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Riga's Museums

Learn About Latvia in the Capital

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Interior of Riga Art Nouveau Museum

Interior of Riga Art Nouveau Museum

Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
Riga is hardly short on museums. Whether you are interested in art, history, motor vehicles, photography, or something else, Riga won’t leave you wanting. Many of them are located conveniently in Old Town Riga or are within walking distance of the center and must-see Riga sights. The following are some of Riga’s most interesting museums.

National History Museum of Latvia

If you have ever wanted to know more about Latvia, this museum is where you can start the process. The National History Museum details the story of Latvia’s evolution as a nation and includes everything from archeological artifacts to objects of ethnographic interest.

Museum of Occupation

The Museum of Occupation describes Latvia under occupying forces with exhibits on gulag life and other horrors of deportation. No longer located near the House of Blackheads, it now occupies the former US embassy building on Raina bulvaris.

Art Nouveau Museum

The Art Nouveau Museum is housed on the bottom floor of a building in the Art Nouveau district of Riga and recreates a period-style flat complete with sitting room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, maid’s room, and lavatory. Wall decorations, furniture, and other items are well described in English, Latvian, Russian, and other languages.

Motor Museum

Riga’s Motor Museum has a fine collection of historic vehicles, including one that belonged to Brezhnev and cars and motorcycles from early in their evolution.

Museum of Pharmacy

Step back in time to when medicine was bubbling flasks of unidentified ingredients ad sterilization was optional. The Museum of Pharmacy preserves the history of medicine-making in Latvia. Informational tours are available.

Museum of Riga’s History and Navigation

Learn about Riga’s importance as a trade and shipping center and see other artifacts from Latvia’s political, economic, and cultural development, including archeological finds, weaponry, tools, seafaring equipment, and other objects.

National Museum of Art

The National Museum of Art provides a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, its elegant halls displaying the best work from Latvian artists and artists from nearby countries.

Latvian Photography Museum

The Latvian Photography Museum most notably contains a large exhibit on the domestically produces Minox camera, a miniature camera often used as a spy device. The museum also displays camera and photography equipment from all eras and photographs of historically important events.

Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

The Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum recreates folk life in demonstrations, authentic rural architecture, folk art, food, and festivals. Special events are held for holidays, and the museum can be reached via public transportation from Riga’s center.

Latvian Railway Museum

Riga’s Railway Museum will sate any train enthusiast’s curiosity about Soviet-built locomotives and other rail-related topics, including communication and signaling equipment, repair tools, and uniforms used by Latvia’s railways. Special rolling stock, such as crane and snowplow wagons, are also on display.

Riga Porcelain Museum

The Riga Porcelain Museum, located on the grounds of a former convent that now acts as a hotel, was given life by the Riga Porcelain Factory’s collection of stock. Thousands of pieces of porcelain are on display and include dishware, figurines, and vases. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that may focus on porcelain outside the realm of the museum’s main collection, including works from international artists or factories and contemporary work.

History of Jews in Latvia Museum

The History of Jews in Latvia Museum is located in the same building as Jewish Cultural Center. It documents Jewish life in Latvia from the 18th century, pays homage to influential Jewish figures in Latvian history, and remembers Jewish experiences during WWII and under the Soviets. Information is provided in both Latvian and English.

Museum of Decorative Art and Design

The Museum of Decorative Art and Design displays home furnishings, ceramics, textiles, leatherwork, and more in a visually interesting collection of functional art. It is housed in St. George’s Church, the oldest surviving building in Riga (dating from the 13th century).
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