Riga’s Art Nouveau

One of the best things about studying Russian in Latvia is the chance to see the county’s unique blend of cultures. The best and most beautiful place to see this is in Riga’s Old Town center. Known as  Vecrīga in Latvian (Старый город in Russian), the Old Town exhibits the layered history of the city’s centuries of construction, destruction and rebuilding.

Visitors to the city will quickly notice the extensive prevalence of Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture throughout Old Town. This style takes its inspiration from nature and classical mythology, and uses curved lines, asymmetrical composition and rhythms of irregular contours. Most of these buildings were constructed before the first world war when Riga was on the western “periphery” of the Russian Empire and experiencing economic prosperity.

Thanks to a large number of entrepreneurs and engineers educated in the metropolises of Russia and Europe settling in the Latvian capital, Riga now has Europe’s largest collection of Art Nouveau architecture. Thanks to them, Riga’s Old Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a visit!

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