Riga, Latvia - is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 693,064 inhabitants (January 2014), Riga is the largest city of the Baltic States and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava.
Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga's historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. The city is the European Capital of Culture during 2014, along with Umea in Sweden. The city hosted the
2006 NATO Summit, the
Eurovision Song Contest 2003 and the
2006 IIHF Men's World Ice Hockey Championships. It is home to the European Union's office of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). Riga is served by Riga International Airport, the largest airport in the Baltic States.
It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest and the largest collection of
art nouveau buildings in the world. This is due to the fact that at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, when art nouveau was at the height of its popularity, Riga experienced an unprecedented financial and demographic boom. In the period from 1857 to 1914 its population grew from 282,000 to 558,000 making it the 4th largest city in the Russian Empire (after Saint-Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw) and its largest port. The bourgeoisie of Riga used their wealth to build imposing apartment blocks around the former city walls. Local architects, mostly graduates of Riga Technical University, adopted current European movements, and in particular art nouveau. However, the most notable architect of Riga, Mikhail Eisenstein was an alumnus of Saint-Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. In that period around 800 art nouveau buildings were erected. The majority of them are concentrated in the central part of Riga and a few more in the Old Town.
Panorama over Riga from St. Peter's Church, Wikimedia Commons