House of Blackheads (Melngalvju Nams), Riga

House of Blackheads (Melngalvju Nams), Riga (must see)

The House of the Black Heads is now a museum celebrating commerce in Riga. The building was originally erected in 1334 and has dominated Town Hall Square for centuries.

It was built by the Brotherhood of the Black Heads, a local guild made up of unmarried Riga merchants, shipowners, and foreigners. The organization was active from the middle of the 14th century until about 1940, although a chapter in Hamburg still meets. It began as a military society but gradually transitioned into a social organization.

The House of Black Heads was meant to be a meeting place for the society, where they would host banquets and cultural events. The first decorated Christmas tree was displayed on the square outside in 1510.

The building was destroyed during World War II--first leveled by Germans bombs in 1941 and then further demolished by the Soviets in 1948. As it stands today, the building was reconstructed in the late 1990s. Locals donated a few Euros each person to put a brick in the wall during an event called "I Build the House of the Black Heads."

The building has been rebuilt to its previous glory and is open to the public. The upper levels have grand ballrooms where some of Riga's most posh cultural events occurred. There are also spaces used by former Presidents of Latvia, as this house was used as the Presidential residence between 2012 and 2016.

Most interesting are the cellars, which were buried and re-excavated during the rebuilding and restoration efforts. Here you can walk through original 14th-century corridors in the authentic underground of medieval Riga. This space was used to store goods and is now used as an exhibit space.

The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays. On the last Sunday of every month, they hold a free one-hour-long guided house tour, available in both English and German.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Riga. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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House of Blackheads (Melngalvju Nams) on Map

Sight Name: House of Blackheads (Melngalvju Nams)
Sight Location: Riga, Latvia (See walking tours in Riga)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Riga, Latvia

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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