While exploring Old Town Riga and beyond, you will encounter landmarks and attractions important to Riga’s identity. Enjoy getting to know Riga and its symbols.
Town Hall Square
Town Hall Square contains, in its center, a replica of the statue of Roland, the Patron saint of Riga. The reconstructed Town Hall also occupies a place on the square. However, the most memorable building on the square is the House of Blackheads, also rebuilt after WWII. Once a gathering place and a headquarters for the Blackheads Society, a group of German merchants, it is one of the main symbols of Riga, having been reconstructed in the late 1990s. During Christmastime, Town Hall Square is decorated with an illuminated fir tree.
Riga’s Freedom Monument, which withstood Soviet rule with a clever change of symbolism, is an important Riga sight. Atop a column, a robed woman holds three stars aloft. These stars originally signified Latvia’s three regions, but during Soviet times, the meaning was changed to prevent demolition of the statue: the three stars were ascribed the meaning of the three Baltic Republics, and the woman holding them represented Mother Russia. Today, the Freedom Monument is a recognizable Riga landmark that continues to hold meaning for Latvians, who still place flowers at its base.
Riga’s Central Market is reminiscent of other grand markets in the region, such as Budapest’s Great Market Hall. Five arched rooftops, the remnants of zeppelin hangars used elsewhere in the city, give the Central Market its standout appearance. Inside, vendors selling all manner of edibles, including local produce, meats, cheeses, and fish (just follow your nose) show off their bounty of color and flavors.
Riga’s Powder Tower, which once held gunpowder, is a remaining relic from Riga’s medieval defensive systems. Today the Powder Tower acts as a part of the Military Museum, which occupies the tower and the more recently built addition to the tower.
The Three Brothers buildings, located side by side on Maza Pils at numbers 17, 19, and 21, represent three architectural styles present in Old Town and are the oldest stone houses in existence in Riga. They were built in the 15th, 17th, and 18th centuries as residences for townspeople. One now houses the Museum of Architecture.
Art Nouveau Riga
Walk along Elizabetes Street to encounter some of Riga's best examples of Art Nouveau architecture, for which it is famous. These grand facades sport ornate and fanciful designs and elegant color schemes. One of the most interesting of Riga's museums is the Art Nouveau Museum, which recreates an apartment with period pieces.
Bastion Hill is another lookout point. This landscaped manmade hill replaced a sand defensive structure in the mid-19th century. It is located between Old Town Riga and the newer section of Riga in a park that takes its name from the hill.
St. Peter's Church
St. Peter’s Church, a hulking Lutheran Church situated in Riga’s Old Town, is most known for its tower, outfitted with an elevator that allows visitors panoramic views of the medieval streets and houses.
Riga Cathedral, or Rigas Doms, is a massive Lutheran church originally dating from the early 13th century. Riga Cathedral is impressive for being the largest medieval church in the Baltics, its two-meter-thick walls, and its enormous pipe organ. During Soviet times, it was used as a concert hall. It has undergone several periods of renovations during its existence and its exterior has grown and changed with passing centuries. The Riga Christmas market is found on the square in front of the cathedral.