What to see in the center of Riga
The Central Market, built in 1930, is the largest in Europe and one of Riga’s attractions. It serves as many as 80,000 people a day.
The central market is made up of five massive former Zeppelin hangars, each selling a different type of product. As you wander through the sections, you see everything from pig snouts to flowers to fresh cheese and other Baltic delicacies. And, of course, pickles.
An interesting place for tourists, the market is very much for locals who do their weekly shopping. There are fewer cafes and tastings than I’ve seen at other European markets, but if you ask, you might be able to get a taste of the day’s specials.
House of Blackheads
The walkable old town is full of history and many beautiful buildings. My favorite was the House of the Blackheads, which is just around the corner from my hotel. Originally built for the Blackheads Guild in the 14th century, the Gothic and Dutch Renaissance building was destroyed by World War II bombing and Soviet takeover. It was reconstructed in 1999 and it is impossible to pass by without taking (several) photos.
Just half a mile from Old Riga is the Art Nouveau district of Riga, centered on Alberta, Elizabetes and Strelniku streets. The 100-year-old buildings here are unique, to say the least. They are a real sight of Riga.
The Art Nouveau movement in the city (and, indeed, throughout Europe) was a rejection of all the simplistic things seen when walking down the streets. Looking at the facades, faces, animals and unusual things stare back. Look for details in the buildings and visit the Riga Art Nouveau Museum to learn more about the style and its history.
A walk in this historic neighborhood will only take about an hour; add 45 minutes if you plan to visit the museum. The experience is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Riga, even if architecture doesn’t usually fascinate you.
Kalnciema street block
Across the Daugava, about 20 minutes from Old Riga, is the Kalnciem quarter, a bustling hub of fun things to do on the weekend in Riga. The area is famous for its wooden architectural heritage dating back to the 19th century, but is popular for the many cultural and artistic events that take place here.
The quarter regularly hosts art exhibitions, performances, concerts and family-friendly events. Most of the programs and workshops are free, and the area is always bustling, hosting more than 100,000 people each year.
Kalnciema quarter is especially known for its weekly market. On Saturdays, local farmers and artisans bring their wares to sell alongside performances that are often part of a themed market. It’s a popular place to be, so get there early if you want one of the large dishes available.