The Grand Riga Art Nouveau Tour

Large white stone sculptures on Art Nouveau building in Riga
Famous faces

With more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings, Riga has the world's biggest collection of this exuberant style. This walking tour is a captivating journey through this incredible heritage!

Pink granite statue of Latvian poet Rainis in central Riga
Granite poet

I recommend we start the tour in Esplanāde Park, near the statue of Latvia's greatest port, Rainis.

 

Here, I'll give you an outline of Riga's history which led to the stunning boulevards being built in the late 19th century.

Souvenir postcard for Riga's 700th anniversary exposition of 1901
Happy 700th Riga!

I'll also talk about how Art Nouveau swept the world at that time, and how Riga's 700th jubilee held in Esplanāde in 1901 brought the style to the city.

Facade of Riga Art Nouveau building designed by Mikhail Eisenstein with white stone sculptures and blue tiles
Bold and blue

Then we hit the streets, stopping on Elizabetes iela to admire surreal masterpieces by Mikhail Eisenstein, Riga's most extravagant Art Nouveau architect.

Yellow Art Nouveau building with sculptures of women' s faces on Riga's Alberta iela
Feminine mystique

On Alberta iela, we will see a whole row of weird and wonderful Eisenstein creations.

Sphinx in front of anArt Nouveau building on Riga's Alberta iela
The riddle of the Sphynx

I'll delve into the symbolism of his bizarre ornamentation, as well as looking at the social history of the neighbourhood, from bourgeoise splendour to communist communal flats to 21st century gentrification.

Ornamented spiral staircase at Riga Art Nouveau Museum
Stairway to heaven

But there were other brilliant architects who helped build the new Riga. We take in a strikingly different, locally inspired gem by Latvian Eižēns Laube, then gape in awe at the stairwell designed by Konstantīns Pēkšēns.

White stone sculptures of semi naked women on yellow Art Nouveau building in Riga
A warm welcome

Pēkšēns was a remarkable character who created 400 buildings, and on Vīlandes iela we'll see some more of his work, as well as beauties by Baltic German architects.

Plaque in Riga commemorating a visit by John F. Kennedy in 1939
Jack was here...

In another time warp, we pass by the pre war US Embassy building, where John F. Kennedy stayed on a European jaunt in 1939. I'll share some juicy tales about young Jack's Riga escapades, and tell you about the hotel which is joyfully flogging this brush with fame.

Black and white photo of youthful John F. Kennedy
...and he enjoyed Riga

Across the road, we step into Viesturdārzs, Riga's oldest park, checking out the venue of the first Latvian Song Festival in 1873.

Selection of colourful cakes and eclairs at Mulberry patisserie in Riga
A hard choice...

We then slowly make our way back, heading down posh Ausekļa iela. We'll pop into Mulberry cafe, home of Riga's most decadent pastries, for a bite and a coffee (who could resist?)

Large grotesque caricature of Vladimir Putin on a building opposite the Russian Embassy in Riga
Ugly mug

After pausing at a moving monument combining a piece of the Berlin Wall and a chunk of the 1991 Riga Barricades, we encounter a different political statement - a giant, ugly picture of Putin opposite the Russian Embassy.

 

And on that cheeky note, we return to Rainis in the park.

tour details

Dining room inside Riga Art Nouveau Museum
Beautiful inside, too

The tour is on foot. I can meet you at your hotel or another convenient location. Price: For one to four people (children under 16 not included): 70 euros per group. Five people or more: 90 euros per group. The maximum group size is 20 people. 

 

I am an accredited guide for the Riga Art Nouveau Museum. If you wish, we can include a tour of the museum in the tour. This will add approximately 30 minutes to the tour duration. The cost is an additional 30 euros per group as well as your entry tickets to the museum.

Map of The Grand Riga Art Nouveau Tour

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