Riga’s Markets: Three Unmissable Options in the City
Riga has been a centre of commerce since ancient times. It’s natural harbour on the Daugava river served as a trading post for Finnic tribes in the 2nd century. The city then thrived selling to Vikings en route to Byzantium in the Middle Ages, and later became a key port within the Hanseatic League. Today, this spirit of trade lives on within Riga’s markets. Each has its own charm, and its own history—here are three you must not miss!
The Best of Riga’s Markets:
1) Riga Central Market (Рижский Центральный рынок)
Riga Central Market is not only the largest market in the city; it’s the largest in Europe. Stepping off the tram at Centrāltirgus, the four enormous market pavilions rise up like great steel hills.
The tourist might justly ask—do they need to be so big? But the reason for their size is a fascinating one. The four pavilions started their lives as Zeppelin hangars, built in 1916 in Vidzeme by the Imperial German military who were invading the Russian Empire. When the City Council decided it was time to build a new market in 1922, the by-then-abandoned hangars were chosen to house the main stalls.
Today, the market is open every day of the week and stocks a dizzying array of goods, helpfully organised into meat, fish, dairy and vegetable pavilions, with fruit outside. It is one of the best places in the city to practice your Russian-speaking skills, or just eavesdrop on the bartering over мясо, сыр, and овощи.
1) – Āgenskalns Market (Агенскалнский рынок)
If you’re looking for a trendy, ‘upmarket market’ in Riga, the Āgenskalns Market is the place to go. The oldest purpose-built market hall on the left bank of the Daugava, it re-opened after a four-year renovation project in 2022, and is now one of the most attractive shopping spots in the city.
The market was designed by the Baltic German Reinhold Schmaeling, and epitomises the rational Art Nouveau style visible throughout the city. The red brick facades yield to the black metalwork within, as light pours down through the trading floor below.
There are bars and food-places in the gallery, and more traditional market stalls below offering goods from all over the world. When I visited, one Armenian stallkeeper was so impressed with the language skills of my friend who had lived in Armenia, that he served us up shots of traditional brandy and cured meat at no cost at all!
3) Kalnciema Quarter Fair (Ярмарка в Квартале Калнциема)
For a smaller, outdoor market experience in Riga, the Kalnciema Quarter Fair is a must. Hosted every Saturday among the picturesque wooden houses of the district, this event attracts artisan sellers and local farmers alike.
The market has a more relaxed vibe than the bigger commercial centres, and so is a good place to chat with the friendly sellers about their wares. There is also a gallery at the rear of the square, where local artists exhibit their work and guests can enter for free.
Visit Riga’s Markets today!
The long history of Riga’s markets is still being written. Every day, thousands choose to skip the supermarket check-out queue and instead procure their goods the old fashioned way. But even if you’re not planning on buying anything, these three markets are a great place to spend a free morning—or afternoon!
Luke is a history and languages student interning at Liden & Denz, Riga.
Title image credits to Websi, pixabay.com. Following photo credits to the author.