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LATVIA: The Capital RIGA

Riga is the capital of Latvia. The city is situated on the Baltic Sea coast on the mouth of the River Daugava. It is one of the biggest cities of the Baltic region with close to one million inhabitants and serves as a major cultural, educational, political, financial, commercial and industrial center in the Baltics. Before the war, Riga was known as the Paris of the Baltics.  

Just over a decade after Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union, and the country joining both NATO and the European Union in 2004, Riga is again a city on the rise.  Riga is rapidly becoming the major Baltic business capital, before Estonia’s Tallinn and Lithuania’s Vilnius. On the tourist level, Riga is also booming with visitor attractions appearing everywhere and an ever-burgeoning proliferation of hotels at all levels.

The Latvian capital has often suffered, like so many other European cities. Throughout its turbulent history it has been routinely sacked, occupied, reoccupied and then sacked again, by everyone from the Teutonic Knights and the Swedes, through to the French and the Polish. In the 20th century came devastating invasions by the Nazis and Stalin. The Soviet Regime was responsible for the eyesore housing estates on the city’s periphery and some lingering Stalinist era architecture. But their traces gradually are being paved over.  

Today, the historic centre of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is particularly notable for its extensive Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture, comparable in significance only with Vienna, Prague and Barcelona. As far as the major architectural treasures are concerned, the  Old Town is a must for every visitor. It descends towards the banks of the Daugava River in a maze of cobbles, voluminous spires and impressive squares. The city that was once besieged and captured by Germany now has Europe’s most impressive collection of Germanic Jugendstil. 

Today Riga offers its guests the possibility too experience the pleasures and sights of a modern European city. Across Bastekalns Park lies the New Town, the commercial and business heart of the city, with its broad avenues and grid-like layout, while further down the river is the city’s sprawling port.

Extensive reconstruction works help Riga to regain the natural beauty it possessed at the beginning of the century when the city was known as the "small Paris" and new comfortable hotels, cozy restaurants and modern office buildings are helping Riga to become the new Baltic metropolis. The recent reopening of the National Opera House gave Riga one of the most beautiful theatres in Europe.

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