Winter is one of the best times to visit Riga. The Latvian capital comes to life during the colder months of the year. There is nothing like experiencing the city’s magical Christmas markets while wrapped up in winter coats and hats. Snow may fall and the temperatures may be chilly, but Riga is filled with wonder in December.
Riga Christmas History
Christmas is widely celebrated in Latvia. Thanks to religious ties and a pagan past, the country has strong traditions during the holiday period. Latvia has been labeled as the “home of Christmas” by some historians. According to research, the first ever Christmas tree was put up and decorated in Riga. The tree is said to have been erected in 1510. The tradition spread from Riga and is no widely done around the world.
Riga Christmas Markets
Riga has three Christmas markets and each offers visitors something different. There are two markets in Riga’s Old Town while the other is located in Esplanade Park. The markets open in early December and close just after the New Year’s celebrations conclude. Riga’s Christmas markets are not just beautiful to see and experience, but they have been called the “best value for a Christmas market mini-break“, according to UK Business Insider.
The Old Town Christmas markets are what many people think of when it comes to holiday markets. Small stalls line the squares and streets with vendors inside selling their goods. A Christmas tree is erected as the centre-point of the markets and wreaths decorate the buildings overhead. The smell of mulled wine fills the air along with various foods being cooked.
The Old Town markets – Doma Laukums and Livu Laukums – are within a short walk from one another. The Christmas tree at Livu Laukums is quite special as it is made from thick wooden planks. While Doma Laukums is slightly more traditional, Livu Laukums adds a modern vide to the festivities.
The third market, Esplanade Park, is smaller than the other two. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in other ways. Esplanade Park’s Christmas market is complete with a Ferris wheel and rabbit village.
Riga Christmas Stalls
Visitors will find all types of items to buy at the Christmas markets. Food and drink are plentiful in all three locations. Travellers can experience typical Christmas items such as mulled wine and roasted almonds, or try something a little more traditional Latvian in their food choice.
Christmas stalls also sell handcrafted items such as baskets, traditional wooden toys, and more. Travellers can purchase goods exclusively made and sold at the Christmas markets. It is a chance to get a loved one – or themselves – something special on their trip.
Riga Christmas traditions
Christmas is truly unique due to the different religions and traditions that have come together in Latvia. According to pagans, Christmas is the rebirth of the Sun Maiden and some Riga locales will celebrate the holiday as such. In addition, people dress up as mummies and don animal masks. Although they appear as corpses, these figures are said to bring blessings and ward off evil spirits.
Many of the Christian rituals and beliefs in Latvia were mixed with pagan ideology. The combination has given the country a unique mix of both worlds.
Visitors to Riga at Christmas time will find a city filled with romantic markets and one of a kind beliefs.
It is a can’t miss holiday experience.
If you would like more information or perhaps a walking tour combined with a visit to the Christmas markets, please don’t hesitate to contact us