Riga (//; Latvian: Rīga ( listen)) is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 641,481 inhabitants (2016), it is also the largest city in the three Baltic states, home to one third of Latvia's population and one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava. Riga's territory covers 307.17 square kilometres (118.60 square miles) and lies between one and ten metres (3 feet 3 inches and 32 feet 10 inches) above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.
Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga's historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. Riga was the European Capital of Culture during 2014, along with Umeå in Sweden. Riga hosted the 2006 NATO Summit, the Eurovision Song Contest 2003, the 2006 IIHF Men's World Ice Hockey Championships and the 2013 World Women's Curling Championship. It is home to the European Union's office of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).
In 2016, Riga received over 1.4 million visitors. It is served by Riga International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in the Baltic states. Riga is a member of Eurocities, the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) and Union of Capitals of the European Union (UCEU).
One theory about the origin of the name Riga is that it is a corrupted borrowing from the Liv ringa meaning loop, referring to the ancient natural harbour formed by the tributary loop of the Daugava River. The other is that Riga owes its name to this already-established role in commerce between East and West, as a borrowing of the Latvian rija, for threshing barn, the "j" becoming a "g" in German — notably, Riga is called Rie by English geographer Richard Hakluyt (1589), and German historian Dionysius Fabricius (1610) confirms the origin of Riga from rija. Another theory could be that Riga was named after Riege, the German name for the River Rīdzene, a tributary of the Daugava.
Other theory is that Riga name is introduced by the bishop Albert, initiator of christening and conquest of Livonian and Baltic people. He introduced also an explanation of city name as derived from Latin rigata ("irrigated") that symbolizes an "irrigation of dry pagan souls by Christianity".
Imperial Free City 1561–1582
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 1582–1629
Swedish Empire 1629–1721
Russian Empire 1721–1917
German Empire 1917–1918
Republic of Latvia 1918–1940
Soviet Union 1940–1941
Nazi Germany 1941–1944
Soviet Union 1944–1991
The river Daugava has been a trade route since antiquity, part of the Vikings' Dvina-Dnieper navigation route to Byzantium. A sheltered natural harbour 15 km (9.3 mi) upriver from the mouth of the Daugava — the site of today's Riga — has been recorded, as Duna Urbs, as early as the 2nd century. It was settled by the Livs, an ancient Finnic tribe.