The name comes from Greek ρίζα (riza) or Ριζαίον (Rizaion), meaning "mountain slopes". In modern times, its name in Greek was usually Ριζούντα (Rizounta). Its Latin forms are Rhizus and Rhizaeum, the latter of which is used in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees as the name of bishopric of the town, which was once part of the late Roman province of Pontus Polemoniacus). The name Rize is spelled ريزه in Ottoman Turkish, Ռիզե in Armenian and რიზე in Georgian. The name in Laz is Rizini (რიზინი).
The first written mention of Rize is made by Arrian in a work named Periplus of the Euxine Sea, as a city founded at the mouth of the homonymous river (the ancient and Byzantine ῾Ρίζιος ποταμός). Dated at 130–131 AD and written as a letter to Roman Emperor Hadrian, the work records how its author, the governor of Cappadocia, made an inspection tour of the Eastern Black Sea territories that were part of his jurisdiction, first visiting the Roman Empire's Eastern Anatolian frontier garrisons before pushing on to the Black Sea coast in the Trabzon (Trebizond) region.
The city is built around a small bay on the Black Sea coast, on a narrow strip of flat land between the sea and the mountains behind. The coastal strip is being expanded with landfill and the city is growing up the steep hillsides away from the coast. Rize enjoys a mild, extremely wet climate, vulnerable to storms coming off the Black Sea and therefore the surrounding countryside is rich with vegetation and is attracting more and more visitors every year.
Rize is a center for processing and shipping Rize Tea, the tea grown in the surrounding area. Tea was introduced in the region in the 1940s and 1950s, changing the destiny of the region, which was desperately poor until then. The city has a tea research institute founded in 1958 and tea gardens are the main sight in the town's panoramic view. Tea and kiwifruit plants are even planted in gardens around the town. The secondary activity is fishing. Rize is linked by road with Trabzon (41 miles [66 km] west), Hopa (55 miles [88 km] east on the Georgian border, and Erzurum (north). The nearest airport is in Trabzon.
Rize is a quiet town, a typical Turkish provincial capital with little in the way of night life or entertainment. However the border with Georgia has been open since the early 90's, the Black Sea coast road has been widened and Rize is now wealthier than in previous decades; there are more cars in the streets, higher buildings on the sea front, and some places for young people to go are opening up now. The visitors to the surrounding countryside also contribute to the economy of the town.
Rize has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfa). Snowfall can be heavy once it snows. The climate turns continental (Dfb) on the hillsides and subarctic (Dfc) on mountain slopes and yaylas, a term used in Turkish for highlands and highland plateaus.
Rize and the eastern part of the Black Sea coast where it is situated has the highest precipitation in western Asia, with an annual precipitation averaging around 2,500 millimetres (100 in), with heavy rainfall year-round and a maximum in late autumn (October to December). The Black Sea coast receives the greatest amount of precipitation in Turkey and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The water temperature, as in the whole Turkish Black Sea coast, is always cool, fluctuating between 8 and 20 °C (46 and 68 °F) throughout the year.
Historically, Rize grew oranges. However, weather destroyed the crops in the early 20th century, and the industry declined. The area also produced small amounts of manganese.
The economic structure of Rize is based primarily around its geographic location. Rize is a very mountainous city, making industrial development difficult and impractical. Given the lack of air and rail transit, most goods have to travel by truck or ship, which makes exporting and importing difficult. Rize's primary trading partner is Trabzon, the most developed city of northeast Black Sea region. Rize's main exports are agriculturally based; tea and kiwifruit are among its most popular commodities.
Rize University was founded in 2006, and its name was changed to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University by the university senate's approval.Rize Castle, a partly-ruined medieval castle southwest of the city center.
Sports venues in Rize are Rize Atatürk Stadium, Yeni Rize Şehir Stadı and Rize Sports Complex consisting of Rize Sports Hall and Rize Indoor Swimming Pool.
The football team of Çaykur Rizespor play in the Süper Lig. Pazarspor football team compete in the TFF Third League.Kazım Ayvaz – Olympic medalist and world champion in wrestling
Zafer Biryol – football player
Nikos Kapetanidis – journalist and newspaper publisher
İbrahim Çolak- member of Istanbul provincial council
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – politician, former prime minister and current president of Turkey
Temel Kotil – aeronautical engineer and CEO of Turkish Airlines
Tuncay Mataracı (born 1935) – convicted former government minister
Mehmet Akif Pirim – Olympic medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling
Köksal Toptan – politician
İsmail Türüt – singer of folk music of the Black Sea region
Yaşar Yılmaz – wrestler
Mesut Yılmaz – politician and former prime minister
Çaykur Rizespor, the local football team, play in the Turkish Super League and are local heroes, occasionally capable of defeating even the big Istanbul teams. They play in green and blue, reflecting the blue of the sea and the green of the tea growing on the hillsides.
Others who have never lived in Rize but come from Rize families include:Sezen Aksu – singer and songwriter, born in Izmir but originally from Pazar/Rize
Tarkan – pop singer