Cēsis ( pronunciation (help·info)), (Livonian: Venden, Estonian: Võnnu, German: Wenden, Polish: Kieś) is a town in Latvia located in the northern part of the Central Vidzeme Upland. Cēsis is on the Gauja River valley, and is built on a series of ridges above the river overlooking the woods below. Cēsis was one of the candidate cites for the title of European Capital of culture 2014, (however Riga was the Latvian city to win the 2014 title).
The planning of the town of Cēsis was done in the second half of the 13th century. The market place with a church was in the centre of the town. The centre of housing was the stone castle of the Livonian Order with its three fortified towers. The town was also encircled by a dolomite stone wall with eight towers and five gates. Buildings from the medieval ages include St. John’s Church (built 1281–1284), the ruins of the Order’s castle, Cēsis Castle and fortification walls, fragments of which can still be seen at Vaļņu and Palasta Streets. In addition, ancient road networks and building plots have survived from medieval times, although many of the buildings themselves have been ruined (the last destroyed in 1748). 18th century buildings can be seen at 16 and 25 Rīgas Street, while houses built in the first part of the 19th century are at 15 and 47 Rīgas Street, 6 Gaujas Street, and other urban roads.
In the second half of the 19th century, the construction of the Rīga-Pskov highway (1868) and the Rīga-Valka railway line (1889) accelerated the development of the town. Raunas Street, leading from the railway station to the Old Town, was developed as a wide, presentable street with the Latvian Society House at 10 Raunas Street (architect A. Malvess), the Building of the Regional Court at 14 Raunas Street (architect P. Mengelis), and other important buildings.
The Battle of Cēsis in June 1919 when Estonian and Latvian forces defeated the Germans was one of the decisive battles in the Latvian War of Independence.
Cēsis was also developed as a health resort. Upmarket summer houses and health centres were built in the vicinity of the Gauja. ‘Cīrulīši’ near the Svētavots (Holy Spring) Cave is the most remarkable of them, with a spring believed to possess healing powers.