Riga's old town dates back to medieval times, but little remains of that, unlike Tallinn. What the old town does have in abundance, however, is wonderful mix of towering Art Nouveau and gabled Hanseatic, with the odd reminder of the middle ages dotted in between. The whole place can be encompassed in an afternoon, but you'll want to walk around it several times to soak it all up.
The highlight for me is St. Peter's church, and it's a good place to start from, as its distinctive spire is easily visible from all over the old town. You'll be able to navigate your way back to there from pretty much anywhere. It also overlooks Ratslauskums, the main square, where you'll find the Blackhead's Guild and the tourist office within it.
The old town is also tourist ground zero, for both sightseeing and partying. You'll find a good mix of people looking up at the wonderful architecture, and others looking down at the sick that they've just vomited up. This is where you'll find most of the best bars, hotels and restaurants.
As is the case with the historical centres of all European cities, it is very easy indeed to miss the smaller details and to be sucked into the larger whole picture.
But looking closely...and looking up..pays dividends.
The lower part of a building may look modern but the upper floors may well be pretty much as they were 300 or more years ago. Some of Riga's merchants' houses still have their hoists, used not only to lift goods into and out of the storage ares but also..as in Amsterdam..to lift new furniture into the upper rooms.
It's been common for centuries to place decorative fiddles and twiddles at roof-level or above. I don't know why, because no-one would ever be able to see its detail. I suppose it was just another way of expressing one's great power and wealth.
Check doorways too. This is where put markers of your importance (elaborate sculptures, your own shield or trademark) so any and all visitors will gets the message.
Until very recent times, illiteracy was the norm everywhere. Only the well-off could read and write. So.....how to find your way...how to find an address..how to make that delivery? Look for plaques or markers which probably served that function, like the well-worn eagle in the photos.
Rigans have also re-used cannon as bollards in at least two locations. See if you can sport where. :-)
Riga's old town buildings are increasingly (and well) restored and there are some lovely, and historical, buildings to see. It's well worth wandering the back streets and side-alleys too, not just the main 'drags'...you'll see much more. And you'll also see buildings which are awaiting restoration, giving an idea of what more of this part of Riga was like not so very long ago.
Some buildings are, of course, be on many people's 'must-see' lists (and tour group lists): the 'Three Brothers', the 'Cat House', the completely..and painstakingly....re-built 'House of the Blackheads'. But there are many more, including the oldest building in old town Riga ...the 13th-century chapel of St George, very easily missed and part of the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts at Skarnu iela 10.
I particularly liked the painted Art Deco building on the corner of Janja iela and Kaleju iela..but just walking the streets is a joy. More photos in my travelogue
The Historic Centre of Riga ia a UNESCO World Heritage Site. it's not hard to see why. The city is most noted for its extensive Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) architecture UNESCO says unparalleled anywhere in the world. The lack of traffic in the old town (due to the congestion charge) helps to create a pedestrian and tourist friendly ambiance. It would be fair to say that there are some absolute 'must see' buildings (with the possible exception of the house of the Blackheads) in the old town. It's more of an 'ensemble piece' - just wander about and enjoy.
We enjoyed Riga Old City, great for a walk, to enjoy its’ sights. Nice restaurants with great price and choice offers, tourists can find in old town.
One of the evenings, after pre booked meal in Victory pub, we had pub crawling with local guide from Travel2riga Company. We visited couple bars and pubs, tried local drinks and listen local musicians.
The old Town of Riga is one of many World Heritage Sites in Europe. If you want to stepped back in time and explore the medieval this is the place you want to hang around. There are many buildings with amazing architectural design like the Art Nouveau, medieval cathedrals and churches, museums, town hall, monuments, statues, cobbled street. Many of the buildings have been restored or are being restored. Feeling hungry no problem you can find restaurants, café all over Riga old town, be careful you might gain weight. Still bored no worries go and park your bum in one of the many bars and get yourself slosh, while you’re at it go and ask for Riga Black Balsam. I think you’ll find everything you need at the Old Town so without further rambling on go and visit Riga Old Town.
The Old Town in Riga is also a beautiful place to visit. Sights here include the great and small guild halls, the cat's house, (a house facing the guild halls. It has cat statues on its roof with their bottoms facing the guild halls as a sign of disrespect.) the beautifully restored house of the blackheads, the three brothers (three houses next to each other which each show a different style and period of architecture) and the Riga Museum of Occupation. There are also many churches and a beautiful cathedral.
There are also lots of places to eat and drink. There is a beautiful park separating the old and new towns. When we visited, it was a very popular place for people to have their wedding photos taken. The Independence Monument also known as Milda is located on the parkland. It used to face a statue of Lenin, but that is long gone.
The House of Dannenstern actually consists of three connected blocks, one in the main street, and others in the courtyard, all connected by a road.
The main block is a two-storey building with an attic, a basement, and five attic floors built into the roof. This House isn't built in Art Nouveau style, but in Baroque style in 1696. It was once the largest private house in Riga, belonging to a merchant from Holland who owned more than 150 ships! The King of Sweden gave him the title
Bastion Hill was a beautiful garden that was a real pleasure to walk through.
The landscaped garden was begun in 1881, and is very pretty, as a brook with many waterfalls runs through the Park, and also a canal where you could hire boats or water bikes.
There were several footbridges, these had padlocks attached to them and I really do not know why?
There was a Swan house, Fountains and quite a few sculptures and monuments in the park.
Some rare species of plants are growing in the Park, one of them the beautiful Ginko Biloba (Maidenhair tree) which belongs to the oldest species of trees on the Earth.
In July, all the flowers were blooming making it extra pretty, plus there was plenty of shade from the trees, and the cooling look of the water to enjoy on a hot day.
The beautiful building in my photo, is Mikhail Chekhov Riga Russian Theatre, the world’s oldest Russian theatre outside of Russia.
It was built in 1883, and has enjoyed a solid international reputation for excellence in drama, and is in partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival.
Modern classics, as well as Russian works are adapted and interpreted by the theatre. Children's theatre, musicals, and international tours are also included in the theatre's standard programme of up to seven productions per year.
Livu Laukums was an interesting square to have a look around.
Lots of beautiful architecture surrounded the square, and there were plenty of outdoor Cafes to sit and enjoy the sights.
It looked like they were setting up a stage in this square for the weekend. Along one of the walls, a local Artist has set his paintings against the wall, hoping for some tourist to come and buy.
Nice gardens, and seating, it really was a nice area!
In 1685, Reitern House was called a "new style of living" house!
The House is named after the person who lived here, an important Town Hall member and merchant named "Johann Reitern."
It is beautiful from the outside, and is said to be the most beautiful merchant house in Riga.
Painted pink and decorated in baroque style, it has lots of beautifully done sculptures above the main entrance. It is believed it was built like this to show the owner's power.
The house had many firsts, like it was situated with its long side along the street, it had high ceilings, which was not the norm for somebodys home, and there were large windows.
It is now owned by a Latvian Journalist and is and exhibition site and has a cafe.
In Riga still some fragments of old defensive wall left and it proves Riga was once medieval and well equipped defensively city. Some fragments of red wall you can see near Jacob's barracks - in one side of street barracks are, and in another - the wall with Swedish gates.
It seems, Riga once had the wall, naturally, around old town, but later, in wartime, it was destroyed and now around old town we see only some fragments of it and nice gardens.
Livu Laukums is one of the most beautiful squares in Riga old town for me. Much nice buildings like guild halls are here, flowers around, places to relax on the benches, some bars, souvenir shops. Nice just to sit, see how people walk, enjoy architecture, cozy atmosphere.
There is an old Cathedral in down town of Riga. To get peace in your mind I advice to visit. It's not crowded and used, I think, mostly in tourists visit purpose.
Entry fee is abt 5 lats p/p (abt 2.5$).