Exploring the Industrial Side of Riga in Andrejsala

Once upon a time, I sat in Riga, Latvia for two weeks waiting for a visa to Belarus.  A visa that ended up being invalid, but nevertheless, I still had two weeks to hang around Latvia’s capital city and also time for a short couple of days in Daugavpils.  I really should have followed a better two or one week Latvia itinerary, but I had my sights set on certain places and just did my own thing.

It is very easy for travelers to get lost inside of Riga’s Old Town and never see anything outside of the cobblestone alleys, the House of the Blackheads, and the impressive churches lurking around each and every corner.  The first time I had ever stepped foot in Riga, I made that mistake.  But I was only there on a layover from Kiev back to Oslo, so time was limited and it was cold.  Cold takes on a different meaning during December in Riga.  Trust me.

During my two weeks, I wanted to see parts of Riga I typically had never thought to see before.  I met with Marta, who at the time worked for Latvia’s Tourism Board, and she tipped me onto some places I otherwise wouldn’t have considered.  One of these places was Andrejsala, Riga’s industrial port and an up-and-coming spot for Riga’s imaginative inhabitants.

Keen to make it to Andrejsala on foot, I bundled up (I have been to Riga three times and never during the warm months), and started my journey.  What looked like a short distance on a map turned out to be quite the walk.  Or maybe I was just cold and hungry.  Easy to find and just straight down the river, I finally arrived at what appeared to be Andrejsala.

Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood
Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood

Andrejsala is like this weird little peninsula that juts out into the Daugava River.  It is saturated with grey concrete block buildings and rickety trains with Cyrillic sprawled across each car.  The wind off of the river gave me blistering chills as I was forced to pull my scarf across my face.  And to my surprise, there was not a soul in sight.

Trains in Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood

Upon entering Andrejsala, I noticed an art museum, called Latvia’s Naive Art Museum.  The museum just looked like it was a bunch of street and urban art all thrown into one.  I didn’t care to go inside.  I also saw a spirits and wine shop and I did see one person head inside.  So there was life here in Andrejsala after all…

Naive Art Museum of Latvia in Andrejsala, Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood

More art in Riga's Andrejsala neighborhood

Even more (weird) art in Andrejsala, Riga's quirky and industrial neighborhood.

Scenes from Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood
Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood

Andrejsala- Riga's up-and-coming and industrial neighborhood

I walked and walked and walked.  What I was told was a cultural hub to the city of Riga just appeared to be… deserted.  As I walked further into the area, I did see some labor workers with hardhats, but not much life otherwise.  I couldn’t possibly have been in the wrong place.  I just assumed that maybe not too many cultural happenings were taking place at 2pm on a weekday afternoon.

I gave up.

I took my frozen hands and headed back towards Riga.  But I wasn’t done with Andrejsala yet.  Right on the edge of the peninsula and main area of Riga was a restaurant called Koya.  I needed a bathroom and food.  And warmth.  Lots and lots of warmth.  I headed inside and sat by the window and watched the cruise ships on the frigid water.  I ordered a batch of sweet potato fries and thawed out next to the fireplace, which the wait staff so graciously sat me beside.  Riga never ceases to amaze me with the many things to do and the number of high-quality places to eat at (hey, those sweet potato fries were top-notch!)

Inside of Koya in Andrejsala, Riga

Inside of Koya in Riga

After eating, I left Andrejsala.

Later that evening, I decided to research the area to see what I missed and if there was actually anything there in the first place.  What I discovered was that Andrejsala is known for turning old crappy buildings into something cool on the inside.  There may not be signs indicating life inside of those buildings, but it does exist.  In fact, this area is one of Riga’s new ‘places to be’ during the warmer months.  Well, damnit.

Nevertheless, I do recommend those traveling to Riga to head to this area.  Regardless of what you may, or may not, see on Andrejsala, it is a nice change of pace to the center of Riga.

And be sure to dine at Koya when there!  It can be found at Andrejostas iela 4.  The eatery offers a winsome ambiance and overlooks the Daugava River.

Andrejsala is Riga's up-and-coming industrial and creative hub. It is home to the Naive Art Museum of Latvia, boutiques, and other quirky places.

  • Oliver
    Posted at 07:23h, 09 February Reply

    Hi Megan,

    last year I had a short stay in Riga while travelling from Tallinn to Hamburg. But this May I’ll be in the capital of Latvia for a whole week, not only to take part in a half marathon ;-) Maybe I’ll visit some of your recommandations.

    In any case, I’ll follow you on twitter.

    Regards from Germany


    • Megan
      Posted at 08:32h, 09 February Reply

      hi oliver! thanks for your comment :) please hit me up when you head that way! riga is one of my favorite cities in the world and i have loads of recommendations! see ya on twitter!

  • Heather @ Ferreting Out the Fun
    Posted at 06:02h, 12 February Reply

    I’ve lived in Riga for seven months now and this is the first time I’ve heard about the Andrejsala neighborhood! Thanks for giving me someplace new to explore once the weather finally gets a little warmer :-)

  • kami
    Posted at 10:16h, 12 February Reply

    I really hope to make it back to Riga to give it a proper chance (we didn’t become good friends before) and this place looks so much like my kind of thing! funny, I’ve never heard of it before yet I so wanna explore it now!

    • Megan
      Posted at 03:22h, 17 February Reply

      i had the same thing with riga when i first went. it really was the time where i stayed for two weeks that i discovered what a cool city it was! i hope you can make it back and see some of the same :)

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