Home Latvia A Visit to the Charming Town of Cesis, Latvia

A Visit to the Charming Town of Cesis, Latvia

by David
Cesis Manor, Cesis Latvia

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As part of my visit to the wonderful Gauja Valley, I planned a day trip from Sigulda to the charming town of Cesis. My time exploring the historic town reinforced how special this part of Latvia is, while furthering my understanding of the history of the country as a whole.

Cesis really turned out to be yet another interesting and eye-opening stop in my journey through Latvia. Visiting Cesis is also quite a fun and manageable day trip from Riga. Read on to learn more about what there is to see in Cesis and my experiences there.


Cesis Medieval Castle

Cesis Medieval Castle

The big draw of Cesis for me was probably unsurprisingly the town’s medieval castle. The old castle is the centrepiece of the Cesis Castle Complex and its ruins are the symbol of the town.

Dating back from the 13th century, the castle built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword would later encourage the town of Cesis to be built. For centuries it was known as Wenden, after the local tribe that lived in the area. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times through the years until in 1703 when it was not rebuilt and left in ruin.

Cesis Castle in Latvia

A truly one-of-a-kind experience that the Cesis Medieval Castle offers is to explore the ruins by candlelight. As the dungeon and stairways of the medieval keep are unlit, visitors are given a candlelit lantern to climb into the ruins at their leisure. This turns a simple visit into something more, giving it an adventurous spirit and really encourages you to take it all in. Mind your step as you wind your way up and down spiral staircases to see the castle towers and dungeons.


New Cesis Castle

New Cesis Castle

As is the way it seems in Latvia, each old castle is paired with a far more modern one. Attached to the medieval castle was a courtly manor house that now hosts the Cesis History and Art Museum, covering a wide variety of local subjects. The castle itself was built in 1777 as residence for Count Sievers who had purchased the medieval castle estate as he did in the village of Krimulda further along the Gauja Valley.

The exhibits in the museum range from the furnishings of the manor itself, to medieval history, the war of independence and even the national flag. Of particular importance is the parts on the Battle of Cesis in 1919, which was one of the crucial battles leading to Latvian independence. I was also intrigued to learn the history of the Latvian Flag and how it was adapted from a local historical flag of Cesis. As it can be seen even from the two above examples, Cesis has long had a key role in Latvian history.

For those that appreciate the interiors and furnishings of stately residences, there is plenty to see in the rooms of the manor. While most rooms host exhibitions, there are several of the rooms that have been left intact as to display the resident’s lavish living quarters. However, perhaps the highlight of a visit to the New Cesis Castle is climbing the castle tower and getting a spectacular view out over the town.


Cesis Castle Park

A visit to the Cesis Castle Complex is most definitely incomplete without heading down to the stately park that sits beneath the medieval castle walls. Following a descending staircase from the castles, you arrive at a pristine lake, home to statues, ducks and plenty of park benches. It was nice just to go for a loop around the park and admire the medieval castle from another angle.


Walk through Town

Visiting Cesis in Latvia

As followers of this blog and my Instagram will well know, I thoroughly enjoy wandering around places and soaking in the architecture and atmosphere of a place. Cesis is definitely suited to that. Meandering down the town’s cobbled streets you’ll come across plenty of charming buildings and quiet alleys.

Cesis is far from a busy place so if the weather holds up it can make for a really pleasant time. Unfortunately, even in summer I was treated to a few showers that had me ducking under cover.

One of my favourite things I noticed in Latvian architecture is their fondness for both wooden panel and red brick buildings. Both throwback to older building styles from the 19th/20th century and seeing them alternated along cobbled streets throughout Cesis just added to the town’s sense of history.


Movie Set

Unlikely to be a regular occurrence, but when I visited I managed to find myself stumbling upon a square that had been take over by a film crew. It was rather hard to figure out what type of movie they were filming since the extras seems to be wearing a wide range of outfits. I couldn’t get too close unfortunately as they had policemen stationed about so I doubt I’ll ever learn what was being filmed there that day. Can you figure out what is going on here?


Visiting Cesis

Visiting Cesis is quite an easy thing to do. From Sigulda, you can either take the bus or train. Both take roughly 45 minutes and cost 2€ for train and ever so slightly cheaper by bus. From Riga, both take roughly 2 hours, the bus costing 4.15€ and the train 3.5€. Either way, Cesis is a manageable day trip from both. Train information can be found here and bus information, here.


Have you visited the charming town of Cesis and if so what was your favourite part? If not, where would you head to first? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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California Globetrotter January 18, 2017 - 12:49 pm

I love charming little towns like this that no one has heard of! Pinned for later! Hope to make up to the Baltics one day and explore that region! How interesting you ran into a film crew! #WanderfulWednesdays

David January 19, 2017 - 5:10 pm

Europe is great for little towns. I highly recommend the Baltics as they have plenty of nice towns but also breathtaking nature.

California Globetrotter January 19, 2017 - 5:12 pm

I’ve been meaning to ask how safe it is to drive our car there? Looks like we’ll be taking some back roads and it looks like there are some freeways unfinished

David January 19, 2017 - 5:14 pm

I took the bus everywhere but I only remember one unsealed major road (roadworks) and that was on a island in Estonia so it shouldn’t be too bad I think. Might suggest double checking that though. Traffic did seem far more regular than say the Balkans though

California Globetrotter January 19, 2017 - 5:16 pm

sorry, I meant to ask for the Balkans, I mixed them up for a moment

David January 19, 2017 - 5:18 pm

Ah the roads were sealed from memory but the traffic can be a little unpredictable. People overtake in tight spots and park in unusual spots but I still think driving will allow you to get around best as public transport can vary.

California Globetrotter January 19, 2017 - 5:20 pm

Sounds the same as German drivers haha

Allison January 18, 2017 - 2:13 pm

Cesis sounds like a cute little town that I’d like to visit some day. Thanks for sharing it.

David January 19, 2017 - 5:08 pm

Thanks for reading Allison, definitely a great little town.

Tanja January 18, 2017 - 3:39 pm

looks great! especially since it’s got a castle:) #wanderfulwednesday

David January 19, 2017 - 12:22 am

Glad to see another castle-fanatic here Tanja!

Tanja January 19, 2017 - 10:06 am


vanbrune January 18, 2017 - 3:40 pm

I’ve only ever been to Riga (and only on a 6 hour stopover) so I would love to explore more of Latvia! I just love how some parts of the country look like they’re frozen in time and there’s SO much history to learn more about!!

David January 19, 2017 - 12:22 am

Knowing your love of Northern Europe, I think you’d get a lot out of visiting more of Latvia Van.

Amy @ Amy and the Great World January 18, 2017 - 6:40 pm

What a cute little town! I’ve always wanted to visit Riga but I’m realizing there are so many gems to visit in Latvia besides the capital! 🙂

David January 19, 2017 - 12:21 am

Yes Riga is great but Latvia really also has other places to offer and Cesis is one. Thanks for reading Amy.

Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld January 18, 2017 - 7:53 pm

How charming and picturesque! Loved looking around through your photos 🙂

David January 19, 2017 - 12:20 am

Glad to hear Marcella.

Ruth January 19, 2017 - 4:14 am

Wow! I realize how little I know about Latvia. We hear a lot about the capital but not about beautiful towns like this. Gives me more desire to keep exploring Europe. #WanderfulWednesday

David January 19, 2017 - 5:07 pm

I was the same way before visiting Ruth, there’s definitely more to see in Latvia than Riga. There’s always more of Europe to explore.

Rhonda Albom (@RhondaAlbom) January 20, 2017 - 7:18 pm

This town is charming. It doesn’t look like the tourist crowd has discovered it yet.

Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute January 21, 2017 - 5:39 pm

What a quaint little town! We’ve only been to Riga on a weekend for a photo walk, but we definitely need to get up and explore more of the country. Beautiful photos! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

Brooke of Passport Couture January 22, 2017 - 1:04 am

Climbing the tower with a candlelit lantern puts this experience into perspective. I enjoyed learning about the history of Cesis as well as it’s importance to Latvian independence. Cesis definitely has beautiful scenery and architecture to soak up. I’d love to see it in person!

aholeinmyshoe (@a_holeinmyshoe) January 22, 2017 - 1:43 am

Latvia has been on my radar for a while but I’ve never heard of Cesis. What a charming little place… and a medieval castle, how can I resist?

Ahila January 22, 2017 - 4:44 am

The view of the castle from the park and its lake looks lovely, as does the cobbled street and charming houses lining it.

Mary {The World Is A Book} January 22, 2017 - 10:15 pm

I am such a fan of European castles and charming towns and Cesis would be my ideal place to visit. I have only heard of Riga but this would make for a great day trip. What a great castle tour in candle light! Your photos are beautiful and really capture why this town and castle need to be visited.

Amila January 23, 2017 - 8:28 am

Its a gorgeous little town.The castles are wonderful.I’d love to visit such place one day!

Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) February 9, 2017 - 7:58 am

Cesis looks so charming! The architecture is great, but the whole look of the town seems to be stereotypical Europe. Would love to explore Latvia – looks gorgeous!

Jeff Sullivan February 10, 2017 - 10:01 pm

I love the architecture of Latvia. I really wasn’t aware of how beautiful Latvia is. I’m also a “Castle” junkie. I’ve been to Ireland once and have been in love with castles ever since!

Zane March 21, 2017 - 4:24 pm

Thanks for the lovely write up. I was born in Cesis and although now live elsewhere it is always nice to go back. Apart from the park, the castle etc – cakes are amazing there too!!!

Movie that was filmed is called – “PARADISE 89” and it will have its premiere in 2018
Its a children’s film. Film about ‘Baltic way’ The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on 23 August 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres (419.7 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, considered at the time to be constituent republics of the Soviet Union….


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