Exploring the Riga Central Market

Shopping for vegetables inside the Riga Central Market

Exploring the central markets gives you an insight into everyday life for Europeans. The Riga Central Market is the largest in Riga, Latvia, and a great way to learn Latvian cultures and traditions and sample unique Latvian food. It has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which isn’t surprising as the market is filling five impressive German Zepplin hangers reconstructed during the 1920s. Here is a walkthrough of my time exploring the Riga Central Market in Latvia.

History of the Riga Central MarketAerial View of Riga Central Market

The market was the place for farmers to sell their fresh produce since it opened in the late 1930s. It was the largest and most progressive marketplace in the world. The Central Market was equipped with modern refrigeration units, cargo lifts, and underground passageways and warehouses, The pavilions have always been one of the main tourist attractions in Riga. Tourists would come from Germany and England for the butter and bacon produced here. And the fish pavilion had large, colorful aquariums to attract visitors. All of these buildings and eventually the large outdoor market made the total stalls to over 3000, making this a prime place to shop for a wide variety of goods.

During the occupations, the market had to adapt depending on who was in charge. The first Soviet Occupation had no change to the market, but with the Nazi’s farmers weren’t allowed to see their produce only to give it to the German Army. The pavilions were repurposed for German use. When the Soviets occupied Riga for the second time, the market was renamed Central Kolkhoz Market. The statistics during the early 1960s had about 50-70 thousand customers shopping in the market daily and up to 100 thousand people during the weekends.Outdoor view of the Riga Central Market

Outdoor Stalls Outdoor aisles of the Riga Central Market

The outdoor stalls are selling everything you would need to live in Riga, especially during the winter months. You can find warm winter coats, gloves, scarves, fuzzy socks, and boots for the winter months. You can find a variety of clothing from jeans to underwear. There were even stalls selling summer attire, which I found a bit funny as we were bundled up walking around the aisles. There were stalls filled with vegetables and fruits that we couldn’t even name. And of course, several stalls selling Latvian and Russian souvenirs. I picked up a couple of Russian nesting dolls for my niece and nephew for Christmas gifts, which they loved.Vegetable stalls at the Riga Central MarketFruits and Vegetable Stalls at the Riga Central MarketPomegranate in the Riga Central MarketFlower stall at Riga Central MarketBasket and socks at Riga Central MarketSouvenirs at the Riga Central Market

Meat PavilionMeat Stall at the Riga Central Market

Walking into the Meat Pavilion, you are visually stimulated with meats of every size and cut. You can find beef, chicken, pork, and duck. But what I found fascinating is that you could see whole parts of animals along with individual portions that I usually have not seen. I saw tons of pigs’ feet, tongue, liver, kidney, the list goes on and on. You might even see butchers wielding giant cleavers cutting up the meat right behind the counters. The meat pavilion is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Grocery PavilionCheese stall at the Riga Central Market

Since the Dairy Pavilion is being renovated, half of the grocery space is set up for dairy stalls. You can find numerous variations of cheeses, creams, loaves of bread, and pastry items. There are so many choices. It was a bit overwhelming, looking at all the options. Pastries at the Riga Central MarketPastry items at Riga Central MarketCrackers and snacks at the Riga Central MarketSnacks in the Riga Central Market

Food CourtCentralais at Riga Central Market

The Centrālais food court fills up the other half of the grocery pavilion. This seems to be the Riga hangout at any time of the day or night. The food booths are set up to be like street food trucks surrounding the tables and chairs. The food options are showcasing a variety of foods around the world, along with booths selling craft beers and cocktails. On Friday and Saturday nights, Centrālais becomes one of the city’s best nightlife hotspots as DJ’s play music to set the party mood around the food. I was a little hesitant on my first day in Riga so, I took it easy by ordering sausage with bbq sauce. Although I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had cheese inside of it. It was delicious!Food stalls in the eatery at Riga Central MarketSausage and fries at the Riga Central Market

Vegetable PavilionBuying fruits inside the Riga Central Market

Anyone looking for some fresh tomatoes? How about peppers? Every colored vegetable under the sun that I knew and some I didn’t could be found in this building. The lovely thing about spending time walking through the pavilions is people watching. I did notice a significantly older population buying their products in the market. The vegetable pavilion is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.Colorful vegetables at the Riga Central MarketVegetable Stalls inside the Riga Central Market

Fish PavilionFish Stalls in the Riga Central Market

Last but not least, the fish pavilion. Each pavilion is connected, so; you end up walking through one to the other. When we got to the building that housed the fish, my friend Sara took one whiff and turned around to start walking in the opposite direction. Yep, the fish smell is strong and assaults you the instant you step through the doors. I would have liked to have explored this pavilion a little more to see what exotic seafood they had here. But I wanted to stick with my friend. I’ll have to come back to explore some more.

Summary

The Central Market is a must-see spot when visiting and staying in Riga. I do have to warn you as we were warned our first day, beware of pickpockets in the market. I didn’t have my run-in with them in the market, but it was near it. Don’t let that stop you though from seeing the historic UNESCO buildings and all the beautiful characters walking through the market. It is a unique place open all year long that embodies the Latvian culture, and for sure, you won’t leave hungry.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Latvia for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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