Riga walks and tours
Latvia is calling your name
The travel industry deleted borders and made the world smaller than it used to be. The post-soviet area is no longer terra incognita. And Riga city is well known in Europe and overseas as well. I this post I will answer the following question. What to do in Riga? What are Riga attractions and is it a kid-friendly city?
In the old city
Bishop Albert established Riga in 1201. Later city rulers joined the Hanseatic League and developed Riga into one of the strongest and richest cities in Northern Europe. Riga was an old port on the right shore of the Daugava river. Today there is only the passenger terminal close to the old city border. While the cargo port is more on the Baltic Sea.
When you look on the map, it seems that Riga is on the sea, but in fact, there is a distance of 5 miles to the sea. So Riga shores the biggest river in the Baltic States.
The Old City has a wall which does not exist anymore. The architecture varies from some gothic pearls to the neoclassical and art nouveau of the early 20th century. You will find an intriguing net of narrow streets mixed with squares and broad city arteries.
There are almost no cars in the old city of Riga, the parking is super expensive and some streets are only for pedestrians. I like this medieval atmosphere of the courtyards, old warehouses, expensive manors, and silent churches. The old city breathes with history, revolutions, transformations, and legends.
In the Jewish quarter
On the other side of the train station, you will find Moscow street. It gave a name to a suburb where Jews and Russians lived from the old days. On one side off the neighborhood, you find a Russian Orthodox Church and a Christian cemetery and, on the other hand, a Synagogue and a place of a former Jewish cemetery.
First, Jews settled in Riga at the Jewish inn. Local nobleman Rosen run it on the corner of two streets since 1636. Later, his friends noticed the growing demand and initiated a few more inns where Jews were allowed to stay when coming to the Riga market. It was the beginning of a Jewish community in Riga. It developed slowly but surely and reached eleven percent of the population at its peak, counting about Forty thousand people.
There was a magnificent synagogue, many smaller ones, many schools, a big hospital, and several charity institutions. Local records mention the cemetery since 1725, but there must be a burial place much earlier.
Emancipation reached these lands in 1830, and the Jewish community was not an exception. Russian tzar Nikolas the first signed the decree of an opening of the primary secular Jewish school in 1843, and it was a Riga school.
check out a tour about Jewish Heritage in Riga
On the left side of Daugava river
Once a separate settlement, today it is an integral area of the Latvian capital. When you cross the oldest existing bridge, you see the pride of modern architecture in Riga. A new build national library called the palace of light. It looks like a massive pyramid with a crown on top of it. The library opening ceremony was in 2014, and Latvians showed great creativity by involving over fifteen thousand citizens in hand to hand transfer of the books from the former library premises. For two or three weekends, people transferred millions of books.
Then you can see an area of the late nineteenth century residential buildings in art nouveau style and then comes a wooden Riga neighborhood. The city has a lot of bigger and smaller parks which is very good for families with children and active citizens in general.
A day tour to Jūrmala
Usually, when people finish exploring touristic destinations, they ask google what to do outside Riga. Luckily, there are a long list of places, attractions, and sights to see. Many of these places are just towns where people live, and there is not much tourist there. Jūrmala is a town on the Baltic Sea locked by the river Lielupe on the east side. I think it is a fascinating place to visit the city which stretched for many miles with beautiful beaches and cold Baltic Seawater.
Many rich Latvians and Russians like Jūrmala bad have their second houses there. Soviet elite adored Jurmala as a western-style resort town. That is why the infrastructure was well developed even then.
You can find more options for tours in Latvia here
In an independent Latvia, many Russians were still buying real estate there, which elevated the prices. On the other hand, the distances from Riga is hardly 15 miles and many local people who work in Riga, live in Jurmala.
It is indeed a beautiful town in the pine tree forest on the seashore. You can find a busy central street or isolate it in a small wooden house on the edge of the town. There lots of attractions for young and old, including an adventure part on the treetops. I prefer renting a bicycle and ride for a day in the forest, feeling the sea smell almost everywhere.
In terms of hotels – you can adjust to your budget, starting from the cheapest room in grandma’s old house, ending up with a deluxe Baltic Beach Spa five star hotel.
In my next post you can read about
The Latvian Switzerland and the beautiful national park of Gauja River
Licu Langu cliff
On the most hidden spots in Latvia.
A town with a waterfall.