During the Middle Ages this was the location of Kubes Hill that was levelled off between 1783-1784 to create flat sandy grounds for drills and parades of the Riga Garrison troops. In 1857, when the demolishing of the city walls and bastions began, the strip of open grounds was assigned to the municipality to be built over, while a small part of the area, where the park is today, was retained for military training needs and large-scale public events. In 1901 the Esplanade became the venue for the industrial, art and crafts, and city development achievements exposition to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Rīga.
In 1888, the All-Latvian Song and Dance Festival was held on the Esplanade (also in 1923, 1926, 1931 and 1933). In wintertime, the Esplanade has always been home to a public skating-rink. In 1884, the Nativity of the Christ Orthodox Cathedral was built here, followed by the Rīga Stock Exchange Commercial School (now hosting the Latvian Academy of Art) in 1903 and the Art Museum in 1905, both erected on the sidelines of the Esplanade. Also when the Republic of Latvia was established, the area remained the venue of Latvian Army parades, song festivals and other mass gatherings. Nowadays the Poetry Day events are held on the Esplanade every September.