Alūksne is situated on the shores of Lake Alūksne and its original medieval castle (1342), now in ruins, was built on an island in this lake now known as Pilssala (Castle Island). It was destroyed in 1702 during the Great Northern War. One tower of this fortress has been restored and a recreational area has been developed in its ruins. The Temple Hill Park on the shores of the lake is so called as it was once the site of a Latgalian Castle and the remaining mound is topped by the Temple of Fame. This park is also home to the highest sightseeing tower in Latvia affording a panoramic view of the lake and the town.
Alūksne has two palaces. The Lakeshore or Old Palace was a residential estate building constructed between 1793 and 1794 in the Classic style of architecture. Since then it has had some minor reconstructions. In 1932, during the Latvia’s first period of independence, it housed a hospital. Now it is the Alūksne Art School and visits to the building must be booked in advance.
Alūksne’s second palace, the New Palace, is in the city centre. Otto Hermann von Vietinghoff, a member of a Baltic aristocratic family acquired the Manor of Alūksne in 1753. His descendants, Baron Alexander, built the palace between 1859 and 1864, in the English Gothic Revival style. It is surrounded by Manor Park which features some interesting small buildings, a lake, and fountains. The palace was owned by the Vietinghoff Family till the Agrarian Reform in 1920. In 1959, the Alūksne Museum was established and includes expositions illustrating the cultural and historical heritage of Alūksne. A second, privately run nature museum, is the Vides labirints (Environmental Labyrinth).
Medieval Valmiera was a fortified town and its inhabitants lived within the walls of its thirteenth century wooden castle. This castle was rebuilt on a regular basis until finally, it was replaced with a stone castle.
This castle proved vulnerable to cannonballs and its walls were strengthened by earth ramparts during the seventeenth century. But these could not save it and it was destroyed during the Northern War in 1702. After the war the inhabitants of the town plundered the stones from the castle for their own buildings. Very little remains of the original stone castle today. The story of Valmiera and its castle is related to Valmiera Museum. This museum occupies several buildings including a new exposition, de Woldemer, which straddles some seventeenth-century foundations.
Valmiera Museum is in the Historic Centre of the town. Behind the remains of the castle wall, visitors will find 12 buildings that tell the story of a town that was once a member of the Hanseatic League. They included the oldest wooden building in Latvia, the Old Pharmacy, and a Pizza Restaurant that occupies another old wooden building. Cēsis also boasts an Old Livonian Castle where visitors can explore by the light of a lamp.