Walk in the Old Town
- 10 sights
- Distance: ~ 5 km
- Time: ~ 1h 30min (including a visit to the Latvian National Library)
Walking through Riga Old Town can be combined with learning about Latvia’s history of the past 100 years. This guide includes information on sites of historic significance for Latvia that are located in Old Town or nearby.
Latvian National TheaterSources note that November 18, 1918 was a cool and cloudy day. Over 1,200 people had gathered at the Riga City Second Theater (now Latvian National Theater) for a very important premiere. The stage lights on this night were being directed at 37 men and one lady – 38 Latvians who were taking the stage for a very clear objective: declaring the new independent Republic of Latvia.
Latvian Parliament BuildingThe Latvian Parliament, or Saeima building, has served various powers in its history. The main building now occupied by the Saeima was constructed between 1863 and 1867 for the needs of the Livonian Knighthood according to the design made by Robert Pflug (1835-1885), a Baltic-German architect, and Jānis Baumanis (1834-1891), the first academically educated Latvian architect.
Dome Square and Latvian Radio Building Dome Square is the largest square in Old Town Riga, where seven streets converge into the square – Smilšu, Rozena, Šķūņu, Zirgu, Pils, Jēkaba and Jauniela. The square has always served as a main gathering point, where important historical events have taken place, even during the days of the 1991 Barricades (the time of the Barricades was a decisive event in Latvia’s history and path towards restoration of independence, where the people erected barricades around important buildings to safeguard Latvia’s independence).
Latvian National Library, closed until 7.12.2020Already in 1928, the necessity of constructing a special building to hold the Latvian National Library was discussed. However, only in 1988 was the decision made for its construction on the left side of the Daugava River – between the Akmens and Dzelzceļš bridges.
November 11th EmbankmentLatvians calls the Daugava the “river of fate”, with many fateful moments in history having taken place on its banks. On January 13, 1991, about half a million people gathered by the Daugava River in Riga to express their support for the Lithuanian people, who were attacked by Soviet special forces the night before, as well as express their support for the continuation of Latvia’s path towards independence.
Riga CastleRazed to the ground and rebuilt several times over the centuries, this Livonian Order castle was originally constructed in 1340, but in 1922 officially become the presidential residence. Former Latvian presidents Jānis Čakste, Gustavs Zemgals, Alberts Kviesis and Kārlis Ulmanis all worked at the castle.
Memorial slab dedicated to Baltic WayOn August 23, 1991, approximately two million residents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined hands to form a 600 kilometer long human chain from Tallinn through Riga, all the way to Vilnius, to demonstrate in a peaceful way against the Soviet occupation on the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and express their desire for independence. To commemorate this event, a special memorial was unveiled in Old Town Riga as a gift from Lithuania called Pēdas (Footprints). Such memorial slabs have also been set-up in Vilnius and Tallinn.
Freedom MonumentThe Freedom Monument has been standing tall and proud in central Riga for over 80 years. The granite, travertine and copper monument symbolizes the desire of the Latvian people for freedom and independence. The monument was designed and built by sculptor Kārlis Zāle and constructed using donations from the people.