April 03, 2023
Experience the Latvian way of trading goods and the local marketplace culture
Latvians are by no means strangers to the marketplace culture. As one of the key cities in the medieval Hanseatic League, Riga knows its way about trading goods – and trade them she does, as evidenced by the numerous souvenir shops scattered throughout the Old Town and a variety of crafts markets. But the place to go to get a feel of the busy hustle and bustle of the city life and make lasting memories is the largest market in the Latvian capital, the Riga Central Market.
Author: Hotel & Restaurant NEIBURGS
The Central Market successfully combines preserved cultural historical values of the traditional marketplace with a quality-driven assortment of goods on offer. Just like back in the days when the Central Market was first opened, it is still located in the heart of the city, housed in a complex of buildings that was the largest construction site in Riga in the years after the First World War. In the 1930s it was even considered the largest and most modern market in Europe. The actual complex is unique: the buildings we see and recognise as pavilions today were initially erected as Zeppelin hangars. Meanwhile, the glass elements of the pavilion structures are a vivid example of Art Deco architecture in Riga.
The Central Market today is a shopping venue much loved by local residents, visitors and foreign tourists alike: it is the definitive place for stocking up on delicious and wholesome products from the Latvian countryside. The market is comprised of several departments, the Fish, Meat, Dairy, Vegetable and Gastronomy pavilions among them. The Gastronomy Pavilion is the one you may find particularly interesting: the building hosts over 300 stalls selling a vast range of culinary and patisserie delicacies, as well as an impressive selection of bee products, which are highly typical of Latvian markets and may serve as a lovely souvenir to take home from Latvia.
Should you feel inclined to experience and get to know Riga in a more hipsterish and relaxed setting, the renovated Āgenskalns Market in Pārdaugava is a must-see for you. The 1911 red brick building is an example of rationalist Art Nouveau, designed by one of its most prominent representatives, the Baltic German architect Reinhold Schmaeling. The market is a riot of flavours and aromas and will provide ample nourishment for your taste buds and eyes. The food court offers everything from pizza and pastries to authentic Ukrainian borscht. You can also feast on paella cooked by a Valencia native and sample Spanish churros and Mexican snacks like tacos and burritos. Every once in a while, Āgenskalns Market hosts exhibitions and vintage clothing markets, as well as DJ sets and live musical acts on weekends; it is definitely worth the while to follow the events announced by this cultural/commercial venue.
Another vibrant marketplace in the same Āgenskalns neighbourhood is open on Saturdays; it is the Kalnciems Quarter Market selling a vast range of farm-grown produce and crafts. The market is popular thanks to the quality of the goods and availability of various organic and locally grown/made products. But it is during the winter festive season and around other holidays, as well as on themed market days that the charming atmosphere of Kalnciems Quarter Market is at its very best. It is a favourite destination for many guests of the city, much liked for providing an opportunity to explore the unique wood architecture of Riga.
To those willing and able to travel to places outside the capital we would definitely suggest visiting Straupe Slow Food farmers’ market that is open on the first and third Sundays of every month at Straupe Post House, a historical stage station listed as a national architectural landmark. While it also offers a variety of Latvian countryside delicacies, this farmers’ market places an emphasis on serving high quality delicacies and ready meals: a number of the organizers are well-known Latvian chefs. To quote Straupe Slow Food, the foodstuffs are all locally sourced, seasonal, grown and prepared ethically and with environmental sustainability in mind. It is also a great support for small producers who represent themselves as sellers at the marketplace and can provide expert advice on their own products.
Whichever of the markets you may choose to visit, they are guaranteed to make you more familiar with the diverse Latvian kitchen, traditions and values, providing an unforgettable experience of shopping and bargaining.