Kempinski Blog Article
Latvia’s capital Riga, with its beautifully-preserved Old Town and Art Nouveau city centre, makes a great place to visit at any time of year – but in winter, as the snows fall and the street markets begin, it becomes a truly magical destination.
Here are some of our favourite things to see and do in Riga during the colder months:
It is said that the world’s first Christmas tree was decorated in Riga – today, you can see a large paving stone in the city square marking the spot where it stood in 1510.
Today, Christmas is celebrated with enthusiasm all around Riga. Just follow the enticing sounds and smells to the Old Town Christmas Fair, where stalls sell gingerbread, mulled wine, roasted almonds and an array of hand-crafted toys and gifts. The markets usually run throughout the first week of December.
The main markets are on Doma laukums and Livu laukums, with more attractions (including a rabbit village!) in Esplanade Park. It is also the perfect opportunity to enjoy a warming cup of Laima hot chocolate – Latvia’s favourite chocolatier!
Husky dog sledding
Dog sleds have been used for transport and hunting across Northern Europe for thousands of years, and taking part in this tradition is not just a fascinating insight into local culture – it is lots of fun, too!
There are husky farms located just outside Riga where you can enjoy a high-speed ride through the snow-covered Latvian forests and countryside, courtesy of an energetic and highly-trained team of dogs. As well as providing a whole new way of experiencing the outdoors, you will learn all about how a dog sled team works and the history of the practice.
Contact Discover Latvia to find out more about arranging a sledding trip. Please note that due to unpredictable snow conditions, the activity might not always be available throughout the winter.
Celebrate the Solstice
If you are lucky enough to be in Riga during the Winter Solstice (December 21st), head to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum in Riga to witness one of the world’s oldest solstice celebrations. This museum, which preserves and promotes Latvian culture and traditions, hosts “Ziemassvētki” – the winter festival of the country’s pagan past.
Local people dress in traditional costumes and animal masks, which are believed to scare away malevolent spirits. There is singing and dancing, as well as one of the most important traditions: the rolling of a Yule log through the town, which is thought to gather up all the misfortunes of the past year, before the log is burned to banish them forever.
If you are looking for a winter break with a difference, come and enjoy the very best the city has to offer in luxurious surroundings at Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga, where we will be happy to show you the best attractions in Riga.