European best destinations 2024 - Riga

Soviet heritage in Riga

Seeking some USSR thrills? Here's a list of some Soviet pearls scattered around Riga

The Academy of Sciences

Steps away from the Riga Central Market sit this stately example of Soviet Classicism that houses some of the most precious native minds. Nicknamed 'Stalin's birthday cake', the building has a twin sister in Warsaw (the Palace of Culture and Science). Go up to the 17th-floor, to the viewing platform to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Old Town church towers, the daily commotion of the Central Market and colossal Latvia's National Library.

VEF Culture Palace

An elegant example of classicism architecture, VEF Culture Palace, was erected in 1960 and served as the place to display the innovations of VEF – the leading communication technology producer in the USSR. After undergoing reconstruction in 2017, the Palace has become a modern event venue, home to more than 40 local art groups, and a museum that offers an interactive trip through the history of VEF. 

Dailes Theatre

This functionalism architectural wonder is the most famous work of the architect Marta Staņa who was a proponent of modernist architecture. Founded in the mid-20th century, it was created to host Dailes Theatre that still lives there. The building is featured in Latvian Cultural Canon. 

Spilve airport

It is incredible to imagine that in the 1920s, this was the place where such airlines as LOT and Lufthansa landed their planes. Heavily bombed during WWII, the airport was rebuilt in 1954 and gained its current neo-classicism appearance. Until 1975 the airport was one of the biggest in the USSR but lost its significance once the airport Riga was built in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the building itself is closed for the wider public. Still, one can room around the magnificent edifice and take a peek at the gilded interior from the window.

Congress Centre

Located on the edge of Kronvalda park, the imposing structure was built in 1982 as the conference centre for the communist party. Dressed in a clever mix of marble, wood and granite, the hallway offers a spectacular sense of arrival. Today the building hosts a diverse range of cultural events.

Apartment blocks in Madona street

The two apartment buildings on Madonas street 21 and 23 stands out among the surrounding blocks of the Purvciems neighbourhood. Erected in the 1980s, these off-the-wall constructions were an innovation of its time. Due to their shape, these 16 and 18-storey buildings have been dubbed as corn cobs.

The shopping centre Minsk

Steps away from Madona street's buildings reside the first shopping centre in Riga. Opened in 1975, it still serves as the to-go place for daily groceries for the locals. Named after the capital of Belorussia – Minsk, it's a symbol of a friendship between the two cities, and there's a similar shopping place in Minsk called Riga.

Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija

When USSR officials issued an edict to demolish the historic constructions on the corner of Brivibas (former Lenin) and Elizabetes street to make space for a hotel, the society was dismayed.  Built from 1969 to 1979, the construction was the tallest hotel in the USSR and still is the biggest one in the country. The rooms designated for Western visitors were wiretapped so that KGB could keep an eye on them. In the early 2000s, the 24-storey building was reconstructed and extended by 3 more stories.

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