About Riga

In a nutshell

Riga is the capital of Latvia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This coastal city enjoys a rich history dating from its establishment in 1201 and is particularly famous for its Art Nouveau buildings. Another historical legacy is the gastronomical culture, taking inspiration from Russian, German and Swedish influences, with a modern Latvian twist. Riga is enriched and inspired every day by its multicultural heritage and its modern European and international ties. Riga refreshes with charming green spaces and lively squares where you can enjoy music, food and people-watching.

Historical influences

The area that is now Riga was populated for about a century by Baltic tribes before the arrival of the German Crusaders. The city of Riga was founded by German Bishop Albert in 1201. It is one of the oldest cities on the Baltic Sea. Due to its coastal location, Riga has been an important centre of trade, finance and culture for centuries.

Riga acquired the layout typical of German cities as a member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade alliance including cities in Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden with Hansa offices and special privileges in cities in Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Prussia, Russia and Sweden. During more than 800 years of its existence Riga has absorbed influences in crafts, education, social life and culture from invading powers including Germany, Poland, Sweden, Russia, as well as trading partners in the Netherlands and other countries.

Independent Latvia

Latvia first became an independent country after the First World War. The first independent Latvian Republic only lasted until the Second World War, when it was occupied by Soviet Russia. During the years of Soviet control, Riga was a major industrial and business centre. During that period Latvia’s population tripled, with the majority of the new inhabitants coming from Russia. Latvia regained independence and joined NATO in 1991 and became a European Union Member State in 2004.

Nowadays Riga is a cosmopolitan European capital, with lots of different languages spoken in its streets. Besides Latvian as the official state language, Russian is the mother tongue for one third of the population. English and German are also widely spoken and youngsters may speak French or Scandinavian languages as well.

Cultural capital

Every year Riga hosts large international cultural festivals, the largest of which is the week-long National Song and Folk dance festival that is held every five years. It involves hundreds of choirs and folk dance groups, enchanting thousands in the audience. This Nationwide Celebration has been recognized internationally, and included on the UNESCO Oral History and Non-material Cultural Heritage List. The next Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration will be held in 2023.

You are welcome to visit LIVE RĪGA website for more information.