The Moscow District of Riga
The official title of this suburb is the ‘Latgales priekšpilsēta’ but to locals it is known as the Moscow district or ‘Maskachka’. It is home to a lot of Riga’s wooden architecture, has much Jewish history and its own unique atmosphere and character that is totally different to the rest of the city.
This area was one of the first developed outside of the city walls, along the road heading to wards Moscow. The main street in the district is still called the Moscow road (Maskavas iela). It is said that the suburb takes its name from the Bargemen who settled here from Russia and who traded in wood hauled by their barges down the Daugava River. Other settlers from different ethnic backgrounds and trades settled in the area as well as many Old Believers, who were being persecuted in Russia at the time.
The area also had a large Jewish community, with synagogues, schools and a cemetery in the district. During the Nazi occupation the Moscow District was turned into a Jewish Ghetto. Thousands of Jews were housed in the Riga Ghetto during its existence. Today there is a memorial and a park where the cemetery used to be. The once beautiful Great Choral Synagogue was burned to the ground, the foundations where turned into a memorial site and there also a monument to Jānis Lipķe, who helped many Jews escape the ghetto. Nearby is the Riga Jewish Ghetto Museum offering some information, but it is still a developing project.
When visiting ‘Maskachka’ you will see a huge difference between this area and the Old City in the old city. Underpopulated, silent, run down, yet full of charm and character, this place is ideal for wandering and exploring. Just jump on a tram along Maskavas iela (Moscow Street) and ride it straight to heart of the district. There is an old tram depo in the heart of the Moscow District and this is a good place to begin your exploration.
Locals will tell you not to visit The Moscow District as many believe that is a rough, criminal district. In general, as long as you are not going in too deep and not visiting at night time you should be fine but I would warn against large lenses on you cameras and wandering around staring at your map. Read more in our Is Riga Safe? section or if you wish to be accompanied through the district join one of our sightseeing excursions.
For us, we really love Maskachka as it has charm, character, history, great architecture, rich diversity and lots of green space. Should locals keep telling people not to visit, it will never develop, never grow and never be the beautiful suburb it once was. It is also home to a cool flea market, the largest wooden church in Riga, the Science Academy and much more besides. Take advantage of this great part of Riga’s history.