Over the course of four days, the capital of Latvia charmed me away. It might have been because I was visiting during my favorite season or because so much Art Nouveau was sure to impress me. Whatever it may be, I fell in love with Riga and found some magical places there. So get ready to be inspired for a trip to one of the most phenomenal and underrated European destinations that I can’t wait to revisit!

Art Nouveau museum

Alberta iela 12, Centra rajons, Rīga

Formerly home to the Latvian architect Konstantins Peksens, today this magnificent building houses the Art Nouveau Museum. It’s a fascinating insight into what an upper-class Art Nouveau home looked like. The visit will be interesting but trust me, you’ll spend more time in the hallway. The staircase alone is one of the most magical places in Riga! Aside from the museum, you can visit the artist residence of Janis Rozentals on the second floor. For my part, I was awestruck with the staircase and climbed up and down to see it from every angle.

magical places in riga art nouveau staircase

Art Nouveau district

Nowadays, most people will be surprised to hear that the capital of Art Nouveau is in fact, Riga! Even though it didn’t originate here, the capital of Latvia has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau in the whole world. The style was so omnipresent that we can separate it into four different variations. Owing to rapid city growth at the turn of the 20th century, Riga flourished right when Art Nouveau took over Europe. Consequently, this style dominated among the Latvian architects.

These days, you will find Art Nouveau buildings all over Riga. Impressively enough, one-third of the city boasts buildings in this beautiful style. When I find the time, I plan on writing a detailed guide on Art Nouveau in Riga. Until then, I’ll list a few streets that you can visit within one day. Inevitably, we start with Albert Street, the most famous example of Art Nouveau in Riga. With resplendent buildings on both sides of the street, you simply have to see it for yourself. Furthermore, Elizabetes Street and Vilandes Street abound with Art Nouveau gems. You will find more wonders on any perpendicular or parallel street so I suggest you wander around, at least until I write that guide!

Latvian National Museum of Art

Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga

Even if art isn’t something that appeals to you, the Latvian National Museum of Art should be on your list of things to do in Riga. The biggest collection of national art in Latvia, it also boasts stupendous interiors. Even though the paintings interested me, I spent so much time photographing that staircase. The building dates back to 1905 and is an architectural marvel. With or without the paintings, it’s easily one of the most majestic places in Riga!

magical places in riga latvian national museum of art

Parunāsim Kafe’teeka

Mazā Pils iela 4, Centra rajons, Rīga

This charming and cozy café swiftly won me over with its snug vintage-inspired interiors. Parunasim Kafe’teeka calls itself the most romantic cafe in the Old Town of Riga and let me tell you, they are not wrong! On two floors of wooden interiors, you’ll find an old piano, vintage armchairs and sofas, and plenty of antique knick-knacks. To add to the whimsical atmosphere, there is even a door pinned to the ceiling because why not! During my stay in Riga, I visited this place twice. After stopping by for some hot chocolate and cake, I returned here with a friend because I wanted to share this enchanting place! It was especially peaceful and intimate in the evening, with all the vintage lamps providing warm lighting. It’s easy to see why I would include it on the list of magical places in Riga!

Latvian National Theatre

Kronvalda bulvāris 2, Centra rajons, Rīga

In general, national theaters are something that interests me no matter which country I happen to be visiting. Unfortunately, those are the exact places that you can seldom visit without a ticket for a show. So I’m not sure what made me try my luck in Riga but the result was getting 8 minutes alone in this remarkable space. I wasn’t expecting to see the main auditorium for obvious reasons but I fell in love with the hall pictured below. I’m not even sure one can visit this area, if the staff was in a great mood that day and let me wander around with my camera, or something else entirely. What I do know is that it’s one of my favorite magical places in Riga!

magical places in riga latvian national theatre

Holy Trinity Church

Meža iela 2, Zemgales priekšpilsēta, Rīga

I accidentally stumbled upon this church while on my way to a restaurant and I couldn’t believe my luck. Awash in vibrant pink, this church reminded me of birthday cakes. It looks surreal, like a toy or something! Surrounded by golden leaves, it seemed phantasmagoric in its unique design. I think you can easily see why it’s one of the most magical places in Riga, in my opinion! A lovely example of Russian Baroque architecture, you’ll find it on the other side of the river Daugava. Most people will miss it if they don’t venture out of the city center. However, I would urge you to explore the entire neighborhood, called Agenskalns. All the houses date back to the 19th and 20th centuries but have a residential look to them. I found myself there under the drizzling rain, wishing it was summer so that I could thoroughly explore this riveting district!

Splendid Palace Cinema

Elizabetes iela 61, Centra rajons, Rīga

Situated on the aforementioned Elizabetes Street, Splendid Palace is an exquisite cinema that has been in business since 1923. The neo-Baroque building was built specifically with a cinema in mind and the fact that it’s still running today fills me with endless joy. As a huge movie buff, I simply had to check out the interiors. My visit to Riga clashed with a film festival and coincidentally, with no screenings of English or French films during those three nights. Otherwise, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to also see the neo-Rococo large hall graced with paintings on the ceiling and gildings on the walls. Never mind, those are my plans for my return trip to Riga!

Art Cafe Sienna

Strēlnieku iela 3, Centra rajons, Rīga

Another cozy café that got on the list of magical places in Riga is Art Cafe Sienna. The freezing temperatures made me interrupt my exploration of the Art Nouveau quarter. And I couldn’t have been more glad of that because this was the best place for it. Piles of books, antique furniture, plush armchairs, and the best window view. Situated across from the Art Nouveau Museum, I don’t think there’s a better café view in all of Riga. Moreover, Art Cafe Sienna had the best hot chocolate I had tried in Riga. It took me completely by surprise, I didn’t expect that at all. And since I don’t drink coffee, we all know that’s what I was drinking every day, at every café! For the sake of transparency, I will add that the prices are higher than your average café in Riga. Nevertheless, Art Cafe Sienna would be the first place in Riga that I would return to!

St. Peter’s Church

Reformācijas Laukums 1, Centra rajons, Rīga

If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in Riga, look no further. The viewing platform on top of St. Peter’s Church offers a 360° panorama view of the city. An elevator takes you up to the top where you can observe the city from a height of 72m. I’ll never forget the crazy winds as I left the elevator and stepped onto the platform. The gusts of wind that October day reached an absolute high in a tower of such height. I’m a huge fan of windy weather so I loved every second up there. The church went through three periods of reconstruction which explains why there is an elevator instead of winding stairs. Not gonna lie, that made for a nice change from all the old towers I climbed this year in other countries!

panoramic view from st peter church in riga

Robert’s Books

Dzirnavu iela 51, Rīga

This little bookstore and café hidden inside a courtyard is by far the coziest bookshop I found in Riga. The selection of books in English, German, and Latvian at Robert’s Books is impressive, to say the least. From fiction to poetry, and non-fiction, there’s something for everyone. I had no idea you could also sit down for a drink until I walked inside so that was a lovely surprise. On the whole, it’s a genuine hidden gem in Riga that I would love to come back to!

House of the Black Heads

Rātslaukums 7, Centra rajons, Rīga

This imposing building graces the Town Hall Square in Riga and it’s impossible to miss it during your visit. At one point or another, you will walk in front of the House of the Black Heads. Dating back to 1334 and going through several different functions, today it houses a museum on the history of Latvia and the building itself. It owes its name to the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild that used it as their headquarters. On the whole, the ornate facade and stunning interiors make this one of the most magical places in Riga. What’s more, you can even book this place as a wedding venue. Talk about a wedding to remember!

magical places in riga house of the black heads

Art Museum Riga Bourse

Doma laukums 6, Centra rajons, Rīga

On my last day in Riga, I wandered through the Art Museum Riga Bourse for a few hours. It’s not the biggest museum but it has a collection ranging from Egypt, and Greece, to Asia and 19th-century European art. The entire museum looks like a 19th-century gallery which makes for a pleasant stroll. You can opt for both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibition, or visit them separately. I wanted the full experience so I chose to see everything. Whatever your interests may be, I would recommend this museum!

AJ Chocolate House

Vaļņu iela 28, Centra rajons, Rīga

I had to mention AJ Chocolate House, not for their chocolates but for their hot chocolate. It comes in a tiny narrow cup and you soon realize why. Imagine if someone melted the most delicious milk chocolate bar and served it to you and that’s the gist of it. I don’t know if that’s how they prepare it but that’s how thick the chocolate is. You can also go for dark chocolate or a hot cacao drink instead. On top of that, the place is quite cozy and has many desserts on offer too. It was my first stop in Riga as I arrived from the airport, in need of a hot drink. Needless to say, it sure delivered on that front and I would recommend this cute pastry café!

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