Latvia is located in Northeast Europe on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It is the middle of the three Baltic countries with Estonia to the North and Lithuania to the South. Latvia also borders Russia on the East and Belarus on the Southeast. With 64.6 square kilometers (24.9 square miles) of total area Latvia is around twice the size of Belgium but its population of approximately two million people makes up less than a fifth of Belgium's population.
Its coastline stretching for 500 kilometers, Latvia boasts long white sand beaches. Around half of the country's total area is covered in forests. And, despite the popularity of downhill skiing, most of Latvia's territory is not higher than 100 meters above sea level. Gaizinkalns, the highest peak of Latvia, is 311 meters high which makes it just 12 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Latvia is divided into four regions:
As the western part of Latvia is by the sea, it exhibits humid, maritime climate whereas the eastern parts have a more continental climate with comparatively bigger temperature changes.
Latvia has four seasons with January and February being the coldest months where temperatures can drop as low as -30°C (approx. -20°F) for a few days and there is seldom a winter without snow. In turn, during the summer months of June, July, and August the temperatures can rise over +30°C (approx. 90°F).
For up-to-date weather information, consult the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.
Latvia lies in the Eastern European Time (EET), UTC/GMT +2. Daylight savings time is observed.
Riga, the capital of Latvia and the country's political, administrative, and cultural center, is located by the Gulf of Riga, and the mouth of the river Daugava. This advantageous geographical position has meant that, throughout its history, Riga has been a cosmopolitan city, dominated by trade. With its population of 700 000 people Riga is the biggest city of the Baltic States and home to around a third of Latvia's population.
Riga is a relatively low city - its highest peak, Dzeguzkalns, in only 26 meters above sea level. Green areas and water bodies make up around 40% of Riga's total area making it a truly green city. In addition to parks and squares, Riga has several forest areas and forest parks. And, aside from the river Daugava that flows through the heart of the city, Riga has nine lakes, most of them located on the right coast of Daugava.
The climate of Riga does not differ much from that what is characteristic to Latvia as a whole. The coldest months are January and February with average low temperatures of -7°C (approx. 19°F), whereas the warmest months of June, July, and August the average high temperature reaches +23°C (approx. 73°F). Riga's proximity to the sea means relatively high humidity, especially in the warmer months, and precipitation.
Riga is divided into six districts that are further subdivided into 58 neighborhoods. At the heart of the city is the Central District that encompasses the medieval Old Town and the 19th century city centre dominated by Art Nouveau architecture. The main tourist attractions as well as hotels, restaurants, and nightlife are concentrated in this central part of the city.
The remaining five districts (some of which are formally called suburbs) are named after the direction that they are in. Clockwise from the North they are:
The first three districts are on the right coast of the river Daugava, the remaining are on the left coast of the river. Neither of the districts has a distinct character shared by the whole area. Instead, each of them is a mix of Soviet era block houses, residential areas with private houses, as well as new residential developments.
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