When I lived in Riga, I was very fortunate to host friends and family who were eager to find the perfect souvenirs of their trip. This gave me plenty of opportunities to check out the local shopping scene. As we quickly discovered, Latvians are skilled craftspeople who turn out unique and high-quality products. These range from pottery and wooden toys to mittens and jewelry. Here are some of the best stores plus what to buy in Riga. Tell the shopkeepers I said hello!
My favorite place to browse for the latest designs is Gallery ETMO in Jacob’s Barracks. 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. I took home a whimsical a vase that looks like a cable-knit sweater, along with some high quality linens. There are similar boutiques across Riga, but I’ve found the prices and customer service at ETMO to be the absolute best.
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 hails from.) The shop also sells a highly-acclaimed book of mitten patterns that has been translated into multiple languages. 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 Salon, 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 affordable price (€29 per pair on average) means you can take home an extra pair – or five. 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 making, 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!
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 (pronounced ooh-pay), 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 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 Riga including Egle.
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. A new cherry version (red label) is also dangerously tasty. Enjoy with moderation – this is potent stuff!
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.
This small shop on Krisjana Valdemara iela is overflowing with bonafide antique china, glassware, and artworks. Much of the porcelain comes from the now defunct Riga Porcelain Factory; look for the stamp on the bottom of each piece. I have found many treasures here for surprisingly reasonable prices. (Note that transactions are cash only.) Similar stores in old town are much more expensive.
The focus at Pienene 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, in addition to the more standard Riga souvenirs. Pienene also has a cafe so you can take a little break while thinking over your environmentally sound purchases.
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.
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 since 1870, although it is now owned by the Norwegian conglomerate Orkla. Confections range from classic milk and dark chocolate bars and truffles to crunchy candies, caramels, and zephyrs. The “Lācītis Ķepainītis” almond pralines are popular with my family.
If you are pressed for time and want to get all of your shopping done in one place, there are two year-round craft markets conveniently located in Old Riga. The largest is Egle, which is next to the beer garden of the same name. A smaller market can be found in the Town Hall arcade leading to the back entrance of Sena Klets. This indoor shopping street also has a jewelry shop with reasonable prices on amber pendants.
What do you think are the best souvenirs from Riga?