Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, so no wonder there’s quite a lot to see outside of the city centre. One of the suburbs that many guides discourage you from visiting, is the Letgale or Moscow district. It’s the poorest suburb of the city and also one of the oldest, but a real treat for anyone who likes street photography and, well, real life.
The Moscow district is one of the least explored parts of Riga. A perfect reason to go there anyway… We didn’t know about the crime warnings (like illegal drugs sales) when we decided to go there. We were merely attracted by its name – we figured that if a neighbourhood is called the Moscow district, it will probably have a very characteristic style of architecture and a unique atmosphere – and we were right. Yes, it’s a bit neglected here and there and you can’t ignore the signs of poverty, but the medieval cobblestone streets and traditional 19th century wooden houses make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The district is very multi-ethnic which has everything to do with the history, from Russian barge haulers that settled here (hence the name Moscow district and also because of the proximity of the road leading to Moscow), to the Nazis that made it into a jewish ghetto during WWII. Perhaps the snow made everything look brighter and less sad than the area is at other times, but still, if you’re in Riga, don’t hesitate to go there. Who knows, if more tourists do, the city will come to understand the historical value of the suburb, restore more houses and make things better for the people that live here.
The Moscow district is on the right bank of the river Daugava, the same side of Riga’s old city centre. But to get to the Moscow district, you have to go to the other side of the train tracks. There’s plenty of roads and tunnels to take, but somehow we found ourselves crossing the tracks quite literally!
The Central Market and Academy of Sciences
First you’ll come across the Central Market close to the train and bus station. With its five huge hangars and big open-air area, it’s the biggest in all Baltic countries and even one of the biggest markets in Europe. Mainly clothes are sold outside, at least during wintertime. We bought an extra pair of much needed gloves! Inside the hangars you’ll find all kinds of food like meat, fish, vegetables and bread.
You’ll soon notice the Latvian Academy of Sciences peaking over the horizon. The skyscraper, dating back from Soviet times (built after WWII), dwarfs the scale of every other building around it. You’re supposed to find it grotesque like every other person, but I won’t judge you if you like it just a little bit. Because I do! The elevator takes you all the way up to the 17th floor for a nice view of Riga. The viewing floor normally is only accessible during the warm months of the year, but we managed to get up anyway. The photos below explain how…
The Moscow district streets and houses
If you then continue walking, right in between the river and the train tracks, you’ll see the architectural landscape changing.