I was adamant that when our map described the Moscow District as “one of Riga’s shadiest neighbourhoods” that this meant plenty of foliage in Latvia’s 35°c summers. Unfortunately, barely a tree can be found in this area of the city. Instead, wide barren streets, a looming soviet skyscraper and derelict buildings mean that your first instinct might be to clutch your valuables tightly. It’ s very different from the tourist utopia of the Old Town, but dig a little deeper and there are some interesting attractions in this neck of the woods. You may even develop a strange fondness for these battered Baltic streets like I did – and the best part is it’s highlights are all FREE to enjoy at no cost at all.
Like many European cities Riga is home to a varied collection of architectural and historical remnants mixed together to create beautiful and romantic neighbourhoods. Many of the city’s most ornate buildings come from the Art Nouveau era of the early 1900s. Riga was swept away by the influence of visionaries like Eizens Laube and Janis Fridrihs Baumanis, applying their principles to the streets of Alberta and Elizabetes. Today this area, to the north of the city centre, is a neighbourhood of contradiction. While a major tourist attraction, the area remains somewhat unloved and in need of renovations. Occupants vary from the more glamorous in the form of international embassies to the mundane, such a photo developers.
After a few short years of an independent Latvian Republic, the country fell to Nazi occupation and the Moscow District area of Riga was turned into a ghetto for the thousands of Jews who had been such an integral part of the national identity.The Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum aims to commemorate the lives lost to the tragedy of Nazi occupation
Riga’s Central Market is a relatively well known attraction that sits a block away from the Old Town as a gateway to the Moscow District. It provides a slice of everyday Latvian life to visitors as it’s main function is to simply sell produce to locals. There are two elements that really make this such a unique experience; size and settings. The market is comprised of five massive halls in former Zeppelin hangars, which create a strong a stoic benchmark in Riga’s cityscape.
I’ll be honest, food was not one of the highlights while in Riga. Most of the meals I tried were stodgy or lacking in flavour, along with being very limited in range for vegetarians. The local drink, Balsam, was also something I wasn’t too fond of so I was pleasantly surprised by how Black Magic,a kooky little cafe and bar in Riga’s Old Town, managed to utilise the alcohol within chocolate in such delicious ways.