Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Switzerland

Old City of Berne

The Old City of Berne, federal city of Switzerland and capital of the canton of Berne, is located on the Swiss plateau between the Jura and the Alps. Founded in the 12th century according to an innovative foundation plan, and located on a hill surrounded by the River Aar, Berne has experienced an expansion in several stages since its foundation. This development remains visible in its urban structure, mainly tributary to ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Murten

Thanks to its beautiful location on a slight hill above Lake Murten, the little medieval town of Murten (Morat in French) has become a popular tourist destination. In the evening, you really must watch the sunset over the lake, with magnificent views of Mont Vully and the Jura.  In 1013 the area was fortified by King Rudolph III of Burgundy. The fortifications were attacked and occupied by Odo II of Blois-Champagne i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Murten, Switzerland

Saint-Ursanne

Saint-Ursanne is an old town which has preserved much of its medieval character. The town contains many historical buildings, including a Romanesque abbey church, a collegiate church, a cloister, many medieval houses, a hermitage and an 18th-century bridge. The river Doubs makes a loop near Saint-Ursanne before flowing into France. Since 2009 Saint-Ursanne has been a part of the new municipality Clos du Doubs. ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Clos du Doubs, Switzerland

Le Locle

Le Locle is known as a center of Swiss watchmaking, even cited as the birthplace of the industry, with roots dating back to the 1600s. The municipality has been home to manufactures such as Mido, Zodiac, Tissot, Ulysse Nardin, Zenith, Montblanc, Certina as well as Universal Genève, before the latter company relocated to Geneva. The town"s history in watchmaking is documented at one of the world"s pre ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Le Locle, Switzerland

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.