Riga Christmas Market is an annual event held from Friday, December 01, 2023, to Saturday, January 6, 2024, in Town Hall Square and surrounding areas in central Riga, Latvia. It attracts over 1 million visitors in the Christmas season. The market has over 100 wooden huts and stalls selling Latvian handicrafts, foods and drinks. Visitors can experience Latvian Christmas traditions, including handicraft demonstrations, live music and dance performances and seasonal treats like mulled wine, smoked fish, roast pork and potato pancakes. There are additional events at the market that highlight the Christmas Tree Trail arts festival and concerts at the Riga Cathedral, live music and dance performances, the low cost with no entry fee and a presentation of Latvian holiday traditions.
What is the Riga Christmas Market?
Riga Christmas Market is an annual outdoor market held in central Riga, Latvia during the Christmas season. Riga Christmas Market opens from Friday, December 01, 2023, to Saturday, January 6, 2024. The market consists of over 100 wooden huts, stalls and pavilions set up in the Town Hall Square and surrounding areas in Old Riga. Vendors sell traditional Latvian handicrafts, decorations, foods and drinks. Popular items include wool garments, amber jewelry, gingerbread, mulled wine, sausages and grey peas with bacon. Christmas trees are installed in the square, along with festive lights and decorations.
Riga Christmas Market originated when Riga joined the Hanseatic League during the 15th century. It is a commercial alliance of merchant guilds and market towns in northern Europe. Riga adopted the German tradition of Christmas markets. Riga Christmas Market first emerged in the early 20th century. It was suspended during the decades of Soviet occupation and was revived after Latvia regained independence and has become an annual tradition.
When does the Riga Christmas Market open for 2023?
Riga Christmas Market opens from Friday, December 01, 2023, to Saturday, January 6, 2024. The market is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays and on Fridays and Saturdays, market hours extend to 11 p.m.
Riga Christmas Market coordinates are easily accessible on foot from most hotels and attractions in central Riga Christmas Market. The geographic coordinates of the market are 56°57'06.0″N, 24°06'27.0″E.
Where is the Riga Christmas Market taking place?
Riga Christmas Market takes place in Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums) in central Old Riga, Latvia. Town Hall Square is an open plaza surrounded by Old Riga's medieval buildings and architecture, located next to the Riga Cathedral.
Why should you visit the Riga Christmas Market?
Listed below are the reasons why you should visit the Riga Christmas Market.
- Traditional European Christmas Market. Traditional European Christmas Market experience through the historic Christmas market from the 15th-century Hanseatic trading era. Riga Christmas Market features wooden huts, handmade Latvian crafts, aromatic mulled wines and beers, sizzling meats and roasting nuts to recapture the feeling of historic yuletide markets.
- Handicrafts and Artisan Products. Handicrafts and Artisan products made by local craftspeople. Riga Christmas Market offers a wide selection of woodworking, amber jewelry, knitwear, woven textiles, ceramics, wool garments, ornaments, toys, candles and more.
- Holiday Flavours and Dishes. Holiday flavors and dishes are displayed at Riga Christmas Market, which offers an array of delicious seasonal treats and other specialty Christmas foods.
- Live entertainment and activities. Live entertainment and activities are what to expect at the Riga Christmas Market. Experience Latvia's performing arts and culture while singing along to Christmas carols, watching dancers and listening to musicians for free.
- Cultural Traditions and Architecture. Cultural traditions and architecture for visitors to learn Latvian holiday customs and discover medieval churches, facades, Old Riga's galleries and museums at the Riga Christmas Market.
- Attractions Beyond the Market. Attractions beyond the market, like the House of Blackheads, Cathedral, Freedom Monument and Art Nouveau district, are all decorated for the Riga Christmas Market.
What is the cost of entering the Riga Christmas Market?
Entry to the Riga Christmas Market is completely free. This allows for a flexible, budget-friendly experience. The only optional costs involved would be fees from carousel rides, concerts, snacks and crafts. Rides on the carousel cost around €2 ($2, £1) to €3 ($3, £2) per person per ride. Special holiday concerts, performances and shows range from €5 ($5, £4) per ticket. Food, drinks, sweets and snacks at vendor stalls are individually priced. Mulled wine prices range from €3 ($3, £2) to €5 ($5, £4) per cup. Crafts, souvenirs, decorations and other goods sold at market booths also have specific pricing. Activities like candle-dipping workshops or craft classes have their own participation fees.
What are the attractions in Riga near Christmas Market?
Listed below are the best things to do in Riga near the Christmas Market.
- The Bremen Musicians Statue. The Bremen Musicians Statue is a bronze statue depicting the famous Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters and is located 0.2 kilometers (0.12 miles) from the Riga Christmas market. Over 150,000 Christmas market visitors come to take photos with the sculpture and admire the surrounding Art Nouveau architecture in December.
- House of the Blackheads. House of Blackheads is a 14th-century building that is 0.25 kilometers (0.15 miles) from the Riga Christmas market. This features Dutch and Flemish designs with over 100,000 Christmas market visitors.
- The First Christmas Tree Story. The First Christmas Tree Story is located in a booth at the Riga Christmas market. It is the world's first decorated indoor Christmas tree in Riga in 1510. Over 1.2 million Christmas market visitors learn the story each December.
- The Riga Cathedral. The Riga Cathedral is located 0.1 kilometers (0.06 miles) from the Riga Christmas market. The cathedral holds services but permits visitors to see its architecture and 6,768 pipe organ. The cathedral attracts 150,000 Christmas market visitors to explore its interior and renowned pipe organ during December.
- The Three Brothers. The Three Brothers are three medieval homes built side-by-side and are among the oldest surviving residential buildings in Riga. Located 0.35 kilometers (0.21 miles) from the Riga Christmas market. The Three Brothers attract 150,000 Christmas market visitors to explore the exteriors and small museums inside.
- The Nativity of Christ Cathedral. The Nativity of Christ Cathedral is adjacent to the Riga Christmas market. Featuring onion domes and rich Byzantine-inspired interiors. Around 250,000 Christmas market visitors tour this cathedral in December to admire its striking iconostasis, mosaics and one of the largest church organs in Europe.
Is there an alternative name for the Riga Christmas Market?
Yes, Riga Christmas Market does have some alternative names. It is known as the Old Riga Christmas Market due to its location in the historic Old Riga district. It is also often called the Dome Square Christmas Market, as it is centered on Dome Square beside the landmark Riga Cathedral. In the Latvian language, the market is known as Vecrīgas Ziemassvētku tirdziņš, translating to “Old Riga's Christmas Market”.
Riga Christmas Market hosts several Christmas events annually. These are The Christmas Tree Trail, First Advent Concert and Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. Firstly, The Christmas Tree Trail is an arts festival that displays creatively designed Christmas trees around the city. Secondly, Orchestra Riga marks the beginning of the holiday season with an annual First Advent Concert at Riga Cathedral, offering a special performance. Lastly, the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum showcases the country's rural Christmas traditions and decorations.
What are the Riga Christmas Market's Impact on the Local Economy and Tourism?
The Riga Christmas Market has a significant positive impact on the local economy and tourism in Riga. These promote Latvian cultural heritage, draw international tourists and boost hotel, restaurant and retail sales. The market provides a place for artisans and musicians to showcase Latvian traditions, crafts, music, dance, food and identity. The market provides great exposure for Riga, helping portray it as a worthy Christmas destination and attracting international market visitors. The spike in visitors fills hotel rooms and patronizes restaurants, bars, shops and other businesses around Riga during the holiday season.
Is Riga Christmas Market better than Dresden Christmas Market?
It depends. Both the Riga Christmas Market and Dresden Christmas Market are renowned and well-established holiday markets, but each has its own unique history, setting and atmosphere.
Riga's Christmas market originated in the 15th century as part of the Hanseatic League but was interrupted for decades during Soviet occupation. Revived after Latvia's independence, the market now welcomes over 1 million people to its scenic Town Hall Square in the heart of medieval Old Riga. Latvian foods, crafts and cultural performances highlight Riga's Christmas market. Visitors can experience Latvian holiday traditions like music, dance and foods like smoked fish and grey peas. Dresden's Striezelmarkt dates back to the year 1434, making it one of the oldest and most traditional Christmas markets in Europe. This market unfolds across Dresden's historic old town along the Elbe River. Dresden has over 250 vendors and 3 million annual visitors. Dresden's market focuses on local arts, crafts and cultural performances that represent Saxon heritage. There is a traditional, Old World ambiance in Dresden suited to those seeking a classic German Christmas market. Both have unique qualities. Determining which is “better” depends on personal preferences.
What food can visitors eat in Riga Christmas Market?
Listed below are the Latvian food visitors can eat in Riga Christmas Market.
- Grey peas with bacon. Green peas with bacon is a hearty pea stew that is a Latvian winter dish. Vendors at the Riga Christmas Market serve piping hot portions of grey peas topped with crispy bacon.
- Smoked fish. Smoked fish such as smoked trout, carp and sturgeon are considered an art in Latvia. Market stalls at Riga Christmas Market sell freshly sliced smoked fish, ideal for eating atop Riga's signature dense, dark rye bread.
- Roast pork with sauerkraut. Roast pork with sauerkraut is made up of slices of tender roast pork paired with the nation's staple fermented and pickled cabbage. Vendors at the Riga Christmas Market feature spinning pork roasts on rotisseries.
- Potato pancakes. Potato pancakes called kartupeļu pankūkas are a popular market dish. Vendors of Riga Christmas Market top the latkes with sauerkraut, bacon, mushrooms, smoked fish and other savory items.
- Black bread. Black bread is a dense, dark rye bread and a Latvian staple. Locals buy to-eat slices topped simply with ham, cheese, butter or herring from market vendors of Riga Christmas Market.
What to drink at Riga Christmas Market?
Listed below are the drinks you can have at Riga Christmas Market.
- Glühwein (Mulled Wine). Glühwein is a traditional hot spiced red wine that is a must-have drink at any Christmas market in Europe. Glühwein is available in the Liege Christmas market. The rich red wine is infused with orange, lemon, cinnamon, star anise and cloves. It is usually served in commemorative mugs that you can take home.
- Black Balsam. Black Balsam is a black herbal liqueur with a bitter taste. It is made from blends of herbs and spices infused with vodka. Some known ingredients are valerian, wormwood, goji berries, oak bark and caraway seeds. The Black Balsam served at the Riga Christmas market is often mixed with hot water or tea to mellow out the bitterness.
- Hot chocolate. Hot chocolate made by melting chocolate bars in heated milk topped with mounds of whipped cream and chocolate curls is one of the desserts served in the Riga Christmas market. There are other variations like coconut rum hot chocolate or white chocolate peppermint hot chocolate
- Egg liquor. Egg liquor is a Latvian drink, it is made by infusing vodka with egg yolks, into a creamy, eggnog-like texture and richness. It is often served straight up as a shot to the Riga Christmas market.
What can people buy at the Riga Christmas Market?
Listed below are the things you can buy at Riga Christmas Market.
- Amber Jewellery. Amber jewelry is what Latvia is known for. The Riga Christmas market has jewelry makers selling necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets made from fossilized resin. Amber with insect inclusions is especially prized.
- Mulled Wine Mugs. Mulled wine mugs are used to commemorate your visit with a branded glühwein mug. The collectible mugs often have different Riga Christmas market designs each year.
- Handmade soaps and candles. Handmade soaps and candles in the Riga Christmas market are something to shop for fragrant, artistic soaps and beeswax candles often scented with natural Latvian botanicals like pine, birch, sea buckthorn and spruce.
- Baltic Linen. Baltic linen refers to the linen textiles produced in the Baltic regions of Northern Europe near the Baltic Sea. Baltic linen is prized for its exceptional softness, durability and breathability. The linen absorbs moisture well and is very lightweight. Many vendors at the Riga Christmas Market specialize in Baltic linen products like tablecloths, kitchen towels, bed sheets, bath linens, apparel, bags and more.
How to get to Riga Christmas Market?
There are three ways to get to Riga Christmas Market. These are by plane, by taxi, by bus and on foot. Firstly, by plane (Air Baltic), which offers direct flights between Brussels and Riga multiple times per week. The flight duration is roughly 2 hours 30 minutes. Secondly, by taxi, taxis can be found outside the Riga airport arrivals terminal. A taxi to Old Riga and the Christmas market costs between €15 ($16, £13) to €20 ($21, £17) for the 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) journey and takes around 15-20 minutes depending on traffic. Thirdly, by bus, take bus #22 heading towards Abrenes Street. The bus ride is 30 minutes to Riga Central Train Station. Lastly, on foot, the Riga Christmas Market is a 10-15 minute walk from this point.
Where to stay in Riga during the Riga Christmas Market?
Listed below are the best hotels to stay near the Riga Christmas Market.
- Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa. Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa offers a blend of modernity and comfort in its stylish, minimalist rooms. It features stylish and comfortable rooms along with a full spa, sports club, restaurant and bar onsite, with free WiFi and proximity of 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) from the Riga Christmas market.
- Grand Poet by Semarah. Grand Poet by Semarah is a five-star luxury hotel located in the center of Riga, located 0.7 kilometers (0.4 miles) from Riga Christmas Market. Guests can enjoy luxury amenities, dining at the onsite restaurant and working out at the 24-hour fitness center. Each room is equipped with all modern facilities and all have a seating area and desk.
- Monika Centrum Hotel. Monika Centrum Hotel is a four-star accommodation on Elizabetes Street, located 1.5 kilometers (0.8 miles) from Riga Christmas Market. Monika Centrum Hotel is housed in a historic 19th-century building with Art Nouveau details.
- Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel. Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel is a four-star hotel housed in a historic state-of-the-art townhouse in a 7-building complex. It is located in Riga’s Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the Old Town market area, within the complex of the Riga Christmas market. Rixwell Konventa Seta Design Hotel is a great option for staying in Latvia with its central location in the historic Old Town right by the Riga Christmas market.
- Hestia Hotel Draugi. Hestia Hotel Draugi provides an accommodation option for Christmas market visitors. This hotel is set in a historic building from the 19th century, a 5-minute walk from the Dome Cathedral and located 0.6 kilometers (0.4 miles) from the Riga Christmas market.
What are the best restaurants to eat in Riga?
Listed below are the best restaurants in Riga.
- Valtera Restorans. Valtera Restorans is 0.35 kilometers (0.21 miles) from the Riga Christmas Market in a restored 19th-century Riga building. Duck breast with beetroot sauce and pan-seared salmon fillet are signature dishes. Guests can anticipate an average meal cost ranging from €30 ($32, £26) to €40 ($43, £35) per person. Valtera Restorans is a great option for eating in Latvia with its proximity to the Riga Christmas market and signature Latvian dishes.
- Folkklubs Ala. Folkklubs Ala is right on the Riga Christmas Market grounds. This lively tavern provides a festive atmosphere with folk musicians performing nightly. They served beer-marinated pork ribs, smoked fish, hearty meat stews and other Latvian comfort foods with an average meal cost of €15 ($16, £13) to £18 ($19, £15) per person.
- Domini Canes. Domini Canes is located 0.25 kilometers (0.15 miles) from the Riga Christmas Market. Domini Canes puts a modern twist on Latvian cuisine, with items like duck confit with lingonberry sauce and crispy Riga sprats. The average meal at Domini Canes ranges from €20 ($22, £18) to €30 ($33, £26) per person.
- 3 Pavaru Restaurant. 3 Pavaru Restaurant is located 0.35 kilometers (0.21 miles) from the market. 3 Pavaru Restaurant excels at game meats and classics like bacon peas with smoked meats. The average meal at 3 Pavaru Restaurant is €35 ($38, £30) per person.
- Le Dome Fish Restaurant. Le Dome Fish Restaurant is located 0.16 kilometers (0.1 miles) from the Riga Christmas Restaurant Market. They exclusively served fresh Latvian fish and seafood like trout, zander and Baltic cod. A meal at Le Dome Fish Restaurant typically costs €20 ($22, £18) to €30 ($33, £26) per person.
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