Classic travel guides are supposed to have a nice bright page all dedicated to TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT. In Riga, for instance.
Well, ours doesn’t have one. But – it goes without saying – there are some signature places in Riga you really cannot miss. Actually, no one usually does: the city is simply not that big.
Herdera laukums 6
The Cathedral in Dome square.
Its foundations were laid in the beginning of 13th century, and that was just a beginning of the cathedral’s complicated history.
But let us make that long (hi)story short: a few centuries of building, a big fire, some war damage, and a bunch of renovation projects really have had an impressive effect on the cathedral.
The building’s eclectic charm does remind you almost equally of the Romanesque, Gothic and Barocco styles at once, but we swear it looks almost natural!
By the way, a visit to the cathedral is your chance to meet a unicorn. And an owl. And an armadillo.
At least, bronze ones: here, near the cathedral, you’ll find a children playground with a group of little sculptures inspired by medieval manuscripts.
A strange fact: all those fantasy creatures, too, look almost natural at the cathedral yard.
Mazā Pils iela 17
A building complex consisting of three – obviously – houses.
Those ‘brothers’, nestling in one of the Old Riga streets, are quite advanced in years.
They are not agemates, though. Number 17 in Maza Pils Street is the oldest one, dating back to the late 15th century, and two other buildings are way younger. The middle brother (number 19) was built in the 17th century, and the ‘little’ one was first mentioned in the beginning of the 18th century.
Reformācijas Laukums 1
The city’s tallest church with a very distinctive and easy-to-remember spired silhouette. In fact, you don’t even have to remember it: almost all souvenirs in Riga replicate that spire.
Just a few decades ago, St. Peter’s wasn’t only the tallest church, but the tallest building in Riga. But then a TV tower was built on Zaķusala island (‘Hare island!’), besting the church.
By the way, here, near the church, you can find another curious object. That makes our ‘Top 5 list’ more like ‘Top 5.5 list’ (but who cares for the preciseness? Certainly not us).
Anyway, back to the object. ‘Town Musicians of Bremen’ – a funny sculpture depicting a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel standing on each other's backs, just like the same name fairy tale says.
But all of a sudden, the statue has some political implications. A gift from Bremen, it was made in 1990, and the whole public mood at the time was all about peering through the (disappearing) Iron Curtain. Just like the original Musicians in the fairy tale were looking through the window – you may remember that there was a table full of food there, so here it is, the irony.
However, it’s not 1990 anymore, so no wonder that the political meaning has been worn out. Or rubbed out?.. Statue rubbing is believed to bring good luck – so all the tourist crowds have done a good job of polishing the animals’ noses.
A splendor reddish building in the heart of Old Riga.
In 15th century it became a place for gathering for the Brotherhood of the Blackheads – an association of merchants. Unmarried and young merchants, to be more accurate.
What were they doing here? Promoting business in the daytime, celebrating things in the evenings. Or vice versa. Anyway, you just can’t help but celebrate when you are young and unmarried.
Pils laukums 3
The Castle on the right bank of the Daugava was built about 700 years ago. Then it was destroyed – several times or so, and then rebuilt, and then rebuilt once more. And augmented. And reconstructed. And renovated. Several times or so.
As you may have guessed, the Castle was pretty busy doing things during all these years: being a fortress, serving as the residence of the Master of the Livonian Order and housing administrations of several powers for a few centuries, for instance.
In 1922, the building became the residence of the President of Latvia – and was reconstructed once more, quite significantly. A bit later, due to the historical perturbations of the 20th century, it changed jobs again, hosting a Soviet children organisation.
That career – considering these never-ending historical perturbations – didn’t last long. In the 1990s the Castle get back to work as the presidential residence, and then – you knew it! – was renovated. Once more.
P.S. Actually, we ourselves are not quite happy with that top-pick-a-number-list thing, since it looks pretty inhibiting and way too inflexible. At least, in terms of impressive places. So we decided to add some more photos of random impressive places, just to impress you. Randomly.
Palasta iela 9
Doma laukums 6
Kaļķu iela 6
Anglikāņu iela 2
Tirgoņu iela 15