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I was born in Riga in 1988, around the end of the Soviet era. Once the economic crisis hit Latvia, following the fall of the Soviet Union, my parents moved to the countryside 200 kms away from Riga to save on living expenses. Growing up in a peaceful area, surrounded by nature was great, but every summer I would visit my grandmother, who lived close to Riga and she often took me into the city.
I came back to Riga to pursue my higher studies in culture management and that’s when I truly fell in love with this city.
Riga is my home now. Having studied in Riga, and having worked at different festivals and events, I have got to know Riga’s vibrant arts and cultural life, nightspots and great vsits for tourists. I have lived here for five years. There are are two million people in Latvia and half of them are living in Riga. In fact it’s not such a big city, but it’s the biggest city in the three Baltic states. Riga is also called ‘the City of Inspiration’, ‘the Capital of the North’, and ‘the Metropolis of Art Nouveau’. It is a green city, with a charming medieval Old Town dating back to the 13th century, cobbled streets, a mix of old Soviet heritage and Art Nouveau architecture. The city is also renowned for its excellent opera and rich musical traditions. I see Riga as a city of contrasts: a touristic Old Town, where expensive shops and restaurants are located lies next to the district with a black market, old wooden houses – the so-called Moscows suburbs. The river Daugava also seems to be adding to the contrast by dividing Riga into two - the centre of business and commerce, with a sparkling and vibrant nightlife on the right side and a tranquil and peaceful life on the left side of the river.
Contrasts is are what has made this city a source of inspiration for many centuries. Arts and culture seems to exist in the people of Riga and on the streets as well - gothic towers of the Latvian Academy of Arts, high professional theatres on the European scale and live culture of amateur and improvisation theatre, traditional dances, poetry readings on the streets and in cosy bars, festivals, concerts, performances. Most of the foreign visitors I have met in Riga keep coming back again and again which makes me feel
that Riga simply cannot make a person feel bored!
There are three places you have to see to meet the ‘soul’ of Riga:
1) The Old Town
The heart of Riga, the ‘Old Town’, is located besides the Daugava river and dates back to 1201, with the foundation of the city being built by a German bishop, named Albert. Small streets will lead you to gothic churches, medieval buildings – the Old Town truly does have an aura all of its own! At the same time, the Old Town is also the centre of Riga’s sparkling nightlife, which in a normal week begins from Wednesday evening, all the way till Sunday morning! This part of Riga truly never sleeps.
During the day, you will find lots of shopping, from expensive, posh shops to street markets with souvenirs, hand-made crafts and paintings. Several museums and art galleries dot the Riga landscape. During summer, the Old Town is filled with open-air cafes and beer gardens, street performances, live music and celebrations.
2) Art Nouveau
Riga boasts of the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. Art Nouveau makes the city to be a little wonderland. This architecture is unsurpassable.
More than a third of the buildings of the central district (right next to the Old Town) are built in the style and are included in the UNESCO World Heritage. The main street for Riga’s Art Nouveau district is Elizabetes street, which intersects Brivibas Boulevard (you will easily find it as it starts by the 42 metre high Freedom Monument). In addition to Elizabetes Street, Alberta and Strelnieku Streets also feature impressive examples of this style of architecture. In total, there are over 800 clear Art Nouveau buildings in Riga.
Riga’s Art Noveau centre can help you. Visit http://www.jugendstils.riga.lv/eng/turisms
for additional information about the architects, the maps and the routes to follow while in Riga.
3) Riga Central Market
This is definitely a very special place located betwean The Old Town and Riga’s own ‘Moscow suburbs’, right next to the Central train terminal and bus station. Even if youare not planning to shop, you definitely need to go.
The buildings here, today used as market pavilions, were initially built as hangars for the German army’s zeppelins. Now next to the imported food you will find here delicious, fresh, ecological food from the countryside of Latvia, and it’s cheaper than in any shop. The meat pavilion, grocery, green grocery and fish pavilions, the open air market area. And there are a lot of opportunities to taste the food before buying it! If you look at clothes/shoes – it’s a ‘Made in China’ paradise, but between that you can also find high quality stuff. It is the second biggest market–place in Europe.
On my free weekends I take my shopping bag and go to the Central Market to get the best (fresh and cheap) food in the city. It’s not only a market-place, but it also holds cultural events and shows a little different face of Riga than you will see in The Old Town.
For more information, visit the web-site: http://www.rct.lv/index.php?id=425
Kristine runs a blog on Riga: www.friendinriga.blogspot.com
- a little bit about toursim and travelling, and a lot about Riga & Latvia. You can also find me on Twitter as ‘Friend In Riga’Back to locals homepage