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We found Riga to be an intimate and inviting city. Mid sized and unique for sure. Riga has centuries of undisturbed and unique architecture, surrounded by houses, halls, palaces, squares and churches. It is a city full of great achievements and picturesque settings.
St. Peter’s Church
This impressive spire of the 800 year old church rises high above the city’s skyline. The tower has been rebuilt three times in the same design and it is one of the premiere panoramic spots from which to view the city. The church itself boasts lots of natural light and soaring pillars and ceiling.
Ethnographic open air museum
The open air museum is further afield than most of the city’s attractions, but it has to be. It is the architectural recreation of typical farmsteads, village structures, rural churches and windmills. Much like a similar museum in Bucharest the feeling is surreal, as all the country’s most typical buildings are gathered and recreated in a single area. It is the site of several festivals and its hours of operation vary but generally are from 10am to 5pm.
This area of the city is the oldest and most scenic to behold. It is within walking distance of the more modern areas of the city and its signature style is winding streets of cobblestone and unique structures, restaurants and squares. There are historic guild halls which have fantastic décor inside and out. The medieval architecture has survived the major conflicts of the last century, which makes it unique, stylized and appealing.
At the corner of Terbatas and Elizabetes streets this is one of the city’s first public parks. It is home to many festivals in summertime, which take place on weekends. The spacious gardens and lawns, fountains and monuments are filled with music, people in traditional Latvian dress and expositions of poetry, books and dancing. Trees and Shrubs are abundant and one can see people enjoying social games, conversation and reading any time of day.
The Three Brothers
Riga is an archetype for well preserved Art Nouveau architecture. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the so called three brothers spot on Maza pils street. The green, white and yellow buildings are much taller then they are wide. Each was built at a different time, but reflect the same art and style inherent in the old town.
This lady of liberty stands tall and proud over much of the city. It sits around the canals and parks of the city just a few blocks up from the heart of the historic district. The monument stood during the Soviet occupation as a contradiction to the oppression the people endured.
This is the place to enjoy a splendid array of affordable foods, major and bulk selections of textiles, handmade goods, raw materials and all the necessities of life one could imagine. The market is bustling during the day and it can be found just behind the central bus terminal.
The narrow streets of the old town are easily explored and its best to leave maps behind and simply wander them. Amidst the public buildings, gardens and Churches one will come across a lengthy red brick and stone wall. This opens up at one point at the Swedish Gate. It was a welcome occupation of Sweden and so the wall is well preserved only in this spot with all the development of the greater downtown area.
This is conveniently juxtaposed between the old town splendor and the Daugava River which flows along the edge of the city. The castle is now home to the president and some museums so it is not entirely accessible. However much of it can be seen from the outside, including its fantastic architecture, façade, gates and even some gardens.
St. Jacob’s Cathedral
This is the smallest of the four major churches in the downtown, but it is one of the oldest and has a long history. It was the Catholic Cathedral which exchanged hands several times over the centuries between the various trending religions of the period and finally was repossessed by the Catholics in the 1920’s. It is ornate and intimate.