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Riga, the capital of Latvia, has no shortage of interesting sights and activities to offer budget travelers. For example, the city’s fine State Art Museum will only set you back a couple of lats, while the lift to the top of St. Peter’s Church, towering over Old Town, will cost about the same.
The following two museums, however, are completely free and should make your must-visit list:
Latvian War Museum
Located inside Gunpowder Tower at Smilsu iela, 20
For a quick-hit history of Latvia’s military past, and to catch an illuminating exhibit on the Soviet occupation, check out Latvia’s War Museum. The museum describes its mission as “to save collective, historical memory of the nation about political and military history of Latvia, the influence of the military conflicts… on the destiny of the nation, and the reflection of these conflicts’ consequences…”
Current offerings include a detailed exposition on the Latvian army’s role in Russia’s Civil War (1918-1921).
The museum is open year-round, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Strelnieku laukums, 1, Old Town
Latvia was occupied by German and Soviet forces three times from 1940 to 1991. These included the first Soviet occupation (1940-1941), the Nazi occupation (1941-1944/45), and the long, devastating second Soviet occupation (1944/45-1991).
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia provides exhibits and a permanent collection focused on these three occupations, their victims (including business and farm owners, Jews, political opponents, and artists), and the crimes committed by the foreign powers.
The museum is centrally located in Old Town, next to Town Hall Square (Ratslaukums). The museum is open daily May through September, 11 AM to 6 PM; October through April 11 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays during this off-season. (The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia was also the answer to our previous “Name this Museum” post.)
Tell us: Have you ever been to either of these museums? Do you have a favorite free or budget sight in Riga?