During my two years in Riga, I was very fortunate to host friends and family who were eager to explore a different part of the world. In addition to sightseeing and eating, they also wanted to shop ’til they dropped! This gave me plenty of opportunities to check out the local shopping scene as my loved ones hunted for the perfect souvenirs of their trip to the Baltics. (I may have also picked up some treasures of my own.) Latvians are skilled craftspeople who turn out unique and high-quality products ranging from pottery and woven baskets to mittens and children’s toys. I’ve put together this list of my favorite stores plus what to buy in Riga . Tell the shopkeepers I said labdien!
My favorite place to browse for the latest designs is Gallery ETMO in Old Riga. The well-curated collection showcases traditional Latvian craftsmanship in cutting-edge ways. Pottery, linen tableware, woven scarves, and even candles are given modern updates that are almost Scandinavian in their sleekness. One of my favorite pieces is a vase that looks like a cable-knit sweater. You can find many of these same products in boutiques across Riga, but I’ve found the prices and customer service at ETMO to be the absolute best.
For traditional souvenirs with a twist I head to Look at Riga, which is located in the ugly Occupation Museum building in Town Hall Square. From the outside, it may not seem much to “look at,” but you can find everything here from trendy Riga t-shirts and accessories (I bought a nifty wristwatch) to vintage postcards and artistic curios. Prices are also lower here than in other shops around town. I’ve heard Look at Riga’s 5D film experience of a helicopter ride around the city is thrilling, though I haven’t seen it myself.
Nothing says “I’ve been to Latvia” like a beautiful pair of handmade mittens, and Sena Klets sells the very best. The finely knitted examples on display are museum quality and priced to match (€65 per pair on average). That’s because Sena Klets is working to preserve this ancient Latvian tradition along with the patterns special to each region of the country. (A helpful mitten map will show you where your new pair hails from.) More significantly, Sena Klets is where Latvians go to have traditional costumes made for special events and festivals. The colorful fabrics and designs are so dazzling, I was very tempted to get a full outfit of my own!
Even more mittens are available at Tines, along with hats, scarves, sweaters, and everything else you’ll need to keep warm during the winter. The patterns here are not as extravagant, but the sizing is more uniform and the affordable price (€22 per pair on average) means you can take home an extra pair – or five. Tines also stocks its own brand of yarn for those feeling crafty.
Latvians are a very musical people and folk traditions run strong. But how can you take home such an intangible part of the culture? Enter Upe (ooh-pay, which means river), a shop selling folk music CDs and instruments. If you’re unsure what to buy, the friendly staff will let you listen to as many of the CDs as you want! Groups I recommend include Ilgi and Kapela Dziga. Upe is also where instrument enthusiasts can pick up their very own Latvian zither, which you might hear at venues around Riga including Egle.
Charming little Pienene has a wide array of wooden children’s toys, organic bath products, and Latvian wine, in addition to the more standard Riga souvenirs. The focus here, through is on “green” products that have been made from recycled or upcycled materials. Pienene also boasts a cafe so you can take a little break while thinking over your environmentally sound purchases.
To take home a piece of the city’s architectural heritage, check out the Art Nouveau Riga store across from the museum on Strelnieku iela. Decorative tiles and candelabras, jewelry and hair accessories, posters of vintage advertisements, and books on the history of the Art Nouveau movement are just a few of the items on offer. Most are reproductions, but that doesn’t make them any less lovely.
You can score some bonafide antiques at Monogramma Antikvariats. The small shop on Krisjana Valdemara iela is practically overflowing with vintage glassware, artworks, and porcelain tea sets. Much of the porcelain comes from the now defunct Riga Porcelain Factory; look for the stamp on the bottom of each piece. I found several treasures here for surprisingly reasonable prices. (Note that transactions are cash only.)
Another cool knitting store is Hobbywool, easily found by the yarn bombs around the entrance. In addition to fun creations of their own making, Hobbywool sells kits that will help you “knit like a Latvian.” The kits include yarn, a color pattern, and step-by-step instructions for knitting your own pair of mittens. If anyone reading this has attempted the project, I’d love to hear about your results!
For pretty bath products that are almost delicious enough to eat, check out Stenders, the so-called “Gardener of Feelings.” The popular Latvian beauty brand was inspired by the nature of Northern Europe and strives to create products that are as effective as they are uplifting. For an extra special touch, Stenders will beautifully gift wrap your purchases with dried flowers.
If you want to take home a sweet memento of your trip to Riga, pop into a Laima shop for a box of chocolates. This famous Latvian brand has been churning out chocolatey goodness from a factory on Miera Iela since 1870. Confections range from classic milk and dark chocolate bon bons to fruit-and-nut candies, caramels, and zephyrs. The “Rits” peanut pralines were a big hit with my family.
For a souvenir with a bit more punch, opt for a bottle of Riga Black Balsam from Latvijas Balzams. Most people I know prefer the black currant version (purple label) to the more medicinal original recipe. Just drink with caution – this is potent stuff!
If you are pressed for time and want to get all of your Latvian souvenirs in one place, there are two year-round craft markets conveniently located in Old Riga. The largest is Egle, which is around the corner from my favorite beer garden. Another smaller one can be found in an arcade under Town Hall. Happy shopping!
What do you think are the best souvenirs from Riga?