Officially founded in 1201 by Bishop Albert, although its area was then inhabited by the now nearly extinct Livonian people. The name "Riga" appears in written sources already in 1198 and its most probable root is the small Ridzina River - ancient harbour site. The Ridzina river today does not exist anymore - it is under the Old City of Riga.
Western traders, mainly Germans, in 12th - 13th centuries were actively enlarging the area of their acitivities to the Eastern Baltic and Riga was developed as administrative center for their activities in this part of Europe. Riga was also the center of crusades against the local paganic tribes.
After the Livonian war in 1581 Riga came under Polish control. In 1621
Riga comes under Swedish control and becomes the capital of the Baltic provinces of Sweden. In 1710 Riga comes under Russian control and remains in Russian Empire until 1918, when independent Latvia is established.
In 19th century Riga becomes one of the most important cities in Russian Empire. At the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century Riga increases 10 times. In this time the city becomes especially rich and there are built many thousands of very ornate Eccleticism and Art Nouveau buildings. In 1920ies - 1930ies there are built numerous interesting monuments of Art Deco, Functionalism. After the Soviet occupation in 1941 the style of buildings in most cases is less interesting, but still there are built several interesting and valuable monuments - highrise of Academy of Science, TV tower, some more.
The reneved independence (1991) up to now has not brought many new buildings, as large scale reconstruction is on-going. There are built several replicas of buildings, which were destroyed in Second World War - Melngalvji house, Riga City Council.
The symbols of Riga are two churches in Vecriga - Dom church and St. Peters church. Main touristic attractions - Old City, Boulevards, Art Nouveau part of the city.
The historical centre of Riga is UNESCO World Heritage monument. During the last years there is moratorium on new construction activities, until detailed development plan has been elaborated in summer 2004. Numerous large scale construction projects are under preparation, including the highrise districts in Kipsala island and around Skanste Street, which envisage construction of highrises up to 40 - 50 floors high.
As Riga is located in the middle of the Baltic states and all Baltic states experience high speed of economical development, Riga is choosen as a place for regional head offices by many companies. Numerous new industrial enterprises are built currently around Riga.