Government, cities and ports in Latvia

Government, cities and ports in Latvia


Latvia is a democratic, parliamentary republic. Legislative power is in the hands of the single chamber Saeima , which has 100 deputies. Parliamentary elections are held every 4 years. Latvia’s head of state, the President, is elected by the Saeima for a period of 4 years. The President signs laws, chooses the Prime Minister (who heads the government) and performs representative functions.

Electoral System

Latvia has proportional representation based on party lists and a 5% vote threshold. There is universal suffrage for Latvian citizens over the age of 18.


European Union, NATO, United Nations Organisation, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of the Baltic Sea States, etc.

Foreign Policy

Latvia joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, and has been an active member both in promoting global security and prosperity, while reducing crises and conflict. Cooperation with its neighbours in the Baltic Sea region is a priority, and development of strategic global ties is a goal.

Riga – the Capital City of Latvia

Latvia’s political, economic and culture centre is in Rīga, where more than one third of Latvia’s population (650 thousand) lives and works. Rīga’s elegant Old Town and distinctive Art Nouveau architecture serve as a stimulating setting for a vibrant modern business and cultural life.Founded in 1201, this former Hanseatic League member is one of the oldest medieval cities in Europe and has been listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s most important cultural and natural sites. As one of the new stars of the dynamic Baltic Sea region, Rīga has hosted a NATO summit, world hockey championship, the Eurovision Song Contest and many other large-scale international events. Rīga’s International Airport is one of the fastest growing travel hubs in Europe.

Cities and Towns

Latvia has a total of 110 municipalities. The largest cities in Latvia are: Rīga, Daugavpils, Liepāja, Jelgava, Jūrmala, Ventspils, Rēzekne, Valmiera and Jēkabpils, which serve as regional centers for 498 rural communities and 65 towns.


Latvia’s three major ports of Rīga, Ventspils and Liepāja service a wide range of global shipping needs. Ventspils is one of the busiest ports in the Baltic Sea region and one of Europe’s leading ports in terms of cargo turnover.

For more information about Ports, special economic zones and transport visit

Production Sectors

Information technologies, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, electronics, mechanical engineering, timber and construction, food processing, textiles, fishery and agriculture.

Financial Sector

The Bank of Latvia is the central bank of Latvia and a participant in the European System of Central Banks. Since joining the EU more than 20 commercial banks have been operating in Latvia, offering a full array of banking services. Many banks have established an extensive network of ATM’s throughout the country and offer international Internet and mobile banking services.


The countries of the EU remain Latvia’s main trading partners (72% in 2011), while trade with CIS countries (15% – 2011) continues to expand. Wood and metal products, machinery, electrical equipment and mineral products are Latvia’s main exports.


Name: Lats

Code: LVL

Symbol: Ls

Latvia’s national currency is the lats consisting of 100 santims. Banknotes have nominal values of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 lats, while coins have nominal values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 santims, and 1,2 and 100 lats. The lats was reintroduced in 1993 and has been one of Europe’s most stable and secure currencies.

Latvian Foods

Among Latvia’s traditionally most popular national foods are caraway cheese, grey peas with bacon, bacon-filled pastries and a special rye bread prepared to ancient recipes. Latvian rye bread is a staple for most of the population and is one of Latvia’s most popular food ‘souvenirs’.

For more information about Latvian Cuisine visit

Jāņi – the Most Important Traditional Festival

In Latvia, celebration of the summer solstice is oldest and most beloved traditional holiday. The nearly three-day long midsummer fest concludes on June 24th, the day known to Latvians as ‘Jāņi’. Most leave the cities to gather with family and friends around thousands of bonfires, where special foods, beverages, songs, dances and rituals celebrate the movement of the setting and rising of the midnight sun.

For more information about Seasonal holidays visit

 © The Latvian Institute, 2012