Winter in Latvia might not be what you expect. Sure, one day Latvia might have bitterly cold Baltic winds but the next might be a cool, calm day with blue skies. Don’t be surprised if you experience both on the same day. The weather can be all over the place but one constant is the wonderful people who make Latvia a joy to visit. One of the best places to meet the locals is at the Christmas markets in Latvia.
Christmas in Latvia doesn’t have to mean Riga. Although not well known to visitors, there are many smaller cities that are well worth visiting. Not everywhere has a Christmas market but all have some kind of Christmas or winter solstice celebration.
Latvia Christmas Markets 2022
Several Christmas experiences are worth seeking out in Latvia. Many of these are centred around the Christmas markets in the major cities with Riga’s Christmas market being to largest and most popular.
1. Riga Christmas Market
The main Riga Christmas market is located on Doma Laukums, the main square, while the other is not far away on Livu Laukums.
Another smaller Christmas market on Esplanade Park in front of the Orthodox Cathedral.
On Saturdays, there is a Christmas Fair in the Kalnciems Quarter, located on the other side of the Daugava River.
Here you will find goods from Latvian farmers, artisans, and designers as well as music and Latvian or Baltic region plants.
This market actually takes place year-round but has a Christmas feel in December.
Kalnciems Quarter is a district is worth visiting not only for the market but also for Latvian cultural events and the unique timber architecture.
Read my full guide to Riga Christmas market to find the latest information including dates, opening times, locations and regional specialties. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, these hotels near Riga Christmas market are conveniently located and well-reviewed.
2. Daugavpils Christmas Market
The Daugavpils Christmas Market is located on Rigas Street where you’ll find many beautiful lights and decorations around the streets and parks.
Daugavpils is Latvia’s second-largest city, located in south-eastern Lativa close to both the Lithuanian and Belarusian borders.
It’s very off the beaten path for most foreign tourists but it’s an interesting place to visit. It’s especially worthwhile if you’re heading to Lithuania after your time in Latvia.
Historically, Daugavpils has been part of Poland and later the Russian Empire. It retains cultural influences from these periods, making it one of Latvia’s more interesting destinations.
Today Daugavpils is predominantly ethnic Russian. The city is filled with beautiful East Orthodox religious buildings, Art Nouveau architecture and celebrated red brick buildings.
As the third largest city in Latvia, with an enviable coastal location, Liepāja is very popular with local tourists.
It’s quite far from Riga but it’s a great place to stop if you’re travelling toward the coastal city of Klaipeda in Lithuania.
Not surprisingly, Liepaja is well-known for its Art Nouveau architecture as this is a feature of most Latvian cities.
4. Jelgava Ice Sculpture Festival
Conveniently close to Riga, Jelgava is easy to get to if you have time to visit more than just the capital. It’s notable for its palaces, parks, historic churches and wild horses.
Jelgava is also the location of the largest winter event in the Baltic States, the International Ice Sculpture Festival. Jelgava is a great place to experience Christmas in Lativa.
If you’re looking to extend your winter holiday or are simply curious, my guide to the best Christmas markets in Europe is full of ideas on where to go this winter.
Christmas in Latvia
Like elsewhere in Europe, Christmas in Latvia is predominantly a family affair. However, celebrations are less focused on Christmas Day and more around the Winter Solstice. It’s common for people to decorate their homes with natural decorations in addition to having a decorated natural tree.
The family celebration revolves around food and a Christmas feast of traditional dishes but increasingly often, dishes with modern or international twists.
Latvians are encouraged to buy presents for family and friends at the Christmas market and this is something you can do as a visitor. You’ll find handmade ornaments, toys and homewares as well as many unique artisan gifts.
In Latvia, presents are usually opened on Christmas Eve so if you’re in Latvia on 24th December, you could take part in this celebration too.
Sustainable Travel in Latvia
The choices we make have an environmental and social impact on the places we visit. When visiting the Christmas markets, it’s important to keep sustainability in mind.
Implement some or all of these simple measures to create a positive impact.
- Shop mindfully. Only purchase what you really need.
- Walk, cycle and use public transport to get around.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel powered by renewable energy.
- Stay in hotels. Short-stay apartment accommodation can lead to a lack of affordable housing for locals.
- Avoid using plastic or buying items made or packaged with plastic.
- Try to eat locally sourced organic food where possible.
- Limit your consumption of meat and dairy.
- Be open to diverse cultures and experiences.
- Explore more than just the main tourist areas.
- Support the arts and attend local events.
- Visit fewer places but stay longer at each destination.
For more information on visiting Latvia, the official tourism website is a great resource. It’s especially helpful for hiking tips, finding gourmet experiences and cultural events.