Exploring Latvia: The City of Riga

by Arūnas
Why Riga is also known as “the Pearl of the Baltic States”

Riga (Latvian: Rīga) is the beautiful capital of Latvia, the largest metropolis of the Baltic states, and one of the business, political and cultural centers of the region.

Five interesting facts about Riga:

  • In 1510, the world’s first Christmas tree was installed in the city. Later, this tradition spread to many countries.
  • One of the oldest pharmacies in Europe, still operating, is located in Riga.
  • Here is the only Museum of the Sun in the world.
  • With a height of 368.5 m (1,209 ft), Riga Radio and TV Tower is the third tallest tower in Europe (after Ostankino Tower in Moscow, Russia, and the Kyiv TV Tower in Ukraine.
  • The coldest temperature recorded in Riga is –34.9 °C (–30.82 °F) and the warmest temperature ever recorded is +34.5 °C (94.1 °F).

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Riga Tours & Activities

Riga Map

How to use this map

Click the icons (orange stars) on the map to see the places I visited and photographed. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account.

History of Riga

Riga was founded as a port and merchant trading city by Albert von Buxthoeven, a German clergyman, at the very beginning of the 13th century. At this time, the Germans were actively exploring the Baltic lands, creating new colonies, one of which was Riga. Later, between 1621 and 1709, the city was under Swedish rule, and from 1710 until 1918 it was part of the Russian Empire.

Why Riga is also known as "the pearl of the Baltic States"?
Monument to George Armitstead, the fourth Mayor of Riga; at the beginning of the 19th century, he transformed Riga and turned it from a small city into a major European city

Riga was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the capital of the Latvian SSR in 1944. After the restoration of Latvia’s independence, in 1991, it became the capital of the Republic of Latvia. In 2014, the city was the European Capital of Culture, together with Umea, Sweden.

Art Nouveau Architecture

The historical center of Riga is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List and notable for its Art Nouveau architecture. According to UNESCO, the city has the finest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world.

Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, Latvia
Highly ornamented building on Albert Street
Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, Latvia
Nice Art Nouveau detail

Art Nouveau gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style was distinguished by the rejection of old traditions in architecture and the intention to bring something new and beautiful to it. Most of the best known Art Nouveau buildings of Riga were designed by the Russian architect Mikhail Eisenstein.

Riga Pictures

Why Riga is also known as "the pearl of the Baltic States"?
Rozengrāls is the best medieval restaurant in Old Town; it is located on Rozena iela, the narrowest street in the city
House of the Blackheads
The House of the Blackheads (built in the XIV century, restored in 1999) is an architectural monument located on Town Hall Square
Small Guild in Riga
The Neo-Gothic Small Guild, built between 1864 and 1866, is located on Amatu Street
Daugava River
Daugava River, with the railway bridge (built-in 1944–1951) in the background
The Latvian National Library (Mūkusalas iela, 3) is a triangular-shaped building erected in 2008–2014.
The Latvian National Library (Mūkusalas iela, 3) is a triangular-shaped building erected in 2008–2014
Freedom Monument
Latvian’s most famous landmark is the 42 m high Freedom Monument, built between 1931 and 1935
Freedom Monument
The Guard of Honor at the Freedom Monument
Nativity of Christ Cathedral
Neo-Byzantine Nativity of Christ Cathedral, built-in 1876–1884, is the largest Orthodox church in Riga
Why Riga is also known as "the pearl of the Baltic States"?
Brīvībes iela is the main street of Riga
Why Riga is also known as "the pearl of the Baltic States"?
Brīvībes iela
Riga tramway
Škoda 15T1 low-floor tram on Krišjāņa Barona Street
Latvian National Theatre
Built-in 1899–1902 by the Baltic German architect August Reinberg, the Latvian National Theatre in Eclectic style is an architectural and artistic monument; it is located on Kronvalda Boulevard
Why Riga is also known as "the pearl of the Baltic States"?
View of Riga from Vanšu Bridge

Riga is known as “the Pearl of the Baltic States“. With a long history and rich cultural heritage, this city has always something to offer even for those who have visited it many times. Here, perhaps, is the most unusual architectural cocktail in Northern Europe: from medieval churches, masterpieces of Art Nouveau, to Socialist realist architecture and present-day high-rise buildings.

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