What to do when in Riga?
Explore THE most extensive classic car collection in the Baltics
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the charming capital of Latvia. Even when the weather isn’t perfect there is plenty to do, explore and enjoy. If you’re looking for something to entertain your crew inside, steer yourselves to Riga’s Motor Museum for an interactive and interesting look at the evolution of automobiles in this former Soviet republic.
LATVIA’S INDUSTRIAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Latvia only recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence, in 2018. But even that fête was a bit complicated, especially for visitors who know that Latvia was part of the former Russian empire and then later, the USSR. But don’t call Latvians Russian. While truly autonomous from 1918, tumultuous times during World War II saw Latvia succumb to occupation and incorporation into the Soviet Union beginning June 1940. It was not until August 1991 when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev finally recognized the country’s call for self-governance. From the minute you step into Riga you can see and feel the various influences.
SOVIET ERA AUTOMOBILES AND INFLUENCE ON DISPLAY AT RIGA’S MOTOR MUSEUM
Under Soviet rule, citizens were only permitted to purchase cars produced by domestic manufacturers. Even though difficult to afford and often with long waiting periods to procure, several Soviet auto brands had dedicated supporters. You can see several of the automaker’s designs on display here at the museum and get a feel for life during this period with an interactive exhibit sharing details from the communal housing developments of this time. Look out for the Volgas, Moskviches, Zaparozhets, Pobedas – names not as popular or well-known around the world as maybe BMW, Ford, Ferrari or Nissan, but were seriously coveted by citizens of the USSR and still are for current collectors.
And while the USSR may have required its citizens to live frugally, not all the top party brass played to the same tune. The Kremlin collection at the museum shows off some of those seriously expensive and exclusive rides. See the infamous Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow gifted to senior party minister Leonid Brezhnev which he eventually crashed (see image above). Here at the museum it is presented with a cool video display using the iconic kiss mural some of you may know from the Berlin Wall.
LATVIAN AUTO MANUFACTURERS AND DESIGNERS
Before there was a Ford Motor Company, one of Latvia’s own – Augusts Krastiņš – started the Krastins Automobile Company in Cleveland, Ohio with some impressive starting capital for 1901. Maybe even more than Henry himself could cull. A true innovator, Krastins created twelve different patents for many automotive developments including self-cleaning spark plugs. Unfortunately, his Latvian industrial domination was doomed – in part to Krastins own perfectionism and a devastating facility fire in 1904. You can see one of the very few Latvian Krastin cars on display here in Riga.
During the Soviet period, Latvian passenger van company RAF (not the Royal Air Force) but Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika was producing and building minibusses in Riga. You can see this pretty sweet olive green number here on site.
CELEBRATING MOTOR SPORTS AND OTHER AUTO MAKERS
Beyond Latvian and Soviet car classics, you’ll find other automotive makers you might know here in Riga. From iconic VW Beetles to Fiats, Audis and even this charming cult classic – the East German Trabant. Familiarly known as a “Trabi” this little car has an impressive fan following far beyond the former iron curtain. You’ll see other vintage racing cars, motorcycles and rally cars in this section and have a chance to virtually try your skills at different race tracks around the world.
OPENING HOURS AND TICKET PRICES FOR RIGA MOTOR MUSEUM
Rīgas Motormuzejs | Riga Motor Museum
Sergeja Eizenšteina iela 8, Vidzemes priekšpilsēta
Rīga, LV-1079, Latvia
+ 371 67025888
OPEN: 10.00 – 18.00 daily
CLOSED: 23-24 June, 24-25 December, 31 December, 1 January
Check website for up to date closures
Adults | 10€
Children, students, seniors (60+) | 5€
Family ticket (2 adults + up to 4 children) | 20€
Family ticket (1 adult + up to 4 children) | 15€
Children under 6 | FREE
GOOD TO KNOW: We spent about 2 hours at the museum and felt we had enough time to experience everything. There is a café on site, but we did not eat there, so can’t offer any review.
Where to stay in Riga?
We have a family of five and picked an apartment on Airbnb in Riga’s old town and loved where we were, but wouldn’t recommend our specific rental. While there are worthy things to see on the other side of the river, for your first visit – seek out a spot near old town or in the center city. From here you’ll be walking distance to all the many sites you’ll want to see as well as have easy access to public transportation.
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What else to do around Riga this winter?
Want to know what else there is to do for a long weekend away in the Latvian capital come colder weather? Besides wandering the windy little cobblestone lanes of Riga’s old town or finding new treats in the huge central market – we had a ball going bobsledding in nearby Sigulda on the Latvian Olympic training track. And how about dog sledding with rescued Husky dogs? Or strap on some bogshoes and slosh through an ancient peat bog. You can do it all here. Read more below:
We loved Latvia. Affordable (compared to Scandinavia) for our family of five to explore, eat out and find fun activities. It was a happy discovery. I’ve been back in November and would love to see summer when canal boats and cafés invite people to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful Baltic beaches beckon. Have you been?
Pin for later or share this post now. Cheers from here. Come to Latvia, she said.