Riga sights

Riga offbeat sights

TravelSavvy guide to city breaks in Riga

Did you know?

Latvia, at 64,600 sq km, is a little smaller than Ireland

In summer take a boat trip on the Daugava river from Akmens bridge

Organ recitals are held every Friday at Riga Cathedral

Riga drivers seem to have a death wish and often ignore pedestrians

Offbeat sights in Riga

If your time in Riga is limited it's best to stick to the main tourist trail.

But if you have a little longer there are other sights worth seeking out in a city with such a lively atmosphere as well as rich medieval heritage.

Riga Central Market

One of the largest markets in Europe, this lively bazaar is the major focal point of the city. The bustling, colourful market is held inside and partly outside five 35m tall Zeppelin hangars just behind the bus station.

You can buy virtually anything here, from a DVD player to a sheep carcass. There are currently over 1,200 stalls, with buildings entirely devoted to selling cheese and vegetables. If you get lost inside, you won't be the first. It has grown even bigger in recent years and now seems to be bursting at the seams.

Visit the Riga museums

Latvians love museums. They are everywhere and cover almost every subject. Memorial museums abound and the main ones are devoted to local city fathers like Andrejs Upitis, Ojars Vacietis, Aleksandrs Caks, Janis Akuraters and Krisjanis Barons.

Science is well covered too by the Latvian Nature Museum and museums of medical history, pharmacy and anatomy. Cultural and social exhibits are found not only at the famous Motor Museum but also at museums on telephones, railways and aviation.

There are also special interest museums on the theatre, cinematography, photography, television, porcelain, fire fighting, sports, architecture and even a museum on electricity.

Riga parks and boulevards

East of Old Riga are many parks and gardens, mostly laid out in the 19th century. Parks on either side of the Freedom Monument were created around 1860 with Vermanes Gardens the most popular.

The largest is Uzvaras Park across the Akmens bridge, built around 1910. Smaller parks include Arcadia, with a mill pond and the Festival Song Park, with playgrounds and fountains. Alongside the parks are impressive boulevards with imposing 19th century mansions, many now occupied by banks and insurance companies.

Riga National Zoo

Riga Zoo was established by the Soviets and is distinctively located in a pine-tree forest. There is a very varied selection of animals here. Alongside the usual zoo residents - lions, polar bears and so on - are sections devoted to insects and frogs.

It is also a good place to see animals not normally seen in Western zoos such as Tibetan wild donkeys. The surrounding forest park, close to Lake Kisezers, is a big favourite with Riga residents.

Footbridge padlocks

Strolling around Riga you may come across padlocks clamped to bridge railings (see photo above). It's a custom believed to have started in Hungary where couples declare their bond by fixing a padlock to the bridge and throwing the keys into the waters below.

Typical is the footbridge over the Pilsetas Canal in the Old City. Many couples have their names engraved on the padlock. Not quite sure what happens to the keys in winter when the water is frozen over though.

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TravelSavvy city breaks in Riga