The World of Hat – Riga, Latvia - Atlas Obscura

The World of Hat

A small museum contains one of the largest collections of ethnic and traditional headgear in the world.  


Humans have, for centuries, decorated their domes with hats, helmets, and many different forms of headgear for functionality, style, and tradition. A museum in Riga showcases more than 300 varieties of headdresses, the result of one man’s extensive travels.

Russian anthropologist and linguist Doctor Kirill Babaev began collecting traditional headwear from different countries in 2002. The very first piece he bought was a woven Thai hat bejeweled with coins, shells, and silver. Many of his purchases were hand-made and often procured from the hat-wearer themselves.

The museum came into being in 2014, when his extensive assortment began to take up so much space it needed a separate home. Now, in a quiet Riga apartment, showcased across five halls and divided according to region, is one of the largest collections of headwear in the world.

Jeweled crowns, African helmet masks, bonnets made from human hair, and headdresses produced specially for occasions like weddings are but some of the pieces on display. Each represents a distinct culture of hat wearing, some of which are slowly dying out. The stories behind each exhibit are explained with signs which also feature a picture of the headdress being worn in its place of origin. 

Many of the pieces can be tried on, and the museum also organizes hat-making lectures and classes in Latvian, Russian, and English. 

Know Before You Go

Need to ring #12 at the front door to be buzzed in. Open Wednesday though Sunday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

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