I don’t know about you, but I like to take home souvenirs from the places I visit. This is especially true of countries that have a lot of unique handicrafts. Latvia is definitely one of those special destinations. It is filled with skilled craftspeople who turn out unique and high-quality products. If you are wondering what to buy in Riga, this guide will get you started. Tell all the shopkeepers I said hello!
Nothing says “I’ve been to Latvia” like a beautiful pair of handmade mittens, and Sena Klets sells the very best. That’s because the team at 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 is from.)
The shop sells a highly-acclaimed book of mitten patterns that has been translated into multiple languages. It also runs popular knitting workshops across Latvia.
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 am very tempted to get a full outfit of my own!
More mittens are available at Tines along with hats, scarves, sweaters, and everything else you’ll need to keep warm during the winter. The designs here are not as extravagant, but the sizing is more uniform and the prices are more affordable. Tines also stocks its own brand of high-quality yarn for those feeling crafty.
Another cool knitting store is Hobbywool. In addition to fun creations of their own design, Hobbywool sells kits that will help you “knit like a Latvian.” The box sets 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!
Riga Black Balsam
For a souvenir with a bit more punch, buy a bottle of Riga Black Balsam. Most people I know prefer the black currant (purple label) and cherry (red label) flavors. The original recipe has a medicinal taste owing to its herbal ingredients. You can learn more about these historic bitters in my Riga Black Balsam guide. Enjoy with moderation – this is potent stuff!
Linen and Pottery
My favorite place to browse the latest Latvian designs is Gallery ETMO in Jacob’s Barracks. The well-curated collection showcases the best products the country has to offer, from linens and pottery to knitwear and candles. My past purchases include a whimsical a vase that looks like a cable-knit sweater, linen table runners, and pine-scented candles I pull out every Christmas.
Pienene is another great design shop in the old town. The focus at here is on “green” products that have been made from recycled or locally-sourced materials. There is a wide array of children’s toys, organic bath products, linens, and Latvian wine. Pienene also has a café so you can take a little break while thinking over your environmentally-friendly purchases.
Riga is the world capital of Art Nouveau architecture. For a beautiful memento of this unique cultural heritage, check out the Art Nouveau Riga shop 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.
For real Latvian antiques, head to Antikvariats Monogramma on Krisjana Valdemara iela. This small shop is bursting with vintage tea sets, glassware, and artworks. Much of the porcelain comes from the former Riga Porcelain Factory; look for the stamp on the bottom of each piece. I have found many treasures here for surprisingly reasonable prices. (Cash only.)
To take home a sweet souvenir of your trip to Riga, be on the lookout for the Laima brand. This famous Latvian chocolate has been around since 1870. Products include classic chocolate bars and candies, as well as caramels, marmalades, and meringues. There’s also a fun museum at the Laima Chocolate Factory.
Latvians are a very musical people and folk traditions run deep. But how can you take home such an intangible part of the heritage? Enter Upe Music Store, a shop selling folk music 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. Latvian bands I recommend include Raxtu Raxti and Ilgi. Upe is also where instrument enthusiasts can pick up their very own Latvian zither, which you might hear at venues around town.
What do you think are the best souvenirs from Latvia?
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