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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sales tax is currently 21%.