As the largest city in Latvia, Riga is the cultural and economic center of the country, and also its capital. It is also the largest city across all of the Baltic States and is famous for its 19th-century architecture. However, with less than one million inhabitants, it is also one of Europe’s smaller capitals. This coastal city is home to one of the largest ports on the Baltic Sea, and the city accounts for more than 50% of the Latvia’s GDP.
The main language in Riga is Latvian. English is widely spoken by the younger generations, but older Latvian citizens will be less skilled at the language. Learning a small amount of Latvian will help you throughout your stay, and will endear you to the locals. Outside of Riga, English is rarely spoken.
The city of Riga has a humid continental climate, with icy cold winters where temperatures can reach as low as -20°C. There is frequent snow throughout the winter months. The summers are humid but relatively mild. The average temperature is about 18°C, although temperatures can rise as high as 30°C. Many foreigners moving to Riga will not be used to such cold winters, so keeping warm is essential, particularly in January and February, when the temperatures are at their coldest.
Riga is split into six main administrative districts, which have been established since the middle of the 20th century. The growing tourist industry in Riga is still relatively new to the city, with the country becoming a much more popular destination for expatriates since Latvia joined the European Union in 2004. Riga’s housing market offers reasonably-priced accommodation out in the suburbs of the city. The Central District is only 3km² big, and finding affordable accommodation in this area is almost impossible. Luckily, housing in the surrounding districts is much cheaper.
Salaries are low across Riga and this is reflected in the apartment rental prices. If you are moving to Riga for work, and accommodation is not included in your contract, then there are many consultants who can help you to find a suitable place to stay. This is a popular choice because the language barrier makes it difficult to find accommodation on your own. Do not rely on consultants that you have found online; ask your employer to recommend someone to you.