RIGA: An architectural haven in the heart of the Baltics

Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is home to remarkable architecture. Its historical center with a high concentration of Art Nouveau architecture was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Founded in 1201, the port town served as a major center of the Hanseatic League, an economic confederation of northern European countries. I visited the city for four lovely summer days. After checking in at Irina Hotel, I went out for a walk and tried to familiarize myself with the streets and the sights in the city center.

Vermanes Garden
Vermanes Garden

Vermanes Garden is the second oldest park in the city. Lucky for me, the hotel lies just a few steps away from the garden park. Named after the rich widow Anna Gertrud Vērmane (1750-1827), who donated a lot for the construction of the park, Vermanes serves a social venue for concerts, bazaars, picnics, playground for children, and home to snow-men and colorful lamps in winter.

Summer Bazaar at Vermanes Park
Summer Bazaar at Vermanes Park
Vermanes Park
Vermanes Park

Most of the beautiful architectural features of the city can be found in the Old Town. According to UNESCO, the city had the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe in the early 1900’s, 50 are located in the medieval part and more than 300 are scattered all over the historic town. If you are unfamiliar with the Art Nouveau architectural movement, visit this page: Art Nouveau Movement.

Here are some of the admirable architectural features of the city, along with famous landmarks and attractions:

Riga's Old Town
Riga’s Old Town
Riga's Old Town
Riga’s Old Town
Riga's Old Town
Riga’s Old Town
Riga's Old Town
Riga’s Old Town

And here we go, Riga’s most popular building: the House of the Blackheads! With all honesty, I was personally awed by the magnificent building, the fairytale facade and intricate and sophisticated designs! Judge for yourself:

The House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads

The House of the Blackheads was built in 1334 for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild with mostly unmarried German merchants as members. During the world wars, the building was bombed by the Germans, and the remains were demolished by the Soviets in 1948. However, the Latvians worked together to rebuild the House from 1995 to 1999. So, the pink building visitors admire now is just the reconstruction. Good job, Latvia!

Another interesting building I saw in Riga was the Russian Orthodox Church, aka the Nativity Cathedral. It was my first time to enter an orthodox church and my, did you know that orthodox churches don’t have chairs to sit on during religious ceremonies?

The Nativity Cathedral
The Nativity Cathedral
The Nativity Cathedral
The Nativity Cathedral

I also get a genuine feel of medieval Europe by walking through the Swedish gate, another popular attraction. The gate was built in 1698, when Riga was the largest province of Sweden. Legends has it that the merchant who commissioned the building of the gate wanted to avoid paying texes when bringing goods to the city. So, he demolished his house, which was situated on the spot, to build a gate, making the transport of goods to Riga easy and free of charge.

The Swedish Gate
The Swedish Gate

Ah, perhaps I should change the title of this post to “Riga, city of legends”! Latvians has plenty, from the Swedish gate to the Cat House and now, to the Bremen Town Musicians. The monument is based on Grimm’s fairy tale about a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster which were considered old and useless by their owners. The clever animals decided to become musicians, so they went to the German city of Bremen, lived a life of freedom, and saved a house from burglars. The monument is located outside the Church of St. Peter.

The Bremen Town Musicians
The Bremen Town Musicians

Now, let’s go explore the rest of the Old Town. 😉

Latvian street performers
Latvian street performers
A crafts market sign
A crafts market sign
Beautiful street art installation
Beautiful street art installation
Another street performer
Another street performer

You see, there’s lots to see in Riga, so you’ll never really get bored! I was also very luck to have met Couchsurfers and together, we visited a terrifying and creepy KGB headquarter, enjoyed a cruise along the River Daugava, and attended the Puku Balle (Ball of Flowers), the biggest flower show in the Baltics! More about the said experiences in the next entries! Så spennende! 😉

Thanks for reading and cheers! ❤

The Nativity Cathedral
The Nativity Cathedral

 

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12 thoughts on “RIGA: An architectural haven in the heart of the Baltics

  1. Riga seems like a wonderful city! I don’t know why but I get pleased easily when a city has an amazing architecture. And those Latvian Street Performers remind me of the Beauty and the Beast. Know the scene where Gaston and his brothers are singing? 😉

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  2. Baltics have been in my radar so long. I adore European’s architecture and so to see this kind of structures makes my heart beat faster to go now to Riga. I just love the mix of historical buildings to contemporary arts in the street. Hopefully by next year I can visit this part of EU.

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  3. European architecture always has a special place in my heart. They have this “wow” factor whenever you see them. I haven’t been to where you’ve gone but I’ve been to London to Paris and I appreciate their old architectural designs. It says a lot about their history. I wish I could have seen your photo in a larger quality image, so I can see the details of your pictures too. Still a good post. Keep posting! 😀

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  4. Despite the way technology has influenced a lot of countries, Europe stays grounded with in preserving its culture. It’s really architecture haven in there and I envy you for being able to marvel at all of those structures with rich histories!

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  5. what a lovely place to spend a few days. I really liked those two buildings with the pointy facades, what a treat for the eyes. I also like looking at the architecture when traveling. It’s so much better to look up than down when walking! I would love to visit Riga and it’s beautiful architecture. Wonderful photos in your post.

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  6. Riga indeed is a very interesting place.. I’ve always been appreciative of architectural designs.. And everything in here are just amazing! For a while i kept looking at the Nativity Cathedral and every details on it… It was cleverly designed… Lovely photos you got there! 🙂

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  7. I have to agree. Generally, I like European architecture. There is so much history and culture in Europe. But Riga is on another level. It deserves to be flocked by more tourists. Those architecture alone is already one reason why people should go to Riga. I mean, pictures are nice, but to be there is another thing. It appears to me too, that there is not really that much people compared to say… Rome. And the city looks really clean!

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