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Riga & Latvia in brief

  • Official name: Riga
  • Population: 736,000
  • Area: 307.17 km2
  • Location: By the River Daugava, linked with the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe


Riga was officially founded by the German Bishop Albert in 1201, even though the area was populated already long before. The city joined the Hanseatic League in 1282. In 1510 the world's first decorated Christmas tree was made in Riga. German rule was replaced by Swedish rule in 1629, and Riga became the largest city in the Swedish Kingdom. In 1710 Riga came under Russian control; however, the German influence remained significant until the proclamation of independence. In 1873 the first ever Latvian Song Festival was held in Riga.

Economic and building boom at the beginning of the 20th century made Riga one of the leading Art Nouveau cities in the world and one of the most prosperous cities in the Russian Empire. From 1901 to 1912 Riga had a British mayor, Mr. George Armitstead. Riga and Latvia enjoyed its independence from 1918 to 1940, when Soviet Russian and Nazi German occupations started.

Riga was under the Soviet rule until 1991 when Riga and Latvia regained independence and freedom. In 2001, Riga celebrated its 800-year-anniversary and became one of Europe's capitals of culture. Today Riga is one of Europe's most dynamic and rapidly developing cities. In 1995, the historical centre of Riga, Old Riga, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Moderate climate with four distinctive seasons. Summers are usually dry, sunny and warm with temperatures sometimes exceeding + 30 C. Springs and autumn often have unstable weather with sun and rain on the same day. Winter lasts from December until March and is usually snowy. The weather forecast is available at


Latvian is the official state language. Russian is the mother tongue for one third of the population. English and German are also widely spoken. Younger people often speak Scandinavian or French as well.


Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic churches dominate. Services in the English language take place at the Anglican Church in the Old City. There is a Jewish synagogue in Riga as well.


Raimonds Vējonis has been the President of Latvia since 2015 ( Chancery of the President is situated in the Riga Castle, Old Town.


Latvia has a parliament ( with one legislative house led by the Speaker of the Parliament, Mrs. Ināra Mūrniece, since 2014.The parliament building Saeima is situated at Jēkaba Street in the Old Town.


The Government is led by a liberal-conservative party, while Riga is led by a social-democratic mayor. The Cabinet of Ministers ( is situated at Brīvības Boulevard in the city centre, while the City Council ( is situated in the Town Hall, Town Hall Square in the Old Town.

Information in English: 

Riga-based newspaper Baltic Times ( is published in English weekly. News agencies LETA ( and BNS ( publish information in Latvian, English, and Russian. Riga This Week ( is a city guide published every two months in English with a Russian summary. MEET RīGA provides the key information for the travel industry (

Latvia in brief

Basic facts

  • Country: Latvia (Republic of Latvia)
  • Capital: Riga
  • Largest cities and towns: Daugavpils, Liepāja, Rēzekne, Ventspils, Jelgava, Jūrmala
  • Area: 64,589 km² or 24,937 sq.miles
  • Border: 1862 km
  • Coastline: 494 km
  • Population: 1 986 096 (2015,
  • Religions: Evangelic Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox
  • State language: Latvian


Political system

  • Latvia is a republic, parliamentary democracy.
  • Head of state — president, elected by the parliament for 4 years
  • Legislative power — parliament (Saeima), 100 members of parliament elected for 4 years


  • European Union, NATO, United Nations, European Council, World Trade Organisation, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of the Baltic Sea States, etc.

Legal system: 

Based on the civil law

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