Spikeri district is Riga's home for creative, inspirational and down-right unusual. If you wish to understand why Riga became as the 2014 European Capital of Culture, take a visit to any of the half a dozen or more fascinating districts of the Latvian capital.
Riga Old Town, the Art Nouveau District, the wooden houses of Pardaugava, hip and trendy Andrejosta, and Riga Central Market are all deserving of half a day or more of your time. Another district that defines 21st century Riga is the Spikeri district.
Spikeri is a district of 19th century and turn-of-the-20th-century warehouse buildings. Today these two and three level buildings are renovated. To date, five of the warehouses have been totally renovated. Spikeri transforms from a once dilapidated and dying corner of the city into a contemporary urban environment that's home to some of the leading cultural hot spots in the country.
Historical perspective of the Spikeri District
The Spikeri district has been in active use since the fourteenth century when its waterways which facilitated cargo ships to load and unload as warehouses gradually appeared here. Many of the earliest warehouses used to store hemp. Spikeri comes from the German word "Speicher". This means warehouse.
A large-scale city re-organization plan started in 1856 guided by the architects Dietze and Felsko. During the 1860's - 1880's a total of 58 red-brick warehouses - a style that was de rigueur then - arose in the area between Turgeneva Street, Riga Central Market and the River Daugava.
Today, only 13 of these still exist. As the railways expanded and the demand for goods both from Riga residents and export increased, there became a need for larger warehouses for storage. There were even plans around the time of the Great Depression to turn some warehouses into five-story residential blocks. With the Riga Central Market expanding, many more warehouses disappeared to make space for what is today, the largest outdoor city market in Europe.
Spikeri District began to re-emerge as an important cultural district in 2005 as Janis and Uldis Dinne began work to improve the area. The two men own ten of the thirteen warehouses. The rest, as well as the Daugava waterfront, owned by Riga city council.
The economic collapse that hit this country in 2008 knocked Latvia sideways and backwards. But he Latvian capital got back off its knees and, in the past couple of years, the city has seen much positive redevelopment.
It's now possible to walk or cycle all the way from Andrejosta and Riga Port, past the Riga Old Town and on ward along the Daugava to Spikeri. There is an underpass designed for pedestrians, wheel chair users and cyclists leads to Spikeri.
Residents can now continue even further as the renovated promenade continues on to Salu tilts bridge. From there it's possible to walk or cycle across to Zakusala island, which also saw a total face-lift in 2013, with a new park, children's entertainment, cafe's, a new beach and even a small water sport center.
Back on the Spikeri side of the River Daugava, a small quay now enables boats to dock and during the warmer months, wooden canal boat trips to Kipsala and Andrejosta are available.
Riga Central Market
Postcards of Riga draw your attention to the city’s church spires and Riga Cathedral. But as you look down on Riga from above, you're likely to notice four fascinating buildings along the banks of the Daugava River.
These former zeppelin hangers, part of an WWI-era airbase, have been home to Riga’s Central Market since 1930.The area surrounding the Central Market has served as a marketplace for nearly 5 centuries.
During the Soviet occupation of Latvia, the market played an important role in selling goods produced on collective farms. The Central Market served as many as 70,000 customers per day, gaining a reputation as one of the most impressive markets in the Soviet Union.
Today, it maintains its function as a thriving marketplace, as Riga residents come to buy fresh produce at excellent prices. When visiting the Central Market, one can never lose sight of the buildings’ history.
The market’s towering ceilings make it impossible to forget the massive airships that once called Riga their home. But the market continues to evolve.
The gastronomy pavilion attracts new audiences to the riverside, offering culinary experiences impossible to find elsewhere in Latvia.
The new Centrālais pavilion brings together a menagerie of international cuisines, with the atmosphere rivaling that of Singapore’s famous hawker stands. Where else could you find baked Camembert, poké bowls, Russian dumplings, and noodles all under one roof ? There's no better time to pay a visit to the Central Market than at Midsummer.
While the market’s outdoor stalls always feature an array of colorful fruits and flowers, it blooms in mid-June. Then stall-keepers offer the blossoms and oak leaves necessary to construct the perfect Midsummer crown.