Riga is the capital and the largest city of Latvia, one of three Baltic countries. The city is an important sea port and the major industrial and commercial centre on the Baltic.
Riga began to develop as a centre of Viking trade during the early Middle Ages and stood on the trade route from Scandivavia through to what is now Russia and down to the Black Sea and Byzantium (Istambul). Riga’s inhabitants occupied themselves mainly with fishing, animal breeding, and trading, later developing crafts (in bone, wood, amber, and iron) – such crafts are still evident in modern-day Riga over 1000 years later.
The city had established itself as a key trading centre by the 12th century with German merchants establishing an outpost in 1158. These traders brought with them monks to convert the local pagans to Christianity. The year 1201 marked the first arrival of German traders to Novgorod via Dvina river. To defend the territory Bishop Albert established the Order of Livonian Brotherhood of the Sword a band of warrior monks much like the better-known Templars of Dan Browne novels who eventually merged with the Teutonic Knights as the Livonian Order. In 1282 Riga became a member of the Hanseatic League – a group of Baltic city states who banded together for commerce which gave to Riga economical and political stability.
As the influence of the Hanseatic League decreased, Riga became the object of military , political, economic and religious interest from a varity of nations, cities and beliefs. Riga accepted.
Reformation in 1522 and with the dissolution of the Livonian Order the city for about 20 years had the status Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire. Then it came under the influence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and after that under the rule of Swedish King Gustaf Adolf. During the war between Russia and Sweden(1656-1658) Riga held out against a seige by Russian forces.
Riga was actually considered the largest city in Sweden until 1710 when during the Northern War Riga among others Livonian cities was taken by Russia.
The city became an industrial port of the Russian Empire and it remained Russian until the First World War.
By 1900 Riga had become the third largest city in Russian Empire after Moscow and St-Petersburg with a number of theatres and factories being built as a consequence of its economic prosperity.
In the last century Riga has experienced many social and economic changes brought about by the turmoil that has engulfed the region. Throughout this period Riga has been able to retain its gem-like quality and following its new found status as the capital of a forward-looking independent Latvia can offer all the benefits of a modern city set amid beautiful buildings that retain all the charm of a byegone era. You will find a truly breathtaking city that is perfect for a weekend break or to be savoured slowly to maximise the enjoyment.