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Getting To Know Riga – Cruise Port Guide
Riga, the dynamic capital of Latvia and a world heritage site with over 800 years of history, is a lovely alternative to some of the more usual Baltic capitals that cruise ships frequent and our Riga cruise port guide contains all you need to know.
With nearly 700,000 inhabitants, more than a third of Latvia’s total population, Riga is the largest city in Latvia, the largest city in the Baltic states, and one of the largest cities in Northern Europe. It’s an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial, cultural, and financial centre of the Baltic Sea.
Riga is most famously home to the largest concentration of German Art Nouveau architecture in the world. Amongst that it combines a lovely old quarter full of historical importance, winding cobblestone lanes and high standing steeples, with modern innovation and a vibrant atmosphere. There are large, manicured parks; there’s a strong outdoor cafe culture; and there are some poignant buildings and landmarks that are certainly worth adding to any sightseeing wish list.
Without a doubt, one of the most impressive and most visited parts of Riga is its Old Town which makes up the centre of the city on the eastern side of the Daugava River and located conveniently within a short walk of the cruise pier. Most of the buildings within the Old Town date back to between 1860 and 1914 and what makes the area really special, is the fact that it managed to avoid being developed during the period when Latvia was part of the USSR, like much of the suburbs of Riga were. The Old Town is a bit of a rabbit’s warren of cobblestone streets that don’t conform to any organized planning, but that just makes for fun explorations and uncovering hidden delights. Outstanding Medieval buildings stand next to neo classical and art nouveau structures, and all of these are interspersed with the odd ultra-modern shiny design.
There are a few buildings to note within the Old Town itself, and probably the most visited is the Dome Cathedral. Dating back to the early 1200s, this is one of the most noted symbols in Riga, designed in a largely Gothic Style. Inside its impressive organ was once the largest in the world when it was unveiled in 1884 and the acoustics in the Cathedral are wondrous. This isn’t the only church whose spire punctuate the skyline of Old Town Riga. St Peter’s Church is the oldest in the city, dating back to 1209. Its tower is the tallest in Riga and it has a viewing platform that can be visited offering panoramic views of the city and the Daugava River.
If it’s not churches that spark your interest, but a little bit of history does, then you may be persuaded to visit Riga’s castle. Riga castle is medieval, is the residence of the President of Latvia, and is the first main touristic highlight you come across if you walk into the centre from the port is the closest point of real interest. The House of the Blackheads is something else that may pique your interest, and it is one of the most ornate buildings in the city. Originally a 14th century architectural monument that suffered critically during the Second World War, the building that stands today is a restructured and renovated cared for replacement. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Riga and inside you can visit exhibits dedicated to the merchants that once operated out of this area.
Along with many more museums, monuments, a bustling and large central market, plenty of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, Riga is a fascinating destination full of history, culture and traditions.
The currency of Latvia is the Euro.
In the 1980s the Old Town, also known as Vecrīga, had its streets closed to traffic and only area residents and local delivery vehicles are allowed within these limits with special permits. Vecrīga is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed as “Historic Centre of Riga”.
Did you know that a legend surrounds the House of the Black Cat. The legend surrounding this building is that it was once owned by disgruntled tradesman who was turned down for membership into the Big Guild. To express his disgust for not being accepted into the guild, he built the house, and placed the two unlucky black cats on the top of it with their tails pointing towards the Big Guild.
Key highlights of Riga
- Old Town
- Dome Cathedral
- Peter’s Church
- Riga Castle
- Town Hall Square
- House of the Blackheads
- Mentzendorff House
- Livu Square
- The Small Guild
- The House of the Black Cat
- The Three Brothers
- Powder Tower
- Central Market
- Laima Clock
- Freedom Monument
- Latvian National Opera and Ballet
- Nativity Orthodox Cathedral
- National Museum of Latvia
- Latvian National Museum of Art
- Art Museum Riga BOURSE
- Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
- The Corner House – Former KGB Headquarters
- Latvian War Museum
- Day trips to Sigulda and Jurmala
Regular cruise line visitors
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- P&O Cruises
- SAGA Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Viking Ocean
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