Beautiful Old Medieval Town
Approximately 2.5 miles / 4 Km
Fast fitness walk – Around 50 minutes
Start: Town Hall Square
End: Latvian Rifleman Monument
Highlights Include: Town Hall Square, St Peter's, Livs' Square, The Freedom Monument, National Opera House, Riga Cathedral, Swedish Gate, The Three Brothers, Riga Castle and The Latvian Riflemen Monument.
Riga Old Town
At the beginning of February, I had a short, four-day holiday in Riga, Latvia. I can't recommend the city more highly. Riga Old town is very beautiful with many Art Nouveau 'wedding-cake' buildings. It’s a wonderful place to walk around, and fun to get lost in the old medieval cobbled streets and alleyways. Food, accommodation and transport are good quality and excellent value. The people are friendly without being overpowering and English is widely spoken. The staff at the tourist information centres are very helpful.
In February the weather was very cold. I filmed the walk when it was minus 16C (3.2F), but the sunshine was glorious and the sky was always blue. If you go in winter you will need thermals, thick gloves and a warm hat. At the main station, it's easy to buy train tickets to the resort destinations of Jurmala and Sigulda. I loved both locations. For nightlife, I really enjoyed the ALA Bar – live music, local craft beers, good value food and a vibrant atmosphere.
Public Transport In Riga
A mix of tram, trolley bus, bus, minibus and night bus. During my stay, I used the trams and I know that routes 2,4,5 and 10 get you to within a 3-minute walk from the Town Hall. Ask for the stop, 11 November Krastmala. Then, walk North East towards the white Baroque-style building.
Riga Public Transport Information
A: Town Hall Square
A Town Hall has been on this site since 1334. This impressive building is a reconstruction of the 17th century Town Hall and it’s still used for the same purpose today. Much of the square was destroyed in WW2.
St Roland Statue
St Roland was known as a defender of justice and it's said that he is looking at the Town Hall to ensure that the politicians behave correctly. The original statue was only slightly damaged in WW2 and to protect it from the elements, it is now housed in St. Peter's Church.
The House of Blackheads
This building housed a 14th-century guild of unmarried merchants and seafarers. The strange name is derived either from the merchants’ black caps or from the guild's patron saint Mauritius, who was a Moor. The black face is part of the guild’s coat of arms. The guild was famous for its extravagant parties, where huge quantities of food and drink were enjoyed.
The square also houses the city tourist information office.
From the House of Blackheads walk East towards the tall church spire
B: St Peter's Church
This church is Riga's tallest medieval structure. Don't miss the stunning views from the top of the spire. The small charge for the lift to the observation platform is worth every penny!
Records show that a church has been on this site since 1209. Some of the original pillars remain but the church was effectively rebuilt in the 15th century. After severe damage in WW2, St Peter's was reconstructed. The building has UNESCO World Heritage Status.
The Church hosts regular music concerts as well as art exhibitions. Check the website for details
Bremen Town Musicians
Just behind the church, you will find an unusual statue given to the people of Riga by its sister city Bremen. It shows four musicians: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cockerel. The 1990 sculpture by Krista Baumgaertel is based on a Grimm fairy tale, but it has political meaning. The bronze figures are looking through the Iron Curtain onto a completely new world they have never seen before - freedom.
St John's Church
The original church was built in the 13th century. It’s very simply decorated but it has a vaulted roof that is considered to be one of the best in the Baltic region.
From St John's, head East exploring the wonderful maze of cobbled streets and alleyways. When you get to Wagner Street head north into Livs' Square.
C: Livs' Square
This square is a great place to ‘people watch’ - it has numerous cafes and bars. There is also a tourist information office. There are three important buildings in the square.
The Small Guild
The Small Guild was originally built in the 14th century, but the fairytale tower and facade date from 1866. Inside you will find tapestries and stained glass windows.
The Great Guild.
The original 14th-century structure was rebuilt in a fortress-like style in the 19th century. Inside, The Great Guild Munster Hall is the 14th century original and is now home to the Latvian Philharmonic Orchestra. See the website for concert details.
The Cat House
You will see two cats perched on the roof of this impressive building. The house dates from 1909; its style is a combination of elaborate Art Nouveau and medieval towers on which the cats are positioned. Legend has it that the owner of the building, a wealthy merchant, was denied membership to the prestigious guild. His reaction was to commission the cat sculptures and he positioned them so that their backsides faced the Guild.
From Livs' Square go West
D: The Freedom Monument
The monument is a memorial to those who fell in Latvia’s struggle for independence. It was unveiled on November 18th, 1935. The 42.7-meter high monument is made up of 56 sculptures. At the top is the nine-metre symbol of freedom – a young woman holding three stars which symbolise the three historic provinces of Latvia, and national unity.
Walk South through the gardens
E: National Opera House
Built in 1863. The building is as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. I’m a ballet fan and, in Riga, I saw a production of Peer Gynt, which was amazing. Ticket prices for the world-class Latvian Ballet and Opera companies are a fraction of what we would pay in London. Book in advance for the bargain seats. See the website for details.
From the Opera House head Northeast to Dome Square.
F: Dome Square
Seven streets converge on this huge open square. The cathedral is home to the world's largest organ. See the website for concert details:
From the Cathedral head West.
Powder Tower This 14th-century gunpowder store is now home to the Latvian Museum of War:
Exit the Powder Tower and turn left
This was built in 1698 and formed part of the original medieval city wall. As you walk through you can’t miss the canons, embedded into the structure.
Head East past the parliament buildings until you are in front of three old houses.
H: The Three Brothers
No 17 was built in the 15th century; it's the oldest house in Riga. It has very tiny windows, to avoid the ‘light tax’ of the time, which forced residents to pay for windows, which shed light on the street. No 19 was built in 1646 and No 21 was built at the end of the 17C.
I: Riga Castle
The current castle dates from 1491 and is used by the Latvian President. From the castle head South, back towards Town Hall Square. Just beyond the beautiful Town Hall stands the The Occupation Museum of Latvia.This black, Soviet building now houses a museum dedicated to the horrors of both the Nazi and Soviet occupations, suffered by Latvians.
J: Riflemen Statue
Outside the museum is an impressive red granite sculpture dedicated to Latvian Riflemen who fought in WW1.
You are now at the tram/bus stop where you started.
If you enjoyed this walk please like, share and subscribe on the 1 Minute Walks YouTube Channel. Many thanks - Pat Fleming