Riga, the capital of Latvia, has the finest and the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world

Brad Smithfield
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The Art Nouveau movement began in the 1890s, spreading the idea that art should be a part of everything around us. This rather revolutionary movement confronted the eclectic historical styles and the precise geometry of neoclassical forms with great elegance and soon became synonymous with progress, influencing a number of artists who started using various elements of this modern art style as inspiration.

Detail of Art Nouveau (Jugenstil) building in The historic center of Riga, Latvia.

Inspired by nature and its forms, the style embraced all forms of art and design and was applied to painting, sculpture, illustration, jewelry, interior design, and, most notably, architecture.

Art nouveau building in Riga, Baltic states

The style first appeared in England, and soon spread all around Europe and the United States. Called by different names in different countries, the final term Art Nouveau was first used in Paris, deriving from the words New Art.

A lonely view to one of the beautiful Art Nouveau entrances in Riga, this one in bad condition.

Its popularity started to decline by 1910, but examples of this beautiful architectural form are still among the most popular in the tourist centers around Europe.

Stunning Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, Alberta street. Architect: Mikhail Eisenstein

In a short period, Art Nouveau spread like wildfire across many European cities, including Brussels, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Munich, Glasgow, and Turin. Numerous artists and architects from these European centers shrewdly combined their skills to create some of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau buildings, whose decorative charm and extravagance will impress even the most demanding art and architecture buffs out there. However, none of these cities holds the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. It’s a title that belongs to Riga, the capital of Latvia.

“Beautiful Facade of the Building in Art Nouveau Style in Riga, Latvia”

The city’s complex history begins in the year of 1201 with the arrival of German traders, mercenaries, and crusaders, who founded Riga as a port town. It soon became an important trade center of the Eastern Baltic region and it went on to become one of the largest industrial centers of the Russian Empire.

One of the many ornate buildings in the art nouveau district of the latvian capital Riga.

Today, Riga is arguably the most beautiful city in the Baltic states and surely is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Latvia. This is mostly due to the fact that the city is filled with Art Nouveau and wooden architecture from the 19th century. Riga attracts more and more visitors each and every year, because of the cheap flights Latvia has established between their capital and other European cities.

Sculptures On The Facade Of The House Of Blackheads In Riga, Latvia. Famous Landmark. Travel Destination. Town Hall Square. Four Statues Named After Neptune, Agreement, Peace, Mercury. Astronomical Clock and emblems

The number of Art Nouveau buildings in Riga is somewhere around 800. This impressive number is a result of the economic and demographic boom Riga experienced at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, at the same time Art Nouveau peaked in its popularity.

Art Nouveau, Jugenstil building in The historic center of Riga Latvia

It didn’t take long before Riga’s eclectic character started to disappear due to the massive popularity of Art Nouveau and soon around 40 percent of all buildings in the center of the town were built in the Art Nouveau style.

Art Nouveau building fragment in Riga, Latvian

The expansion of Riga meant demolition of the old fortifications that surrounded the medieval core of the city, and the construction of new buildings, boulevards, and gardens in their place.

RIGA, Latvia – July 18, 2013: Bas-relief decoration over the entrance door of the art nouveau palace called ‘The Cat House’

The rich citizens of Riga used their wealth to build imposing buildings, while the local architects adopted the European style which was popular at that time.

Art Nouveau architecture in Riga makes up roughly one third of all buildings in the centre of Riga, making the Latvian capital the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world.

In this case, it was the Art Nouveau style. The majority of the buildings were erected in the central part of the city, with a few being built in the Old Town of Riga. Mikhail Eisenstein, father of Sergei Eisenstein, a pivotal figure in world cinema, and Konstantīns Peksens are the two most notable Riga architects, responsible for almost half of the Art Nouveau buildings in the city.

Read another story from us: Aubrey Beardsley, who died aged 25, was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era

Everyone interested to learn more about the Art Nouveau style and its cultural heritage in the capital of Latvia can visit the Riga Art Nouveau Center, which is located in an apartment on Alberta Street where the famed Latvian architect Konstantīns Peksens lived and worked until 1907.