Exploring Latvia: Riga

by Arūnas
Exploring Latvia: Riga
Riga is known as “the Pearl of the Baltic States”. 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.

Riga (Rīga) – the capital of Latvia – 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 that time, the Germans were actively exploring the Baltic lands, creating new territories, 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.

From its foundation in 1201 to the present day, Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States. In 2016, Riga was awarded the honorary title “City of the Reformation of Europe” by the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe.

The historical center of Riga is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List – the city has the finest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. 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.

Useful information about Riga


Area: 307 km² / 118 sq mi

Elevation: 9 m / 29 ft

Coordinates: 56° 56″ 57′ N, 24° 6′ 18″ E

Region: Vidzeme

Population: ~627,000

Currency: €

Language: Latvian

Riga map

Riga is located on both banks of the Daugava River at its confluence with the Baltic Sea, in the central part of Latvia. Within the city, there are several lakes.


With a long history and rich cultural heritage, the capital of Latvia has always something to offer, even for those, like me, who have visited it many times. In Riga, I am fascinated by the high spires of Lutheran churches, the fresh breeze of the sea, the longing scream of seagulls, environmentally friendly trams, old cobbled streets without cars, ornate details of Art Nouveau style… This is one of the European capitals that I want to come back to again and again.

I hope you enjoyed my Exploring Latvia: Riga post. If you like Europe and its capitals with a unique atmosphere and historical heritage, here are a few more posts that I recommend you read next:

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