Traveler's Choice of 12 Uniquely Latvian Souvenirs from Riga
The Baltic region has been famous for its amber since ancient times. A Greek legend refers to amber as the tears of the Heliades, daughters of Helios. According to it, Phaethon, son of Helios, attempted to ride his father's chariot of fire across the sky, but lost control and fell to his death. The Heliades came down to cry for their brother and the gods transformed them into poplars and their tears into amber.
Few are aware that Riga has its own Amber Room! It is situated in the old part of town, known as Old Riga, near the city's oldest stone structure. The entire room is decorated with amber and silver, featuring amber rose ornaments, statues, chandeliers, frames and amber engraved walls. Having seen such splendor, one might definitely want to buy a little memento stone for themselves. A good place for that would be a shop network, called Amberline, specializing in amber trade for over 10 years now.
For traditional style amber craft, check out the Decorative Arts Museum. Its gift shop is small, but offers a wide range of handmade items, paintings and woven artifacts, as well as silver and amber gifts. The shopkeeper lady offers great advise and can even arrange for a custom design to be created by artists affiliated with the museum.
The amber prices vary significantly, which, in turn, provides good chance to find a real bargain. An amber trinket can cost from $5 upwards, while a pendant can reach from $9 up to $250.
Their shops usually work from 10:00 till 20:00.
Torna iela 4, Riga, Latvia
Skunu iela 6, Riga, Latvia
Audeju iela 16 (s/c Galerija Centrs), Riga, Latvia
Their shops usually work from 10:00 till 21:00.
The Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA)
10a K.Valdemara Street
Riga LV-1010, Latvia
(+371) 67 325051
Every day 11:00 – 17:00, ticket desk 11:00 – 16:45
Fridays 11:00 – 20:00, ticket desk 11:00 – 19:45
Closed on Tuesdays
If you are looking for something extravagant and avant garde, visit Putti, a gallery in the Old Town of Riga, showcasing the works of contemporary Latvian jewelers. Here, you can find some truly fine pieces made in silver, gold, copper, gems, ivory and other materials. Since ancient times, Latvians have regarded silver and gold as divine gifts, while copper symbolized protection and support in one's ventures. Each piece at Putti is handcrafted and thus unique. Prices vary from around $80 and up.
For those interested in the more traditional items, Baltu Rotas Gallery offers a large collection of jewelry reminiscent of the ancient Baltic designs. In recent years, such jewelry has gained much popularity. According to its creators, some of the pieces have been inspired by archaeological finds. The prices range from $25 to $150 for rings, brooches and pendants, $25 - $100 for earrings and cufflinks, and $50-$240 for bracelets.
The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 till 18:00 and Saturday from 11:00 till 17:00 and is closed on Sunday.
Baltu Rotas, Grēcinieku iela 11/2 (opposite of St.Peters church), Riga, Latvia
The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 11:00 till 19:00, from 11:00 till 18:00 on Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.
online shop: http://www.balticmall.com
3. Latvian Handicrafts
The most typical place in town to buy handicrafts is Old Riga, namely the vicinity of St. Peter's Church or Livu Square. There's a great number of small carts loaded full with craft merchandise, including wooden and leather items, clay mugs, candle holders and little figurines of scheming demons (considered mostly as pesky rather than evil creatures, who may bring mischief but can be easily outsmarted).
Among the shops specialized in handicrafts the most notable is the Black Cat Souvenir Shop. There, you will find a wide range of goods handmade from wood, linen, glass and ceramics. The shop is easy to find, just look out for a huge black cat statue! It is open from 10:00 till 22:00. Another interesting shop to visit is called Dominja, and it carries a grand stock of wooden toys and educational games for all ages. You can even order a custom-made thing. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 till 19:00 and on Sunday from 11:00 till 17:00.
Black Cat, Mazā Jaunavu 8, Riga, Latvia
(+371) 67 22 55 87
Dominja, 3 Maiznicas iela, Riga, Latvia
4. Pampalu Pots
In Riga, you can find these pots usually in combination with peat bog plant roots. These roots have many uses, among which is balneotherapy, a traditional spa treatment.
The pampalu pots combine practical use with artistic value and, as such, make for wonderful gifts. They can be bought at Medus Istaba (Honey Room), open from 10:00 till 19:00. They also can be found at Griezhi, a souvenir shop selling linen, renovated antique furniture, pottery, copies of ancient jewellery and wooden toys. Also, each week on Thursday, the shop hosts traditional cooking presentations. Advanced reservation is advised. The store is open from 10:00 till 19:00.
And if you are interested in something more sophisticated, check out Art Noveau Riga, the only store in town specialized in Art Noveau items. En route to the shop, you may also appreciate the beauty of the surrounding area, filled with curious buildings and structures. Art Noveau Riga is open everyday from 10:00 till 19:00. Prices for traditional Latvian pots start at approximately $20.
Art Noveau Riga, Strēlnieku Street 9, Riga, latvia
Griezhi, Maza Miesnieku iela 1, Riga, Latvia
5. Riga Black Balsam
The prices vary from $4 to $14, depending on the size of a bottle. Throughout Riga there are quite a few shops featuring the yellow sign - Latvijas Balzams. This is a dealership chain of the AS Latvijas Balzams distillery. The stores are usually open Monday to Friday from 08:00 till 22:00 and from 09:00 till 22:00 on Saturdays and Sundays.
Skunu 16, Riga, Latvia
Valnu 21, Riga, Latvia
Smilsu 16, Riga, Latvia
6. Traditional Latvian Wool Mittens
The diversity of patterns originate from a historic competition among women striving to produce some truly unique pieces. The mittens were also seen as a symbol of social status, which in turn motivated quest for more creative and intricate designs. The resulting creations were often offered as gifts at weddings and other grand celebrations. Since the 19th century, mittens have been the traditional gifts to godparents and clergymen at a child's christening. Also, if a young unmarried woman would give a pair of knitted mittens to a lad, it was considered as a sign of engagement. The mittens ornaments acted as a sort of symbolic language, expressing happiness, grief, humility, eagerness and other emotions.
Buying mittens is usually easier during winter holidays, e.g. the Christmas Market in Riga. Also, there are several specialized shops and kiosks throughout the city, including the ones in Livu Square (Līvu laukums). They are open daily from 10:00 to 20:00. The prices range from $4 upwards. A wide variety of mittens, along with many other souvenirs, can be found at Riga's Central Market, open Tuesday – Friday from 08:00 till 17:00 and Sunday – Monday from 08:00 till 16:00. Among the specialized shops, hand-knotted mittens can be found at Anna Minna. It sells Latvian arts and crafts and is open from 11:00 till 19:00, Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday). Another shop to venture into is Tines. The fact that this is a family-run shop adds some coziness and warm feeling to each of their handmade knitwear. The shop is open Tuesday to Thursday between 14:00 and 17:00.
Central Market, Nēģu iela 7, 1050 Rīga, Latvia
(+371) 67 22 9985
Tines, 5 R.Vāgnera str., Riga, LV1050, Latvia
Monday- Saturday 11a.m.- 7p.m.
7. Sun Gifts
8. Latvian Sweets
If you crave something new, supple and exquisite, chocolate-wise, a good option would be visiting the Emihls Gustavs Chocolate cafe, centrally located near Hotel Reval. There, you'll be served a deliciously fragrant coffee and the best chocolate in town. All the chocolate confections there are handmade, created to some of Latvia's oldest recipes. Strictly no margarine, thickening agents or flavorings are used! Chocolate bars, candies and figurines sold at this cafe are an ideal gift item, especially if nicely warped in neat packages, adorned with a cute ribbon. What's more, the cafe frequently organizes workshops where visitors can try their hand at painting chocolate figurines.
Prices range from $9 and above.
Usually, Laima shops are open from 08:00 till 19:00 on working days, from 10:00 till 17:00 on Saturday and from 10:00 till 16:00 on Sunday. Some shops may be closed during holidays.
Valdemāra street 67, Riga, Latvia
Miera street 22, Riga, Latvia
Tallinas street 72/74, Riga, Latvia
"Origo", Syacijas laukums 2, Riga, Latvia
"Alfa", Brivibas gatve 372, Riga, Latvia
9. Latvian Honey
The best place to buy honey in Riga is Medus, a specialty store frequented by tourists and locals alike. The name - Medus - is the Latvian word for "bee". The array of honey-related products here is mind-bogging and will definitely expand your perception of honey production and its many uses. Aside from the usual little jars, honey is offered here in the form of large wheels resembling cheese. Available at the store sampling pots will allow you to try various honeys - of different taste and color - before buying. A small pot of honey costs around $3. The shop is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 till 20:00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 till 17:00.
For a wider variety, venture into the Riga Spirits & Wine Outlet, the first specialized liquor store in the city, located downtown, or Rimi Centrs, a supermarket with a good selection of Latvian bottled beers. The Riga Spirits and Wine Outlet is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 till 20:00 and Sunday from 10:00 till 18:00. Rimi Centrs is open from 08:00 till 22:00. Prices range from $1.90 for 0.5L and up.
One store which you will see when exiting the bus from the airport is Stockmann Supermarket. It has a good selection of beers offered for fair prices. It is open between 09:00 and 22:00 from Monday to Saturday and between 10:00 and 22:00 on Sunday.
(+371) 6 707 1222
Riga Spirits & Wine Outlet, Andrejostas iela 4, Riga, Latvia
(+371) 278 544 50
Monday to Saturday from 10:00 till 20:00 and Sunday from 10:00 till 18:00.
(+371) 6 7045 409
08:00 till 22:00.
Rimi hipermārkets Mols
Krasta iela 46, Rīga, Latvia
+371 67 030 201
Rimi hipermārkets Olympia
Āzenes iela 5, Rīga, Latvia
+371 67 065 655
(+371) 6 7045 409
Audēju iela 16, Riga, Latvia
(+371) 6 7045 409
Stacijas laukums 2, Riga, Latvia
Prices for linen ethno-clothing usually range from $15 to $40. Linen garments together with bags, slippers, as well as linen oil paintings can be found at the Linen Fantasies shop in Riga, open from 11:00 till 16:00. Another shop specialized in linen is called Livs, and is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 till 18:00 and on Sunday from 10:00 till 16:00. The Tines shop offers linen clothes and accessories made to traditional Latvian designs and stenographic reproductions. They also fulfill custom orders. The store is open Monday to Saturday from 11:00 and 19:00 and till 16:00 on Sunday. One might also venture into Laipa, the store offering a delightful collection of hand-woven linen articles; open daily from 10:00 to 18:00. For a wide selection of Latvian national costumes, check out Sena Klets (The Old Barn) shop of the National Costume Center. Sena Klets is open from 10:00 till 19:00 on weekdays and from 10:00 till 17:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
Linen Fantasies, Elizabetes 22, Third Floor - Suite 6,
Cross K. Barona & Marijas, Riga 1050, Latvia
Livs, Kaleju iela 7, Latvia, Riga
Monday to Saturday form 10:00 till 18:00 and Sunday from 10:00 till 16:00
Sena Klets, Rātslaukums 1 (Passage), Riga 1050, Latvia
10:00 till 19:00 on the working days and from 10:00 till 17:00 Saturday and Sunday.
Laipa, Laipu iela 2, Riga, Latvia
10:00 till 18:00.
12. Lielvārdes Josta (Lielvārde Belt)
The belt was also one of the most powerful symbols during the Latvian national awakening movement in the 1980s. Its importance stands strong even today. Thus, aside from mystical interpretation, its utmost value lies in its powerful symbolism for the Latvians. To find Lielvārdes Josta you will have to venture to Sena Klets, the only shop in the country specializing in authentic folk costumes. It is open from 10:00 till 19:00 Monday to Friday and from 10:00 till 17:00 on Saturday and Sunday. The prices for Lielvarde Belt start from $100 and upwards.
13. Traditional Latvian Music
"This morning the sun rose up
Out of a scarlet tree.
Young boys will grow elderly
Trying to find that tree. "
The most visited shop selling Latvian folk music in Riga is UPE. It is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 till 19:00 and Saturday from 10:00 till 15:00 (closed on Sunday). Prices range from $10 to $20.
Other Interesting Souvenirs from Latvia
If you are away from Latvia and have no plans to visit this Baltic state any time soon, or simply have no spare room in your luggage to carry back home, these days you can find a wide selection of authentic and truly interesting Latvian souvenirs online. Presented here are some of the top Latvian products sought by foreign visitors, now available online for your convenience.
2. Latvian Smoked Sprats -Tiny, fine, amber fish naturally smoked over oak hardwood and packed with sunflower oil in 160g tins, packed (heads off) in neat layers. You can eat them straight out of a can, on top of the black rye bread, as the side dish of mashed potatoes, or mash them with a fork and mix with hot cooked pasta. Truly delicious, they may easily become your new pantry staple!
3. Lats Coin -Metallic coins of the former Latvian currency circulated before the country was made part of the Soviet Union in 1940 and after it regained independence in 1992, up until Latvia adopted the Euro on 1 January 2014. A numismatic rarity of some sort.
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