Riga, Latvia may not currently be on the top of your travel must-see list, but it is worth a stop if you are in the Baltic region. The Old Town, called Vecrīga in Latvia, is small and can be easily covered in a day. With a rich history as a former trade route, Riga is the largest city of the Baltics.
Even though our visit to Riga was short, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed walking around the pedestrian only Old Town. The city of Riga has a lot of gothic architecture influence which equates to unique structures that can be seen all across the city. For a short visit, wander the streets in Old Town and get lost while exploring the historic center.
Receiving a map of Riga’s Old Town from our hotel we quickly planned out our own walking tour, maximizing our day to see all of the main sights. Exiting our hotel, we began making our way through the maze of cobblestone streets starting with the Dome Cathedral.
Dating back to the year 1211, the Dome Cathedral remains one of the largest Medieval churches in the Baltics. The gorgeous red bricked Cathedral still carries out daily services and is also a spectacular venue for occasional events and concerts in Riga.
Admiring the building from the outside, we began walking beyond the Dome Cathedral, skipping along the streets and winding up in the center of Town Hall Square. The Roland Statue stands tall in the center of the square, surrounded by some of Riga’s most recognizable buildings.
The House of the Blackheads is probably the most famous and easily distinguishable by the bright orange exterior and fancy ornamentations. Front facing towards the Roland Statue, the House of the Blackheads was rebuilt after WWII. The original structure served as a meeting point or venue for unmarried men to have gatherings and host events and was known as the Brotherhood of Blackheads.
From there, we continued on to St. Peter’s Church where on the backside is the Bremen Town Musician’s statue from the Brother’s Grimm Fairytale. Apparently it is good luck to touch the faces of each animal and its easy to see where the bronze has been worn off over the years. If you’re looking for a birds eye view of Riga, you can go up the church bell tower for about €11 per person.
Enjoying walking around old town and through alleyways we eventually crossed the river to reach the Freedom Monument, a symbol of Latvia’s freedom. This monument was built to honor the fallen soldiers of the Latvian War of Independence from 1918 to 1920. It reaches an astounding height of 42 meters and bears a sculpture of liberty with three stars at its peak.
Turning back around we strolled along until we reached the Art Nouveau inspired Cat house (obviously my favorite) with arched-back cats guarding the golden colored building.
Just around the corner is the Powder Tower, which was originally used as part of Riga’s defensive wall, in addition to the Swedish Gate. The Tower has since been restructured and is now an iconic part of Vecrīga due to the vine’s that have grown up the tower walls like ornamentation.
The Swedish Gate is the last remaining gate from the eight that used to surround the city of Riga to protect it during Medieval times.
The last stop on our self walking tour was to see the wildly historic Three brothers dwelling houses. Constructed in the 15th century by what is believed to be brothers from the same family, the appealing houses are some of the oldest in Riga and can be found at Mazā Pils vela 17.
Touring the UNESCO heritage site of Riga’s Old Town can easily be seen in a day. There are many other places to visit in and around the Baltic’s largest capital so if you have more time you can explore out from Vecrīga and check out some of the famous Art Nouveau streets and parks nearby.
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