Top Historic Sights in Viljandi, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Viljandi

Viljandi Castle

Viljandi castle was one of the strongest castles in Livonia. The construction was started 1224 under Teutonic Order in place of a former hillfort. The crusaders of Sword Brethren conquered the hill fort at the place of later main castle in 1223. A year later, construction of stone fortifications started. Viljandi was chosen as the high seat of the order. The convent house, a typical form of castle of Teutonic Knights, wa ...
Founded: 1224 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

St. John's Church

The church of St. John (Jaani) was originally part of the Fransiscan abbey built in 1466-1472. The abbey was destroyed in 1560 and the church was restored in the beginning of the 17th century. Still functioning after the Second World War, it was closed in 1950 and turned into a warehouse. It was consecrated again in 1992 and is now often used as a concert venue.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Viljandi Museum

The museum of Viljandi exhibits the history of Viljandimaa from prehistoric times to Soviet era. The museum was established in 1878 and it is located to the oldest stone building in the city, built by J. J. Schoeler in 1780.
Founded: 1878 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

St. Paul's Church

The Lutheran red-brick church of St. Paul was built between 1863-1866. It is designed by Franz Block and Matthias von Holst. The Viljandi estate owner baron Ungern-Stenberg gave the community a part of his estate as building ground for the church.
Founded: 1863-1866 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Ă•isu Manor

The Classicist main building of the Õisu Manor was built at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The wide and high parade staircase with sculptures of white marble makes the mansion impressive; one of the sculptures is a Protege of Home, the other one symbolizes Power. Many outbuildings belong to the Manor Ensemble, of which one of the most interesting one is the so-called "wry stable". There is an English-styl ...
Founded: 1760-1767 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Viljandi Old Cemetery

Viljandi old cemetery was founded in the 18th century. There are graves of soldiers from different countries: Russians (World War I), Estonians (war of Independence) and Germans (World War II).
Founded: 18th century | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Cesis Castle

German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.

In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).

In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.

Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.