Do you see a pattern here? After Peles Castle in Sinaia and Cantacuzino Castle in Busteni, Bran Castle in Transylvania seemed like the obvious next subject for this castles of Romania series. So, here it is, all about the legendary Count Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania.
Where is Bran Castle?
Bran Castle stands at the old border between Wallachia and Transylvania. It is less than 30km away from Brasov on the road that leads to Targoviste through the mountains.
The castle stands on a high rock in the mountain pass. It is a perfect position to see far away in all directions and detect potential invaders early on.
You can easily drive from Brasov on a day trip, or combine with the castles on Prahova Valley on an itinerary from Bucharest.
Bran Castle’s History
The original wooden fortifications in Bran were destroyed during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Later on, the new stone castle became a customs post besides its role to protect the Transylvanian province from an Ottoman invasion. During the centuries, Bran Castle had many rulers, not only from Transylvania but also Hungarians and even from Wallachia for a short period.
In 1920, Queen Mary of Romania received the castle as a token of gratitude from the City of Brasov. This happened after the Romanian Grand Union when boundaries between the provinces of Wallachia and Transylvania were no longer necessary. The Queen fell in love with the castle and transformed it to accommodate a royal summer residence. She left the castle to her daughter, Princess Ileana. During WWII, the castle served as a hospital for the wounded, ran by the princess.
After the communists seized all royal property, the castle became a museum for 60 years before the family could regain ownership in 2006. Since 2009, the castle now owned by Dominic von Habsburg, the son of Princess Ileana is a museum refurbished with items from the royal family’s collections.
The Legend of Dracula
The truth is, there is no real connection between Vlad III who inspired Bram Stoker to write about Count Dracula and Bran Castle. Vlad III a.k.a. the Impaler, ruled over Wallachia in the 15th century. He was constantly at war with Hungarians as well as with the Ottoman empire and he gained a bloody reputation fighting against them. His ‘signature’ became impaling his enemies on long spikes and leaving them to an awful death. He then left the impaled bodies on the fields to discourage further attacks.
The only way Vlad the Impaler could have entered Bran Castle was as a prisoner when he was captured by the Hungarians. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support that.
When Bram Stoker did his research for the novel, he learned about Vlad’s brutal treatments of his enemies. He became the main source of inspiration for his main character, Count Dracula. However, the connection to Bran Castle isn’t verifiable. Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania but he might have come across a description of Bran Castle.
Bran is the only castle in Transylvania that fits the description in Dracula’s story, though he might have found visual inspiration closer to home.
“The castle is on the very edge of a terrific precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! “
A Visit to Bran Castle
You can visit the castle every day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM in the summer months, and until 4:00 PM from October to March. Also, on Mondays, it opens late, at 12:00 PM. It can get pretty crowded during the weekends so try to visit on a weekday if possible.
Tickets are available online here. An adult ticket costs 45 lei which is roughly 10€. You can also choose to go through the time tunnel. That’s an elevator built in an old well of the castle, that will take you from the medieval period of the castle to the park on the ground level. On your 31.5 meters long journey through the stone shaft, you will enjoy a (scary) multimedia show.
One other thing, if you’re not driving, getting to Bran Castle can be difficult because you need to get to Brasov by train and then find a bus or taxi to get to Bran. Another option is to go on an organized tour, there are several day trip options from Bucharest, including tours where you can see both Peles Castle and Bran.
Accommodation and Food in Bran
If you plan to stay for at least one night in Bran, Gentiana is my favorite place to stay. It’s a relaxing place with a pool, a tennis court and some great views of the surrounding area.
Besides visiting Bran Castle, you can use Bran as a base to explore Rasnov Citadel, and the cave close by, or go hiking in the area. One of the places worth seeing in the area is Zarnestilor Gorge (Cheile Zarnestilor), about 20 km from Bran Castle.
For lunch, you can try the restaurant in the park just below the castle, Casa de ceai. However, my favorite place to eat is Trattoria al Gallo across the street from the castle. An Italian family owns this restaurant and I do recommend the pasta here.
One more thing, before leaving take a Kürtőskalács at the fair in front of the castle. It’s a Transylvanian cake you will absolutely love, so have one for the road or for coffee the next morning.
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Staying closer to home this year made me realize there are many places in Romania I could write about. So, subscribe and stay close to find out about more beautiful places in this underrated part of Europe.
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