The historic heart of Riga.
The old city of Riga is the original fortified centre of the city and has been at the heart of the trade, the conflict and the development of Riga into the biggest city in the Baltics. Today Riga’s Old Town acts as the center of tourism in Riga and many of the most popular sights in Riga can be found here.
Founded in 1201, the development of Old Riga was rapid and soon many churches and defensive features had been created, many of which can still be seen to this day. As the suburbs grew around it, the old city remain an exclusive and heavily fortified area, protected first by city walls, then later by earthen bastions and a wide moat. Most of the city defenses were removed in the late 1800’s in favour of the expansion of the city, partly due to the growing population during the industrial revolution, but also due to a change in military tactics of the age. A city wall served as little protection from the ever larger artillery that was being developed during this age and as such the wall was removed. Fortunately the moat was left, and is now the city canal. The old defensive area known as the Esplanade was developed into many parks and gardens which now surround Old Riga and are enjoyed in the summer by both locals and visitors alike.
The Old Town gets busy in the summer months, when tourists fill the streets. In winter, however, it is a different story; sometimes the empty cobbled streets feel like a ghost town. Nightlife in Riga’s old city today can be quite intense, especially when the tourism season is in full swing. Bars have terraces spilling out onto the streets and many events, live music, parties and activities take place. All year round there are many activities and events put on by the city council in the many squares that can be found throughout Old Riga. These especially take place during national events and seasonal celebrations.
Some may say that the Old city has been over-developed, with too much emphasis on bars and clubs. We suggest that the best time to see Old Riga is during the early hours before the city wakes, around 10am, so early birds will get to wander the old streets without the feeling of being stuck in a theme park. Many of the most interesting museums of Riga can be found here as well as some of the nicer places to eat. Although it must be said many of the best and cheapest places to eat, drink and relax can be found around Central Riga.
Tourism Information Centres can be found in Rātslaukums (Town Hall Square) as well as Livu Laukums. These centers offer much information on what is on, what to see and what to do in Riga. Make the most of these Info Centers as they have made a great effort in the past years to modernize and improve their services.
Old Riga, is a charming place but do not get stuck here. Just look at a map of Riga and you will see how much of Riga is the old city; it is in fact a very small part of this awesome city known as Riga.