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Off the Beaten Track in Riga

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Riga has come into its own as a destination of choice for people taking weekend breaks from Western Europe or using the city as a base for further exploration of the Baltic States. This popularity has led to the formation of a tourism circuit in the city with people seeing the same things. While the main sights of Riga are certainly worth seeing, here is a selection of some sights off the beaten path that visitors may want to consider.

Riga Sun Museum

The Riga Sun Museum looks back further into the past than many of the museums focusing on Latvia’s more recent history. Centuries ago, worship of the sun played a central role in the lives of the people living in the area that is now Latvia and this museum aims at shedding some light on this little understood topic. It is interesting because it demonstrates how the legacy of those ancient times and beliefs can still be seen in the Latvian culture of today, despite all the time and tribulations that have passed along the way.

The Jewish museum and cultural centre documents the role the Jewish community played in the life of Riga through the centuries up to its near destruction at the hands of the Nazis during the war. The holocaust in the Baltics is quite an unreported area compared to that which occurred in occupied Poland and this museum will educate many people about the horrors that occurred across Eastern Europe. Officially entrance to the museum is free although visitors should consider a donation towards the running costs.

The Ethnographic open air museum is an unusual and perhaps distant attraction. The collection of wooden houses is situated a little way outside the city but gives an excellent insight into traditional, rural Latvian life. The museum itself is a relaxed place ideal for strolling, especially during spring and summer, although there are also exhibitions in some of the buildings. The staff dress in traditional costume which adds to the slightly surreal but enjoyable atmosphere.

The Soviet victory monument dedicated to victory of the Nazis in World War II is an interesting, although controversial landmark. For many Latvians this ‘victory’ merely replaced the repressive occupation of the Nazis with that of the Soviets and they had to endure another forty five years until their liberation. As long as visitors are aware of this political backdrop the monument is certainly physically impressive, although not necessarily attractive. It gives visitors a brief glimpse of Soviet architectural styles from which, thankfully, Riga was mostly saved.

5 convenient hotels and budget apartments for your stay in Riga

  • Designapartments – Self-catering apartments in the center of Riga starting from € 28.3/£ 24.4/$ 36.7
  • Hotel Vilmāja – 3-star hotel nearby Riga airport with rooms starting from € 22/£ 19/$ 28.5
  • Old City Boutique Hotel – 4-star boutique hotel in Riga’s Old Town with rooms starting from € 56/£ 48.4/$ 72.6
  • Red Roof’s Hostel – Old Town’s Hostel offering accommodation starting from € 21/£ 18.1/$ 27.2
  • Riverside Hotel – 3-star hotel in Riga with sauna and Jacuzzi as well as rooms starting from € 30/£ 25.9/$ 38.9

Photo taken in the Riga Sun Museum by SpirosK.

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer will joce

Will Joce is a recent graduate from the London School of Economics who has a morbid fear of working in an office. As well as travelling and writing he has worked in the UK Parliament and as a press monitor. Refusing to follow advice and get a real job he will soon be beginning a Masters degree at St Petersburg State University


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