Riga, the capital of Latvia, is located on the banks of the Daugava River, was founded in 1201 by the Knights of the Livonian Order. Riga is the largest industrial and cultural center of the country with a rich history and culture, a true monument of open-air architecture, a center for folk music and a venue for hundreds of fairs and festivals. Riga by right is included in the list of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the old part of the city is preserved in absolutely unchanged form and is listed in the UNESCO list as one of the legacies of world culture. In the Middle Ages, being at the junction of land and waterways, it developed as a center of trade and craft.
Sights of Riga
What to see, where to go and where to have a rest, having arrived to Latvia? One of the most interesting and attractive places for tourists is Riga.
The main sights of Riga are concentrated in the heart of the city – Old Riga, where the streets are still lined with cobblestone and where the medieval color of the city is felt. In Riga, outstanding monuments of architecture from different eras have been preserved. The main attraction of Riga is the area of Old Riga (“Old Riga”) with dozens of old buildings.
Latvians talk about their cities as women, and Riga is an undeniable lady! At the moment when you walk through its streets, you will understand why in the 30’s it was called “Little Northern Paris”. Magnificent architecture, from medieval to modern. The old town competes with Prague, the opera house and concert halls, an active artistic life, fine shops and restaurants, all evidence that Riga again belongs to the largest capitals of Europe.
Noisy, boiling with metropolitan life and at the same time serene, unhurried; It breathes eight centuries of history and is eternally young; It shines with show-windows of luxurious fashion boutiques and fascinates with the unassuming beauty of the quiet streets of its outskirts; shaking night with the music of numerous nightclubs and delighting the hearing of an occasional passerby playing street musicians. And all this is so harmoniously and naturally combined in this tiny piece of Europe that it is simply impossible not to admire. And it is not surprising that the visitor who has been here once again and again returns, while, believe me, Riga every time for the guest are ready amazing surprises. Time after time, it appears in a completely new, unprecedented to this day perspective and as if playfully reveals more and more secrets.
A particular mention requires the night life of the Old City, for here are the best clubs in the capital, a casino and many stylish bars offering such an assortment of various cocktails that the head goes around. The life of Riga beats the key. Clubs, concerts, a casino, various performances involve you in the world of entertainment of capital.
Excursions in Latvia
To ensure that your vacation is full, CST offers guided tours of the sights of Latvia’s cultural and historical heritage and natural sites.
The capital of Latvia is a real culinary center of Northern Europe. In the restaurants of Riga you can taste dishes of Italian, Mexican and Chinese, French, Korean and, of course, Latvian national cuisine.
Chronicles report that Riga as a city was founded in 1201 by Bishop Albert. It was not the first Christian missionary who, like his predecessors, appreciated a convenient land area, washed on three sides by the waters. But it was Bishop Albert with the help of the Crusaders who managed to overcome the resistance of the local inhabitants – fishermen and artisans, and in the place of pagan Livonian settlements to found a city named Riga.
The history of Riga for eight centuries was filled with wars and events. Dynamic development and progressive openness replaced gloomy years of wars, isolation and ruin. The period when Riga was a member of the Hanseatic League was the time of its heyday. Due to the strategically advantageous position of the Baltic Sea and Daugava, at the intersection of overland roads connecting East and West, Riga was ideally suited for trade.
In 1282, Riga entered into an agreement with Hansa, the trade and political union of the Baltic and North Seas, a bridge between markets, a guarantor of the transport of goods, which at that time was rapidly developing. In the XIII – XIV centuries, the Hanseatic League was a strong economic lever, with the help of which Riga grew as a trading city, giving its inhabitants a lot of freedoms and privileges. The glory of Hanseatic times is evidenced by the widespread use of the name of Hansa in the names of economic and information structures created in the 1990s in Latvia and Estonia.
Representatives of different nationalities lived in Riga from ancient times, the international composition of the population influenced its way of life and culture. Livs, Latvians, Jews, Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Armenians created the face of Riga, and since the XIII century the greatest influence on the city was rendered by the German city culture, which is still evidenced by stone structures in Old Riga.
In 1582, the Poles conquered Riga, and the citizens of Riga had to reconcile their pride for decades with the power of a foreign king. In 1621, Riga was occupied by the Swedish King Gustav Adolf, she became the most distant city of Sweden at that time. Citizens have returned already forgotten freedoms and rights, the standard of living has begun to grow again, so in the memory of the people, Swedish times remained as favorable. At least, compared with the harsh Russian times, in which Riga for almost two centuries had to endure the Northern War, and let Napoleon’s army enter its gates.
In 1858 there was a turning point – ramparts were razed, and Riga from a closed city-fortress began to turn into a modern city. In 1861 the first train was put into operation, the gas plant began operating. In 1869, shipyards were built for the construction of marine and river steamers, and the medieval city opened to itself and the whole world. Industrialization was gaining more and more rapid pace. In 1889, with the completion of the city hall, the era ended, in which the laws, rights and order in Riga were determined by the German part of the population, which at that time accounted for 40% of all residents. After that, intensive Russification began, determined by the planned introduction of the Baltic provinces into the Russian Empire. And yet, from the economic point of view, the beginning of the 20th century was the time of Riga’s prosperity, so the city’s 700th anniversary in 1901 was marked by a major industrial exhibition, which was of great importance for the further development of Riga.
Built in the late XIX – early XX century in the boulevard, the buildings of Art Nouveau were more than one third of the city’s buildings. In no other city Art Nouveau style was so concentrated, in such a volume and variety of forms as in Riga.
In 1914, when the world war broke out, the rapid expansion of Riga was interrupted. At the beginning of the war, there were half a million inhabitants, and this was the second largest port city of the Russian Empire with a well-developed industry. When Riga became the front line, hundreds of factories with all equipment were evacuated to Russia, almost half of Riga workers with their families left behind their machines. In 1918, the war-weakened Riga became the capital of the new Latvian state. Work began on restoration, in which Latvians, Germans, Russians, Jews, Poles and all others were guaranteed both the rights and freedom of communication in their language, the opportunity to publish newspapers, open schools, etc.
In the 30s of the XX century Riga was one of the cleanest and elegant cities in Europe, which should be called northern or small Paris. Everything destroyed by the war and revolutions was restored. There were new higher educational institutions, banks, national currency. All this reflected on the face of the city, in which new European architectural trends also appeared.
After the conclusion of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact from Riga, four-fifths of the 38,000 Riga Germans left for the states of the Third Reich. Then came the Soviet occupation and the Second World War. The 40s were full of dramatic changes for Riga. After World War II, it was to be the capital of a socialist republic for 50 years.
During the restoration of the sovereignty of Latvia, Riga becomes the center of the movement “Atmoda” (Awakening). In January 1991, Latvian citizens gathered at the Riga barricades to oppose a possible invasion by the USSR military forces.
Today, once again, the free Riga is being restored and modernized. For the past 15 years, foreign embassies, representative offices of firms have appeared here, Scandinavians, Germans, French and Chinese have come to live and work. As a lucrative market Riga is experiencing rapid development, and in it, like a hundred years ago, the spirit of mercantilism is felt most. It is necessary for her to return the good name and influence in the modern world, and also to celebrate again a big anniversary.