Riga's daily indoor food market on Pragas iela, behind the railway station, is housed inside five huge Zeppelin hangars built for the military in the 1930s. The products for sale range from vegetables, fresh fruit, and flowers to meat, fish, and dairy products. Everything is fresh and prices are cheap, but the quality of the foodstuffs may not be up to standard. However, even if you don't buy, looking around is worth the adventure.
Much better, though still cheap, is the big outdoor market that surrounds the Zeppelin hangars along Centraltirgus iela and Negu iela. There is no food here, but the wide range of clothes, shoes, bags, pot plants, and collectables is the biggest in the Baltics. If, however, you are looking for authentic, yet inexpensive, Latvian souvenirs, visit the row of stalls and stands located behind the Dome Cathedral on Doma laukums. The display here includes woolen sweaters embroidered with Latvian folk symbols, handmade linen, amber jewellery, leather products, and more.
Latvian shopping is not limited only to markets or outdoor venues. Since the country has opened its doors for business and foreign investment, department stores and specialised shops have emerged everywhere, particularly along the most frequented tourist streets in Riga's Old Town. Located on the town's most prominent street at Audeju iela 16, Centrs is a five-storey department store that houses an excellent food supermarket on the ground floor; designer fashion clothing, books, and Latvian souvenirs on the next three floors; and a health centre on the top floor. Mols, at Krasta iela 46, a huge shopping mall where you can easily spend a whole day, is outside the city centre, but easily reached by one of the free buses parked near the central train station.
Outside the Old Town, but within walking distance, Palazzo Italia, at Barona iela 2, is a five-storey shopping complex specialising in Italian designer fashion clothing, while Plaza Boutique in the Old Town, at Smilsu iela 18, is an elegant two-storey boutique specialising in creative clothing for kids and adults alike. For authentic Latvian linen woven by hand, head to Livs, at Kaleju iela 7, where you can even attend a weaving demonstration and view an extensive exhibition of handmade linens. Mara at Kaleju iela 9/11 has the widest choice of Latvian linens in town, together with a huge display of amber jewellery and traditional souvenirs. For collectables, such as stamps, coins, medals, postcards, and antique pieces in bronze, silver, and leather, visit Roma Antiks, at Kalku iela 28. Better and bigger than Roma, Volmar, at Skunu iela 6, is a two-storey antique shop specialising in late 19th-century bronze, silver, coins, and china. The place is also the venue for a permanent exhibition of Latvian paintings, drawings, and old prints worth seeing even if you don't intend to buy. If you do, however, don't forget to obtain the necessary permit for the export of antiques from the State Inspection Board of History and Cultural Monuments at Pils iela 22.
Unlike an original Latvian painting, a box of sweets or Latvian chocolates does not cost you a fortune. The best assortment of Latvian chocolates packed in souvenir boxes and elegantly wrapped, ready to reach home fresh and in the best condition, is found inside Laima, at Smilsu iela 16. For a cheap drink, go for the fruit-tasting Kvass, a delicious and refreshing light alcoholic drink. Or, for a splurge, why don't you invest in a bottle of Riga d'Or Brandy or a limited-edition Riga 1201 Vodka? Those who cannot afford so much should at least buy a bottle of LB Vodka, the top-selling brand in Riga going for less than 3 lats (US$10).
Before leaving the country, spend your extra lats to buy a bottle or more of 1752 Riga Black Balsam, a unique liqueur made from 24 ingredients and prepared with herbs, flower juices, and medicinal roots. Available from all spirit shops and most supermarkets, it is a black, thick liqueur that goes down better when mixed with vodka.
Enjoy a Latvian shopping spree and take back home a piece of Riga!