One of the things I most enjoy doing in any place I am is visiting as many local markets as I can fit in. In Riga I managed to get to two – Central Market and the much smaller though no less interesting Latgale Market – a Russian flea market not that far from Central.
This review relates to Central Market.
Central Market is a very large, mainly produce, market with the majority of its offerings housed in five WWI German Zeppelin (airship) hangers moved here from Vainode Air Base in 1924. Art Deco finishing touches, heating and lighting were added prior to the markets opening in 1930. The site, on the bank of the Daugava River, has been a trading place since 1571.
Within the five hangers (each specialising in a particular produce range) you can find all sorts of produce including meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, bakery goods, herbs, general groceries and a few (thankfully very few) souvenir stalls selling babushka dolls and the like. Local delicacies available here, in what is very much a local market despite the number of tourists that visit, include hemp seed butter, belash, pork snouts and kvass.
Outside the hangers are numerous additional stalls. Here you can buy flowers, cheap clothing, fruit and vegetables with some suspiciously cheap dvds thrown in for good measure.
I could have spent hours wandering around here salivating at the wonderful produce, very obviously fresh from the farm, and only lamented that we were not self catering.
Located right in the heart of the city, by the bus station, and just to the south of the Old City, the now UNESCO World Heritage listed market, was, when it opened, recognised as the largest and most advanced in Europe. While I wouldn’t call it advanced it is still very big, whether still the biggest in Europe or not I don’t know.
I read that 80,000 to 100,000 people visit the market daily. I didn’t sense it as being particularly/overly busy when I visited (granted late morning, before lunchtime) but then again I am much more used to the hustle and bustle, extreme overcrowding and generally chaotic and often claustrophobic feeling of Asian markets.
To the rear of the market are a series of old warehouses – the Spikeri Quarter. This area, which I didn’t get a chance to visit, had become somewhat rundown before being revamped as a hip arts and entertainment area. On the northern edge of the Spikeri Quarter you can find the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum which I also didn’t visit, instead spending what time I had wandering around the Jewish Riga Ghetto/Moscow District.
Daily : 07:00 – 18:00 with some variation – see website for specific details.
Address: Negyu iela 7
Phone: 371 7229985