Art Nouveau elegance, the biggest Baltic capital

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is the biggest and the most cosmopolitan of the three Baltic capitals. Situated on the bank of the river Daugava or Dvina, 10 km from the Baltic Sea, Riga was since the Middle Age an important trading post of the Vikings, then of German merchants. By the 12th century some German missionaries arrived and soon the Pope declared a crusade against the Baltic tribes in order to convert them to Christianity by force. The Christian army was commanded by the archbishop of Bremen Albert Von Buxhoeveden, who arrived in 1201. He fortified Riga, which under his rule became a city, minting its own money and having its own constitution in 1221. After Albert’s death Riga continued its development and in 1281 became a member of the Hanseatic League. The German nobility continued to rule the city under the Polish, then Swedish and Russian domination. After its annexation by the Tsar Peter the Great in 1721, Riga experienced a great economic development, becoming the fourth city of the Russian Empire, after St. Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw, and its most important port. Between 1920 and 1940 it became the capital of the newly independent Latvia and after the World War II, Riga and the whole Latvia, together with the other Baltic republics, were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. Capital of the newly independent Latvia since 1991, the city is getting its old splendour. Its historical centre has been included in the World Heritage List by the UNESCO and Riga has been declared European Cultural Capital in 2014.