One of the things that makes Riga unique among the Baltic cities is the large number of Art Noveau (or Jugendstil) buildings in the city – there are 950 buildings in that architectural style, making up 40% of the old cities buildings! While it was common across European cities at the beginning of the 20th century, rarely do you find that many art noveau buildings in a concentrated form. That can turn any walk through the city center into a pleasant architecture tour – and I’d recommend to take that tour!
And it’s easy (and free) to take that tour: Just walk and look up. To be a little more helpful, a lot of the best restored buildings are along Elizabetes and Alberta Street, to the North West of Old Riga, on the other side of the park & canal belt, in what’s called the “quiet quarter” or “Embassy quarter”. After 50 years of neglect under the Soviet regime, one building is restored after the other and you can see them right next to buildings pre-restoration, all grey with crumbling facades. I’d recommend to take it slowly: Take your time to discover all the ornate detail the facades have been decorated with. From flowers to sculptures of beautiful girls to the scary masks of gargoyles, there is a lot see on each building. It’s worth to take the time to really see it and sink in.
If, after some time of walking about, you wonder how these houses might have looked on the inside during their time, you are in luck: The house of the famous local architect, Konstantin Peksens, was restored to it’s original state as it was designed by him and Eizens Laube. The original floors, stained-glass windows, tiles and wall paintings have been restored. Period furniture has been added to recreate an apartment of the time with the formal reception hall, living room and office; a dining room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom; and even the maid’s quarters! You’ll even have the staff dressed in period costumes, which I’d usually consider too disney’fied, but it worked well in this case! The Art Noveau Museum is located at 12 Alberta, with the entrance on Strelnieku. Ring the doorbell to enter and walk up the stairs. The entrance fee is EUR6 with an extra EUR1.50 to take photos, well worth the price!