Stunning Art Nouveau in Riga; exploring Riga’s most beautiful district
The Latvian capital of Riga for many brings to mind wild parties and cheap beer, or for the more sophisticated, the pretty cobbled streets of the UNESCO Old Town.
But did you know that Riga is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture? The amount of Art Nouveau in Riga is impressive. About a third of the buildings in the capital are designed in this style. Latvia’s capital actually has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings anywhere in the world!
You’ll find Art Nouveau buildings dotted all over the capital including the Old Town. Characterised by their ornate appearance, you could spend hours trying to spot all of Riga’s most beautiful buildings.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a brew and let’s take a look at the stunning Art Nouveau in Riga and where to find it.
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Stunning Art Nouveau in Riga – USEFUL INFO
What is Art Nouveau style?
The majority of the Art Nouveau buildings in Riga date between 1904-1914. Art Nouveau is an ornamental design style. It takes inspiration for nature and organic forms, so some of the key features are long vine or branch-like shapes, with profiles of leaves and flowers intertwined.
Often Greek-like and Mythical figures, busts or faces of humans or animals feature in this over decorative style.
Art Nouveau literally translates to New Art or New Style, where designers were actively trying to get away from any previous design eras. Art Nouveau design can be seen in architecture, jewellery as well as wallpaper prints and household products. Sometimes, Art Nouveau is refered to as Jugendstil.
Why are there so many Art Nouveau buildings in Riga?
Riga is a seaport city and at the time one of the most important under Russian rule. By the end of the 19th century, Riga had seen both an economic and population boom (between 1897 – 1913, the population grew by 88%!).
Historically, Riga was a walled city, but due to the need to expand, the walls were demolished from 1857-63 and replaced with, at the time, a modern city of tree-clad boulevards, gardens and parks.
With it,s new-found prosperity, and growing population Riga expanded. A whopping 300-500 building were built per year during the early 1900s, both inside and outside the Old City walls and nearly all of them were in the Art Nouveau style.
This is why Art Nouveau in Riga is so prevalent.
Getting around Riga
In the main tourist areas like the Old Town and the Art Nouveau district, you’ll find that Riga is a very walkable city.
It’s also got a cheap and reliable public transport system including trams and buses which will take you to all the main areas quickly and efficiently.
Alternatively, Riga has its own hop-on-hop-off bus which will cover all the highlights of the city as well as giving you some history and background along the way.
Prebook now: Red Sightseeing Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus
Related Article: 23 Fabulous Places To Add To Your Baltics Itinerary
The Riga Art Nouveau Museum
Because of Rigas status of being the Art Nouveau capital of the world, naturally, there’s going to be a museum dedicated to it. Built-in 1903, number 12, Alberta Iela (Alberta Street) was once the home of Konstantīns Pēkšēns (1859 – 1923). He designed over 250 buildings in Riga, including the one which now houses the Riga Art Nouveau museum. This was also his home, Peksens lived and worked here until 1907.
When you enter the building the first thing you’ll notice is the strikingly grand spiral staircase. Be sure to look up and see the decoration that adorns it. You can walk up the stairs although you’ll mostly be greeted with closed doors.
The entrance to the museum is on the ground floor. Inside the museum, you’ll see a beautifully restored apartment complete with Art Nouveau style decoration, furniture and fittings. As well as information about the history of Art Nouveau in Riga.
It’s 9 Euro to enter the museum, although to see the staircase in the foyer is free. The Riga Art Nouveau Museum is open Tuesday through to Sunday from 10.00hrs – 18.00hrs.
Where to find Art Nouveau in Riga
Just by strolling about Riga Old Town, you will come across loads of buildings in the Art Nouveau style. There are over 800 buildings in the centre and the surrounding areas!
Like with everything, some examples are better than others. I’m not going to write about all 800 buildings! Just the best-of-the-best and were to find Art Nouveau buildings in Riga.
Although you can explore the Art Nouveau in Riga by yourself, if you want to know more about the history behind the buildings then there are plenty of walking tours of Rigas Art Nouveau District
Prebook now: Art Nouveau Walking Tour in Riga
Art Nouveau Buildings on Alberta Iela (Albert Street)
This street is named after Bishop Albert, the founder of Riga in 1201. Alberta ilea (Albert Street) is one of the main streets to see amazing examples of Art Nouveau in Riga.
Many of the buildings along this street feature the work of architect Mikhail Eisenstein (1867-1921). His buildings feature not only the typically long lines and natural forms seen in all Art Nouveau style buildings but also incorporated the use of bright colours over the top and lavish ornamentation.
Check out Eisenstein’s use of human forms and animals in his work.
Related Article: The Complete 3 Days in Riga Itinerary
Art Nouveau Buildings on Elizabetes Iela (Elizabetes Street)
Out of all the beautiful Riga architecture, one of the most iconic and probably most photographed buildings can be found on the corner of Elizabetes Street.
The building stands out with its bright blue facade heavily decorated with gigantic white faces. It was designed by the architect, Mikhail Eisenstein (if you read the section earlier about the Art Nouveau museum, this is the guy that used to live here).
Art Nouveau Buildings on Antonijas Iela (Antonijas Street )
Located between Alberta and Elizabetes street you’ll find Antonijas Iela.
Although there aren’t quite as many outstanding buildings long here, there’s a couple of really pretty facades and entrances which are worth seeing. I loved this one with the two dragons perched on the doorway.
Art Nouveau Buildings on Jauniela Iela (Jauniela Street)
So the two streets I’ve talked about so far, Alberta and Elizabetes street are located right in the heart of Rigas Art Nouveau district.
While you’re on your hunt for the Rigas stunning architecture, don’t overlook some of the buildings located in Riga Old Town. Jauniela Street boasts some great examples. A couple of the more notable buildings are now hotels, so be sure to look at both Justus and Neiburgs for some beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Riga.
Where to stay in Riga
- On a budget: Wicked Weasel Hostel is one of the best (and newest) hostels in Riga. Centrally located in the Old Town, massive lockers in the room, loads of social space, nightly activities (like the famous bar crawl!), as well as a fully stocked bar. It’s also really close to the Central Market, so lots of delicious food available.
- Mid-Budget: Sherlock Art Hotel is my top pick. This Sherlock Holmes themed hotel is based on self-catering units filled with quirky design features, go check out the pics! I think you’ll agree that it’s stunning! It’s also centrally located which is a great bonus.
- Blow the Budget: Dome Hotel, centrally located on Dome Square, this 5-star hotel is right in the heart of the Old Town. Close to all the attractions and next to the famous Riga Cathedral Dome. Beautifully decorated inside and out with spacious rooms. The hotel also benefits from an onsite spa and Turkish bath are a great option after a full day of site seeing.
Final thoughts on the stunning Art Nouveau in Riga
Regardless of how short your stay is in Riga, I highly recommend taking at least a couple of hours (by all means more than that!) to explore some of the countries most beautiful budlings.
When you ‘get an eye’ for spotting Art Nouveau style, you’ll see so much of it all over the city, it’s no surprise that Riga is the Art Nouveau capital of the world.
Travelling around the Baltic States?
Here are some other great articles to help plan your trip.
- Riga 3 Days Itinerary – Explore the ‘Paris of the North’ with this incredible 3 days in Riga itinerary
- 33 Unmissable Ideas On What To Do In Tallinn, Estonia
- Estonia’s Street Art Capital – Urban Art & The Tartu Graffiti Scene + Street Art Map
- Visiting an Abandoned Amusement Park in Elektrenai, Lithuania
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