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.
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.
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).
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.
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).