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Riga Capital City of Latvia - Popular Destination for Short Breaks

By Edited Dec 26, 2015 0 0

Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is little more than a two-and-half-hour flight from London. This is a city that offers everything from fine parks, good shopping, great cafes, restaurants and a very lively night life. No wonder, it's very quickly becoming one of eastern Europe' s most popular short break destination.

 

What to See in the Old City

The oldest part of the town dates from the 13th century and is, quite naturally, known as the Old City. The area has several important landmarks.

Narrow cobbled streets, alleys and squares are lined with a fascinating mixture of architectural styles including Renaissance, baroque and Jugendstil. On spring and summer evenings the atmosphere on the streets is almost like a party with local musicians entertaining visitors in the open air.

 

Roof-level view from the southwest, taken from vintage picture postcard Riga Dome Cathedral, Latvia
Credit: Philaweb, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riga_Cathedral#mediaviewer/File:Dome_Cathedral_Riga.jpg

St. Mary's Dome Cathedral

Founded at the beginning of the 13th century, St Mary's Dome Cathedral has been added to many times over the last 800 years. One part of the building, which used to house a monastery, is now home to the Riga Museum of History and Navigation.

Regular concerts take place in the Cathedral which has one of the world's largest organs. You don't have to be inside the building to enjoy the performance as the music. Take coffee in one of the nearby pavement cafes and enjoy the music as it wafts across the square.

 

St. Peter's Church

Not far from St. Mary's is St. Peter's Church with its unusual three-tier steeple. St. Peter's was first built in the 17th century and since then has been rebuilt three times, the last time being in 1973. An observation deck, reached by an elevator, offers panoramic views across the entire city - don't forget your camera!.

House of the Blackheads

House of the Blackheads - Riga
Credit: Frances Spiegel 2014

House of the Blackhead's

Also close to the Cathedral is the House of the Blackhead's located on Town Hall Square. Originally built in 1334, the house was a guild house for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a trade guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Destroyed during World War II, the house was rebuilt just in time for the city's 800th birthday celebrations in 2001. The building, which houses a fascinating museum and a very comfortable concert house, looks very much as it did in the 14th century.

The Three Brothers

The Three Brothers
Credit: Frances Spiegel 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The Three Brothers

 

The oldest house in the city, at 19 Maza Pils iela,  dates from the 15th century and now houses the Architectural Museum. Exhibits give visitors a very good idea about the life of Riga's medieval population. Neighbouring buildings, Nos. 17 and 21, dating from 1646 and 1718 respectively. Together the three buildings as known as The Three Brothers.

Riga's Jewish History

Many painful reminders tell us about Riga's Jewish history. At the recently renovated Jewish Museum at 6 Skolas Street, a short documentary video tells visitors about the Holocaust in Latvia and documents and photograph show Jewish life in the city. The Jewish Community Centre and Cafe Lechaim, a kosher cafeteria, are also housed at 6 Skolas Street. Food is freshly cooked to order and the reasonably priced menu includes traditional Jewish dishes including roast vegetables, borsht (psychedelic beetroot soup), cholent (Jewish beef stew) falafel, fried fish, stuffed fish, fish balls, schnitzels, and cheese cake.

Riga's only functioning synagogue is at Peitavas 6-8. Its scrolls survived the war because they were hidden away while the building was used as a warehouse.

Holocaust Memorial

Another sad reminder of Riga's painful history are the ruins of the Choral Synagogue of Riga at Gogol Street.  On 4th July 1941 approximately 300 Jews died when Nazies locked them inside the synagogue and set fire to the building. The only part of the building that remains are the foundations and part of the cellar. A Holocaust memorial has been erected nearby and Holocaust Memorial Day is marked every year on 4th July.

 

Useful Information

Riga has plenty of very good hotels, hostels and guest houses and the Patricia Tourist Office is a good source of additional information about the city.

More About Latvia

If you'd like to know more about Latvia there are plenty of articles by other Infobarrel writiers, and elsewhere on the web, including the following:

 

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
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(price as of Dec 26, 2015)
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