Old Town Riga is small historical section of the Latvian capital city. It is nestled against the eastern bank of the river Daugava and is a good starting point for getting to know Riga
, Riga’s history, and the surrounding area, which also offers sightseeing attractions and museums. In addition, the Riga Christmas market
takes place in this section of the city every year.
Old Riga’s History
Riga has long been a trade city, with its port on the Daugava River an important location for Vikings and German traders. As a result of its trade history, Riga became a part of the formidable Hanseatic League in the 13th century, when its wealth and power began to rise. After a period of existence as a free city, Riga came under the auspices of several ruling territories, including the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, and the Russian empire.
Sights in Old Town Riga
Keeping alive the memories of Riga’s history are its main sights, which are easily found along its twisting roads and on its squares. Some of the most important sights include:
- Old Town Square: The House of Blackheads, one of the most recognizable buildings of Riga, can be found on the square, along with the statue of Roland in the middle of the square, and of course Riga’s Town Hall.
- St. Peter’s Church: St. Peter’s Church tower is a popular lookout point for seeing Old Riga from above.
- Riga Castle: The castle now houses two museums: The National History Museum and the Museum of Foreign Art.
- Dom Cathedral: One of Riga’s most important churches, the Dom Cathedral is also one of its best-known symbols.
- Swedish Gate: This gate is the last remaining of the medieval entrances to the fortified city.
- Powder Tower: This tower remains from the city’s defensive system.
More sights exist just outside of Old Town, such as the freedom monument, the Art Nouveau district of Riga, and the grand Central Market building with its arched roofs. All are within walking distance of the old center and offer a more extensive look into what Riga has to offer travelers.
Restaurants in Old Town Riga
Old Riga is home to an eclectic mixture of restaurants, with international cuisines such as Finnish, Georgian, and Japanese represented. Old Riga has its share of Irish food, too. If you’re in the mood to try authentic Latvian dishes, head to Folk Club Ala on Smilsu Street, where you’ll descend into a cozy cellar and be served affordable meat-and-potato dishes to make your mouth water.
Old Riga Nightlife
Riga’s nightlife scene is impressive. Bars, pubs, and clubs are active, and it’s easy to find one that suits a particular mood or occasion. Though beer is very popular, you’ll easily find cocktail bars and wine bars, too. Clubs welcome visitors well into the morning, whether you’re looking for a student hangout or a club for a young professionals crowd. Be sure to try Riga Black Balsam
, Latvia's most widely advertised alcoholic beverage!
Getting Around Old Riga
Old Town Riga is easy to get around. It’s small enough to explore on foot. Once you have a map supplied by your hotel or the tourist information center, you’ll be free to wander, sightsee, snap photographs, rest in cafes, and enjoy the charm and beauty of old Riga at your leisure. Beyond Old Town Riga are plenty of sights, too, so be sure to go exploring.
Getting to Old Town Riga
If you are taking a bus to any of the Baltic capitals, you will be pleased to know that Riga’s bus station is so near to the old center that it’s easy enough to walk there if your luggage is manageable. If you arrive by train, the railway station is not much farther. Riga’s airport is only a 15-20 minute taxi ride to the old town.