Moscow District, Riga
One morning in Riga Isabel and I took the number 7 tram (from opposite the Opera House) to the to-us fascinating district of Latgale, more usually known as Maskavas forštate or the Moscow District. This is a traditional working class area with a mixed population (Russian, Latvian, Jewish and more). The architecture is a mix of faded Art Nouveau grandeur and traditional 19th-century working-class wooden homes that seem quite rural in character and a little out of place so close to a city centre.
If you are so minded, there is quite a lot to see here – several churches (the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, the Riga Church of Jesus and the Grebenshchikov Church), the remains of the Great Choral Synagogue (burned down, with worshippers still inside, by the Nazis when they cleared the Jewish ghetto that had been created in this area) and the unmissable Academy of Sciences building (see separate tip). But we had limited time and were content simply to wander and to take photos – lots of photos!
Unlike the Old Town, this part of the city has not been spruced up and some of the houses and apartment blocks are decidedly run-down. But they have a certain charm and it is easy to envisage that it may not be long before this area is "discovered" by artistic people or simply those on a tight budget who are willing to put in the work needed to create a lovely home here. Then it will all change and perhaps become fashionable, and as elsewhere, local families who may have lived here for several generations will be forced by rising prices and an unwelcome change in the atmosphere to move away.
For now though this is a place to come to see a different Riga - few tourists if any, but a photo around every corner and a rough-edged picturesqueness if you take the time to search it out. We spent a lovely hour wandering around taking photos of the old wooden buildings and architectural and other details. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring and photographing these streets and have added more photos to a separate travelogue if you wish to see them.
Next tip: the Academy of Sciences building
I would recommend checking out the central market. It opens everyday from 8am until about 5pm and you can find locals shopping in large zepplin hangers and also little market stalls buying everything from smoked fish to pigs ears and beyond!
A little behind the market you will find the science academy, also know as stalin's wedding cake. You can take a trip back to the soviet era and enter the building and also visit the observation deck and see a marvellous view of the city. You can find it on Turgeòeva Iela.
A little beyond the science academy is the Black Market, if your bike is stolen in Riga you can generally go here and buy it back... ha! The market has everything and anything including soviet items and basically any wierd little thing you can think of that no one would want! You will find the market on Firsa Sadovòikova Iela.
This area is safe during the day but is best to avoid during the night times. If you are a keen photographer Little Moscow will provide the potential for some amazing shots.
The Moscow District is another district that is worth a stroll around, Apart from The Central Market (Covered in my shopping tips) with the Zeppelin Hangers there are also a few more interesting buildings like "The Academy of Sciences" that are worth a look.