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Shopping in Riga

There was a time when the people of Riga would stand in queues waiting to buy food, daydreaming about those Western products that were so unobtainable from the other side of the Iron Curtain. However, those communist days are long gone and consumers are now making up for lost time in the profusion of shops and American-style malls scattered around the city. Nonetheless, don’t expect to pick up any bargains because Riga, for all its choice, is far from a cheap place to shop. Prices for global brands tend to be more expensive than they are in other western European cities. Markets are great for deals and a slice of Riga life, not to mention Soviet-era souvenirs.

Key areas

The heart of Riga’s shopping lies in and around the Old Town, with many of the larger stores along major roads in the suburbs. Big name shops include Hugo Boss, Elizatebes 63, and Benetton, Janvāra 8. Antiques are also popular among tourists, but they require a licence from the State Inspection Board for the Protection of Heritage, Mazā Pils 19, before any valuables can be exported. The best place to look for antiques is at specialist shops like Antiqua, Valnu 25 and Volmar, Kramu 4.

Markets

The main market in town is the Central Market, Nēgu 7, which is open daily 0700-1800 with slight variations in the opening hours of different sections. Housed in abandoned WWI zeppelin hangars, it is a world away from the glossy shopping malls on the other side of the railway line and provides visitors with a great opportunity to haggle with Riga's traders. You can buy anything from fruit and vegetables to clothes and Soviet souvenirs. This is a great place to take some photos, although you should keep an eye on your camera and beware of pickpockets.

Shopping centres

Audēju is the main shopping street in Riga’s Old Town, with a number of designer shops. It is also home to Galerija Centrs, Audēju 16, the city's oldest shopping mall.

Opening hours

Standard shopping hours of 0900-1700 are the norm, with reduced opening hours on weekends. Shops are no longer closed for lunch, as they were in the Soviet times, and most of the supermarkets are open until 2200.

Souvenirs

Amber is abundant in the Baltics. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops and market stalls in Riga selling this stone. The best place to look for the petrified tree resin is along Valnu iela, where a plethora of amber sellers ply their trade.

Exclusive to Riga, black balsam is a cure-all elixir first concocted in the 18th century to treat a sick princess. Since then, this secret potion has been used to heal all sort of ailments (although it’s not exactly endorsed by doctors), and a bottle makes for a great souvenir. It looks like crude oil and tastes like a cross between cough medicine and Jägermeister, but don’t let that put you off!

For Soviet memorabilia head to the Central Market where communist coins, badges and beer mugs are plentiful.

Tax information

Sales tax is currently 21%.

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Hestia Hotel Jugend

The latest offering from this rapidly growing hotel chain offers state-of-the-art rooms with high-speed internet access, albeit a lack of soul. The location is handy, just on the edge of Old Town and within walking distance of most of the main points of interest.

Grand Palace

Regarded by many as the finest hotel in Riga, the Grand Palace is a supremely enjoyable place to stay. It manages to conjure up an old world feeling of luxury and decadence while also staying ahead of the game with Wi-Fi now available in all guest rooms. Slick service, a sauna and gym help complete the impressive picture of perhaps the best hotel in the country. First class.

Hotel Bergs

When it first opened it was ranked by Condé Nast as one of the world's best boutique hotels. This slick operation in the new town is indeed impressive, both in terms of the designer décor and the seamlessly smooth service. It’s easy to see why this Riga hotel has won so many awards. Still one of the most fashionable places to stay in the Latvian capital, Hotel Bergs also has an excellent restaurant on site.

Radisson SAS Daugava

The free airport transfer helps make up for the location on the opposite bank of the River Daugava from almost everything you will want to see and do. The views of the Old Town are superb across the water. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available for all guests.

Rixwell Centra

This boutique hotel in Riga is a stylish option handily located between Old Town and the bus and railway stations. The 26 minimalist rooms are elegantly decorated and all have satellite TV and internet connections. Some of the rooms on the upper levels boast great views of Old Town.

Dodo Hotel

Latvia’s answer to the Premier Inn, Dodo is the flagship property for a new chain of budget hotels. What the 100+ spacious rooms lack in individuality they more than make up for in comfort and value for money, making this a good choice for budget travellers. The breakfast buffet costs extra, and the hotel is about a 15-minute walk into town. Even so, this is one of the better value hotels in Riga.