A Trip to Cēsis Castle, Latvia

Latvia is a beautiful country, with so much to offer beyond its capital city Riga. We decided to take a trip out for the day to an ancient town, Cēsis, which is famous for its medieval castle. It’s a really great option for a day trip from Riga, and we had a nice day exploring.

Entrance to the castle museum


How to get to Cēsis

We chose to drive from Riga to Cēsis , which took us 1hr 15 minutes. Alternatively, you could get the train directly in just over 2 hours.

On our way, we actually witnessed a car crash where a car on the opposite side of the road just veered off and smashed head on in to the car in front of us. Luckily we were able to stop in time, and no-one involved in the crash was seriously hurt. But it meant we arrived at Cēsis a little shaken with our near miss. So maybe get the train!


Cēsis Castle

The main draw of a visit to Cēsis is its castle. The castle is one of the most iconic and best preserved medieval castles in Latvia, being founded over 800 years ago by the German Crusaders, known as the Livonian Order. They spread Christianity across Europe, and had a stronghold in Latvia.  Up until 1577, the castle was prosperous but then came a terrible event in Latvian history.

Cesis Castle

In 1577, 300 people within the castle committed mass suicide by blowing themselves up with gunpowder. They did this to avoid being captured and tortured by Ivan the Terrible (the Russian Tsar who was known for his cruelty).

Inside the walls

Cēsis Castle was still in use during the following century but it fell into disuse after the Great Northern War in the 1700s between Russia and Sweden (you can read my post HERE about the constant invasions and occupations of the Baltic lands).

Today the castle is one of the ‘must see’ destinations in the Baltic States and has been beautifully preserved. We particularly liked that on arrival you’re given a lantern as some of the stairs are so dark you can’t see up them – it made it feel quite authentic and beautiful. English health and safety wouldn’t be happy mind you!

You can also climb up the main tower for some beautiful views out over the castle and wider Cēsis.


Other things to do in Cēsis

Cēsis is a small town, but there are some other interesting things to do besides the castle. Opposite the castle is a nice park, May Park, which is lovely to stroll around. There is also a nice medieval town with a centre around Rozu Square, and a war memorial for those fallen during the battle for independence in 1918-1920.

The war memorial

There is also an interesting museum called Burning Conscience, which is about local resistance to Soviet brutality, occupation and oppression during the years Latvia belonged to the USSR (1940-1991).


What do you think of Cēsis? We found it to be a lovely choice of day trip from Riga and would recommend it if you have some extra time to spare in Latvia. Stay safe and happy travelling!

34 Comments

    1. Ahh you definitely need to come to Europe – even just in England I have 18 castles within an hour’s drive of my house 🙂 We are so spoilt with them over here that’s for sure. Thanks so much for reading and have a lovely weekend.

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    1. It’s terrifying that we never learn isn’t it and history repeats over and over. The castle was beautiful though and I loved the lanterns. Thanks for reading John, have a great weekend

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  1. I’ve never heard of Cēsis, nor its eponymous castle, but it looks to be a lovely and convenient day trip from Riga! I actually substituted that visit with the Rundāle Palace, but all the same, you had a wonderful time exploring the castle, and I’m glad it was a day trip well-spent!

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    1. It was a great day trip option from Riga and interesting to visit. I didn’t make it to Rundale as my husband didn’t want to visit ‘yet another palace’ – how spoiled we are in Europe!!! Thanks so much for reading Rebecca, have a great weekend 🙂

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  2. What a charming looking castle. I love how they even give you a lantern to explore indoors! Sounds like it was worth the day trip to explore, especially since it wasn’t too far from where you were staying in Riga. That must have been unsettling to see a car crash while you were driving though. Glad to hear that no one was hurt.

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    1. Yes I think since the 1200s there hasn’t been longer than 50 years without the Baltic regions (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) being invaded by Russia/at war with them/occupied by them. It makes you realise history repeats itself over and over again, and we can only hope that it doesn’t happen again. It’s so sad about the Ukraine isn’t it, so many unnecessary lives lost.

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    1. I am always taken aback by the preservation of so many historical buildings in Europe – we don’t build thing to last these days and it’s crazy these castles and ancient buildings still stand, it shows how amazing the builders in those days were!!! It had a sad history, but it was wonderful to visit. Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend 🙂

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  3. A marvelous medieval castle in Cēsis, Lativa! It’s amazing to consider all of the history this castle has endured, let alone the fact that its still standing and can be enjoyed ~ to which, I have & thank you for sharing, Hannah 🙂

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