Head north from the Old Town of Riga to the forest park and suburb of Mežaparks. With wild nature, recreational activities and a zoo, Mežaparks, is a great place to spend a day in Riga.
The region know as Mezaparks (Forest Park) is one of the nicest suburbs in Riga. Created at the beginning of last century, it is located next to a lake and a forest and consists of mostly summer cottages, private houses and villas. In Mežaparks you can find marvelous examples of Eclectic, Neoclassic, Art Nouveau, Functionalism and Art Deco architecture as well as a few in the Latvian national Romantic style.
Mezaparks founder is considered to be the Swedish King Gustav II who, in 1621, built a camp for his army in the area. At that time it was called Kaiserwald or the King’s forest. By the end of 19th century Riga was overpopulated and it was decided to develop Kaiserwald into a cottage district and to build a public park around the Ķīšezers lake. The first houses were built in 1902 and just 5 years later the total length of the streets came to 20 km. Mainly wealthy Germans choose to live in Mezaparks, but there were also Latvian and Swedish residents.
After 1939 many Germans left Latvia, thus the majority of the houses were empty when the Red Army occupied Latvia. Except for the few houses where higher ranking politicians lived, most houses were now occupied by multiple families living in poor conditions. As a result Mežaparks’ houses were in terrible shape following the end of the Soviet occupation. Today many of the houses have been repaired to their former glory.
In 1912, in the public park next to the lake, Riga’s Zoo was opened. During Soviet times a culture and recreation park, complete with outdoor theatre, open air stage for the song and dance festival, movie theatre, boat dock, children’s town, cafés and restaurants, was developed in the park. All the attractions were connected with paved footpaths. Mežaparks is now a great place to spend the day walking around, riding a bike or roller-skating, skiing in winter, having a picnic by the lake on a warm summer’s day or going to the Zoo with the kids.
You can get to Mezaparks by catching tram number 11 from the city centre. However, a better way is to rent a bicyle and ride there along the bike path that runs from Old Riga to Mežaparks. The trip takes around 45-50 minutes and takes you through past of Riga’s most interesting sights.