A charming neighborhood, the Old Town is not only the oldest section of Riga but also a thriving area that still houses many important landmark buildings. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Riga old town is a treat for culture lovers, history buffs, and everyone else too. When an area is packed with attractions jostling for attention, it becomes difficult to choose what to see. As you go about visiting all the attractions, do not forget to slow down and soak in the atmosphere as you walk around the cobbled streets taking in stunning architecture belonging to different periods, Romanticism, Gothic, Baroque, Classicism, and Modernism.
The Town Square dominates the Old Town. It was once the city center and till date houses the city council office. The Dome Square, with Dome church, has played an important part in Latvian independence. It is a popular spot for seasonal markets and can be buzzing place during festive seasons.
There are multiple museums here, from the stark Museum of Occupation retelling the grim history of the country's occupation by Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany to the bright Arsenal Museum of Art showcasing the best of Latvian art.
The castles, churches, and cathedrals
The name of Riga Castle is a bit misleading as it is the President's residence and offices today. So, do not expect a tour of the castle. However, you can always visit the National History Museum located nearby. St Peter's Church is Riga's tallest church with a spire that can be seen from far and has viewing galleries offering sweeping views of the city. Riga cathedral is the largest medieval church in the Baltics and is home to one of the biggest organs in Europe. Stop by to get impressed by the magnificent interior and if you are lucky, you may get to hear the impressive organ too.
Once a part of the city defenses, today the canal is a scenic boundary at the end of the Old Town. Be on the lookout for beavers who inhabit the area. The green belt is the perfect spot for a picnic or a boat ride.
As you walk in through the seventh century Swedish Gate of the Old Town, you will find many cafes and restaurants lining the narrow streets. Grab a cup of coffee and see the locals pass or stop by to see the oldest complex of town houses called The Three Brothers or take a picture of the House of Blackheads. Spend the day exploring the countless buildings with historic architectural facades or pick up a souvenir from the local market.