Set on the Baltic Sea, Latvia's capital city Riga is a hub for art, food, and medieval architecture. Riga is well-known for being a UNESCO World Heritage site and having the finest and largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. Check the elegance and beauty that Riga has to offer, including at least these ten things available free of charge.
1) Take a walk in beautiful Riga parks
Riga is a city of many beautiful parks. You can start exploring the greenery of the city walking alongside the Riga Canal that separates Old Town from the rest of the city. A beautifully designed park area is all around it. I would recommend checking Kronvalda Park at the canal.
It has more than 100 foreign tree and bush species and a stunning fountain, which offers a show of lights and colours at night. There is also a playground and roller-skating tracks. Boat and water bicycle rides are available on the canal during the summer.
2) Make a DIY Art Nouveau tour
If there is just one reason for visiting Riga, the capital of Latvia, it is the fact that the city has the finest and largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, with over 800 houses built in this style. The historical Centre of Riga is inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, recognizing its great collection of outstanding Art Nouveau (Jugendstil)architecture. There is one district in particular that contains some of the most elaborate and beautifully restored examples of Art Nouveau, among the finest anywhere. To have quick look at the most impressive Art Nouveau buildings in Riga, take a ten-minute walk from the old town to the corner of Strelnieku and Elizabetes street. Read more about a short self-guided Art Nouveau walk clicking this link.
3) Visit Orthodox Cathedral
Riga's Nativity of Christ Cathedral is the biggest Orthodox Church in the city. The Cathedral was built at the end of the 19th century. The initial design did not feature a separate belfry but as the Russian Czar Alexander II presented a surprise gift (12 bells), the design was improved with one more dome for bells. Although the cathedral had survived both world wars, in the early 1960s Soviet authorities closed the cathedral, sawn down the crucifixes, and re-melted the bells, and converted it into a planetarium, called the Republic House of Knowledge. Restoration work started in the late nineties and now the building has been completely restored as a church and holds regular Orthodox services.
4) Explore the War Museum
The Latvian War Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in Latvia. Since 1919 the museum has been located in the 14th century Powder Tower, one of the former fortification towers of Riga. The museum’s aim is to reveal to the public the complex military and political history of Latvia, with particular emphasis on the 20th century, during which the Latvian nation had to fight for its independence twice.Address: Smilšu iela 20. Admission free. Open Daily 10.00 - 18.00 April – October. 10.00 - 17.00 November – March.
5) Visit the National Library of Latvia
6) Visit Kalnciema Quarter
Kalnciema Quarter is a bright and lively spot in Riga, on the left bank of the Daugava River. The buildings of Kalnciema Quarter, located at the crossing of Kalnciema and Melnsila Streets, are a part of Riga’s wooden architecture heritage dating back to the 19th century and representing the epoch of the late Classicism in Europe. Kalnciema Quarter is particularly famous for its weekly market on Saturdays where local farmers and artisans bring their versatile produce. Kalnciema Quarter regularly hosts events for families and children, art exhibitions, plays, open-air concerts, and educational events, most of them free of charge. Just check the calendar of events clicking this link.
7) Make a self-guided Kipsala walk
One of the neighbourhoods worth exploring and close to the city centre is Kipsala, firstly because of its stunning views to Old Riga and secondly for beautifully renovated wooden houses. Kipsala is an island located between the Zunda Channel and the Daugava River. You can reach it crossing Vanšu bridge from the city centre. Read more about a walk in Kipsala clicking this link.
8) Visit Lipke memorial
When in Kipsala visit the memorial to brave man Žanis Lipke and his life. During World War II, he saved from death more than 50 Jews by hiding them in a bunker designed exactly for this purpose under his shed. Museum is free of charge. Leaving a donation is your decision.
Address: Mazais Balasta dambis 8.
9) Visit the Knowledge Centre "Money World" of the Bank of Latvia
It is an interactive financial education and information centre for everyone interested in the monetary policy, currency circulation and history of money. The display has been created in accordance with the principle: "Come, see, touch, find and comprehend!" It is an interactive exhibition whose information stands is complemented by multimedia presentations, short videos, computer games and various surprise elements. It’s very interesting and I would say it has two levels: the first is what you can see by just walking around and the second is when you dig deeper using modern IT technologies available throughout the centre.
It is free of charge but you can visit it just by appointment, applying well in advance by clicking this link. Address: Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela 2A.
10) Use free Wi-Fi at 1000 free Wi-Fi points in the city
In Riga, users have access to about 1,000 free Wi-Fi points, which makes Riga the European capital of free Wi-Fi. Look for the Lattelecom-free network on your mobile. Check a Riga free Wi-Fi map clicking this link.
As a bonus free option, I can tell you that three museums that belong to Latvian National Art museum are free on the last Sunday of every month. Read more about the best museums in Riga clicking this link.
Have you been to Riga? What are your favorite free activities in the city? Share in the comments section!
Author: Anita Sāne
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