10 Photo Memories of Riga and Zvejniekciems, Latvia

By alison - February 10, 2015 (Updated: January 29, 2016)

10 Photo Memories of Latvia

Today I share my favourite photos from cosmopolitan Riga and the coastal village, Zvejniekciems – two very different faces of Latvia.

Way, (way) back in September of 2013, one of my dear friends in Brussels told me she would go home to visit her grandmother for a few days. Would I like to join her?

As ‘home’ for her was Latvia, a country I had yet to see, I jumped at the chance to visit with a local.

Not only would I spend a few days in the UNESCO-listed capital, Riga, with my local guide, but we would also travel to the beachside village of Zvejniekciems to spend a few days living like locals.

The trip was the perfect mix of sightseeing and cultural awareness (especially since Grandma only speaks Russian.) The best part, my friend is a photographer too, so there were plenty of pit stops for photo taking.

Today I (finally) wanted to share a few of my favourite photos from this beautiful little Baltic country.

1. Art Nouveau / Jugendstil Architecture in Riga

I’m not sure what I expected of Riga, but it certainly wasn’t the colourful, architecturally diverse city I discovered. As a fan of Belgium’s Art Nouveau architecture, I was thrilled to discover Riga has an Art Nouveau flair of its own. Often referred to here by its German name, Jugendstil, Riga’s Art Nouveau is concentrated in the city centre, particularly on Alberta and Elizabetes streets.

Art Nouveau in Riga

Left: An Art Nouveau cafe in Riga’s Old Town. Right: a building on Strielnieku Street.
Art Nouveau in Riga, Latvia

Two of the stunning Art Nouveau buildings on Riga’s Alberta Street. On top is the Belgian Embassy… not bad eh?

2. Art Academy of Latvia

It doesn’t take much to get two art-obsessed women into a photography exhibition. The signs directing us to Riga’s Art Academy lured us inside. What we didn’t expect, however, was the stunning building itself, complete with striking stained glass windows.

The Latvian Academy of Art

The Latvian Academy of Art; beautiful inside and out.

3. Riga’s Old Town

Riga’s Old Town, or Vecrīga, is a beautiful mix of Art Nouveau and Medieval architecture. This area was closed to all but local traffic, in the 1980s, making it easy to stroll through the UNESCO listed “Historic Centre of Riga.”

Riga's Old Town

Riga’s Old Town is a beautiful area to explore on foot. Above are the Three Brother’s, the oldest dwellings in the city.
The square beside Riga's Dom Cathedral is a popular gathering spot in nice weather.

The square beside Riga’s Dom Cathedral is a popular gathering spot in nice weather.
You can spot the distinctive spire of St. Peter's Church throughout the Old Town.

You can spot the distinctive spire of St. Peter’s Church throughout the Old Town. (We loved the animal sculpture tucked in behind!)
Riga's House of the Blackheads

Riga’s House of the Blackheads is a city landmark. Bombed by the Germans in 1941 and dismantled by the Soviets in 1948, it was rebuilt in the 1990s as a symbol of the city.

4. Latvian Academy of Sciences Building

In stark contrast to Riga’s swirling Art Nouveau architecture, is the Stalinist Latvian Academy of Sciences. Built in the 1950s, with ‘donations’ deducted from people’s salaries, it was the first skyscraper in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic and one of the highest reinforced concrete buildings in the world, at that time.

The Latvian Academy of Sciences Building has a stately grandeur

The Latvian Academy of Sciences Building has a stately grandeur.

I must admit, there is a beauty in the building’s imposing presence. These days, the 17th-floor balcony is open to the public and offers a great view of Riga’s skyline.

5. Riga’s Daugava River Waterfront

When we visited Riga, one of the latest features of the city was the promenade along the Daugava River. Here, the old warehouses were being renovated into sophisticated shops, offices and restaurants.

Riga's Daugava River Waterfront

Riga’s Daugava River Waterfront offers a quiet refuge.

6. Dining in Riga

While most of our meals were simple, delicious, and home-cooked at Grandma’s house, we did make a few notable stops in Riga. After walking throughout the Old Town, we stopped for some incredible organic ice-cream at Skrīveru mājas saldējums” (Skrīveri homemade ice cream).

Icy treat at Skrīveru mājas saldējums

An icy treat at Skrīveru mājas saldējums

On our final night, we had an amazing meal at the bustling Vina Studija (where even I could translate the name…)

Sophisticated dining at Vina Studija restaurant in Riga.

Sophisticated dining at Vina Studija restaurant in Riga.

7. Riga’s Central Market

I love (LOVE!) local food markets. Riga’s Central Market could keep me, and my camera entertained for hours. Located near the train station, we made a stop here to stock up on provisions to take to Grandma’s house. The selection of fresh fish, cheese, meat, and gorgeous looking fruit and vegetables was incredible.

Rigas Central Market is a heaven for foodies

Riga’s Central Market is a heaven for foodies (and photographers!)

8. Grandma’s Garden in Zvejniekciems

From Riga, we jumped on a train and travelled 55km, to the coastal village of Zvejniekciems. While Grandma’s cottage may have been rustic, her beautiful garden offered everything we needed to cook lovely, fresh meals. Plus, who could resist dining al fresco, under the apple trees, surrounded by her colourful flowers!

Grandma's garden is colourful and inviting - to humans and wildlife.

Grandma’s garden is colourful and inviting – to humans and wildlife.
What a perfect setting for dining al fresco from goodies from the garden.

What a perfect setting for dining al fresco on goodies from the garden.

9. A Walk in the Latvian Forest

While Grandma’s cottage was in a friendly little community, you didn’t have to walk far to escape civilization. From towering trees to babbling brooks, finding peace and quiet in Latvia’s nature was easy.

The fresh air of the forest was restorative during our daily walks.

The fresh air of the forest was restorative during our daily walks.
A mystical forest in Latvia, where anything could happen!

A mystical forest in Latvia, where anything could happen!

10. A Walk on the Beach

It’s no secret how much I miss the sea. Growing up on Canada’s Eastern coast, I am drawn to salt water. The endless beach and soft white sand on the Gulf of Riga was completely empty when we visited. I couldn’t think of a better place to end our trip.

My happy place - walk on a quiet beach with a dear friend. Perfection.

My happy place – walk on a quiet beach with a dear friend. Perfection.

If you’ve never been to Latvia, I urge you to add it to your list. Riga is a stunning, cosmopolitan capital, with plenty to see and do. However, it was the coastal region of Zvejniekciems that stole my heart. I can’t wait to return and share my discoveries with Andrew and with you.

10 Photo Memories of Latvia

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Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by jasmine

    jasmine February 18, 2015 at 07:06

    Lativa is always a place where i have heard other travellers are from – but never a destination that i hear travellers actually travelling to. I didn’t know much about Riga or Lativa as a whole before reading a few articles today while trying to map out a bit of a plan for my first european adventure after leaving Asia – it seems like a destination i must only visit in the summer, as i dislike cold weather – but Riga looks absolutely beautiful – hey nice blog by the way, i found you on the expeditioner top travel blogs so well done 🙂

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison February 18, 2015 at 11:39

      Hi Jasmine, Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by! Yes, Latvia is definitely an underrated little gem and well worth visiting. Riga is beautiful and has a great laid-back vibe. People are super friendly and there is plenty to do and see. If you like nature, it’s worth getting out of the city as the countryside is relatively unspoiled and you’ll have it most to yourself. We visited in September and the weather was perfect!

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