The bishop castle of Haapsalu was built in the 13th century. It was the main residence of the Bishop of Läänemaa. The Läänemaa bishopric was created as a state of the Holy Roman Empire on 1 October 1228.
Construction, widening and reconstruction of the stronghold went on throughout several centuries, with the architecture changing according to the development of weapons. The stronghold achieved its final dimensions under the reign of Bishop Johannes IV Kievel (1515–1527). The western side of the castle houses a 29-metre watchtower dating from the 13th century, later used as a bell tower. The walls were later raised to 15 metres. The inner trenches and blindages, which were built for cannons and as a shelter from bombing, date back to the Livonian War (1558–1582), but it was during this war that the stronghold was severely damaged. The walls of the small castle and the outer fortification were left partly destroyed.
In the 17th century, the castle was no longer used as a defensive building by the Swedes who now ruled the Swedish Estonian Province. In the course of the Great Northern War in 1710, Estonia fell under Russian rule and the walls were partially demolished at the command of the Peter I of Russia, turning the castle in effect into ruins.
The Cathedral of Haapsalu is attached to the castle. It was the official chair of the Bishop, was situated and where the Chapter of the Bishopric worked. It is the biggest single-naved church in the Baltic countries, with its 15.5-metre-high domical vaults and an area of 425 m2. The Dome church was probably built in the 1260s, following the style of the Cistercian Order. The round baptism chapel on the eastern side of the church was built in the 14th or 15th century and is the site of a famous legend. On moonlight August nights the shape of a Lady in White appears on the inside wall of the chapel as the moon shines through the chapel window. This Lady is said to have been a woman who was in love with the abbot and entered the castle against his orders, therefore having been walled in there alive as a punishment. The church has been restored and it is again in active use by the local congregation of the Estonian Lutheran Church since 1990.
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.