In recent years Riga has grown into a hotbed for creativity in all its forms. The artistic scene is blossoming, attracting more and more young talents who are redefining creativity by embracing modern digital solutions. As rents are cheap and affordable places aplenty, it's easy for artists and creatives to set up collaborative work spaces where new ideas and projects are blooming. Plus, Latvia boasts to have one of the fastest internet connections in Europe. Living costs are lower than in neighbouring European countries, and with plenty of nature surrounding the city from pine forests to wonderful lakes and beaches, the city makes for a great work-life-balance.
Latvia can look back on a long tradition of artistic and cultural achievements, and for example hosts the most dense Art Nouveau architecture collection in all of Europe. But it's not just about the presence of galleries, museums and theaters: it’s about a certain energy buzzing throughout the city these days, forged by creative communities coming together and exchanging ideas including people of all ages and interests.
Riga's cultural scene combines the traditional and the modern effortlessly, and here we shine a light on this exciting part of the city. Enjoy!
Wooden architecture, galleries, and local markets
The charming Kalnciema quarter is characterized by romantic wooden houses, particularly on the western side of the river, which are an important part of Europe's wooden architecture heritage. At a time when Riga's stone city walls protected the city from foreign invasions, it was forbidden to build stone houses outside the walls so that locals could burn the wooden buildings down to prevent invaders from settling. The area, only 20 minutes away from the center, is worth a visit not only for its amazing architecture, but also for its market and cultural events. Every Saturday there's a lovely market on the main square featuring stalls with handcrafted, homemade products from local farmers, restaurants, small craft breweries, or designers. The outdoor stage in the summer hosts concerts and performances by both local and international artists, which take place every Thursday from 5-11pm. If you're travelling with your little ones, make sure to check out the activities for kids in the little apple orchard in the middle of the square. Art fans will find a lot of small, interesting galleries in the neighborhood, as for example Mākslai vajag telpu, Latvian for "Art needs space". It was born out of the frustration of a group of artists about the delayed opening of the long-awaited ‘Modern Art Gallery’.
Miers translates to "at ease" or "peaceful", and it's one of the parts of the city that is currently experiencing quite a renewal process: more and more young businesses and creative establishments are opening up here, and the neighbourhood appeals with its bohemian, quirky feel. Attracted by low rents, many artists have embraced the area, which boasts streets that reveal a certain romantic, untamed charm, a multitude of artisan shops and art galleries, but also the chocolate factory and a museum. Although it's home to expert coffee roasters, local craft beers and homemade cakes, rest assured, it's not only hipster territory! A lively area mixing history with a new kind of energy that is a lot of fun to discover.
A fifteen minutes walk from Miera street you'll find a rustic building that has always played a major role in the city’s cultural history. Previously an important social venue for the German Baltic and Russian aristocrats and a favorite of the students of the city’s Art Academy, the building continues to keep up its reputation as a crucial hub for artists’ performances, film screenings and lectures, as well as alternative bands, DJs and musicians. A great place to hang out with your friends, and enjoy one of the many cultural events while sipping on a local beer.
Riga’s Central Market claims to be Europe’s largest market, and it's listed as a UNESCO heritage location. But the Spikeri neighbourhood has even more to offer: its many historic warehouses, some of which date back to the 14th century, have been renovated and restored into a lively and trendy meeting point while keeping its historic spirit and features. The warehouse district now hosts media centres, consultancies, art cafés and a contemporary art centre and hosts a mlutitude of events including the city’s largest flea market during the summer season.
Elegant and sophisticated
While many of Riga’s up-and-coming areas receive a lot of attention these days and experience a period of renewal while welcoming a growing community of talents, Berga Bazārs already has moved on from these days. As one of the more established neighbourhoods it impresses with elegance and beauty, combining shopping with residential areas. Built by one of Latvia’s first modern real estate developers at the beginning of the 20th century, the goal was to create a pedestrian-friendly, village-like enclave inspired by 19th century arcades. It's full of romantic arches and quiet corners, pleasant spots for fine wine and dining, exclusive fashion design boutiques, and more. Perfect for a stroll or seeking refuge from the summer heat in the shade.
Come together…right now
The high number of young creatives in Riga has brought about a number of co-working initiatives tailored to the needs of creative freelancers while building creative communities and fostering exchange. One of them is Techhub, which is located in the very heart of the picturesque Old Town, serving as a starting point and home base for start-ups. The Mill on the other hand organises workshops and lectures. Birojnica, situated in Berga Bazars, is more of a classic co-working space. It started out back in 2011, when an economic crisis forced many creatives to start freelancing and needed a space to work outside their homes. Birojnica provides them with office necessities such as printers or wifi, and also hosts seminars and lectures. Māmu (Latvian for mother), has a more social approach: it provides work and fair pay for unemployed mothers by making use of their artisan skills.
The return of the beard
Like many big cities Riga is currently experiencing a big comeback of barber shops. One of Riga's best is Wood Religion, which not only stands out through its stylish interior characterized by wooden tiles and Chesterfields, but also its professional service. If you want a bit of a luxury experience and get your beard groomed by true experts while sipping on a glass of whiskey, this is for you. Those who like it more relaxed will prefer the Knockout, which offers cuts with creative names such as Razorblade, Flat Top, and our personal favourite, Scam Boogie.
Did we spark you interest? If you want to come get a taste of Riga's exciting creative side, Radisson Blu's three Riga hotels are the perfect home bases to explore the city from.