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  • Culture | Latvia
    Updated at Sep 4,2018

    Riga - National Library of Latvia, Mūkusalas iela 3:

    Duration: 2-4 hours (1/2 day). Weather: best for rainy or windy day. For the view of Riga from the Library upper floors - you need a sunny or bright short period of time. Start & End: The National Library of Latvia. Public Transport (stop - 'Nacionala biblioteka'):  Bus: 3, 4, 4z, 7, 8, 10, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 32, 35, 38, 39, 43, 54, 55. Minibus: 238, 242, 244, 246, 263, 270, 271. Tram: 1, 2, 4, 5, 10. Trolleybus: 9, 27. Location:  the library resides in the western side of Riga - beyond the Daugava river. In case you want to cross the Daugava river on foot from Old Riga: your best bet is arriving from the House of Blackheads / the Town Hall Square / the Latvian Riflemen Monument /  Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. Take a short 15-20 minute walk from Riga Old Town over Akmens Tilts (Stone Bridge) and you are here.

    View from the Stone Bridge (Akmens Tilts) to the Island Bridge (Salu Tilts):

    just a bridge span from Old Town, on the left bank of the Daugava, looms an extraordinary, culturally significant edifice,  also known as Gaismas Pils (Castle of Light) - the new Latvian National Library.

    In Latvian folklore, a crystal mountain symbolizes the height of achievement – something not easily attainable but full of rewards for those who make the commitment to reach its peak. Latvian literature and folklore also speak of the 'castle of light' as a metaphor for wisdom that has been lost, but will rise again from the depths of the Daugava river after the Latvian people have overcome the intellectual darkness of war, invasion and occupation. The architect has incorporated both of these Latvian myths into the design of the new National Library building. The building was built solely for Latvian National Library in order to have all notable literature works in one place, which previously was dispersed in many parts of Riga. Located on the left bank of the Daugava River, its glassy slopes mirror the spires that shape the distinctive silhouette of Riga's elegant Old Town.

    Opening hours: MON - FRI: 9.00 - 20.00,  SAT - SUN: 10.00 - 17.00. NOTE: Library is closed for public on the 2nd Monday of each month (Maintenance day) and on Latvian public holidays. On special occasions (with prior notice) - the Library is closed during state level events. You can find list of these dates:

    Guided excursions: Duration of the tour: 1 hour. Pre-booking on weekdays only (MON - FRI) from 9.00 to 17.00. Phone: +371 22022920, e-mail:

    Detailed list of facilities in the Library:

    Reading Room Level Opening hours, Welcome Desk: Phone: +371 67806135, +371 25627640, E–mail: , Level 1: MON–FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00. 

    Aleksejs Apinis Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716025, E–mail:,  Level 5 :MON, WED, FRI: 12.00–20.00, TUE, THU: 9.00–17.00, SAT:10.00–17.00 , SUN: Closed.  

    Alfreds Kalnins Music Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716064, E–mail: Level 4: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00. 

    Archives of Latvian Folklore of the Institute of Literature, Folklore
    and Art (University of Latvia): Phone: +371 67228632, E–mail: ,  Level 5: MON-FRI: 10.00–17.00, SAT-SUN: closed.

    Audiovisual Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716065, E–mail: , Level 4: MON, WED, FRI: 12.00–20.00, TUE, THU: 9.00–17.00, SAT: 10.00–17.00, SUN: closed.

    Baltic Research Centre for East Asian Studies Library (AsiaRes) Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716172, E–mail: , Level M:MON, WED, FRI: 12.00–20.00, TUE, THU: 9.00–17.00, SAT: 10.00–17.00, SUN: closed. 

    Book issuing point: Phone: +371 67716204, E–mail: , Level 2: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.

    Children's Literature Centre: Phone: +371 67716041, E–mail: ,  Level 7:  MON, TUE, FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: closed. 

    Economy and Rights, Reading Room: Phone: +371 67806121, E–mail:, Level 2: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.

    Humanities and Social Sciences, Reading Room: Phone: +371 67806122, E–mail:, Level 2: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00. 

    Inte, SAT-SUN: Closed. rnet Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716178, E-mail: (link sends e-mail), Level M:  MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.
    John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Reading Room: E-mail:, Level 3: MON-FRI: 12.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: Closed.
    Konrāds Ubāns Art, Reading Room: Phone: +371 67806140, E–mail:, Level 4:  MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00. 
    Lettonica and Baltic, Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716023, E–mail:, Level 5: MON-FRI: 09.00 - 20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.
    Library and Information Science, Reading Room: E–mail:,Level 8: Closed due to reorganization.
    Maps Reading Room: Phone: +371 67716031, E–mail:, Level 6: MON, WED, FRI:12.00–20.00, TUE, THU: 9.00–17.00, SAT: 10.00–17.00, SUN: closed.
    Periodicals Reading Room: Phone: +371 67806126, E–mail: ,, Level 3:  MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.
    Reference and Information Centre: Phone: +371 67806110, E–mail:, Level M: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00. 
    Silence and Meditation Room: Phone: +371 67716063, E–mail:, Level 4: MON-FRI:9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.
    Small Prints Reading Room: E–mail:,) Level 6: MON, WED, FRI: 12.00–20.00, TUE,THU: 9.00–17.00, SAT: 10.00–17.00, SUN: closed.
    Technology and Science, Reading Room: Phone: +371 67806132, E–mail:, Level 3: MON-FRI: 9.00–20.00, SAT-SUN: 10.00–17.00.

    Other facilities and current events in the Latvian National Library: exhibitions (permanent and temporary), restaurant, bistro and cafe "Klīversala". Friends room – Shop and Information Centre for Latvia's centenary celebrations.

    The idea for a new National Library was conceived in 1928 - building was finally started in 2008, so it took a good 80 years to get started! As part of Riga's European Capital of Culture celebrations, selected library holdings were symbolically carried from the old to the new building by a human chain on 18 January 2014 (it opened to the public in August 2014).

    The new library building houses a modern information centre and ample space for cultural and social events, offering one and all multi-themed reading rooms and access to rare books and audio/video recordings besides the usual printed matter. Open to the general public for viewing is the Dainu skapis. Dainu skapis is a cabinet with 73 drawers of three different sizes used as an editor's tool by Krišjānis Barons (1835-1923) working at the most famous edition of Latvian folksongs “Latvju Dainas” (published in 6 volumes / 8 tomes between 1894 and 1915). The cabinet itself (as a furniture item) was made by a craftsman in Moscow in 1880, the contents of it – paper slips sized approx. 3 x 11 cm (which constitute the actual value of the heritage item) – are the collection of folksong texts sent to the editor by different collectors and copied from other sources available at the time of editing. The material found there came from different individual collections, dating back to mid-19th century (the copied material comes from editions published as early as 1807). The compilation work of the particular edition was started in 1878, so the bulk of the material is later than this date. The very idea of a folk songs' text publication was part of the Latvian national revival. This movement followed the European romantic tradition of the time searching for important heritage of the past to turn that into the cornerstone of the modern culture. The particular work survived change of trends and Dainu skapis for many decades has been both a symbol of Latvianism and a priceless source for scholarly research. The cabinet that UNESCO recognizes as having global significance; included on the register for the programme called World Memory.

    The basic objective of the new structure is to accrue and preserve national and international literary works, securing access to them for the general public. Over four million units are now located here, mostly Latvian publications concerning Latvia and Latvians.

    Opened in August of 2014, the striking edifice is the masterwork of the world-renowned Latvian-American architect Gunārs Birkerts. It is magnificent, modern glass pyramid that dominates the skyline. It is also spectacular with its position on the waterfront:

    The library building has already become active in organizing various exhibits, concerts and conferences. You will be given a leaflet telling you about the temporary exhibitions. There are also permanent exhibitions including a very comprehensive one about the history of books in Latvia. Available here are a restaurant, cafe, WiFi, and the most splendid panoramic view of Old Town.

    Guided Tours: Informative guided tours for groups Monday to Saturday; prior reservation on workdays /Mon-Fri/ from 9:00 to 17:00; 22022920, or at Foreign visitors please note a EUR 2 fee for a tour; groups of 15 - EUR 20. Guides conduct tours in Latvian, Russian, German and English.

    No entrance fee for individuals. Non-guided-tours visitors are allowed entering ONLY floors 1-8. To go to the roof terrace you need to be with a guide.

    Security rules: you must leave ALL your bags in a locker, so have a one euros coin with you. You get a special badge which accompanies you during your stay in this temple of culture and architecture. Enter the great hall and ask for a (free) visitor pass with a personal badge. This way you have access to the first eight floors. The view is best from the children's library.

    Other facilities: clean, modern restrooms everywhere. The cafeteria or restaurant, with a view over the Daugava river, has excellent food, huge variety of servings. All with very low prices. The overall price for a lunch is about one third of what you'd pay in the old town just across the river! Nice view while eating. A SPECIAL EXPERIENCE ! You will be blown away with this complex and its activities !

    We recommend allowing half-a-day for visiting this impressive, admirable, spectacular site. For its size, architectural achievements, extent and quality of culture included in its multiple sections and departments, wealth of exhibitions (reflecting Latvia special character and soul), FANTASTIC view of Riga (especially, during the 2nd half of the day, during bright days) from any high floor of the library - except of the roof. There is also (one-of-a-kind) auditorium where a large crowd is made seated and be entertained by speakers on various issues and subjects. A lovely idea !