Riga Cathedral (Doma ērģeles) is by far the largest cathedral in Riga Old Town and in fact in the Baltic countries. The cathedral is from the beginning of the 13th century, founded by the Teutonic Order.
The well-known organ (6,718 pipes) is from 1884, and it was once the biggest in the world. The German firm E.F. Walcker & Sons from Ludwigsburg built the organ in 1882-83.
The organ has two consoles, which give a rare opportunity for two organ players to compete. The tower of the cathedral is 90 meters tall. The House of the Blackheads (Melngalvjunam) was first mentioned in written sources in the year 1334. It was then called the New House. The Great Guild of Riga owned the building.
In the 15th century, the Blackhead Guild of Merchants obtained a lease for the building, resulting in actually buying the building in 1713. The Blackheads were a guild of unmarried foreign merchants. During World War II, the building was destroyed (1941). It was rebuilt in its beautiful Gothic style in 2001 when Riga celebrated its 800th anniversary.
Riga Old Town Castle
The Order of the Brothers of the Sword build the first castle in Riga Old Town in 1209, called Wittenstein Castle (Castle made of white stone). After a civil war, Riga's inhabitants destroyed the building and built a new castle for the Livonian Order.
The inhabitants of Riga destroyed this building as well, but this time it was rebuild and the castle's function changed for public purposes during the Polish and Swedish occupations.
The castle is now the official residence of Latvia's president.
Did You Know ?
Wrought-copper cats balance on the turrets of a building facing the Great Guild on Līvu Square in Riga’s Old Town, their backs arched and tails poised as if preparing to leap.
Church of St. Peter in Riga
The church of St. Peter was first mentioned in written sources in the year 1209. The church is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the Baltic states. The church tower burnt down and was rebuilt many times over the centuries.
The last time the tower was destroyed was during World War 2 on St. Peter's Day in 1941. The tower was restored again in 1973. From an observation platform of the tower, visitors can enjoy a splendid eagle-eyed view of Riga.
Take A Ride In Riga's Retro Tram
Riga replaced it horse-drawn streetcars with electric trams for its 700th anniversary in 1901. If you like to see what it was like to travel over a century ago you can hop aboard the Riga Retro Tram at one of its many stops between Ausekļa iela and its final destination, Mežaparks.
The tram is an exact replica of the ones used all those many years ago. You can buy a ticket from the driver for 2 EUR (2019). The tram operates on weekends throughout the summer along the No. 11 route.
Riga Old Town Swedish Gate and Church of St. John's
As a remembrance of the Swedish occupation of Riga, the Swedish Gate (Zviedru vārti) was added to the city's fortifications in 1698. It is the last surviving gate of the old Riga city walls. The city's executioner lived in the apartment above the gate.
The story goes that a smart merchant used the gate to avoid city taxes, using it as a "private entrance".
The Dominican monastery built the St. John's church in 1234 as a chapel, During the Reformation the Dominicans were expulsed and the church was privately owned since then.
It became a furniture shop and later a weapon arsenal. It became part of the Latvian parish in 1582. Two monks were immured here by their own free will and are buried at the spot.
Did You Know ?
When the weather in Riga gets hot, head to Lucavsala, an island in the middle of the Daugava River where you’ll find a swimming area and waterpark.
Latvian War Museum
Latvijas Kara muzejs
The formation of the Latvian Riflemen's regiments and the ensuing battles of World War II spurred the founding of this museum in 1916. The museum moved into the Powder Tower in 1919, known as the Sand Tower in the 17th century.
The 15th-century edifice in its own right holds great historical value and connection to warfare, its 2,5 meters thick walls are still scarred and studded with old cannonballs.
The museum’s aim is to show to the public the complex military and political history of Latvia, with particular emphasis on the 20th century, during which the Latvian nation had to fight for its independence twice.
The largest and most significant part of the museum’s collection consists of objects about the military and political history of Latvia in the 20th century. The core of the museum’s collection holds more than 25,400 units, systematized into 22 collections. The War Museum is proud of its collections of weapons, photos, documents, medals, and military uniforms.
Permanent exhibitions about the art of warfare and Latvian soldiers, First and Second world wars, the Latvian Army, Soviet occupation, and the gaining of independence in 1918 and 1991 are on display in the museum.