Germany and Austria might have the most famous Christmas markets, but they are also the most crowded. If you are looking for an authentic European holiday experience without millions of tourists getting in the way, head to the Riga Christmas Market! You’ll be charmed by the beautiful architecture and cozy atmosphere of this historic little city. And if you’re lucky, you might even get some snow!
The main Riga Christmas market is in Dome Square at the very heart of the old town. Dome Cathedral towers over the wooden chalets which are topped with festive candy-cane striped awnings. You’ll find an impressive array of local handicrafts for sale, such as wool scarves, beeswax candles, amber jewelry, and glass Christmas baubles with traditional Latvian designs.
Food and beverage options are just as enticing. You can dig into a the classic Latvian feast of smoked sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes, or sample some of the city’s fabulous pastries. Warm your hands with a cup of karsts vīns (mulled wine), or try the more unique (and potent) Riga Black Balsam with black currant or sea buckthorn juice.
To see the market from above, pop inside the Riga Bourse Museum. A window on the second floor will give you a perfect birds-eye view! Bonus, you can warm up while enjoying some fantastic art.
The Riga Christmas market typically runs from the first day of Advent in early December, through Orthodox Christmas in early January. For the exact dates and opening hours, check the Riga Tourism website.
A second smaller market is set up in Esplanade Park, beside the golden-domed Nativity of Christ Cathedral. The highlight here is the “Bunny Kingdom,” miniature village that’s home to dozens of rabbits. Men dressed as Santa walk around the perimeter carrying buckets of cabbage and carrots, which you can feed to the bunnies for a small fee. You can find the opening dates and hours for the Riga Esplanade Christmas market here.
Historically, a third market was set up in charming Līvu Square near the main entrance to old town. But as of 2023, it has been relocated to the larger Vērmanes Garden behind the University of Latvia. I haven’t had the chance to visit this new Riga Christmas market, but you can get the details here.
Another special feature of Riga’s holiday season is the Christmas Light Trail. It started as a collection of unique Christmas trees, and now includes artistic light installations to brighten up the long, dark winter days. (If you are looking for more special Riga winter activities, definitely check out my guide!)
The city changes up its lights and decorations every year, so you never know what colorful and creative things you’ll find!
Lastly, you can tell all your friends that you’ve been to the city where Christmas trees were invented! According to local legend, members of the Blackheads guild decorated a pine tree outside their merchant house on Christmas Eve in 1510. Today, a similar tree stands in front of the beautifully restored House of the Blackheads, giving you a glimpse of Riga’s medieval past.
Are you ready to visit the Riga Christmas Market?
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