The Powder Tower has been guarding the entrance to Old Riga by Bastion Hill for seven centuries. In the Middle Ages it held a city wall lookout, armoury, prison and even a torture chamber. Now home to the Latvian War Museum where you can find out how two World Wars enveloped Latvia and how the nation had to fight for its independence, twice. Close to here, the Swedish Gate – the only surviving gate of the city’s ancient defensive wall – leads into Old Riga from the Jacob’s Barracks side.
The nearby St. Jacob’s Church is one of the oldest churches in Riga, so old that at the time it was built it was outside the Riga city boundary. A short walk away, at Mazā Pils iela 17, 19 and 20, stand the Three Brothers – Old Riga’s most famous buildings, the oldest dwelling house complex in the city, built in the Dutch style in the 15th and 17th centuries.
Riga Castle, built during the Middle Ages and serving as a Livonian Order stronghold for several centuries, is located at the end of the street, towards the Daugava river. It is currently the Riga residence of Latvia’s President. The castle’s inner courtyard holds two outstanding Late Gothic-style mouldings - Mestr Walter Von Pletenberg (1515) and Madonna with Child (1515).
The Daugava Embankment is a favourite spot for Rigans to take leisurely walks on warm spring and summer evenings. Stops for boat trips offering city views from the water, as well as longer excursions to Jūrmala or Baltezers can be found here. Along the embankment, you can take a look at the 19th century Anglican Church, as well as the Big Christopher sculpture. According to ancient legend, Christopher is the man who began building Riga. This sculpture is a copy of the 16th century original, which can be seen (along with other interesting historical artefacts), at the Riga Dome ensemble: the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, which is the oldest public museum in the Baltic States. The museum collection holds more than 500 000 items. Next to the museum is the famous Riga Dome Cathedral on which construction began soon after Riga was founded – the tale goes that the first stone was laid by Bishop Albert, Riga’s founding father. The church boasts one of the world’s most valuable historical organs.
Narrow Krāmu iela leads from the Dome square to Rātslaukums, where Riga Town Hall is located. You’ll also notice the magnificent House of Blackheads, where the Brotherhood of Blackheads held their gatherings during the Middle Ages. Close by is Riga’s most popular panoramic viewing point in the tower of the 800-year-old St. Peter’s Church, the narrowest spire on the Old Riga skyline. At St. Peter’s Church you can stand on Riga’s exact geographic centre.