Riga: Art Noveau

From the old part of town, we move on to someplace 'new', in Riga's Art Noveau district. Art Noveau (French for 'new art'; also known in German as Jugendstil for 'youth style'), is an art and design movement which includes architectural style popularized in many European cities from late 19th century to just before the first World War. Riga at this period of time was one of the booming cities under the Russian empire. Awash with money and talented architects, buildings and houses in Riga were constructed using this style which branched out into both Decorative and Romantic-Nationalistic Art Noveau.

While Art Noveau is certainly not 'new' anymore, its sinuous, dynamic ornaments and motifs applied on buildings are so highly stylized to make for an eye-catching, neck-stiffening experience for architectural buffs today. Considered Europe's largest, there are at least 800 buildings in Riga built this way. According to UNESCO, this part of Riga made it to the World Heritage List "by virtue of the quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world".

Armed with a map and a Let's Go Eastern Europe guide book, we did another DIY walking tour. My fever from the previous evening is thankfully over and my throat isn't as bad either - all I need, I surmised, was just another dose of art. The Art Noveau district is a bit of a walk from the old part of Riga but we really didn't mind it (except for the afternoon heat but then we were walking beneath the shadows of buildings anyway). There were plenty of trams that could have brought us there quickly but walking is definitely the best way to absorb things slowly and take photos of attractions without that frustrating blur-of-the-moment which happens when one is inside moving vehicles.

After walking along the northeastern edge of Old Riga, we came upon the Latvian National Theatre (photo above and below). We were drawn to these two imposing statues on the facade, their backs literally holding the columns as a means of support.

Right after the Theatre we found ourselves crossing a bridge and admiring the Pilsētas kanāls (City Canal) which once served as a moat guarding Old Riga. In some cities elsewhere, a canal would be littered with trash. This one is littered with people rowing boats. Pilsētas kanāls is now part of a very pretty city park.

Along the length of K. Valdemāra iela lies the Latvian National Museum of Art built in 1905.

Simply designated as 10b, this distinctive building on Elizabetes iela is crowned with decorative twin faces. Like many of the Art Noveau buildings in this area, this was designed by the Russian architect Mikhail Eisenstein.

Nearby on the same street in front of this stall selling cherries is another building with over-the-top sculptural decoration on an already richly-detailed facade (photo above and below).

What used to be a student hostel and a private school in 1905 is now the Stockholm School of Economics along Strelnieku iela. This is another creation of Mikhail Eisenstein.

Next to the school and on the corner Alberta iela is this sumptuously adorned cream-colored building (first photo up top) crowned with pointed turrets.

Many of the Art Noveau buildings along Alberta iela are not as embellished as the others, some even needs restoration/maintenance work to bring back its former glory, just like the entrance to this privately-owned edifice adorned with a pair of screaming faces (photo below).

Our necks might be sore from too much craning but the great amount of architectural art we saw was so worth it. And just like the two faces on this figurative trio atop this apartment building, our mouths were wide open from amazement as well. In other words, a lot of oohs and aahs.


  1. Very nice! I don't know much about Art Noveau; I was only introduced to it when I spent 3 months in Prague back in 2006, and boy, that city had lots of those. There's Alphonse Mucha, and his pretty pictures of women with leaves and flowers, that I even bought a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle featuring one of his panels. It's now complete!

  2. Cool na cool tingnan pero mainit pala dyan. Ako rin nalula sa ganda ng architectural designs at ang taas , mukhang matibay.

  3. if you had wry neck upon experiencing those fantastic structures, my jaw dropped in awe from looking at the first photo of this post to the last. W-O-W! fantastic captures, dennis. bravo!

    note to self: kailan ka punta dyan?

  4. Hi Dens, we missed you in our reunion. I'm happy though to follow all your adventures. I can only read them in books and see them in travels channel this time. Someday, maybe I have the courage to follow a nomadic lifestyle like you.

  5. AMAZING architectures!!! parang ang sarap mag stroll sa park din...

  6. in places like this... i wonder if there are shanties or what would a poor (if there are) or the least fortunate man's house look like?

  7. even if i only get to walk the streets and enjoyed these architectural details my trip would have been more than complete. i truly enjoyed the images and all the details. all so pretty to the eyes.

  8. grabe, everyhwere you look, you'll find great architecture. superb and every piece is interesting.

    1st photo palang, im sold!
    may kwento ba behind the different faces

  9. i like your pictures :) you never fail to entertain me ya :) hihihihi

  10. Linguist,
    Wow, you spent a long time in Prague! That's an unforgettable city for me - my first eastern European destination.

    Maiinit dahil sa summer pero pagdating ng winter, grabe daw ang lamig dito.

    Nag-iipon ka na yata eh so baka in the near future makakarating na rin kayo sa Europe. Thanks Doc!

    Oh yes, I missed the reunion. Hope I can join you guys in the next one, whether that's in the US or the UK.

    Salamat fellow nomad!

    Even if Latvia is now part of the EU, I'm sure they have some people struggling to live. Most likely they live in really simple apartments.

    Photo Cache,
    Thanks for appreciating them - hard work on the neck hahaha!

    This is just one district na ganito lahat ang architecture, iba naman doon sa old part ng Riga.

    Thanks. Hope to see more of your Brazilian posts.


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