Visiting Riga without a walk through the old town is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower – the old town is the historic heart of the town, inviting visitors and locals alike with its cobblestone streets, churches and beautifully restored buildings. It’s situated between the Daugava river on the one side and a nice park along a canal on the other side. There are lots of stores, restaurants and a few museums as well, making for a good day in town!
The most beautiful view of Riga is from across the Daugava River, giving you a great panorama from the Riga Castle to the Central Market and the bridges leading to the old town. Check out my Baltic Explorer map to get an orientation, so you can pick your own path through town!
You can start your walk at Town Hall Square, near the river. You’ll see first what must be the ugliest building in Old Riga, a leftover from from the Soviet Regime and home to the old Museum of Occupation. Beyond it, you have the Town Hall on one side and the stunning Blackhead House. Past the square, you can see St. Peter’s Church, huge and built from red brick.
Loop around the back and head towards the RIga Cathedral. It overlooks a square with a number of restaurants, if you’d like to take a break. Head West towards the river to take a look at the Castle, which is really more of a palace than a fortress. Wander around the little streets and take a look at the Three Brothers and the Great and Small Guild near Livu Square.
From there, it’s a short walk to the Freedom Monument on the other side of the canal and park, bordering the old Town. Enjoy a stroll through the park or, if you have energy, walk along Brivibas Boulevard into the city center to check out the Nativity of Christ Cathedral. Or, along the canal, to the National Opera.
If you have an interest in more modern times, you should check out the market halls near the river. They are five hangars that hold a market place selling great pastries, breads, cheese, meats, fruits and fish, as well as clothing, and lots of other stuff! If you are hungry, grap some salami, cheese and bread and enjoy a lunch in the park! There are plenty of restaurants in the old town for a more formal meal, many with outdoor seating along the cobblestone roads and squares. There is a mall, Galleria Centre, as well for any shopping needs.
If you are not that good with maps, don’t worry. Feel free to get lost wandering the little streets and alleys. In any case, you will end up at the river, the canal or one of the main roads, never far from the central squares. I actually like getting lost, it’s a nice way of seeing little alleys, hidden coffee shops or stores or a quiet square to sit, relax and watch people going by. Have a good time in Old Riga!