Latvia is a hidden literary gem yet to be discovered among other European countries. In this post, I will highlight the top literary destinations in Latvia, some of the best libraries and bookstores this Baltic nation has to offer.
Whether you choose to visit Riga – its beautiful capital, which has become the Baltics’ creative epicenter, or any other cities that offer incredible architecture and unforgettable experiences, you won’t be disappointed.
Although small in size, Latvia springs a pleasant surprise for anybody who vists here. Riga, in particular, stands out as a bustling hub of activity.
Teeming with modern cafes and restaurants, Riga also has a fair share of eye-popping bookshops. The capital city is also home to one of the most exquisite libraries in the world.
Here is a list of our top literary destinations in Latvia. Don’t forget to bring your favorite book with you!
Gaismas Pils – the Castle of Light
On the left bank of the Daugava river lies the pyramid-shaped building of the National Library of Latvia, one of the most culturally significant buildings in Latvia.
The library is an informational and cultural center that offers a wide range of activities for both local and foreign visitors.
You can enjoy its variety of differently themed reading rooms, scroll through the millions of books, magazines, audio and video recordings, and unique and rare publications that you cannot find anywhere else.
The library strives to preserve the collection of national and world literature while securing its access to the general public.
This cultural masterpiece opened only in 2014. It was designed by the world-renowned Latvian architect Gunārs Birkerts.
Apart from long rows of books, the library also houses a vegan cafe and a restaurant. You can enjoy a cup of coffee while looking at one of the most beautiful views of the Old Town.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, this incredible library regularly opened its doors for various exhibitions, concerts, and lectures.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to enjoy your favorite book or searching for a spot to have an uninterrupted working session while taking in the beautiful views of Riga, the palace of light will not disappoint you.
You can take a 360° virtual tour of the building via http://ture.lnb.lv/en.html.
For an excellent cup of coffee and a great selection of fiction, political, and history books, as well as various travel guides and maps, make sure to include Robert’s Books in your itinerary.
The charming bookstore first opened its doors in 2008 and since then has changed its location twice. Today you’ll find it on the street Dzirnavu.
The creative mind behind the bookstore is journalist Robert Cottrell, former head of the Moscow bureau of The Economist and Financial Times.
You can browse through a striking array of new and second-hand English language books. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
Mr Page is an exquisite boutique bookshop with a calming ambiance of a library.
For anyone interested in books on art, pop science, pop culture, and lifestyle, Mr Page is a bookshop worth visiting.
Mr Page also offers an extensive collection of children’s books that can be an excellent gift for any little reader.
The owners of the bookstore say that they are trying to change the culture of buying books, making it a delightful adventure. All the rooms are designed to highlight books in the store.
The bookstore also introduced a unique white-glove policy that allows flipping through rare books before purchasing them.
If something catches your eye, do not hesitate, since each book is available in only a few copies.
One of the prominent bookstore chains in Latvia, Jānis Roze started out as a book publishing business back in 1914.
Named after its founder, the bookstore specializes in translated fiction, practical literature, art, and cultural guides.
Notably, it has translated the works of Umberto Eco, Stephen Hawking, Paulo Coelho and many more.
Today the bookshop offers books in Latvian, Russian and English languages.
Straight after the first world war, Jānis Roze managed to rent a space for a book shop on Kr. Barona Street. Since then it has become a favorite both for locals and tourists.
Nowadays, there are 12 Jānis Roze bookstores scattered around Riga and over 35 across the entire country.
Valters un Rapa
Located in the heart of Old Town, Valters un Rapa bookstore owns the distinction of being the biggest bookstore in Latvia.
It is also a big name in the book publishing business.
Like Jānis Roze, Valters un Rapa also has a storied past.
Back in the early 20th century, many Latvian intellectuals were dissatisfied with the lack of bookshops stocking suitable literature.
Janis Rapa, an apprentice in a publishing house, sensed an opportunity and partnered with Artus Valters to set up the bookshop in 1912.
After its liquidation during the Soviet occupation, the company was rebuilt in the 1990s.
The modern three-story bookstore is one of the best places to buy books, stationery, games, handicrafts, and artists’ goods.
If you’re looking for both quality and good selection, Valters un Rapa is the right place to visit. The choice of books in English, while not very large, is good.
Being the capital of Latvia, Riga is the home for most literary destinations. But that doesn’t mean book lovers in other parts of the country can’t satisfy their need for good literature.
Zvaigzne ABC, which is the largest book publishing house in Latvia, has a network of bookstores all around Latvia.
For all the latest books and magazines, make sure to put Zvaigzne ABC in your itinerary.
Before visiting Latvia, make sure to do your homework and read at least a few popular favorites. Here are our two picks:
Doom 94 by Jānis Joņevs
Are you feeling nostalgic for the 90s? Well, then Doom 94, a coming-of-age novel set in the Latvian town of Jelgava, should be on your reading list.
The unique book gives insight into Latvia’s youth in the middle 1990s.
Its protagonist struggles with his identity while trying to adjust to life in the newly independent country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
If you’re a fan of heavy metal, you’ll surely enjoy this well-written book, as music is an important part of the storyline.
In the Shadow of Death by Rūdolfs Blaumanis
In the Shadow of Death might be one of Rūdolfs Blaumanis’ most renowned works, and it is for a reason.
The novella tells the story of fourteen ice fishers who accidentally separate from the coast while being on an ice platform.
Due to the extreme circumstances, the true characters of those involved are revealed.
I hope you like the list of top literary destinations in Latvia. In case you are interested to delve more into such places in the Baltics, please also check out my similar post about Estonia.
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