As both the capital and the largest city in Latvia, Riga commands quite a presence in the Baltic region. Only St. Petersburg and Stockholm have a population higher than Riga’s eight hundred thousand-plus and, being strategically situated on the Daugava River, the city is easily among the most important of the Baltic States in terms of economy, industry, commerce, and culture. The beautiful “old town” skyline of Riga, filled with German Art Nouveau structures, makes it one of the most unique cities in the world and the UNESCO organization has aptly dubbed Riga a “World Heritage Site”.
Riga’s prestige among the surrounding Baltic area is not too much a surprise considering there are little to no areas in Latvia that come even close to the city in terms of scale and breadth. Regardless, Riga could hold its own against many of the biggest cities in the world in terms of sightseeing. The Lutheran Cathedral, for instance, is one of the most incredible buildings in all of Latvia. This towering edifice dates back to the 1200s and is easily the most enormous church in all of the Baltic area. Many tourists to Riga also stop by to see the equally majestic Riga Castle. This giant structure is the home of the Latvian president as well as two of the most important museums in all of Latvia: The Museum of Foreign Art and the Museum of Latvian History. The third highest tower in all of Europe, the Riga Radio and TV Tower, is another big draw as are the gorgeous Vermanes Garden, one of the oldest public gardens in the entire world.
Riga, despite having such amazing treasures on display all throughout its city streets, wasn’t always such a popular tourist town. Part of this has to do with the fact that Riga is adversely situated in a climate where rain, fog, and snow are all too frequent. Even the hot summer months don’t typically get higher than seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Lately, though, with the advent of the famed Riga International Airport, Riga’s tourist economy has seen an unprecedented boom. The city’s growth has also been helped by the many financially important buildings that are constantly being erected. The Bank of Latvia, for example, is located in Riga and is arguably the most important economic house in all of the Baltic states. The port of Riga is also an indispensable center for shipping and receiving cargo and without it much of Europe would be in dire financial straits. Now that many states in Russia and China are doing business in this port, the GDP of Latvia and Riga is expected to grow even larger and more formidable. While the general climate of Riga is still a bit cool and snowy, people are finding that it is worth braving in order to take in all of the exquisite sites and landmarks that Riga has to offer. In the next few years it will be exciting to see just how much growth comes to Latvia’s shining city on the sea.