.

performance at the New Riga Theatre. display mainly paintings by Latvian artists,
Every production is an eagerly awaited while others (such as Tasty, Istaba and
event, thanks to the ability of director Alvis Supernova) feature unconventional and
Hermanis to communicate simple things in modern forms of art. The Alma gallery in
a timeless manner. Hermanis’ reputation the Embassy Row neighbourhood near
for productions that are intense, thought- Elizabetes iela caters to avant-garde tastes,
provoking and emotional has spread far as do the galleries in the Spīķeri Creative
beyond Latvia’s borders. Quarter, next to the Central Market.

The Latvian National Art Museum offers Other museums in Riga also host
one of the best opportunities to witness fascinating exhibitions, such as the Riga
Opera lovers will be enthralled by the as a conductor at the Riga German Theatre. the development of visual arts in Latvia, the Motor Museum, which has a huge collection
electrifying performances at the Latvian Among Riga’s most illustrious native sons Baltics and Russia from the 18th-century of antique vehicles, including a “Kremlin
National Opera, which have gained wide and daughters one might mention the to the present. The works of the Latvian- Collection” of cars that were once used by
acclaim, both within Latvia and abroad. The ballet star Mikhail Barishnikov, master born, avant-garde, Soviet propaganda artist the Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin and Leonid
best moments of the previous season can conductor Mariss Jansons, opera diva Elīna Gustavs Klucis are well represented, as Brezhnev.
be enjoyed every summer at the Riga Opera Garanča and virtuoso violinist Gidon Kremer. are those of the Russian mystic Nicholas
Festival, complete with a star-studded cast Whenever these world-famous stars hold a Roerich and his son Svetoslav. The Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air
of guest soloists and conductors. The opera performance in their native city, it is always Museum, for its part, is located in a
also regularly features such classical ballet a special and emotional event. Latvian and European 20th and 21st-century beautiful, pine forest on the shores of Lake
productions as the legendary Swan Lake. art exhibitions regularly take place at the Jugla. The authentic, wooden, 18th and
For those who prefer more modern dance Classical music aficionados will not be museum’s Arsenāls exhibition hall and at 19th-century homesteads of Latvian farmers,
interpretations, a number of ensembles offer disappointed by the programme and the Riga Art Space. Numerous art galleries fishermen and craftsmen will transport you
new and bold experiments in contemporary concerts of the Latvian National Symphony will introduce you to the latest currents in back to another era when all food was local
dance at various venues in the city. Orchestra and the Sinfonietta Riga Latvian painting, photography, design and and motor traffic did not yet exist.
chamber orchestra, which will please even multimedia art.
Riga has been a city of inspiration for many the most discriminate listeners. History buffs will gain a valuable insight
artists, including composer Richard Wagner, A number of art galleries in Old Riga (such into Riga’s 800-year history at the Riga
who drew insights for the construction of Before your next visit to Riga, you might as Supernova, Rīgas galerija, Māksla XO, Museum of History and Navigation and the
the Bayreuth Festspielhaus while working consider booking advance tickets to a Galerija 21, Daugava, A-Sūna and others) Latvian National History Museum.

14 15
Riga – a flourishing environment for creative artists

They say that every cloud has its silver lining, and this has definitely been
the case with regard to Riga’s cultural scene. The advent of the world
economic downturn, had the positive effect of making cheaper rental
space available in Riga, which various groups of creative artists and
musicians have taken advantage of to a maximum extent.

Thanks to the flurry of cultural activity that Neighbourhood by Miera and A. Briāna
has taken almost everyone in Latvia by streets
surprise, a number of creative quarters have The neighbourhood by Miera and A. Briāna
burst upon the scene and have become new streets is also making a name for itself,
landmarks on Riga’s cultural map. following the opening of a number of
popular boutiques, vintage clothing and
Andrejsala design shops, including Retrospectro and
The first artist “assault” was conducted 20. gadsimts, as well as the Melnais Knābis
on the neglected, industrial buildings and hair styling salon. Handicraft workshops
machinery in Andrejsala, by the shores of are offered at the nearby Taša boutique,
the Daugava River. This territory was only and the recently opened Piens and Kefīrs
opened to the public a few years ago and nightclubs have quickly become among the
now houses the Latvian Museum of Naive trendiest in the city. This is one of the more
Art, as well as a large number of workshops attractive Riga neighbourhoods, where the
for artists, architects, photographers and sweet and pleasant scent of freshly made
other creative groups. Festivals, concerts chocolates often pervades the air from the
and other cultural events are regularly held nearby Laima confectionary factory.
in Andrejsala, which has become a favourite
haunt for many of the city’s young artists Kalnciema iela quarter
and musicians. Across the river, in Pārdaugava, lies the
Kalnciema iela quarter of freshly renovated
Spīķeri Creative Quarter wooden houses. This began as a private
The Spīķeri Creative Quarter is now initiative to renovate several neglected but
home to more than a dozen cultural, stately wooden buildings on both sides of
creative groups. Located a stone’s throw Kalnciema iela, one of the main streets in
from the Central Market by the shores of Pārdaugava. Riga’s wooden architecture
the Daugava River, Spīķeri hosts regular is considered to be a valuable, cultural
art exhibitions organized by the kim? heritage by UNESCO, and the Kalnciema
creative group, as well as high-calibre iela quarter is a good place to witness it in
music concerts in its new concert hall. The its renewed glory, either by attending the
Dirty Deal Café, for its part, organizes regular Saturday markets, or by browsing
independent theatre, artistic and musical through the interior design stores that have
performances. If the nearby Daugava now set up shop there, together with a
riverfront is refurbished by the city as number of business offices.
planned, then Spīķeri is sure to become a
veritable, cultural tourism attraction.

16 17
Annual events

Riga hosts a number of exciting events. Whatever the season, there is

always something to see, hear or do in Riga’s lively culture scene.

The culmination of the celebration is the of August or the beginning of September

closing, concert performance in Mežaparks. – exhibitions and performances to suit all
The electrifying atmosphere generated tastes take place in the strangest variety
by thousands of singers and dancers on a of places, including empty stores and
single, open-air stage is a powerful, emotional abandoned factories, as well as at more
experience that is not soon forgotten. The conventional exhibition halls and clubs.
next Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration Latvia’s White Night is part of the European
is scheduled to take place in 2013. White Nights international cultural project.
Forest of Sound
If you wish to acquire a taste of the latest in Baltic Pearl film festival
musical experimentation, then make sure Baltic Pearl is one of the two major
to attend Riga’s annual Forest of Sound international film festivals that regularly
untamed music festival. This international take place in Riga (the other being
event combines the latest developments in Arsenāls). The festival’s strength is in its
Nordea Riga Marathon thrilling sports venue has taken place every contemporary culture with the most recent programme, especially its classic films and
Riga’s annual marathon run has become an year on the third Sunday in May since 1991. technological advances – in the form of retrospectives. However, it also features
increasingly popular sports event, drawing experimental music and sound. “digests” of films that have recently
thousands of participants from numerous A number of world class musical dreamers triumphed in the great European film
countries. Runners of all ages course past Latvia’s Nationwide Song and Dance and dissidents have performed at the festivals at Cannes, Berlin and Venice.
some of Riga’s most beautiful tourist spots, Celebration festival over the years, to considerable The festival is the perfect venue for those
filling the atmosphere along the 42-kilometre The largest and most impressive cultural critical acclaim. who wish to see the greatest treasures
course with a thrilling sense of exhilaration. festival in Latvia is the Nationwide Song discovered on the European festival circuit.
and Dance Celebration, which usually takes Baltic Pearl takes place annually in the
The majority of the race’s participants place once every five years and lasts an White night cultural festival autumn.
actually choose to run much shorter entire week. Partly because it is free and accessible
distances – either the mini marathon (5 km), Among the highlights of this monumental to all, White Night is one of the most
the half marathon (21 km), or the relay race event is a colourful procession of the popular, annual cultural events in Riga. Arsenāls International Film Forum
(with four participants per team). celebration’s participants. Dressed in folk Concentrating on contemporary forms of The Arsenāls International Film Forum
The marathon traditionally starts off with costumes, some 30 000 performers file art, it unites cultural enthusiasts of all ages, has had an immense impact on the Baltic
the Unity Kilometre, a one-kilometre event past thousands of more cheering onlookers from children to senior citizens. cultural scene since 1986. The forum
for people with physical disabilities. This through the streets of the city. On this particular night – usually at the end presented classics and contemporary films

18 19
Latvia’s Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration

20 21
Business tourism opportunities in Riga

Riga is one of the most attractive centres for business tourism in

Northern Europe, alongside Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki. One of
Riga’s greatest assets is its modern and advanced infrastructure, as well
as its top-level banking and other services.

Riga’s beautiful historic centre, where most congresses and meetings, often from the
of the city’s business and cultural events information technology and pharmaceutical
take place, is easily navigable and in many sectors.
cases is sufficiently compact for one to
travel from one meeting to the next on foot. Another attractive feature of Latvia’s capital
After a hard day at work, Riga offers a wide city is that most of the hotels in Riga’s
with a focus on fresh forms of expression bold and innovative performances by some array of appealing culture and entertainment historical centre have been either built
and the avant-garde. of the most outstanding theatre troupes in possibilities, along with the opportunity to or extensively renovated during the past
Staying true to its original mission of Europe since 1995. savour a delicious meal in some of Northern few years, providing an added sense of
providing diversity in cinema and the Europe’s best restaurants. sparkle and vitality to the city’s tourism and
visual arts, the film forum takes place business environment.
every two years. The festival is best known Riga Opera Festival Latvia’s capital city can be easily reached Those who prefer a classic, turn-of-the-
for its Baltic cinema competition, as The Riga Opera Festival was one of the from the furthest corners of the globe, with century ambience can choose from a
well as screenings of international films, first, large-scale opera festivals to be held direct air links to more than 60 different number of fine hotels that are located
retrospectives and special showings. in Northern Europe and has become an destinations, along with ferry traffic to within the premises of visually breathtaking eagerly awaited, annual event by both Sweden and Germany, and rail connections Art Nouveau buildings, but equipped
Latvian audiences and opera-lovers from with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia and with all of the necessary accessories and
Arēna New Music Festival abroad. Lithuania. conveniences of the 21st-century.
The annual Arēna New Music Festival seeks Every summer, the festival marks the end
to provide live venues for musical works of the Latvian National Opera’s season An increasing number of business travellers During the past few years, Riga has become
that have been penned during the past few with an overview of the best moments of and companies have been choosing an even more attractive destination due to its
years, mainly by composers from Latvia. The the previous year, offering fans a chance Riga as a place to hold their meeting competitive hotel room rates, which compare
range of music performed at this festival to relive their favourite scenes or see what events, which range in size from small- very favourably with those of other cities in
is very wide, ranging from electroacoustic they’ve missed. scale conferences with no more than 20 the Baltic Sea region and elsewhere in Europe.
compositions to large format symphony The high quality of the opera’s productions participants, to international mega-events, Coupled with the top-notch and friendly
and vocal symphony works. World class (including its innovative stage design) has such as the NATO summit meeting, which service that these establishments provide, you
performers and composers from other been noted outside of the country, and has took place in Riga in 2006. Lately, Riga has and your business colleagues are sure to feel
countries have also performed at this helped the opera to draw brilliant guest been a popular destination for mid-sized welcome in Latvia’s capital city.
unconventional event. conductors and soloists to Riga.

Homo Novus International Festival of

Contemporary Theatre
The annual Homo Novus International
Festival of Contemporary Theatre is a
genuine treat for theatre lovers and always a
memorable occasion. Founded by the New
Theatre Institute of Latvia, it has featured

22 23
Accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes Health, wellness, spa and beauty services

It is no secret that the hotel in which one stays leaves a lasting Along with its traditional tourist attractions, Riga offers a full range
impression about the city that one is visiting. Sometimes an of health, wellness, spa and beauty services for the visitor.This is a city
exploration of the hotel itself can turn out to be a voyage within where you can experience chakra rebalancing with amber crystals,
a voyage. relaxing massages and water therapy sessions.

Riga has a wide selection of enclave with boutiques and restaurants that
accommodations to suit all budgets and was built during the 19th-century. Located
tastes – from luxury, royal class suites for on the site of a former cabbage-patch, it is
demanding travellers, to charming, mid- now the best-known, five-star hotel in Riga,
range hotels for families with children, as well as a member of the Small Luxury
to low-budget hostels for students and Hotels of the World alliance.
The Dome Hotel & Spa in the very heart of
Well-to-do travellers might choose to stay Old Riga boasts of the first green wall in the
in the Europe Royale, a 19th-century, city, as well as a rooftop terrace with one
Eclectic-style mansion that once belonged of the finest views of the Dome Cathedral.
to Antons Benjamiņš, the legendary Nearby, the Hotel Neiburgs operates
Latvian media magnate. During the from one of the most lavish Art Nouveau
1930s, the créme de la créme of Latvian buildings in the city.
society was often entertained within these
walls. Half a century later, the leaders At the lower end of the price scale, budget
of the independence movements of the travellers have given consistently favourable
three Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia and reviews to Riga’s hostels, one of which
Lithuania) gathered in this building and ranked ninth in’s 2010 list
started the Singing Revolution, which led of the ten best budget hostels in the world.
to the reestablishment of these countries’ Some spas offer a unique mask treatment known for its highly qualified specialists
independence in 1991. The interior of the Whatever your budget and tastes, you are with naturally occurring mud that is and physicians, who routinely perform
hotel is adorned with the largest Venetian sure to find the accommodation that will suit well-known in the Baltic region for its complex, specialized surgeries such as joint
chandelier in the Baltic States. your needs in Riga. cleansing and revitalizing properties. These replacement, dental surgery and cosmetic
restorative and effective spa procedures surgery, at affordable rates.
The high-range Hotel Bergs is nestled for the face and the body are tailored to Those who have tired of wearing glasses or
within the Berga Bazārs, a village-like the individual client and provide for a truly contact lenses often turn to Riga’s critically
enjoyable experience, from which you will acclaimed eye clinics, which are among the
feel pleasantly rejuvenated and ready to best in Northern Europe. Here one can
return to the frenzied pace of everyday life. get one’s vision corrected with the world’s
Riga also has some of the best hair stylists fastest, excimer-type Concerto laser, which
and beauticians in Eastern Europe, as guarantees precise and excellent results.
an increasing number of visitors are The medical staff at Riga’s private practices
discovering. is professional and attentive, as becomes
high-quality clinics that offer advanced
In the sphere of health tourism, many services. Numerous appreciative clients
foreign travellers are opting to have elective from Scandinavia and elsewhere have
procedures conducted in Riga, which is returned home happy and satisfied.

24 25
A pleasant dining experience at Riga’s fine restaurants

Since its foundation more than 800 years ago, Riga has stood
at a crossroads, as a meeting point for various nations and
cultures. This is reflected in the diverse cuisine of Riga’s fine

Popular chef Mārtiņš Sirmais, who also third has both a wine bar and an art gallery
has his own TV show, stands out with his as added bonuses.
impulsive, experimental style. He changes
his menu regularly and you can decide what You may choose to dine on the shortest
to order by consulting with the chef himself. street in the Old Town, where you will
have no difficulty finding the eating
Kaspars Jansons is a true maestro of establishment that operates there.
contemporary haute cuisine. He mastered Several restaurants in the Old Town
his craft at various European restaurants have formed an alliance of sorts, the Old
that have been given the highest ratings by Riga’s Honest Tapsters’ Association www.
Michelin., which serves as a
seal of quality for both locals and foreign
Riga is also a place, where one can still tourists.
encounter the authentic cuisine of the
former Soviet era. One first-rate, Soviet- The restaurants with the best postcard
style Armenian restaurant is located in a panorama of Riga’s skyline are located
former residential flat. One of the very best across the river in Ķīpsala. One of them
Such local, Latvian foods as herring, obtained products, and blending the best shashlik eateries in Riga offers superb, offers a great, riverside view of the Old
flounder and trout, pearl-barley and Latvian traditions with an inspiration that skewered meat under the friendly eye of the Town and port, with the scene changing
chanterelles, seasonal fruits, vegetables and knows no borders. Many prominent guests Georgian proprietor and his family. continually, depending on the weather,
berries are served under the inspiration of have savoured his outstanding cuisine, lighting and time of day. Further towards the
recipes introduced from other countries, including Akihito, the Emperor of Japan, Clearly, the ambience that surrounds you end of the island, boats, yachts and ships
both near and far. Prince Charles and sir Elton John. while you enjoy your meal is almost as share the horizon with the majestic, old
Naturally, the real stars in the domain of important as the food itself. In this regard, Andrejsala power plant. Ducks, seagulls and
fine dining are the city’s master chefs. In another restaurant close to the Freedom Riga also offers a wide array of venues to other waterfowl add to the charm.
One of the best-known virtuosos on Riga’s Monument, gourmet chef Ēriks Dreibants choose from. One cafeteria with an excellent
gastronomic scene is Mārtiņš Rītiņš. is forging a bold, new path for modern view of Riga’s seaport is located on a
A passionate pioneer of the Slow Food Latvian cooking, combining time-honoured floating platform that formerly served as a
movement in Latvia, Rītiņš makes a point traditions with worldly innovation and ship repair workshop. Another café in the
of using wholesome, seasonal and locally healthy eating. centre of the city doubles as a bookshop. A

26 27
Fashion and design

Latvian design traditions, like those in Scandinavia, have an extended

history. The renewal of Latvia’s independence in 1991 was accompanied
by an explosion of creative activity in many areas, including fashion
and design.

During the past few years, the rest of the Other innovative and successful Latvian
world has also begun to notice Latvia’s products include ZNAK interactive
talented designers and innovative brands, wallpaper, MADARA eco-cosmetics,
which stand out with their originality and Stenders soaps, Emihls Gustavs
high quality. chocolates and Latvian Lights handmade
candles. The unique light fixtures by
For example, the furniture, intellectual mammalampa are also making a name for
toys and interior items made by the Rijada themselves, both within Latvia and abroad.
design studio have been experiencing The company’s unusual lamp Līgava (The
growing acclaim and have been featured in Bride) has become an icon of contemporary
numerous international publications and Latvian design within a very short time.
A similar renaissance has been experienced
an&angel, which specializes in functional by Latvia’s fashion designers, who have
design objects made of glass and crystal, been making waves not only in Latvia,
has established a growing presence in both but also on the international fashion
Europe and Asia with its attractive, glass scene. Some of the most notable brands
bowl collections. It can also be credited with include Mare un Rol’s, Keita, Anna Led,
reviving the country’s long-dormant, but Baiba Ripa, Natālija Jansone and Studija
formerly thriving glass design traditions. Naturāls.

Although wood is an important Latvian Latvia is also known for its creative and
export product, up until recently no Latvian professional jewellery makers, who often
furniture designer had managed to make draw inspiration from the strikingly
significant inroads outside of the domestic beautiful, native Latvian jewellery of the
market. That changed with the introduction early Middle Ages.
the new, MINT free-standing module
kitchen collection, which was an immediate All this to show that despite its small size,
international success. MINT-brand furniture Latvia has a wealth of creative talent and a
is designed and manufactured by Rauzas lot to offer to the refined consumer in the
kompānija. fields of fashion and design.

28 29
Shopping in Riga

Shopping is an integral part of any voyage abroad, as well as a wonderful

way to acquaint oneself with the place that one is visiting. Riga has a
wealth of small, distinctive shops that offer first-rate souvenirs and
gifts, many of them made right here in Latvia by local artists.

age, including religious icons and Soviet-era As a leading, European metropolis, Riga
relics dating from the 1950s to the 1980s. has a large number of boutiques that offer
a wide selection of clothing and accessories
One of the best ways to get a feel for the to suit all tastes and price ranges – from the
place that you are visiting is by taking a most popular, low- and mid-range designer
trip to the local market. While a trip to the brands to higher end, luxury brands. During
Look out for tastefully designed clothing and fourth Sunday of each month and is legendary Central Market is an experience the past few years, factory outlet stores
and accessories, stylish jewellery, naturally becoming an increasingly popular event. in itself, there are also other, smaller have also opened their doors, offering
made eco-cosmetics and contemporary, markets in the city where you can take in French and Italian fashion brand clothing
interior design items such as light fixtures Book lovers can easily spend hours the lively atmosphere. The Night Market and accessories, as well as more alternative
and decorative objects. browsing through the city’s charming next to the Spīķeri creative quarter, where brands for discriminate consumers, at
bookstores and are likely to find some farmers offer their own, freshly picked very affordable prices. The city’s largest
The Berga Bazārs is a great place to shop, real gems, from antique rarities to more produce, operates from evening until dawn. shopping centres carry a wide choice
a city within a city in the very centre of Riga. contemporary publications on the arts, The markets are among the best places to of wares for those in search of clothing,
Here you will find various, fine boutiques, design and architecture. Many old and new obtain such local, gastronomic souvenirs as household or interior design items.
galleries, arcades, cafés and restaurants – publications are available in English and dark, rye bread, hemp butter, homemade
each with its own, special character. A other foreign languages. cottage cheese, smoked fish, natural honey Whatever your needs, your shopping
colourful farmers’ market, where only and various herbal teas, whose healing experience in Riga is sure to be rewarding
naturally grown, ecological food products Riga’s vintage stores and antique shops properties are held in high regard by the and you are likely to return home satisfied
are sold, takes place here on the second offer a treasure trove of items from a bygone local population. and content.

30 31
Active leisure for the whole family

One of Riga’s most attractive features is its proximity to scenic, unspoiled,

natural landscapes. Refreshingly green parks and gardens, lush, pine
forests and white, sandy beaches can all be reached within a half-hour
from the city centre.

Not far away, Lake Ķīšezers beckons to Riga area. Chances are that you may also
those who are fond of swimming and other spot some of the local wildlife along the way,
water sports. You can also explore the which include deer, fox, rabbit and wild boar.
shoreline by rowboat. One can also take a closer look at the
most recent housing developments in
The Latvian Open-Air Ethnographic Mārupe, stop and explore a four-storey,
Museum on the shores of Lake Jugla is one former Soviet army underground bunker,
of the oldest in Europe. Open year-round, and ride around the wooded perimeter of
it offers the visitor a fascinating glimpse of the Riga International Airport. During the
Latvia’s cultural and architectural history, as summertime, riders take refreshing dips on
well as a unique trip through centuries past. horseback in any one of the nearby bodies
As you amble through dozens of traditional, of water, as well as romantic excursions on
farming and fishing homesteads, you can moonlit evenings.
There are also plenty of opportunities for destination for pedestrians, cyclists and visit a number of craftsmen’s workshops
active leisure during the winter months, with roller skaters, as well as families with and try your hand at weaving or pottery. During the summer months, one can obtain
outdoor skating rinks and cross-country ski children. Its rural feel can make one easily No trip to the museum is complete without an unusual view of Riga’s city centre and Old
trails located right in the city proper. One forget that Riga’s city centre is just a few a short ride on the ground’s traditional, Town by renting a pedal boat and cruising
can even go on horseback riding excursions kilometres away. If you don’t feel like Latvian wooden swing. along the city’s 3-km canal. One can also
across the snow-covered fields of Mārupe. walking, then you can breeze through the take a scenic boat trip on the Darling, which
park grounds on a ride vehicle that serves The Zirgzandales horseback riding centre will bring you under 15 bridges. The trip
One of the best ways to get a feel of Latvia’s the park’s visitors. provides a radical change of scene for begins at Bastejkalns, a park at the edge of
capital city is by bicycle. Baltic Bike’s those who have spent the day working in Old Riga near the Powder Tower. Behind the
bicycle rental centres are located in various A playground, amusement rides, the city. Located only 14 km from the Old Newlyweds’ Bridge is Riga’s largest waterfall
parts of the city, which makes cycling trampolines and toy cars are sure to provide Town, in the Mārupe suburb of Riga, here (not very large, in fact, but pretty all the
excursions particularly convenient. You can hours of fun for the park’s younger visitors, one enters a genuinely rural setting, which same), followed by the Freedom Monument,
start your bicycle trip in one part of the city as will the nearby Riga Zoo, which plans one can enjoy either on horseback, sleigh or the National Opera and one’s first view of
and drop off your rented bike in another. to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012. carriage. the Daugava River at the recently renovated
Home to some 2500 different animals, the Zirgzandales offers horseback riding Spīķeri complex near the Central Market.
The massive, forest park named Mežaparks, zoo is particularly proud of its four, gracious excursions to the swamps and peat bogs of
with its fragrant pine trees and numerous Rothschild giraffes, which live in one of the Mārupe and Olaine, which are home to the
footpaths, is a popular recreational most modern giraffe houses in Europe. largest colony of migrating cranes in the

32 33
Jūrmala and its white, sandy beaches shoreline recalls the untamed forces of Jūrmala has long been a favourite vacation
nature at work. Once the storms have spot for those with a creative bent. Many
Jūrmala is one of the finest resort towns in Northern Europe. Its white, subsided, amber seekers scour the famous authors, poets, painters and
sandy beaches, pine-covered forests, mineral springs and naturally beachfront in the hopes of finding pieces composers have spent their summers here,
occurring, medicinal mud has made it a favourite tourist and spa of this unique, yellowish stone washed up providing an additional impetus to the city’s
destination since the late 1700s. along the coastline. active, cultural scene. Exhibitions of all kinds
regularly take place at the Jūrmala City
Although there are considerably less visitors Museum. The Dzintari outdoor concert hall
to Jūrmala during the winter months, the hosts musical performances all summer long.
city’s beach, sand dunes and forests remain The New Wave music festival is a major event
a favourite destination for cross-country that draws pop stars from all over the world.
skiers. Ice sculpture festivals are also The Summertime international music festival
occasionally held, and one of the favourite is organized by Latvia’s most famous opera
sights at the end of the winter, if it has diva Inese Galante, bringing together an entire
been cold enough, is the huge mounds of pleiade of opera and jazz virtuosos, chamber
ice formations driven to shore by the wind music singers and instrument soloists.
from the sea. In the springtime, the budding Academic music concerts are regularly held at
willow catkins in the dunes along the beach the Lutheran church in Dubulti, while literature
are suretime harbingers of Easter and the buffs can visit the memorial museum devoted
upcoming, summer season. to Latvia’s most famous literary couple, the
poets Rainis and Aspazija.
Architecturally, Jūrmala is home to a great
number of beautiful villas built at the turn of The pedestrian walkway on Jomas iela is
the 20th-century. Many of these residences lined with stores, restaurants and cafes,
were built of wood in the Art Nouveau style, and is a popular summer destination. It is an
including its National Romanticism branch. ideal location for family trips, with various
Various elements of Classicism, Historicism, facilities, such as amusement rides, that are
Functionalism and other architectural styles particularly suited for children. The annual
Jurmala can be reached in only 20 to 40 playgrounds, benches, football fields, are also evident. The itineraries for nine, Magic Sand sculpture festival in July also
minutes by road or by rail from the centre volleyball courts, pedal boat rental centres different walking tours of this resort town draws big crowds.
of Riga. The centrepiece of Jūrmala is its and changing stalls. A number of cafes and can be accessed in the Jūrmala city website:
legendary beach, a 33-kilometre stretch restaurants are located right by the beach, as well as at the city’s As a sports, vacation, recreation, tourism
of pristine, white sand that is bordered by or within close walking distance. Kite and Tourism Information Centre on Lienes iela 5. and cultural centre, Jūrmala is a seaside
numerous cafes, restaurants, hotels, health wind surfers usually gather further west resort that is well worth the visit.
spas and private villas. The sandy relief also from the city centre at the beach section in
extends around the city’s southern border Pumpuri.
along the shores of the Lielupe River, where
boating, sailing, fishing and other water The Jūrmala beach and its dunes are a
sports activities take place. great place to relax and sunbathe. The wet,
stretch of sand along the waterfront is firm
The portion of the beach running through and hard, making it suitable for extended
the Bulduri and Majori sections of the walks and bicycle rides along the seashore.
city is Blue Flag certified, meaning that
it conforms to strict water and safety During the windy spring and autumn
standards. It is staffed by lifeguards during seasons, the impressive sight of
the summer season and is equipped with whitecapped waves crashing into the

34 35
How to Weather the Seasons in Riga at the foot of Bastejkalns, which once was occasions. A visit to the “flower row” at the
part of the city’s fortification system, to beginning of Tērbatas, a place the locals call
One of the myths about Latvia is that it is extremely cold in watch fireworks being shot from its highest Saktas puķu tirdziņš, will leave you amazed
winter; too damp and windy in spring and autumn, rainy and point. at the sheer number and variety of flowers
cool in summer. All that may be the case, but certainly not sold, not to mention the fact that buying
every year. Seeing how there is a substantial gap and selling is going on twenty-four hours a
between the winter holiday season and the day, year round. Rigans need their flowers
one that comes in spring, our ancestors in to be always available: flowers are used to
their wisdom devised Meteņi, a carnival-like complement birthday and house-warming
festival that celebrates the end of winter and presents, to express love and condolences,
is remotely related to Mardi Gras, Fasching, to thank someone, to make a statement, or
and other such festivals elsewhere in the for no reason at all.
world, albeit much smaller in its scale.
In Riga these days, Meteņi is primarily As the high point of the Latvian year, when
celebrated at the Open-Air Museum, where Jāņi, or Midsummer’s Night, rolls around,
the local folk music bands lead the singing the flower row is supplemented by a busy
and dancing in an environment that offers a market on Dome Square. In addition to
window to the past. wildflowers, which are abundant in late June
in Latvian fields and meadows, one can also
Many Rigans, especially those with taste the traditional Jāņi foods: the round
small children, return to the Open-Air caraway cheese, home baked bread, and
Museum at Easter time when there is beer. Men (especially if their name happens
more music, singing and dancing as well to be Jānis, the Latvian equivalent to John)
as the traditional egg rolling competitions, can purchase oak leaf wreaths and women
swinging on large wooden swings (to those made of daisies, bluebells, and clover.
prevent mosquitoes from biting in the Wearing these gifts of nature on your head
summer – an important precaution to take), will make you fit right in with Jāņi revellers.
and the opportunity to peruse local crafts In Riga the festival is celebrated in various
and sample local foods. parks, especially those with some elevation
(the better to greet the rising sun around
Of all the Soviet-era holidays, only one really four in the morning) or by a body of water
survives (though unofficially), and that is that can beautifully reflect your Jāņi bonfire
the International Women’s Day on the and allow you to take a refreshing dip in the
8th of March, a holiday that Mother’s Day, water at dawn, all part of the ritual.
observed a couple of months later, has not
quite replaced. On this day, one can observe If not before Jāņi, then as a rule after, the
worried-looking men scurrying about with water is warm enough for swimming in the
We also get mild winters and sweltering season, any weather, and our festivities flowers, cakes, and bottles of sparkling Gulf of Riga as well. Many Rigans exit the
summers, long sunny autumns and warm – both traditional and recently developed – wine all purchased in hopes to woo or city for the summer, some moving just a few
springs. Since we never know what to are of great help throughout the year. placate some female being or other. The kilometres west to Jūrmala, Latvia’s prime
expect, our life is never dull. It is true that other time associated with streets virtually seaside resort, which is easily accessible
about half of each year is quite dark here, We start the year as people who follow blooming with flowers is September 1st, by train, taxi, or car. This is the season for
with precious few daylight hours, but then the Gregorian calendar do all over the the traditional beginning of the school picnics and those without summer cottages
there is summer when the sun hardly goes world: rushing in the New Year with a lot year, when schoolchildren present flowers can find places to make a bonfire and grill
down at all. Be that as it may, we have of merriment and noise. In recent years, to their teachers. This, however, does not some meat practically within city limits.
learned to adjust and make the best of any Rigans gather near the Freedom Monument mean that flowers appear only on these two

36 37
As the summer draws to a close and A week later the annual festival of lights is
schoolchildren and university students start launched with imaginative displays, many
drifting back to the city, Riga celebrates City of them the work of professional artists
Days, a festival that was launched at Riga’s placed throughout the city and illuminating
800th anniversary in 2001 and has gained in it throughout Christmas and New Year’s.
popularity ever since. One of the highlights
of the festival is the competition among As elsewhere in the world, the holiday
companies in the fireworks business: the season really begins in late November as
prize for the lucky winner is the opportunity Christmas markets are being set up and
to provide fireworks on November 18th large Christmas trees lit throughout the city.
when Latvia celebrates its independence
and statehood, both established in 1918. This yearly calendar of seasonal holidays,
Prior to this national holiday, Rigans mark festivals and celebrations shows how Concept and design
the anniversary of the Latvian armed nimbly Rigans accommodate and adjust
forces that successfully defended the to the burdens and pleasures of a year Riga Tourism Development Bureau
city against the combined German and that ranges from those dark, inclement Tērbatas 14, Rīga, LV – 1011
Russian force trying to squelch Latvia’s conditions of winter to the luscious, bright E-mail:
independence in 1919. This dark November bounty of spring and summer. With every
night is less so because of the hundreds season marked off by one or more holidays
and thousands of candles lit alongside the and festivals, a visit any time of year is well
Riga Castle wall and floated down the river. rewarded.

Photography credits:

Pages 5, 8 (Laima Clock, Sakta Flower Market), 14, 15, 17, 19, 24, 25, 26, 32
Pages 3, 6, 8 (Vermanes Garden), 10, 11, 13, 22, 36, 38 Romualds Salcevičs
Pages 7, 20 – 21 Ilmārs Znotiņš
Page 9 Kristaps Kalns
Page 18 Nords Event Communications
Page 23 “Viesnīca Latvija”
Page 28 Imants Ķīkulis
Page 30 Rīgas Viļņi
Page 31 airBaltic
Pages 33, 34, 35 Jūrmala City Council

38 39