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Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Highlights & Hidden Gems (With Map!)

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Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Town are one of the must-see attractions in Riga.

Riga is the rollicking, self-proclaimed capital of the Baltics. With its mercantile past, rich cultural heritage, cosmopolitan bustle, and spirited nightlife, it’s hard to dispute this claim. I absolutely adore Riga, especially the medieval red-brick churches and gabled merchants’ houses of the Old Town and the wide array of Art Nouveau apartment blocks. A Riga walking tour is one of the best ways to see most of the city’s best sights, important landmarks and soak in the winsome atmosphere. This post includes a map for a self-guided free walking tour of Riga. Enjoy your walk! 🙂

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Why Choose This Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour?

This free self-guided Riga walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route quite easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day.

The tour will take you through the center of Riga, principally focusing on the attraction studded parts of the Old Town (Vecrīga). You will pass the city’s major attractions, landmark public buildings, places of worship, remarkable Art Nouveau edifices, cultural venues, restaurants, and cafes. You’ll also learn a few lesser-known facts about Riga along the way.

Riga Walking Tour Itinerary

The walking tour covers a total distance of approximately 6.7 kilometers (4.2 miles). The tour starts at the Riga Central Market and terminates at Albert Street in the Art Nouveau Quarter.

Feel free to take a break if you feel jaded along the way. I have included some cafes and restaurants in the map where you can take a breather and grab a bite. On this free Riga walking tour, you will see:

  1. Riga Central Market
  2. St. John’s Church
  3. Bremen Town Musicians
  4. St. Peter’s Church
  5. Mentzendorff House
  6. Daugava Riverfront & National Library of Latvia
  7. Latvian Riflemen Monument
  8. Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
  9. House of the Blackheads
  10. Riga City Hall
  11. Riga Cathedral
  12. Art Museum Riga Bourse
  13. Three Brothers
  14. St. Saviour’s Church
  15. Riga Castle
  16. Latvian National Theater
  17. Parliament of Latvia
  18. Swedish Gate
  19. Jacob’s Barracks
  20. Powder Tower
  21. Cat House
  22. The Great Guild
  23. The Small Guild
  24. Latvian National Opera
  25. Laima Clock
  26. Bastejkalns Park
  27. Freedom Monument
  28. Nativity of Christ Cathedral
  29. Latvian National Museum of Art
  30. The Art Nouveau Quarter

1. Riga Central Market

Where to shop in Riga: The Zeppelin hangars of the Riga Central Market are one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

Kick-off your free self-guided Riga walking tour at the Central Market, Europe’s largest market, and definitely a must-see attraction! It is housed in five Zeppelin ochre-colored hangars, each the size of a football field, and is one of the most unique markets in Europe.

The hangars had been abandoned by the German Army in Kurzeme during World War I and were transported to their current site during the 1920s.

At the time Zeppelins were in vogue and seen as the future of transport. Art Deco and Neoclassical styles have been wonderfully infused in the design of these hangars.

The market spans a massive area of over 70,000 square meters and is home to over 3000 vendors. Each of the hangars has its own specialty, be it gastronomic specialties, fish, meat, dairy or vegetables. 80,000 to 100,000 visitors walk through its doors daily to come to shop for groceries or miscellaneous items.

Needless to say, the atmosphere here is electric and the experience shouldn’t be missed.

Riga Sightseeing: The intriguing Latvian Academy of Sciences skyscraper is one of the highlights of this free Riga walking tour. C: Joymsk140/shutterstock.com

Fun Fact

The tall skyscraper in the vicinity that you can see from here is home to the Latvian Academy of Sciences. This controversial building was built between 1953 and 1957 in pseudo-Baroque style earning it the moniker “Stalin’s Birthday Cake”. This is one of the better Stalinist buildings I’ve seen and I was rather impressed with the building’s ornamentation that includes both Latvian folk imagery and hammer-and-sickle motifs.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. John’s Church (2) which lies on Skārņu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 800 m.

2. St. John’s Church

Riga Churches: The Mannerist and Baroque exterior of the Lutheran St. John's Church is one of the best things to see on this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

Your first destination in the Old Town is the Lutheran St. John’s Church. It was originally built as the cloister chapel for a Dominican Order monastery in 1234. The building was used for a time as the city’s armory and was devastated by the 15th-century fighting between the Livonian Order and the city.

The church was subsequently handed over to the Lutherans who expanded it in the Mannerist and Baroque styles. The best part of the church is the wonderful Gothic interior, whose rib vaulted ceiling and nave have been tastefully decorated in vibrant primary colors.

One of the reasons why St. John’s Church is famous is because of popular folklore regarding two monks who lived in Riga in the 15th century. The story goes that in order to attain sainthood the monks chose to seal themselves into the church’s southern wall, where they ultimately perished.

This sort of zealous display of ascetic piety wasn’t uncommon in the Middle Ages. A cross-shaped hole still lies in the wall where both bodies lie.

Fun Fact

Rīga was founded in 1201 by Albert von Buxhoeveden, a priest from Bremen who arrived with 20 shiploads of crusaders to convert the Baltic pagan tribes to Christianity. Albert wasted no time in building a fortified settlement and civilians from Northern Europe flocked to Rīga to take advantage of new opportunities for trade. The city soon joined the mighty Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading guilds that established a trade monopoly along the coast of Northern Europe in the Middle Ages, in 1282. Riga’s fortunes subsequently prospered and civic life remained in the hands of a German-speaking mercantile elite for the next 600 hundred years.

Directions

Your next stop is the Bremen Town Musicians monument (3) which lies further down on Skārņu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 30 m.

3. Bremen Town Musicians

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The quirky Town Musicians of Bremen monument is one of the top things to see in the Riga Old Town.

The quirky Bremen Town Musicians monument is one of the best things to see in Riga. It is based on the famous fairytale ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ by the Brothers Grimm. The monument was gifted to the citizens of Riga in 1990 by the city of Bremen (another Hanseatic city) and marks the historic association between the two cities.

Just like the original in Bremen, the monument features a donkey roaring on its hind legs. A barking dog stands on the donkey and a meowing cat stands on the dog. Finally, there’s a crowing rooster on the cat. This one is slightly smaller than the original one in Bremen though.

There are various theories as to what the symbolism is behind the monument. It is considered good luck to rub the faces of each animal in sequence, so you should give it a try. You’ll notice that the respective parts of the statue are already quite shiny from all the rubbing.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Peter’s Church (4) which is just beside the Bremen Town Musicians monument.

4. St. Peter’s Church

What to see in Riga: The imposing St. Peter's Church is one of the must-see sights on this free Riga walking tour.

Next up on this free self-guided walking tour of Riga is the lovely St. Peter’s Church, one of the city’s premier churches. The imposing church dominates Riga’s skyline with its graceful three-tiered spire.

The church is rather unique as it was largely built by the Livonians (a Finnic ethnic group indigenous to northern Latvia and southwestern Estonia) and not by foreigners.

Virtually nothing of the original wooden church remains, but segments of the walls date from the 1200s. St. Peter’s was a Catholic church until 1523 when it turned Lutheran. It has been modified on numerous occasions to represent various architectural styles, leaving the building with a unique mixture of Romanesque and Baroque styles.

The main body of the church acquired its present form in the early 15th century while the three Baroque entrance portals were added in the late 17th century. The church spire has been rebuilt several times over, beginning in 1491 with the construction of a 137m-high wooden spire – the highest in Europe at the time.

It collapsed just under two hundred years later and was rebuilt twice in Baroque style before being decimated by the German bombing in 1941. The present 123-meter tall spire is a steel replica of the 18th-century version and lends excellent views across the city.

Directions

Your next stop is the Mentzendorff House (5) which lies on Grēcinieku Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.

5. Mentzendorff House

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the Mentzendorff House, an impeccably restored merchant's house is one of the must-see sights in Riga.

The Mentzendorff House is an impeccably restored merchant’s house that was constructed in 1695 as the premises for a glass-cutter. It derives its name from the luxury Mentzendorff delicatessen, which occupied the ground floor of the building in the early 20th century.

It was impeccably restored in the 1980s and 1990s and houses a museum that represents the life of Riga’s merchant class in the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum is the only one of its ilk in the Baltics and each room is periodically decorated in grand style.

Fun Fact

Grēcinieku Street, which lies next to the Mentzendorff House, was for a long time home to Riga’s boozy and pleasure quarter. Its name translates to “Sinners’ Street”, and even today several of the Old Town’s most popular bars are located here.

Directions

Your next stop is the Daugava Riverfront (6) which is further down on Grēcinieku Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 220 m.

6. Daugava Riverfront & National Library of Latvia

What to do in Riga: The Daugava Riverfront is the best place to get a view of the glistening modernist building of the National Library of Latvia.

On this free walking tour of Riga, take a moment to take a gander at the Daugava River which cuts through the heart of Riga. It played a key role in the development of Riga in the Middle Ages. The promenade on the right side of the Daugava is an excellent place to relax on a bench and enjoy the view of the river.

From here, you can get a great view of the glistening modernist building of the National Library of Latvia, aka “the Castle of Light”.

This slightly controversial building opened in 2014 and is already one of the most notable points of interest in Riga. I think it sort of looks like a large mountain or a ski-jump ramp with a glass flame atop the edifice.

The library’s unique crystal mountain design carries references to Latvian history, folklore, literature, music, and visual art. According to an old legend, the mystical Castle of Light was drowned when the age of darkness came, but it would emerge again from the waters of the Daugava after the people overcome the symbolic darkness and occupation.

Directions

Your next stop is the Latvian Riflemen Monument (7) which lies in the Latvian Riflemen Square. You’ll be walking a distance of 230 m.

7. Latvian Riflemen Monument

Free Self- Guided Riga Walking Tour: The three stern figures of the Riflemen Monument is one of the top things to see in Riga.

The Latvian Riflemen Monument is one of the slightly controversial attractions you’ll encounter on our Riga walking tour. The granite sculpture has stood in the square of the same name since 1970. It depicts three stern figures and is one of the last examples of ideological sculptures in Riga.

The Riflemen were a unit of the Russian army, formed to defend their homeland against Germany in 1915. Radicalized by Bolshevik agitators and the heavy losses suffered during fierce fighting, the Riflemen went on to support Lenin during the 1917 Revolution.

Some of the Riflemen later came back to Latvia, while others became Lenin’s most faithful troops. Thus, some locals see the Riflemen as Latvian military heroes, while for others they recall the grim Soviet era.

Directions

Your next stop is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (8) which lies in the Latvian Riflemen Square just behind the Riflemen Monument.

8. Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

Riga sightseeing: Exterior of The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, one of the highlights of this free self-guided Riga walking tour. C: Alex Tihonovs/shutterstock.com

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is a squat, gray Soviet-era concrete building that was actually built to house a museum honoring the Latvian Riflemen.

Since 1993 it has offered a moving and sobering account of Latvians’ suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany in World War II and the later Soviet occupation. Exhibits include photographs, posters, and eye witness accounts of deportations and political repression.

Directions

Your next stop is the House of the Blackheads (9) which lies in the Town Hall Square just behind the museum. You’ll be walking a distance of 50 m.

9. House of the Blackheads

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The attractive facade of the House of Blackheads is definitely one of the top things to see in Riga.

The beautifully designed House of the Blackheads is one of the must-see attractions in Riga and also one of the marquee attractions of our free Riga walking tour. It was originally built in 1334 as a meeting and celebration hall for the city’s guilds, after the Livonian Order, usurped the existing guild buildings.

In the 17th century, the Blackheads, a guild comprising of mostly unmarried German merchants bought the building and became its sole occupants. This unruly bachelor’s pad served as the hub of civic life and became a symbol of Rīga’s cosmopolitan, mercantile identity.

The original structure was heavily damaged by bombing in World War II but luckily the original blueprints survived and an exact replica of this stunningly asymmetrical ornate structure was completed in 2001 for Rīga’s 800th birthday. I was totally smitten with its colorful facade and the fact that it is supposedly the most photographed building in Riga doesn’t surprise me.

Directions

Your next stop is the Riga City Hall (10) which lies on the other end of the Town Hall Square. You’ll be walking a distance of 100 m.

10. Riga City Hall

Free self-guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the Neoclassical style Riga Town Hall.

The Riga City Hall sits on the other end of the Town Hall Square. It is an administrative center and is home to the Riga City Council.

The original building was decimated during World War II and was rebuilt in 2001 in mostly Neoclassical style, but in my opinion, it’s not as impressive as the original. Every hour you can hear a wonderful ringing of the bells that are on the belfry on the roof of the City Hall.

Directions

Your next stop is the Riga Cathedral (11). You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

11. Riga Cathedral

Riga Churches: The colossal Riga Cathedral is the largest church in the Baltics and is one of the highlights of this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

The Riga Cathedral lies at the core of the Old Town. This massive cathedral was founded in 1211 as the seat of the Riga diocese and is the largest place of worship in the Baltics. The cathedral has been modified over the years and its hulking structure features a motley of styles.

The altar alcove and the east wing crossing is Romanesque, its large windows are Neo-Gothic, while the eastern end is dominated by the enormous Renaissance gable and the bulky Baroque belfry. The intricate brickwork chevrons and zigzag patterns that cover the cathedral’s outer walls are amazing.

In my view, the Riga Cathedral is one of those buildings that is better from the outside than the inside. The interior is quite spartan as you would expect with most Lutheran churches.

It does, however, feature a magnificent organ with 6768 pipes, ostensibly the fourth largest in the world (it was the largest in the world when it was first installed in 1884).

Directions

Your next stop is the Art Museum Riga Bourse (12) which lies on Doma laukums. You’ll be walking a distance of 60 m.

12. Art Museum Riga Bourse

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The elegant Renaissance style exterior of the Art Museum Riga Bourse is one of the must-see attractions when sightseeing in Riga.

The Art Museum Riga Bourse is housed in a spectacular building, that is reminiscent of an elegant Italian villa. It was built in the ornate Venetian Renaissance style in 1856 but it fell into a state of disrepair after years of neglect and fire.

The building was fortunately renovated extensively and after three years of renovation, it opened its doors in 2011 as the home of the new Art Museum Riga Bourse.

The Art Museum Riga Bourse is one of the best things to see in Riga as it houses the largest collection of foreign art in Latvia. It has an extensive collection of European artworks as well as art from the Orient and India. There is also a significant collection of porcelain and glass.

Directions

Your next stop is the Three Brothers (13) which lies on Mazā Pils Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 130 m.

13. Three Brothers

Riga sightseeing: The beautiful 'Three Brothers' is one of the must-see attractions of this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

The Three Brothers is one of my favorite points of interest on this free self-guided Riga walking tour. It is a row of venerable buildings on Mazā Pils Street that is one of Riga’s most popular attractions.

Legend has it that the houses were erected by descendants of the same family, thus getting their name. You can detect a distinct timeline of architectural trends through the facades of the buildings.

The first of the three, at number 17, features Dutch and Gothic styles through its stepped gable and niches. It is not only the trio dating from the 15th century and is Riga’s oldest residential building made out of stone.

The middle sibling, at number 19, is an eye-catching, 17th-century yellow-ochre structure with an elegant Renaissance portal and a wood-beamed interior. In my opinion, this is the prettiest one of the trio. It is now home to the Museum of Architecture.

The slightly unassuming one at number 21 is the thinnest of the three and was built in the 18th century. It was reputedly painted green to ward off evil spirits.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Saviour’s Church (14) which lies on Anglikāņu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

14. St. Saviour’s Church

Riga Churches: The wonderful red-brick Neo-Gothic St. Saviour's Church is one of the numerous churches to see on this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

St. Saviour’s Church is a cute little red-brick Neo-Gothic church that is the only Anglican place of worship in Riga. It was even built on a layer of British soil in 1857 by British merchants by using English bricks.

During the Soviet era, it was transformed into a disco and recording studio that was used by students but since 1991 has reopened for worship.

Directions

Your next stop is the Riga Castle (15). You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

15. Riga Castle

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the Riga Castle which stands on the bank of the Daugava River and is one of the must see sights in Riga.

The Riga Castle has stood on the banks of the Daugava river for more than 700 years having begun life as the headquarters of the Livonian Order. It has a chequered history and has seen its share of wars, rulers, and demolition.

It looks much like a nondescript office block from the outside except the white corner tower, which is quite impressive. As well as being the official residence of Latvia’s president, the building is also home to the History Museum of Latvia.

Directions

Your next stop is the Latvian National Theater (16) which lies on Kronvalda Boulevard. You’ll be walking a distance of 350 m.

16. Latvian National Theater

What to see in Riga: Exterior of the splendid Latvian National Theater building which is one the highlights of this free self-guided Riga walking tour. C: Joymsk140/shutterstock.com

The magnificent Latvian National Theater is one of the most spectacular architectural sights you’ll encounter on this walking tour of Riga.

The building was completed in 1902 and incorporates a variety of styles such as Neo-Baroque, Classicism, and even Art Nouveau in its design. It’s notable for its pair of muscular Atlas-style men on either side of its entrance bearing the weight of its facade.

The Latvian National Theater building occupies a significant place in Latvian history since it was here that Latvian independence was proclaimed on November 18, 1918. The building has been home to the Latvian National Theater since 1919.

Directions

Your next stop is the Parliament of Latvia (17) which lies on Jēkaba Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 210 m.

17. Parliament of Latvia

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the workmanlike Latvian Parliament Building. C: Ints Vikmanis/shutterstock.com

The Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) is located in a workmanlike building that would probably go unnoticed if not for the ministerial motorcars outside. The Neo-Renaissance building was built in 1867 and was originally used for meetings of the local landed gentry.

During World War II the building served as the headquarters of Friedrich Jeckeln – the notorious German SS commander who personally oversaw the killing of Latvia’s Jews, Roma, and other “undesirables”.

Fun Fact

Though officially adopted in 1923, the Latvian flag was in use as early as 1279, making it the second oldest national flag in the world with only the Danish national flag being older.

Directions

Your next stop is the Swedish Gate (18) which lies on Atgriežu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 70 m.

18. Swedish Gate

Riga sightseeing: The Swedish Gate is the last remaining medieval gate in the Old Town and one of the must-see attractions on this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

The Swedish Gate is one of the most enduring landmarks in the Old Town. It is a relatively simple archway beneath a three-story townhouse that is the sole remnant of eight city gates built in the late 17th-century during a period of Swedish rule in Rīga.

Lore has it that the gate was created illicitly by a wealthy merchant to give him more direct access to his warehouse. It was, however, probably built for the use of the soldiers stationed at Jacob’s Barracks.

You might see newlywed couples passing through the gate since passing through the gate is supposed to bring good fortune after marriage.

Directions

Your next stop is the Jacob’s Barracks (19) which lie on Torņa iela. You’ll be walking a distance of 40 m.

19. Jacob’s Barracks

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The Jacob's Barracks is a collection of attractive yellow buildings with red roofs. It is one of the must-see attractions in Riga.

Jacob’s Barracks is a collection of a yellow block of buildings with red roofs that runs for 200 meters along one side of Torņa Street. It was built in the 17th century to house Swedish soldiers and is now home to numerous shops and restaurants.

The barracks formerly housed an artists’ commune that was influential in shaping the nation’s cultural scene during the interwar years. Just opposite the barracks lies the oldest remaining stretch of the city wall, dating from the 13th to 16th centuries.

Directions

Your next stop is the Powder Tower (20) which lies on Smilšu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 170 m.

20. Powder Tower

What to see in Riga: The rotund Powder Tower is the last remaining of Riga's 18 defensive medieval towers and one of the highlights of this free Riga walking tour.

The cylinder-shaped Powder Tower is all the last remaining one of the 18 towers that were once part of the city’s defenses. Its 14th-century foundations are among the oldest in the city, but the rest of the structure dates from 1650, being rebuilt after being destroyed by the Swedish army in 1621.

It was initially called Sand Tower but was later named Powder Tower since its chunky walls were used to protect the gunpowder stored inside.

The tower’s red-brick walls are still embedded with cannonballs from various sieges. Somewhat fittingly, the tower now forms part of the adjoining Latvian War Museum.

Directions

Your next stop is the Cat House (21) which lies on Meistaru Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 120 m.

21. Cat House

Free Self-Guided Riga Tour: Exterior of the custard yellow Art Nouveau style Cat House building, one of the best things to do in Riga.

No Riga walking tour would be complete without seeing the famed Cat House, one of the city’s most beloved attractions. This custard yellow-colored building, fluidly designed in Art Nouveau style in 1909, is easily recognizable due to the black cat statues situated on its turrets.

Being a big fan of Art Nouveau and the proud possessor of two lovely mini panthers, I love this building.

As beautiful as the building is, it has an even more fascinating backstory. The story goes that the proprietor of the building was a wealthy tradesman who yearned to be a member of Riga’s Great Guild. The guild denied him membership because he was Latvian and membership was reserved for Germans only.

The rejection by the Guild riled the building’s proprietor so much that he arranged for two cat statues to be placed on the building’s rooftop in such a way that their backsides were in the guild’s general direction!

After a lengthy legal battle, it was decreed that the cats would have to be repositioned and that the tradesman would become a member of the guild.

Directions

Your next stop is the Great Guild (22) which lies on Amatu Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 80 m.

22. The Great Guild

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the Neo-Gothic 'Great Guild' of Riga.

The Great Guild was founded in the 13th century and established a monopoly on trade in Riga for centuries. The building owes its current Neo-Gothic appearance to reconstruction from 1853 to 1860. Membership to the Great Guild was considered highly prestigious and was reserved only for affluent German merchants.

Its main hall now serves as the major venue for concerts by the Latvian National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Directions

Your next stop is the Small Guild (23) which lies on just opposite of the Great Guild.

23. The Small Guild

What to see in Riga: The asymmetrical design and castellated turret of the impressive 'Small Guild' is one of the major highlights of this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

The less influential Small Guild was formed by Riga’s German artisans and shopkeepers. to promote their interests.

The current structure was completed in the late 19th century and with its asymmetrical design and castellated turret and perky spire is way more captivating than the Great Guild. A statue of the guild’s patron, St. John, occupies a niche below the spire.

Directions

Your next stop is the Latvian National Opera (24) which lies on Aspazijas Boulevard. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

24. Latvian National Opera

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The lovely Neoclassical exterior of the Latvian National Opera is one of the must-see attractions in Riga.

Next up on this self-guided Riga walking tour is the beautiful Latvian National Opera. It is a stately, Neo-classical edifice that is fondly known as “the white house”. It was originally constructed as the Riga German Theatre in 1863 and has undergone two reconstructions since that time.

The edifice is famed for its ionic portico facade that features a group of allegoric figures. To me, it kind of resembles an ancient Greek Temple.

The building has been home to the Latvian National Opera and Ballet was founded in 1918. For a small fee, you take a tour of the building to see its stunning interior. The building is also surrounded by beautiful gardens that include a fountain with a bronze statue.

Directions

Your next stop is the Laima Clock (25) which lies further down on Aspazijas Boulevard. You’ll be walking a distance of 160 m.

25. Laima Clock

What to see in Riga: The beloved Laima Clock is one of the major sights of this free self-guided Riga walking tour.

The Laima Clock is a much-beloved Riga landmark that lies in the center. “Laima” is the name of a popular Latvian chocolate manufacturer and means happiness in Latvian.

The 4-meter high pillar clock with an Art Deco logo was erected in 1924 to advertise the Laima chocolate factory and to enable citizens to arrive at work on time. It is now a popular meeting point among locals.

Directions

Your next stop is the Bastejkalns Park (26) which just across the street from Laima Clock. You’ll be walking a distance of 30 m.

26. Bastejkalns Park

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Autumn view of the excellently manicured Bastejkalns Park, one of the most popular places to visit in Riga.

There are several beautiful and well-known parks in Riga but Bastejkalns remains my favorite one. It was laid out in the mid-19th century on the mound of a 17th-century bastion.

The park is home to romantic water features, a winding canal, sculptures, lovely flower beds, and bridges. It is a pleasant place to relax and there are plenty of benches to sit.

Directions

Your next stop is the Freedom Monument (27) which lies just further up on Brīvības laukums. You’ll be walking a distance of 130 m.

27. Freedom Monument

Riga sightseeing: The impressive Freedom Monument of Latvia stand 42 meters and is decorated with reliefs and statues of Latvian heroes. It is one of main highlights of this free-guided Riga walking tour.

The impressive Freedom Monument is undoubtedly one of the best things to see on this Riga walking tour. It was unveiled in 1935 and stands on a site formerly occupied by a statue of Peter the Great. It stands 42 meters in height and is a powerful symbol of Latvian national pride.

It was built to commemorate the soldiers that perished during the Latvian War of Independence of 1918-1920, during which Latvians overthrew their Russian occupiers. Surprisingly though, the Soviets didn’t attempt to demolish it.

The granite base is decorated with reliefs and statues of Latvian heroes while the lean granite column is topped by a female figure, affectionately known as “Milda.” She holds aloft three golden stars, which represent the three cultural regions of Latvia – Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale.

Directions

Your next stop is the Nativity of Christ Cathedral (28) which lies further up on Brīvības Boulevard. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.

28. Nativity of Christ Cathedral

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the lovely Neo-Byzantine style five-domed Nativity of Christ Cathedral. It is the largest Orthodox church in the Baltics and one of the best places to visit in Riga.

The five-domed Nativity of Christ Cathedral is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltics. It was constructed in a Neo-Byzantine manner between 1876 and 1884 when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire and was part of a deliberate process of Russification.

The attractive cathedral stands out due to its yellow sandstone exterior and striped tiling pattern. As was the norm with most places of worship during Soviet times, the cathedral functioned as a planetarium and was used for scientific lectures.

Directions

Your next stop is the Latvian National Museum of Art (29) which lies on Krišjāņa Valdemāra Street and can be reached by walking through the Esplanade Park. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

29. Latvian National Museum of Art

What to do in Riga: The beautiful Neo-Baroque building of the Latvian National Museum of Art is one of the highlights of this free self-guided walking tour.

The Latvian National Museum of Art is housed in a lovely 20th-century Neo-Baroque building with the imperious Greek goddess Athena looking down from the entrance.

It is Latvia’s most significant depository for works of art and offers a comprehensive exposé on Latvian art in both the 19th and 20th centuries, with emphasis on the various stylistic periods and the artists who were instrumental. The interior of the building is absolutely gorgeous and features gilded and marble embellishments.

Directions

Your next stop is the Art Nouveau Quarter (30), where you’ll first start on Elizabetes Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

30. The Art Nouveau Quarter

Riga Art Nouveau: Exterior of the building at Albert Street 2a is an exquisite example of Art Nouveau architecture. It is one of the best things to see on this free Riga walking tour.

We’ve now come to the final stop of our free self-guided Riga walking tour. Riga is the ultimate Art Nouveau metropolis. Nowhere else on the planet will you come across Art Nouveau architecture so rich in terms of quantity, concentration, and style.

Although you can find such architecture throughout the city, the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings lies in the northwestern corner of the Center, the so-called Quiet Center. In my opinion, taking a stroll through the Art Nouveau Quarter is undoubtedly the best thing to do in Riga.

Three distinct Art Nouveau styles can be found through the buildings here including eclectic Art Nouveau that made use of asymmetry, symbolic ornamentation, and details drawn from nature.

The two other Art Nouveau styles found here are perpendicular, which placed emphasis on vertical composition, and National Romanticism, which incorporated folk motifs and the use of natural materials. A large number of these buildings were designed by Mikhail Eisenstein, father of the famed director Sergei Eisenstein.

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The building at Elizabetes Street 10B is a great example of eclectic Art Nouveau and is characterized by plaster flourishes, gargoyles and is topped by two vast, deadpan faces.

Elizabetes Street, Strelnieku Street, and Albert Street are three streets that are rampant with Art Nouveau buildings which are so amazing you will be rendered spellbound.

Start off with Elizabetes Street and look out for the buildings at numbers 10a and 10b, number 23, and number 33. Number 10b is totally mindblowing and symbolizes eclectic Art Nouveau with plaster flourishes, gargoyles and is topped by two vast, deadpan faces.

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: The gorgeous facade of the Art Nouveau style building at Strelnieku Street 4 is dominated by maidens clutching wreaths and bald eagles.

Turn on to Strelnieku Street which is equally impressive. The buildings to look out for here are number 2, number 4, and number 6. Symbols of victory adorn the eclectic Art Nouveau edifice at number 4, including maidens clutching wreaths and bald eagles.

Number 2 is a great example of perpendicular Art Nouveau and you’ll notice that the design of this building is comparatively restrained.

Free Self-Guided Riga Walking Tour: Exterior of the building at Albert Street 13 which is adorned with female figures displaying various emotions, exotic flowers, masks of menacing faces, and reliefs of serpentine snakes. C: Roman Babakin/shutterstock.com

Take a right turn onto Albert Street. Albert Street is the granddaddy of them all and virtually every building here is an Art Nouveau masterpiece. It’s also appropriate that the Art Nouveau Museum is housed in the lovely building at number 12.

The building at number 2a is one of my favorites, its facade is slightly higher than the building itself, making it seem more like a film set than an actual building. The dark gray apartment block at number 11 is a grand example of National Romanticism and features bay windows resembling turrets.

Number 13 is probably the most bombastic display of Art Nouveau that you will ever see. You’ll find beautiful female figures displaying various emotions, exotic flowers, masks of brooding, smiling or menacing faces, and reliefs of peacocks and serpentine snakes on the facade of this building.

Guided Riga Walking Tours

If you are very short on time or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of a self-guided Riga walking tour, you can also opt to take a guided tour instead.

Riga Old Town Walking Tour: This 2-hour walking tour of Riga takes you through the heart of the historic Old Town. Listen to interesting stories and legends as you go past historic landmarks and interesting sights.

What Else to See in Riga

Obviously, there is plenty more to see in Riga than what we have covered in our walking tour. Places like the quaint Āgenskalns neighborhood, the amazing Riga Motor Museum, and the hipster Miera iela & Kalnciema Quarter all deserve to be seen.

Where to Stay in Riga

It’s handy to stay in the Old Town in the Riga or in the center as they are a good base for sightseeing. There are plenty of good options in or in the vicinity of the Old Town for all budgets.

Hostel: The Naughty Squirrel Backpackers Hostel, a great choice right in the heart of the Old Town

Budget: Boutique Hotel Monte Kristo, solid option in the Old Town

Mid-range: Mercure Riga Centre, within 2 minutes of the main train and bus stations

Splurge: Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga, sumptuous top-choice pick in the Old Town


Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our self-guided walking tour of Riga? Are there any other stops that we should be adding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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