Riga, the capital of Latvia, acquired city status in 1201. Today, it has developed into an important economic, political, and cultural centre within the Baltics. When an independent Latvian Republic was formed in 1918, Riga became the capital. Today more than half of Latvia’s population lives in Riga, as well as the country’s largest manufacturing concerns, along with central government and administration boards. Amongst the 50 museums to be found in Riga, the oldest and largest is the Museum of History and Shipping: founded in 1773, it is the oldest in the Baltic. The National Opera and most of Latvia’s professional theatres are also situated in Riga.

Riga’s 800-year history has left its mark on the face of the city, where medieval dwellings and church towers coexist with art nouveau and eclectic architecture. The art nouveau structures in Riga are of exceptional importance to the architecture of the period worldwide. The value of Riga’s cultural and historical significance is confirmed by the fact that its old city centre is included in the UNESCO list of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites.

Internationally recognised festivals regularly take place in Riga, including the Arsenals film festival, the medieval music festival, as well as the opera and ballet festivals. Latvian choirs and folk dance troupes take part in the song and dance festival every four years, and have achieved a high level of recognition at Scandinavian song and dance festivals. Jurmala is a favourite holiday-place in Latvia, well known for its health resorts.

Read more at the web site of the Latvian Institute at: www.li.lv

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