Rīga was officially founded in 1201 by Bishop Albert following the Crusades, but the history of Rīga goes back to the 2nd century as initial settlers moved to the area.
Rīga’s prominence grew after 1282 when it joined the Hanseatic League. Due to its strategic location by the Baltic Sea, between Russia and the Nordic countries, as well as its port, Rīga was desirable to many foreign powers for centuries to come. Following initial German rule, during the 16th century Rīga was largely ruled by the Polish, in the 17th by the Swedes, in the 18th by the Russians. Riga’s Old Town is a stunning testament to its tumultuous history.
Foreign dominance went hand in hand with the growth of nationalism and the development of the idea of an independent nation, which Latvia achieved in 1918, with Rīga as its capital. In 1940 Rīga was occupied by Soviet forces and in 1941 by the German army, in 1945 the Soviet Occupation resumed. In 1991 Rīga was the heart of the Singing Revolution and turned into a city of barricades before Latvia regained its full independence.
In recent decades Rīga has developed into the key financial and trade centre of the Baltics. It is the cultural and political centre of Latvia, home to more than a third of the country’s population and the main driving force of the Latvian economy.
Rīga has hosted numerous events of international significance, ranging from the Tall Ships Regatta to the NATO summit, from the Eurovision Song Contest to a European Capital of Culture. For Rigans themselves there are at least 58 different Rīgas – 58 neighbourhoods each with its own distinct character.
In Rīga, history is ever-present in the stunning historical buildings, in the tributes to historical events, but the atmosphere is dominated by a youthful and creative energy. This fusion of past and present can be felt especially well in Rīga’s numerous creative quarters, where the historical has been preserved, renovated, yet the events held there are distinctly young, creative, and contemporary.