Nidau Castle is the landmark of the city, today housing cantonal administration and the museum. The museum has an interesting exhibit on the Jura water correction.
The first wooden castle on the site was built in 1140, followed by a second one in 1180. The presence of the Nidau castle is first evidenced by a deed dated 30 August 1196, issued by Count Ulrich III of Neuchâtel. The first stone castle was built in the early 13th century. It has a square building of about 11.2 m on each side with walls. The main tower was about 40m tall. The three round towers and the ring wall were probably built in the 13th century. It was surrounded by a moat and by the Zihl river. It was built by either Count Ulrich III or his son, Rudolf I of Nidau. The town of Nidau was founded south of the castle by 1338.
The last count of Nidau, Rudolf IV died in 1375 in a battle in the Gugler War. The next owner of the castle was the Prince-Bishop of Basel, Johann von Venningen. However, he was defeated in 1376 and the Counts of Kyburg acquired the castle. In 1379, Count Rudolf von Kyburg sold the castle and town to the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs then gave the castle as a fief to Enguerrand de Coucy, the former commander of the Guglers, in 1387. During the Sempach War, in May 1388, Swiss Confederation forces from Bern and Solothurn attacked and besieged the town and castle for seven weeks before taking Nidau. The castle was heavily damaged and the Swiss forces suffered heavy losses in the battle. Following the war, the town and castle were awarded to Bern in the peace settlement.
For the next four centuries it was the seat of the Nidau bailiwick. A new gatehouse was built in 1546. Several of the towers were rebuilt in 1587. During the 17th century a residential wing was added to the old main tower. Other ancillary buildings, stables, servants' apartments and a fountain were also added.
After the 1798 French invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic the old bailiwick was Nidau was dissolved. In 1803, the Act of Mediation created the district of Nidau and the castle became the seat of the Oberamtmann of the district. The moat was filled in and portions of the ring wall were demolished. With the Jura water correction projects of 1868, the water level in the river and Lake Biel dropped and the castle was no longer surrounded by water. During the 20th century the castle has been renovated and repaired several times.References:
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.