I consider myself a foodie and I love to try new food whenever I have the opportunity. Before our trip to Riga, though, I had never had any Latvian Food. Normally, I would just try the local food when dining at a restaurant, but the Central Market in Riga is a tourist attraction in itself.
Riga Central Market is the largest market in Europe and one of the most important Riga landmarks. It opened in the current location back in 1930. It consists of several pavilions made from reusing old German Zeppelin hangars and incorporating Neoclassicism and Art Deco styles. Riga Central Market is 72,300 square meters wide and has more than 3,000 stands. The market was made up of four main buildings, but one was empty when we were there. Some of the stands are outside the pavilions.
The Market is considered part of the UNESCO World Heritage site called the Historic Center of Riga.
Our Visit to Riga Central Market
We visited the market on a Thursday afternoon during our Riga city break in December. The market was surprisingly quiet, but I’m not complaining. Normally, 80,000-100,000 people shop at Riga Central Market on average each day, so I was expecting it to be crazy. It was nice we didn’t have to wait in any long lines. I’m not sure if it was unusually quiet or if it just felt quiet because the market is just so huge. The weather the day we visited was bad – rainy and cold – so we didn’t visit any of the vendors with stalls outside the market.
Prices were all clearly marked and cheap. I am not sure how well the vendors spoke English, but we were able to easily order just by pointing and using my fingers to say how many.
Building 1 – Cheese, Desserts, Other Baked Goods, and Latvian Crafts
The first thing we saw when we walked in were the pastries. I know you should save the sweets for after your meal, but I couldn’t resist the Latvian desserts. Everything looked delicious and was so cheap. I bought a few pastries to taste and some Latvian cookies for later. We also saw some beautiful Latvian cakes, but not in small portions.
In addition, they also had a lot of Latvian cheese and honey that looked good but we couldn’t find it sold in tasting portions. This is where it would have been helpful to be part of a tour. We did get to try some of the cheese later when we sat down at the restaurant.
We also saw a few stands selling handicrafts and Latvian amber. We didn’t spend much time looking at the offerings since we would be visiting the Riga Christmas Markets the next day.
Building 2 – Meats and Vegetables
The next area had Latvian meat and fresh produce. For meats, they had a lot of delicious looking ham and sausages in addition to other meats. They also had a lot of pickles and a Latvian salad that looked like coleslaw to me.
The fruit and vegetables looked delicious and fresh. I saw a few things I didn’t recognize. They also had some stands that were selling spices. The rich smell of these stalls as we walked past was wonderful. In the back of this section, there were a few sit-down restaurants where you could relax. We returned once we had finished seeing the rest of the market.
Building 3 – Fish
Fish is common in the Latvian cuisine since the country is located right on the Baltic Sea. Not surprisingly, you can smell the fish before you enter this building. Still, I was impressed with the selection of fresh fish and caviar that was on display. Salmon seemed to be the most popular fish. I also thought they did a nice job with the presentation of the seafood.
Meal at Riga Central Market
Since we just did a few tastings during our time at the market, we decided to sit down and relax and have a bit more of the Riga traditional food. There are a few sit-down restaurants throughout the market, we chose one in the back of the meat section. You order at the counter and they will bring it out to you. We ordered a cheese and meat plate, potato pancakes, and a large local beer. The cheese was cut in the shape of crinkle cut fries. The cheese had a little bit of a caraway flavor to it, which we both thought was interesting. It also came with Latvian rye bread which was delicious. The stand next to the one we ordered our food from specialized in Latvian soups.
Riga Food Tour
We explored the market on our own. I think looking back it might have been a good idea to have done a tour. It would have been nice to have a guide with us to explain what we were tasting and to make sure we tried all the staples of the Latvian cuisine. I also didn’t realize that the Riga Latvia food tours would be so inexpensive. You can book your Riga food tour before you go with GetYourGuide.
Riga Central Market Video
Please eat something before you watch this video because it is all about the food. Come with us as we visit Riga Central Market and taste some of the Latvian food for the first time.
Other Places to Try Latvian Food
In addition to Riga Central Market, there are a few other places that you can try traditional Latvian foods.
Riga Lido Restaurant is a popular chain that serves traditional Latvian food. The Old Town location can be crowded, so it’s probably best to visit the location at Elizabetes iela 65. There is a bigger food selection and it will be easier to find a table. If you want the full Lido experience, head to the Lido Recreation Centre in the Moscow District (take Tram #7 from the National Opera to the stop “Lido Rekreācijas Centrs”). Inside this huge wooden building, you will find both fine-dining and buffet restaurants, a pub with Lido’s own beer, live music, rides for the kids, and ice-skating in winter.
While we tried some chocolate desserts at the market, unfortunately, we did not try any Latvian chocolate. You may have heard of the chocolate brand Laima? Well, they are from Riga and they were the first to start making chocolate there in 1870. The famous clock that you see in Riga is the Laima Clock. If you want to see how they make chocolate, you can visit the chocolate museum in Riga (Address: Miera iela 22). They even do guided tours. If you can’t make it to Riga, you can actually buy the Laima chocolate on Amazon. (Click here to check price and availability)
If you would like to make some typical Latvian food at home, a Latvian cookbook would come in handy. Unfortunately one of the most popular Latvian recipe books, “Latvian Cooking, Recipe Collection From a Baltic Cuisine” is currently unavailable on Amazon. Most other Latvian cookbooks did not get good reviews. If you are interested in getting a Latvian cooking book, then I would suggest “The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: Traditions, Ingredients, Tastes and Techniques in 60 Classic Recipes.” It includes recipes from all the Baltic states. Click here to check price and availability.
Latvian Food Online
In addition to the Latvian chocolate that I found on Amazon. I also saw that you can buy Latvian smoked sprats. Sprats are small fish that are part of the herring family. Click here to check price and availability.
You are going to need something to wash down all the delicious food and Latvian bread! While you are in Riga, you must try the Black Balsam. Riga Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian herbal liqueur made with 24 different ingredients mixed in pure vodka making it 45% ABV (90 proof). You can drink the Latvian Balsam straight (i.e. sip it) or have it in a cocktail. I enjoyed the Clavis Riga Cocktail that we had at the Skyline Bar, it’s the official cocktail of Riga.
We tried some local Latvian beer while we were exploring Riga Central Market. Next time, I am back in Riga, I would also like to try some Latvian wine. Most Latvian restaurants do serve local wine. There are also several vineyards outside of Riga.
Logistics for Your Visit to Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market Location
Riga Central Market is located at Nēģu iela 7. The market is located walking distance from the Riga Central Train Station, Riga Central Bus Station, and Old Town Riga. We didn’t have any issues finding it using google maps directions.
Riga Central Market Opening Hours
In general, the Riga Central Market is open from 8 am to 6 pm. Sundays the market closes at 5 pm.
You should make sure that Riga Central Market is on your Riga sightseeing itinerary! Have you visited any local markets on your travels? Did you find any local food that you liked? Tell me about your experience in the comments.
Expert Tips for Visiting Riga Central Market
- Go to the market hungry there is plenty of food (especially Latvian sweets) that you will want to try.
- Consider taking a tour of the Central Market to learn more about the food.
- Riga Central Market is easy to get to, you can just walk from Riga Central Station
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