The Historic Centre of Riga has the finest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world

The Historic Centre of Riga is a living illustration of European history. Through the centuries, the capital city of Latvia has been the centre of many historic events and a meeting point for European nations, and it has managed to preserve evidence of European influence on its historical development. Riga was founded as a port town in 1201, and it was one of the key centres of the Hanseatic League in Eastern Europe from the 13th to the 15th century. The urban fabric of its medieval core reflects the prosperity of those times.

In the 17th century, Riga became the largest provincial town of Sweden. In the 19th century, it experienced rapid industrial development. It is in this period that the suburbs surrounding the medieval town were laid out, first with imposing wooden buildings in neoclassical style and later in the Art Nouveau style.

 

House of the Blackheads in the Old Town of Riga, Latvia Travel
House of the Blackheads in the Old Town of Riga – Photo: Latvia Travel

The Historic Centre of Riga is comprised of three different urban landscapes: the relatively well-preserved medieval core; the 19th century semi-circle of boulevards with a green belt on both sides of the City Canal, and the former suburban quarters surrounding the boulevards and wooden architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the early 1900’s Riga became the European city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture with around 50 Art Nouveau buildings of high architectural value in the medieval part and more than 300 in the rest of the Historic Centre.

The Outstanding Universal Value to be preserved also resides in the spacious panorama of the Historic Centre with its expressive skyline. The medieval core is located on the right bank of the River Daugava, allowing a picturesque view on the skyline saturated with numerous church towers from the different perspectives of the left bank.

 

Riga canal - Photo: Latvia Travel, Girts Ragelis
Riga canal – Photo: Latvia Travel, Girts Ragelis

World Heritage

The Historic Centre was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1997 for having the finest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. In addition, its medieval and later-period urban planning structure as well as the 19th century wooden architecture, make the Historic Centre of Riga of Outstanding Universal Value.

SOURCES & CREDITS
All photos © Latvia Travel
Text source UNESCO (CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0)l