Walking Tour of Riga, Latvia
Riga, capital of Latvia, another of the Baltic States recently separated from the Soviet Union, has a pleasant, Medieval, Old Town (Vecriga), which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you are strolling along the maze of streets, be sure to find Dome Square, with its Cathedral Church of Riga. Nearby is St Peter’s Church, whose spire can be climbed for a great view of the city. While in Riga, admire the architecture in the Art Nouveau District, within walking distance of Vecriga.
My walk begins at Doma Laukums, Cathedral Square, located near the center of Riga’s Old Town, known as Vecriga. The church on the square, Rigas Doms, is the largest in the Baltics and dates to 1211 AD. Check out the huge organ and some of the stonework. Across Jauniela, near the southern end of the church property, is Pie Kristapa, whose golden façade is typical of the architecture of Old Riga.
Exit the square at the north by taking a left onto Pils iela, which leads to Riga Castle and Castle Square. The castle was built in1330. From here, walk east on Daugavas Gate, and then left onto 11 Novembra Krastmala, which runs alongside the Daugava River. When you reach the Akmens Bridge, walk partially across the bridge to get an excellent view of Old Riga and of the castle.
Then reverse direction and continue north on Kalku iela. The Latvian Riflemen Statue, on the right, recalls the Soviet period in Latvian history, in an ominous dark-red color. Nearby is the Occupation Museum, which documents this same time period. These sights are located on Town Hall Square, which is also occupied by one of the city’s most stunning architectural gems, the House of Blackheads. The present building, however, is a reconstruction of the original, from 1344 AD, which was completely destroyed. Also on the square is Riga’s Town Hall and a Statue of Roland, a medieval hero.
To the east, across Kungu iela, is St Peter’s Church, an important Gothic church which affords the visitor a wonderful view from its spire observation area, over 200 feet in the air.
Now, turn left on Skarnu, then Skunu iela, and then right on Amatu iela. The Great Guildhouse is on the right, while the Small Guild is on the left. Turn right on Maistaru iela, along Philharmonic Square, and then on Kalku iela, which becomes Brivibas and leads to the Freedom Monument. It was erected in 1935 but, in the 1980’s, became the symbol of the liberation from Communism.
Next, reverse direction on Brivibas, and then turn right onto Basteja Bulvaris, then left on Tornu iela. The Powder Tower, the only remaining tower from the Old Town’s fortifications, is on your left. Continue west to find the Swedish Gate, the only surviving medieval entryway.
Turn left when you reach Jekaba iela. Latvia’s Parliament Building is on your right and St Jacob’s Cathedral is just beyond it. This Roman Catholic church was built in 1225 AD. Jekaba iela ends at Cathedral Square, where your walk began.