Depending on your interests and willingness to contend with the cobblestone streets in the historic center of Riga, the city offers a fantastic array of historic sites, architectural marvels, museums, public parks and cultural experiences that will easily fill a trip of a few days. In this guide, find information about the accessibility of Riga’s most popular attractions.
The Freedom Monument
Constructed in 1935 to honor soldiers killed in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920), the Freedom Monument stands 138 feet tall at the center of a plaza near Riga’s Old Town. Sitting at the top of the monument’s travertine column is a sculpture of lady Liberty raising three golden stars.
The monumental plaza, located adjacent to the city’s central canal, Bastejkana Park and the National Opera, is the site of many cultural gatherings. During my own trip to Riga in May, thousands gathered at the monument for the occasion of Latvia’s Restoration of Independence Day (celebrated on May 4th), with a ceremony attended by the country’s government officials, dignitaries and a military band.
The plaza and areas surrounding the Freedom Monument are wheelchair accessible, with paved pathways throughout. With its central location, the Freedom Monument is a great place to start a tour of the Latvian capital — most of the top attractions contained in this travel guide are within walking or rolling distance.
Bastejkalna Park is a large public park that adjoins Riga’s central canal. It was built on the site of the city’s demolished bastions, which served as fortification into the 19th century. The reclaimed space has resulted in a lush greenscape with more than 100 species of flora and fauna. The wheelchair accessible paved pathways that run throughout the park offer visitors a scenic thoroughfare that connects a number of tourist attractions, including the Freedom Monument, National Museum of Art and National Opera.
Latvian National Museum of Art
The Latvian National Museum of Art is the central repository for Latvia’s most prized pieces of artwork and sculpture. The museum collection encompasses more than 50,000 pieces which are rotated through a diverse array of exhibitions. Four permanent exhibitions cover three centuries of Latvian Art, showcasing the work of noted painters such as Johannn Lebrecht Eggink, Johann Heinrich Baumann, Kārlis Hūns and Jānis Staņislavs Roze, and sculptors including Marta Skulme and Teodors Zaļkalns.
The museum is accessible, with an elevator providing wheelchair access to each of the exhibition galleries across multiple floors. The museum’s accessible entrance is to the right of the main entry stairs, or on the back side of the museum building if the front entrance is closed. The cost of admission is €6 EUR for adults and €3 for students and seniors. The ticket office, located on a mezzanine between two sets of stairs, is not wheelchair accessible and I was offered free admission as a result. For more information or to plan your visit, see the Latvian National Museum of Art website.
Latvian National Opera
The Latvian National Opera and Ballet, located steps from the Freedom Monument in Riga, holds performances from September through May. The opera house was completed in 1863 and, despite its age, wheelchair accessibility is provided. An accessible entrance is located to the left of the main entrance, with signage posted to guide wheelchair users. The opera states that “a seat is reserved in the 4th box of the parterre in the Grand Hall of the Latvian National Opera” for wheelchair users. Advance booking of the wheelchair space is required; instructions are provided on the Latvian National Opera’s website.
National History Museum of Latvia
Founded in 1869, the National History Museum of Latvia is the keeper of more than 1 million historical artifacts that together tell the story of Latvia, its people and culture. Traditionally, the museum has existed inside the Riga Castle, but it is currently housed in a temporary space while the castle undergoes renovation and reconstruction work.
Currently located at Brīvības boulevard 32, the temporary exhibition space is just steps from the Freedom Monument. Attempts to make the 19th century building accessible have been made, with stair lifts installed to permit wheelchair access. Unfortunately, the stair lifts are incapable of lifting heavy power wheelchairs and I was not able to tour the museum as a result. The history museum should return to its historic home in the Riga Castle soon, but until then access is limited to those with manual wheelchairs or light electric wheelchairs. For additional information and to plan your tour, visit the National History Museum website.
House of the Black Heads
The House of the Black Heads, located near Town Hall Square, is perhaps the most ornate building in all of Riga. Built by a guild for unmarried merchants and shipowners in the 14th century, the building was bombed during World War II and rebuilt in the late 1990s. Today, the building houses a museum.
Although I did not tour the house, I have confirmed that the museum is wheelchair accessible. On display are a series of luxury halls (frequently rented for special events), a collection of 19th century cabinetry and silver, and the excavated cellars which is the only surviving part of the original building. Admission to the museum is €7 EUR for adults. Additional information is available from the House of the Black Heads website.
The Riga Cathedral, or more properly the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary, is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral located in the center of Riga that dates to the year 1211. Unlike many of the city’s historic churches, this one was not destroyed during World War I or II.
The church is wheelchair accessible, but entering the church requires the assistance of staff. The main entrance leads to a staircase, however access to the church interior and cloister is possible through a gate at the end of a car parking lane to the right of the main entrance. A security guard may need to move cars out of the way or unlock the gate; a guard is posted just inside the main entrance door (which can be reached in a wheelchair).
Visitors can admire religious artwork, see religious icons and remnants of war in the cloister and, using a series of ramps inside the church, explore the sanctuary, right up to the baptismal font and altar. Outside the church, on the cathedral square, there are a number of restaurants with outdoor seating — it’s a great place to enjoy lunch and admire Riga’s most iconic view.
St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church is among the most iconic structures in Riga. Dating to 1209, the church was destroyed numerous times by fire and, most recently, by artillery fire during the Second World War in 1941. The church is today part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.
The building is not wheelchair accessible, due to a step down of about 6 inches at the interior. With assistance, manual wheelchair users may be able to navigate the step, but I was unable to do so with my power wheelchair. No ramp was available, confirmed after an inquiry was made with parish staff. Nonetheless, the church is an important fixture in Riga’s history, and it is beautiful to admire from outside.
Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
The Neo-byzantine Nativity of Christ Cathedral is an Orthodox Church that was built between 1876 and 1883 with the blessing of Russian Tsar Alexander II. It is accessible only via a large staircase and there is no wheelchair lift provided.
Due to the historic power struggles over Latvia, the church has changed hands numerous times and been put to many uses. During the German occupation of World War I, it was converted into a Lutheran church. Despite returning to its Orthodox roots in 1921, it was again transformed in the 1960s under Soviet rule, during which time it was used as a planetarium. After Latvia gained its independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the church was once again restored and returned to its original purpose.
The location of the cathedral is convenient, easily accessible from the edge of Bastejkalna Park, so travelers won’t need to go out of their way to see it up close. Although wheelchair users won’t be able to enter, it remains an impressive structure.
Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum
During World War II, the Nazis murdered the vast majority of Latvian Jews — more than 70,000 in total. Many of those people were held in the Riga Ghetto, a portion of which has been preserved as the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum.
The largely outdoor museum is free to access, though a donation of 5 EUR for adults and 3 EUR for children is suggested. None of the interior exhibits are wheelchair accessible due a large step, however the exhibits outside are incredibly worthwhile — they provide a historical timeline of the Nazi atrocities carried out in Latvia and share the stories of Jews who lived in the ghetto. A memorial wall listing the names of the 70,000+ Jews killed by the Nazis in Latvia, plus an additional 25,000 names of European Jews who were brought to Riga.
For more information, see the Riga Ghetto Museum website.
Riga Central Market
Opened in 1930, the Riga Central Market is the largest in Europe with more than 3,000 stands spread across more than 750,000 square feet of space. The market consists of 5 pavilions, as well as a large space for vendors outdoors.
With so many vendors, as well as some great food options, it’s easy to get lost inside the market as hours go by. The market is wheelchair accessible, with multiple entrances and an accessible toilet. The market is located alongside the Daugava River and within walking distance of the Riga Ghetto Museum. For more information, visit the Riga Central Market website.
Latvian War Museum (and Powder Tower)
The Latvian War Museum, first established in 1916, focuses on the history of Latvia’s involvement in wars both at home and abroad. In many ways, it is a military history museum that places substantial focus on 20th century Latvia, a century during which the Latvian people twice fought for their independence. Exhibits have been expanded to detail the geopolitical events that have led Latvia to engage in recent wars, and there is a strong critique of the Russian war in Ukraine.
The museum is housed partially inside of the Powder Tower, a 1650 structure that was once used for the storage of gunpowder. The tower later housed a prison and torture chambers. Admission is free of charge for all visitors and more information is available via the Latvian War Museum website.
The Swedish Gate
Located deep inside the Old Town, the Swedish Gate was constructed in 1698. Originally part of the city’s defense wall, it is now a picturesque pedestrian walkway. It’s a popular photo spot, and I had to wait more than 10 minutes for people to clear out of my photo frame.
Three houses, located at 17, 19, and 21 Maza Pils Street, are the oldest formerly residential buildings in Riga. The structures date to the 15th and 17th centuries and currently house the Latvian Museum of Architecture. The buildings are not wheelchair accessible, but their unique design attracts tourists of all abilities for a picture-taking opportunity.