With their handcrafted jewellery and decadent culinary treats, markets are perfect for lovebirds. Riga is home to some of the best – these are our top picks.
Home to one of the world’s largest collections of Art Nouveau buildings, the Latvian capital of Riga is one of those rare historic cities where it’s still possible to visit magnificent sites without weaving through huge crowds of tourists. Some of the main attractions are the romantic year-round markets, scattered throughout the UNESCO-protected Old Town and beyond.
Riga Central Market
The iconic Riga Central Market is Europe’s largest bazaar. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the 1920s from five former German zeppelin hangars, and its remarkable architecture combines Neoclassicism and Art Deco style. Visit the indoor market to find fresh local produce like regional honey and salted mushrooms, or wander through the open air street bazaar to marvel at artisanal crafts, like handmade jewellery featuring the country’s celebrated Baltic amber. Exit through the fish pavilion onto the Maskavas iela, a historic street filled with picturesque old warehouses.
Just down the road from our Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija, Riga, the Berga Bazārs is a historic pedestrian enclave in the centre of the Old Town. After decades of neglect during the Soviet era, recent years have seen these stunning arcades restored to their former glory. Open on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month during the season – there’s a winter closure, but things pick up again in March – this is Riga’s only covered outdoor antiques market. Here you’ll find a wide selection of Latvian furniture, arts and crafts and souvenirs for sale. Take a break from strolling through this unique market to sample a range of dense, freshly baked rye breads at the adjacent farmers’ market, or pack your own picnic from the seasonal produce on offer. If it’s still a bit chilly to spend the whole day outdoors, head to Kanēļa Konditoreja (Cinnamon Café) for traditional Latvian pastries and great coffee.
On the other side of the Daugava River – just across the Vansū Bridge – you’ll find the Kalncieva Quarter. This medley of renovated 18th and 19th century wooden buildings hosts a variety of cultural events, and every Saturday the district is home to a lively seasonal market celebrating traditional Latvian culture. Browse hand-knitted scarves and sweaters, or pause to sample freshly shucked oysters with a dash of lemon and Tabasco. When visiting in summer, don’t miss the live music on Thursday evenings and outdoor cinema nights on Fridays.
A stone’s throw from the historic city centre, vendors at the Latgalīte flea market don’t sell food, but you can find almost anything else there, from books to bicycles. Many of the stalls are run by Russians, so you’ll find an amazing array of quirky second-hand Soviet goods – some more authentic than others. Soak up the local culture and keep an eye out for unusual souvenirs (although you might want to avoid the suspiciously inexpensive electronics on display).