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Cēsis Old Castle

Cēsis is a town in Vidzeme region of Latvia. It is situated in the hilly Gauja River valley and contains two beautiful castles and parks, and a small Old Town district with cobbled streets.


Cēsis town centre: Unity Square.

In the very beginning of 13th century, German crusaders approached the land of Vends, a small tribe, who lived in the woods near Gauja River. Vends were already christianized, so that crusaders didn't treat them like enemies. In 1209 crusaders began to construct a Wenden castle, next to the small wooden castle of Vends themselves, now known as Riekstu hill fort which is in the territory of Castle Park. Stone Wenden castle was completed in 1213, while the smaller wooden castle was enlarged and fortified with a defensive stone wall. As a result there were two castles standing next to each other during 13th century. In 1323 Wenden was granted Magdeburg rights and became a city. It grew rapidly and became one of the most important Livonian cities, its golden age was from 15th to the 16th centuries.

During the Livonian War, in 1577, the castle was partially destroyed by its defenders in order to not fall into enemy hands. Since then began a slow and long-lasting decline, and finally during the Great Northern war in 1703, the castle was taken by the Russian army, it was no longer inhabited, lost its military importance and gradually fell into ruins.

Since 1919, when Latvia gained independence, Cēsis was developed as a health resort. The ruins of the Cēsis Castle were opened to public, and in 1925 were given the status of protected monument. It became an important landmark and tourist attraction, which remains so until date. Cēsis is a largest town of Gauja National Park.

  • Cesis Tourism Information Centre (Cēsu Tūrisma informācijas centrs), Pils laukums St 9, +371 641 21815 (). 1 May-30 Sep: M-Su 10:00-18:00. 1 Oct-1 May: Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 10:00-16:00; ticket office closes 45min before the end of the working hours. Offers tourist service: provides tourism information, sells souvenirs, maps, postcards, helps to book accommodation, also offers internet access, guided tour services.

Get in[edit]

It lies 98km from Riga. From Riga you can take a direct bus or train. You can find time of trains and buses here.

By car: from capital Riga head NE direction down the road A2, skip Sigulda; from Estonia drive south via Valga (Estonia) and Valmiera (Latvia), from there take the road P20 up to Cēsis.

Get around[edit]

Town is small, everything is accessible on foot.

See[edit][add listing]

Medieval festival "Livonia 1378, Wenden".
Path to the river valley in autumn.
  • Knight's Castle (Cēsis Old Castle), Pils Sq 9 (Centre). (57.313147,25.270441)
  • The New Cēsis Castle (Cēsu Jaunā pils), Pils Sq 9 (Centre), +371 641 21815 (). Built by Count Karl Eberhard von Zievers in 1777 as a residence in architectural style of Eclecticism, with neo-Gothic tower. Since 1949 its premises were used for the Cēsis Museum of History and Art, and after the reconstruction in 2012 it also operates as the Cēsis Tourism Information Centre. Tickets: adults €3.00, kids, students, pensioners (with ID) €1.50, family (2 adults with children up to 16 years of age) €6.00. (57.313236,25.271461)
  • Cēsis Castle Park (Cēsu Pils parks), (Centre, lies NW of the Knight's Castle). (57.313606,25.269510)
  • Riekstu kalns (Hazelnut Hill), Castle Park (several metres NW of the Knight's Castle). An 18m height hill fort of a former wooden castle of Vends, at 57.313801, 25.268726 in the park. (57.313801,25.268726) edit
  • May Park (Maija parks), Vienības laukums (Centre, north of a roundabout). (57.314576,25.273952) edit
  • Rigas street (shopping)
  • Saint John’s Church (Sv. Jāņa baznīca), Lielā Skolas St 8 (Centre), Excursion booking +371 266 17366. M-Su 10:00-18:00. Cēsis St. John’s Church is one of the largest medieval churches in the country. It is 65m long and 32m wide three sphere basilica, with the massive 65m high bell-tower with 15m high Gothic spire. (57.312084,25.271666)
  • Holy Spring
  • Victory Monument
  • Square of Rose

Do[edit][add listing]

Inside the Cēsis Old Castle.
  • Nature trails at Ligatne (outside Cesis, in Ligatne)
  • Zvartes iezis
  • Ieriku nature trail
  • Parachute jump at Vidzeme Aero-club

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Get out[edit]

See Vidzeme Highlands

  • Vecpiebalga
  • Jaunpiebalga - museum of composer Emils Darzins (1875-1910), at "Jāņaskola", tel. 64162354.
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