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Bran “Dracula” Castle, Transylvania, between legend and history

 Situated in the mythical land of Transylvania, Bran Castle features a rather spooky look, situated on a somewhat irregular rock. It watches us with an air of superiority from above, its grey colour witnessing the passing of many centuries.

The most visited attraction in Romania, Bran Castle is mostly associated with Dracula, the legendary vampire presumed to be prince by day and vampire by night. Even if the castle is not about, it is however well worth a visit to find out about the royals who lived in the castle (to give you a spoiler: there is a section in the castle all about mythical creatures).

Bran Castle

Contents:

How to get there
Tickets
Bran castle – past and present
The truth about Bran and Dracula
What to expect in the Castle
Where to go around Bran

How to get there:

The Castle is located in the small town of Bran, Transylvania, in the heart of the country.

  • By car: This is the easiest and comfiest way to reach Bran and gives you the freedom to visit the area.

From Bucharest: DN1/E60, 160 km, around 2.5 hours

From Brasov: DN 73/E 574, 30 km, around 35 minutes

  • By bus: Bus terminal (Autogara) No. 2 Brasov provides regular rides between Brasov and Bran – Moeciu and return trips, with departures every 30min, and every hour during weekends. It takes around 45 minutes and costs 7 lei (1.5 euro)
  • By train: trains from Bucharest will only take you to Brasov (around 50 lei/10 euro). After, you are on your own: you could take a taxi or hitchhike.
  • By taxi: Taking a taxi from Brasov is feasible. Fare should cost around 120-140 lei (25 euro) but make sure to discuss tariff prior to departure.
Green landscape from the castle

Tickets

An average ticket for adult costs 45 lei (9 euro), for students 25 (5 euro), and children 10 lei (2 euro). We also added the Time Tunnel to the experience at the price of 20 lei (4 euro).

For more info on tickets and working hours, please consult Bran Castle site.

Keep in mind that the place is the most visited Romanian site, so expect queues in summer and during the weekend. Booking online is a good option.

Inner court

Bran castle – past and present

Although its history goes back to the 13th century, the castle’s story begins in 1377 when King Louis I of Anjou granted the people of Brasov the privilege of building a castle. This served both economic and strategic reasons and was built on the expense of Brasov inhabitants to protect the customs. The area was chosen also for the geographical position watching over Bran gorges.

The castle had several owners throughout time: it belonged to Hungarian kings and Transylvanian princes, later it entered the possession of Brasov, and after WW1, the city hall donated the castle to Queen Marie of Romania (who, together with her husband, King Ferdinand, made Transylvania part of greater Romania). During this time, the queen hired the royal architect, who also dealt with Peles Castle, to upgrade Bran: the castle got two more floors, telephone, lift, and electricity.

King Ferdinand’s bedroom
Old door

When the queen died, Bran castle was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana. When communists came to power, they made it common good, and only in 2006, after long legal procedures with the Romanian state, the castle returned to the heirs of Princess Ileana.

The truth about Bran and Dracula

Dracula, the fictional character of Bram Stoker, is a Transylvanian count, a vampire in fact, busy to find immortality, that is why he feeds himself with young blood.

What we know is that Bram Stoker, the father of Dracula novel, never visited Romania. He described Dracula’s castle based on an image. Strikingly, the description fits Bran castle perfectly. Moreover, placed on top of a hill and often surrounded by fog, the castle has a creepy aura that brings it even closer to a mystical character.

Vaccination campaign

The name of Dracula is most probably derived from Vlad Tepes, ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century. Although “Dracula” derives from dracul (= the devil, dragon), the appellative wasn’t meant to frighten; it was a mere association with the order of the Dragon that Tepes and his father were part of. Feared character, Vlad Tepes is also known as “the Impaler” for his habit of punishing the outlaws in his cruel and personal manner. That is why he is perceived by some historians as a merciless blood-thirsty ruler. This is the kernel of truth the Dracula story relies on.

The idea of this fictitious character was given by folk tales that haunted people for centuries. It was believed that some evil spirits (called strigoi) had a double life: normal life during daytime, but in their sleep, their souls leave the bodies and torment the people from the village. At daybreak, the power and charms leave the body of these spirits, becoming humans again.

Vlad Tepes costume worn in a historical film

The castle hosts Halloween events, and more recently a vaccination campaign. For more events, check the website.

What to expect in the Castle

If your goal is to find Dracula, you are in the wrong place. The castle traces back mostly royal history and displays royal apartments.

In the royal side of the castle you will see the apartments of Queen Marie of Romania and her husband, Ferdinand, Princess Ileana’s rooms, the royal dining room, or the Saxon Chamber that shows the queen’s appreciation for local tradition, carefully integrated in the royal design.

Queen Marie’s bedroom
The Saxon Chamber

On the fourth floor some exhibits that account of the dreaded Romanian folk-mythical creatures are waiting for you. Here you can find out about supernatural entities who punish people still working during Easter Lent, ghosts, or the living dead. All these creatures reinforce the gothic aura of the castle deeply rooted by the one and only “the cruellest reigning prince” of Wallachia, known today as Dracula.

After visiting the Castle, we continued our visit with the Time Tunnel, an interactive multimedia experience accessible through a one-way elevator. Nice!

The Iele, some feminine mythical creatures
Spooky images and scary sounds in the Castle
A piece of the Time Tunnel

Where to go around Bran

If you have the possibility, spending more days in the area will strengthen your belief about the magical scenery. If you’d like to settle in a town, Brasov, Sibiu or Sighisoara are good choices, and you can start your trips from there.

Should you prefer nature, Piatra Craiului mountains offer the most spectacular views over the Romanian Carpathians, along with Bucegi mountains, also in the vicinity. In Rasnov, you can visit the medieval fortress (under reconstruction summer 2021) or the Bats’ Cave.  Also, in Moieciu area you will find passes (Rucar-Bran), gorges (Gradistei gorges, Dambovicioarei gorges), caves and waterfalls. Mountain villages, such as Moieciu de Sus/Jos, Simon, Sirnea-Ciocanu, Fundata and Fundatica have guesthouses where you will be delighted by the delicious homemade dishes. If sleeping under the stars is your thing, Ursa Mica glamping from Ciocanu is all you need.

The view from Gradistei gorges

Rather close, Sinaia is a pretty mountain town whose highlight is Peles Castle, a true gem. Poiana Brasov and Predeal are mountain resorts, the former being the trendiest Romanian ski resort.

 

Recommended by TTF:

  • Old medieval castle that showcases royal apartments;
  • You can get a glimpse of strange mythical creatures;
  • Surrounded by a very beautiful scenery.

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