Medieval castles in Latvia

Riga Castle

Riga Castle (Rīgas pils) is a castle on the banks of River Daugava. The castle was founded in 1330. This structure was thoroughly rebuilt between 1497 and 1515. Upon the castle's seizure by the Swedes, they constructed spacious annexes in 1641. The fortress was continually augmented and reconstructed between the 17th and 19th centuries. Sometime in the 1930s, some renovation work was done by architect Eižens Laube. ...
Founded: 1497-1515 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Sigulda Castle Ruins

The Order of the Brothers of the Sword began building Sigulda castle in 1207. Initially, it was a castellum-type fort; following the defeat of the Brothers of the Sword in 1236, the Livonian Order modified it. During the Great Northern War, the castle was destroyed and never restored again. The south-west section of the convent building with Gothic window lintels and the main gate tower have survived to the present day.
Founded: 1207 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

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 ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Cēsis, Latvia

Turaida Castle

Turaida Castle is a recently reconstructed medieval castle in Turaida. The castle was originally constructed in the Brick Gothic style in 1214 under Albert, archbishop of Riga, on the site of the destroyed wooden castle of the Livonian leader Caupo of Turaida. Construction and development of the fortifications continued to the 17th century, when the castle started to lose its strategic importance. It was badly damaged by ...
Founded: 1214 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Krimulda Castle Ruins

The Krimulda Castle dates from the 14th century and was destroyed in a war in 1601. During the 13th century the left bank of the Gauja river was governed by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword, (later known as the Order of Livonia), while the territories on the right bank were under the domain of the Archbishop of Riga. Krimulda castle belonged to the Riga High Council which was a group of twelve high priests who advis ...
Founded: ca. 1255 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Edole Castle

Ēdole Castle was built for the bishop of Piltene between 1264 and 1267. It was rebuilt in the 16th century and from 1561 until 1920 it was the property of the Baltic-German Baron von Behr and his descendents. During the 18th century the castle was expanded and from 1835 to 1841 it underwent a major reconstruction work to become one of the first samples of Neo-Gothic architecture in Kurzeme. The building was partly b ...
Founded: 1264-1267 | Location: Edole, Latvia

Bauska Castle

Bauska Castle is a complex consisting of the ruins of an earlier castle and a later palace. The impressive castle stands on the narrow peninsula at the confluence of the rivers Mūsa and Mēmele where they form the Lielupe river. In ancient times, the hill was the site of an ancient Semigallian fortress. The first stone buildings were established between 1443 and 1456 by the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights and con ...
Founded: 1443-1456 | Location: Bauska, Latvia

Ventspils Castle

Ventspils Castle is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Livonian Order castles remaining, in that it has retained its original layout since the 13th century. Through its 700 year history, it has been used as a fortress, residence, garrison, school, military base, and prison. In 1995, the castle was restored to its 19th-century appearance, and was converted into a museum. Ventspils castle was built in the second hal ...
Founded: 1290s | Location: Ventspils, Latvia

Ludza Castle Ruins

The first mention of the Ludza Castle dates from 1433 when the Livonian Order built a large and strong fortress to replace an earlier wooden fortress built by the ancient Latgalians. The Ludza stone castle had three stories, six towers, three gates and two foreparts. It was built as an outpost for the Livonian order, mainly to strengthen the eastern border of Livonia and guard trade routes from Russia. In 1481 the Russia ...
Founded: 1433 | Location: Ludza, Latvia

Jaunpils Castle

Jaunpils Castle was erected in 1301 by the Master of the German branch of the Livonian Order, Gottfried von Roga. The tower was added in the 15th century. The castle was heavily damaged in war by Swedes in 1625. Later a third floor was added and the old fortress became a manor with all conveniences in the end of the 17th century. The building was partly reconstructed in 18th century. The castle was burned down during the ...
Founded: 1301 | Location: Jaunpils, Latvia

Koknese Castle Ruins

Before the arrival of the Teutonic Knights, Koknese was the site of a wooden hill fort inhabited by the Balts. In 1209 Bishop Albert of Riga ordered the construction of a stone castle at the site, naming it Kokenhusen. For the first 50 years of its existence, Koknese was solely used as a defensive fort, but by 1277, Koknese had enough population to receive city rights. Koknese also became a member of the Hanseatic League ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Koknese, Latvia

Lielstraupe Castle

Lielstraupe Castle was built at the end of the 13th century by Fabian von Rosen, vassal of the Riga Archbishop. The village of Straupe began to develop around the castle in the 14th century. A large tower was added around 1600. Severely damaged by fire in 1905, the castle was restored between 1906 and 1909 by architect Vilhelms Bokslafs. Since 1963 it has housed a drug addiction rehabilitation hospital.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Straupe, Latvia

Slokenbeka Castle

Šlokenbeka Castle is a fortified manor and the only existing example of a fortified manor centre in Latvia. The construction was started by the Livonian Order before 1544. It was built in a trapeze-type yard, which was enclosed with stone walls and portholes. In 1772 the attic roofs were added to the building. In the 17th century towers with portals and weathervanes were erected, but Šlokenbeka lost its def ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Milzkalne, Latvia

Kandava Castle Ruins

Kandava settlement was first mentioned in 1230 in a peace treaty between the residents of Riga and the residents of the Abava valley in Courland. A military castle was built around 1257, but it was gradually dismantled over the years and now only its foundations can be seen in a town park. The oldest remaining structure is a guard tower built in 1334 and later used for gunpowder storage.
Founded: c. 1257 | Location: Kandava, Latvia

Dundaga Castle

Dundaga Castle is a medieval castle by the Archbishopric of Riga, who gained control over the lands of Dundaga in 1237. Dundaga Castle was constructed next to a Curonian settlement (Dundagas Kalnadarzs hillfort). The exact time of construction is not known, though it is first mentioned in written sources in 1318. It is assumed that the castle was constructed in the late 13th century, and several times captured by Livonian ...
Founded: Late 13th century | Location: Dundaga, Latvia

Tukums Castle Tower

The castle tower is a fragment of the oldest building in Tukums. It is believed that the construction of the castle in Tukums was commenced in 1277 by the Livonian Order. The castle was surrounded by a 7.5 m tall and 1.6 m wide stone wall. The castle defence was ensured by an artificial, deep moat and its position on the high bank or the River Slocene. Only a small stone wall fragment has been preserved from the castle, b ...
Founded: 1277 | Location: Tukums, Latvia

Dobele Castle Ruins

The Livonian Order's stone castle is the oldest building in Dobele, and a national architectural monument. It was built on the site of an ancient Semigallian timber fortress from 1335 to 1339. A church was built and a park was laid out later. This land hosted a settlement of Dobele's most ancient inhabitants – the Semigallians as early as 1000 years B.C. Surrounded by the ancient town, there stood a timber fortress ...
Founded: 1335-1339 | Location: Dobele, Latvia

Krustpils Castle

Krustpils Castle (Kreutzburg) is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Latvia. The first written reference of the Krustpils dates from 1237, when the Archbishop of Riga built a castle named Kreutz. In 1359, the Livonian order took seven castles belonging to the Riga Archbishopric, being Krustpils among them. During the Livonian war in 1559 the castle was devastated. When the Livonian state was dissolved, Krustpil ...
Founded: 1255-1297 | Location: Jēkabpils, Latvia

Lielvarde Castle

Lielvārde Castle was built by Riga Archbishop at the steep bank of Daugava River, overseeing this important medieval waterway. It was first mentioned in 1248 and destroyed by Russian troops in 1579. Conserved ruins up to the level of second floor.
Founded: ca. 1248 | Location: Lielvārde, Latvia

Nurmuiza Castle

Nurmuiža Castle walls date from the 14th century castle built by the Livonian Order. The castle was erected in the 16th-17th centuries, less as a fortification, more as an economic centre. At the same time a passable tower was built, too, in the 19th century decorated in the Empire style. In the centre of the castle there is a small yard. The windows of the main facade have ornamental sgraffito framings in mannerism. In ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lauciene, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.