Museums Tour, Part 2 (Self Guided), Riga

Riga, the capital of Latvia, boasts an amazing array of museums. Items on display include everything from historical artifacts and photography to antiques and modern toys. There is a museum to satisfy almost any interest. Check out the most popular museums in the historic area of Riga on this self-guided tour.
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Museums Tour, Part 2 Map

Guide Name: Museums Tour, Part 2
Guide Location: Latvia » Riga (See other walking tours in Riga)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: helenp
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • History and Navigation Museum
  • Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
  • Mentzendorff's House
  • Latvian Photography Museum
  • Latvian People's Front Museum
  • Museum of Decorative Art & Design
  • Museum of Pharmacy
  • Museum of War
  • National History Museum of Latvia
History and Navigation Museum

1) History and Navigation Museum (must see)

The Museum of History and Navigation in Riga was established in 1773, when Nikolaus von Himsel’s mother donated his private collection to the city. Initially, it was housed at 34/36 Kaleju iela, and bore the name of van Himsel. In 1791, the van Himsel Museum was moved to Dom Complex, part of the Riga Dom (Riga Cathedral), which was an extension specifically built to accommodate the museum. During the 19th century and the first part of the 20th the collection had grown significantly, courtesy of numerous donations from different societies within Riga. World War II had its toll on the museum, seeing many of its exhibits expropriated by the Germans and later by the Soviets, who nationalized the museum and eliminated some of its artefacts, which, in their view, were not historically accurate or ideologically appropriate.

Nowadays, the collection includes over 500,000 items, which can tell volumes about Latvia’s history. Items dating back to the Bronze Age, Medieval artefacts, and 16th century objects are displayed on the second floor. In 1990, in a bid to boost the country's national spirit, an exhibition dedicated to the Latvian Republic of 1918-1940 was established. A special place in the museum is allocated to the maritime collection, featuring ship models, parts of ships, maps, plans, sailors’ personal effects, naval school textbooks and navigation instruments. From time to time, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits.

Apart from the Dom Complex, the History and Navigation Museum incorporates two more branches, located in Mentzendorff's House and the Photography Museum.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm.
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

2) Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (must see)

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas okupācijas muzejs) is a historic educational institution established in 1993 to exhibit artifacts, archive documents, and educate the public about the 51-year period in the 20th century when Latvia was successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944. The museum's stated mission is to: Show what happened in Latvia to its land and people under two occupying totalitarian regimes from 1940 to 1991; remind the world of the crimes committed by foreign powers against the state and people of Latvia; remember the victims of the occupation- those who perished, were persecuted, forcefully deported or fled the terror of the occupation regimes. Official programs for visits to Latvia of top level representatives of other countries normally include a visit to the Museum of the Occupation.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mentzendorff's House

3) Mentzendorff's House

Mentzendorff's House (Latvian: Mencendorfa Nams) is a 17th -18th century house, which is part of the Riga History and Navigation Museum. The property has recently been restored and refurbished, in a strict accordance with the realities of the 18th century, and represents a typical wealthy household of that time. Aside from the master quarters – including a ballroom, a saloon, a “poet’s room”, a “young girl's room”, a family chapel, a shop room, a kitchen and a premise for the house owner - visitors can also see the servants’ rooms and working areas, as well as original domestic items, such as kitchen tools, vases, books, dishes, linen, towels and bath accessories, masterly recreating the authentic atmosphere of the period.

The original mural and ceiling paintings have been fully restored by a Polish company under the direct supervision of architect Pēteris Blūms; while the furniture and tools, used for interior decorations, have been brought from the Riga History and Navigation Museum. The house’s name derives from the last family who lived there, the Mentzendorffs. Mentzendorff's House was opened to the public on May 18th, 1992 and is the only museum of this kind in the Baltic States. To learn more about what's inside, visitors are recommended to book a guided tour. Tours are available in German, English and Russian.

Operation hours: October 1 – April 30: Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm.
Latvian Photography Museum

4) Latvian Photography Museum

The Latvian Photography Museum is missioned to discover, display and preserve the notable photographic images of the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum was set up in 1993 by historian Peteris Korsaks, whose personal exposition, “Development of Photography in Latvia. 1839 – 1940”, forms part of the museum’s permanent collection. The latter features negatives, equipment, pictures and documents outline the evolution of photography. The photos, hanged on the wall, capture important moments in the Latvian history, such as the 1905 Revolution and World War II. Pictures of common people at work, doing their daily chores, are also on display. As well, the museum features an authentic, painted background that was used in Martins Luste’s photo studio in the town of Mazsalaca at the turn of the 20th century. The permanent exhibition occupies the second floor of the building, while the third one is used for temporary exhibits. Visitors, interested in finding out more about the displayed items, can ask the museum staff. Lectures and guided tours are also available.

Housed in a 16th century building, the museum plays a dual role - charting the development of the Latvian photography and recounting the country’s history in recent centuries, - and, as such, deserves a high place on the list of must-sees in Riga.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Sunday 10 am- 5 pm; Thursday 12 pm-7 pm.
Latvian People's Front Museum

5) Latvian People's Front Museum

Latvian People's Front Museum is located in a small, three-story house with a gray roof. The museum displays pictures of the most important moments in the national movement for Latvia's freedom. The Latvian People's Front succeeded in helping separate the country from the Soviet Union. Visit this museum to feel the spirit of the 1990s and to learn about Latvian independence.

Operation hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am- 5 pm; In summer (June-August) on Tuesdays until 7 pm.
Museum of Decorative Art & Design

6) Museum of Decorative Art & Design

The Museum of Decorative Art & Design was first opened to the public on July 6th, 1989. Housed in the oldest in Riga stone building, the museum exhibits Latvian artwork and design objects created mainly by local artists. Some of the permanent collections also include foreign-made decorative items which came as private donations. The exhibits are divided into 7 categories, namely: textiles, metal objects, ceramic and porcelain art, glass, artistic woodwork, leather and design. The collections cover the period from the 19th century to the present time and, as such, provide great insight into the Latvian culture and art.

The second floor is dedicated to the decorative art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors can admire the largest collection of modernist items created by artists of the Baltars porcelain workshop. Decorative items, inspired by the Latvian folklore and ethnography, are also present in large numbers in the museum. The third floor is dedicated exclusively to the contemporary decorative art, and displays objects from the 1970s onwards. New items are purchased for the collection, from time to time, to reflect today’s trends in decorative art.

While the second and third floors are used for permanent exhibits, the first (ground) floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions and creative workshops.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm; Wednesday: 11 am - 7 pm
Museum of Pharmacy

7) Museum of Pharmacy

Located in an 18th century house, the Museum of Pharmacy in Riga was established in 1938, when the private collections of pharmacist Dāvis Blūmentāls and professor Jānis Maizīte were united. The exhibits from pharmaceutical societies of Riga and Kurzeme were added to the collection and the museum was set up in the former premise of the LU Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. The museum has been in its current location, at 13 Riharda Vāgnera iela (street), since November 14, 1986, when more exhibits, belonging to Pauls Stradiņš, were added. It was open to the public on March 21, 1988.

Nowadays, the Museum of Pharmacy hosts over 3,000 exhibits displayed in six halls. Each hall is dedicated to a certain aspect of the history of pharmacy. The first hall gathers a large variety of pharmaceutical vessels of nearly all imaginable shapes and sizes. The second hall is dedicated to pharmacy’s development in Latvia, while the third one displays how the medicine was produced in the 19th century. The fourth hall is devoted to different branches of pharmacology (homoeopathy, pharmacology and pharmaceutical chemistry) and their functions. In the fifth hall visitors can see some of the 21st century medical industry innovations, while the sixth hall features 18th and 19th century laboratories. Outside, in the museum’s yard, is a garden with traditional herbs.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm; Sunday: 10 am- 4 pm.
Museum of War

8) Museum of War (must see)

The Museum of War is located in the old part of Riga, in a 14th century architectural monument, known as the Powder Tower. The impressive red brick building was enlarged and modified during 1937-1940 so as to perfectly accommodate the museum.

The latter opened its doors for the first time in 1919 as the Latvian Riflemen's Museum. During World War II, its collection grew significantly due to many valuable artefacts brought in from battlefields and donated by the soldiers’ families and civilian survivors of the war.

The museum was temporarily closed down in 1940 by the Soviets, but then re-opened in 1957 under the name of Museum of Revolution, reflecting a new vision of history dictated by the Soviet ideology. Most of the then exhibits highlighted the political achievements of the Russians and glorified, not without a good reason, their soldiers. In 1990, Latvia regained independence and the museum got back to its original self as the Museum of War. Today, it hosts a variety of exhibits which interpret the history of Latvia and its people in the 20th century as the Latvians themselves want it, duly outlining the country's two successful independences, two survived world wars and tempestuous political life at the turn of the millennium. The collections are split into nine sections: Medieval and Modern history, WWI, Inter-war period, WWII, Post-war history, Weapons, Restoration, Public Relations and Photo-negative departments. The entrance is free.

Operation hours: April - October: 10 am - 6 pm; November - March: 10 am - 5 pm.
National History Museum of Latvia

9) National History Museum of Latvia (must see)

The National History Museum of Latvia is the largest and completest history museum in the country. It was founded in 1869 as a museum of the Riga Latvian Society and was missioned to collect, preserve and display the objects of national heritage. In its initial form, the museum sought to raise the Latvians’ awareness of and to boost their national pride by highlighting their folklore and cultural values. In 1920, the museum was given a permanent location at Riga Castle. Four years later, it was granted the “national status” and its name changed to The State Historical Museum. Before World War II, the museum’s collection had included a number of extremely valuable objects, most of which were taken to Germany in 1944, but later returned. During the Soviet period the museum had to comply with the Communist Party’s policy and ideology, with some exhibits extracted from the collections and replaced with new ones. The Soviet censorship ended in 1991, when Latvia regained its independence. At that point, the museum held over 570,000 artefacts, spanning the period from 8 BC until 1941.

Nowadays, the National History Museum of Latvia boasts over one million objects, grouped into eight permanent sections, displayed chronologically and reflecting Latvia’s history and traditions. The museum also host temporary exhibits on a regular basis.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm

Walking Tours in Riga, Latvia

Create Your Own Walk in Riga

Create Your Own Walk in Riga

Creating your own self-guided walk in Riga is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Cultural Venues

Cultural Venues

Riga has an extremely diverse cultural life. Locals enjoy attending the opera, classical music concerts, the theater and the cinema. Concerts are frequently held in churches, as is often the tradition in European cities. Take this self-guided tour to immerse yourself in Riga's enchanting culture.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Riga without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Riga, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 Km or 4.6 Miles
Riga's War Memorials

Riga's War Memorials

Over the years, Riga has many times served as a battleground as evidenced by the many monuments, gates and towers in the city that honor those who suffered or died in conflicts. In addition to war memorials, the city also has numerous landmarks related to Latvia's independence. Take this self-guided tour to discover some of Riga's most notable landmarks.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Museums Tour, Part 1

Museums Tour, Part 1

Often the historic area of Riga gets all the attention, as some of the city's most beautiful museums and buildings are located here. This tour, however, will take you not only to Riga's well-known museums but to some of the city's more obscure, yet fascinating museums. Take this self-guided tour to fully explore Riga's fabulous array of museums.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Historical Churches and Cathedrals

Historical Churches and Cathedrals

One great thing about Riga is that many of the city's religious buildings are concentrated in its historical center. A variety of faiths are represented in Riga, although the majority of city residents are Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran. Explore the historic churches and cathedrals of Riga on this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Riga's Specialty Shops

Riga's Specialty Shops

Riga is not only a city with amazing Art Nouveau architecture, a rich cultural life and interesting museums, it is also a great place to shop. Latvia offers so many quality local products, including ceramics, woolens and amber accessories, that it would be a pity not to bring home a gift or souvenir. Take this tour to find some of the best locally-made merchandise in Riga.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Traveler's Choice of 12 Uniquely Latvian Souvenirs from Riga

Traveler's Choice of 12 Uniquely Latvian Souvenirs from Riga

Reemerged after regaining independence in the early 1990s, Latvia is anxious to reveal its beauty to the outside world. The country's capital Riga is a good showroom for the country's cultural riches and traditions. Here's the list of the unique Latvian products to look for while in...