Close this search box.

The Gothic mystery of Corvin Castle (+ Gardens of Zoe)

Once upon a time, there was a pleasant spring Saturday morning that looked so promising from the window that something fabulous had to be done about it.

Our minds started rapidly searching for a rather close, and also amazing spot for the day. Ok, ok, I admit, we kind of slightly premeditated things as we decided to head for Corvin Castle found in the vicinity of Giardini di Zoe (Gardens of Zoe), and cross off both of them in one day.

Majestic view over Corvin Castle


How to get there
The Gothic adventure
History and architecture
The legends behind Corvin Castle
The Guilds’ House
Where to eat
Zoe’s Gardens

Inner courtyard

How to get there by car/public transport

  • If you travel by car, things are simple. From Timisoara, you take highway A1 towards Sibiu and the trip takes around 2 hours to Hunedoara, the city which hosts the castle.

If you come from Sibiu, you use the same A1 highway for around 1,5 hours, but coming from the opposite direction.

  • If you travel by train you can take a train to Deva or Simeria. Fare train ticket (one way) from Timisoara to Deva (considering type of train): between 28 (5.5 euro)-59 RON (12 euro). The trip lasts around 3 h and there are trains in the morning to Deva and in the afternoon/evening back.

If you travel from Sibiu to Deva, there are plenty of trains, the trip is also around 3 h and the ticket costs between 22 (4.5 euro) – 40 RON (8 euro).

  • Minibus Deva – Hunedoara (30 minutes): take a minibus from Deva to Hunedoara, they depart every 15 minutes. Exit Deva train station and on the left side you’ll find the bus station. Fare bus ticket (one way): 9 RON.
  • Blabla car is always a good option.

Zoe’s Gardens are located in Banpotoc, a small village close to Simeria, in fact 23 km from Hunedoara. Consider Blabla car as an alternative.

Castle and nature

The Gothic adventure

Entrance fee: 45 lei adult/11 lei students (upon up-to-date stamped student card). The ticket includes the Castle, Guilds’ House and Protohistory Museum. Torture Museum not included in price.

For timetable check here.

Often underrated at the expense of other castles visited for the ghost of Bram Stoker, Corvin Castle, also called Hunyadi Castle or Huniazilor Castle, is one fortress worth visiting.

One of Romania’s seven wonders and one of the largest castles in Europe, Corvin Castle boasts medieval history intertwined with Gothic mystery, haunted spots or fairy-tale legends. Not to forget the impressive architecture that covers all of the above elements.

Rich in dark elements, the castle has often been associated with Dracula, but some historians state loud and clear that Vlad the Impaler wasn’t imprisoned at the castle, while others deny this fact.

Facebook: discover Romania

History and architecture

Both names for the castle (Corvin and Hunyadi) are rooted in history: John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara) was voivode of Transylvania in the 15th century, famous for his victories against the Ottomans, and his son, Matthias Corvinus was king of Hungary towards the end of the same century.

The castle was built in Renaissance-Gothic style on the place of an older fortification and comprises several rooms, an inner courtyard, numerous tall towers, bastions and balconies decorated with stone carvings and geometrical motifs.

Architecture in layers
The ages of stone

Built at the orders of John Hunyadi, the castle was designed initially as a fortress and prison. Some of the towers were built for defensive purposes, while others served as prisons. Here, prisoners were held captive and often tortured with brutality. To name a few cruel tortures, the castle hosted a bear pit where prisoners were thrown in alive until wild animals mauled them to death, or misbehaviour was punished with a nail hammered in the victim’s head.

“Soft” death

After the death of John Hunyadi, works at the castle stopped, but during Mattia Corvin’s reign, new commissions were undertaken to erect the wing bearing the king’s name. A period of stagnation followed, but in the 17th century, when Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania took over the castle, it underwent some transformations and additions for military and aesthetic purposes.

In 1854, there was a devastating fire, most probably started from a lightning, so, towards the end of the 19th century, the Corvin Castle underwent restoration works and received its current roofs.

The Knights’ Hall is typically Gothic and divided by a row of marble columns. You will easily realize this was the festive dining room of the Great Palace.

Knights’ Hall

Right above, you step in the Diet Hall/Council Hall, the impressive place where history got written, as the Transylvanian Diet members gathered, debated and took decisions where today we set our feet. The access to the room is made by the circular stairway. These three places changed the destination of the fortress into a fortified residence, quite unique for 15th century Transylvania.

Although not fully exploited by management, Corvin Castle has some other interesting rooms to share with the curious visitor: the huge and cold kitchen, the princesses’ room transformed from military functionality into a boudoir, or Mattia Corvin’s bedroom.

The castle showcases two torture chambers situated in the exact place where abuse and persecution were common and display means for mutilating the prisoners.

Mattia Corvin’s bedroom (reinterpreted)

The legends behind Corvin Castle

The main legend of the castle fluctuates around a raven with a ring in its beak. The raven is corvus in Latin, hence the family name, and is seen as a symbol of wisdom and longevity.

The raven with a golden ring in its beak stands for the castle’s coat of arms. The legend says that John Hunyadi was the illegitimate son of King Sigismund and Elisabeta, an amazingly beautiful woman from the county. To protect the young lady from dishonour, the king marries Elisabeta to a knight from his army, but also gives her a golden ring as a token of the court that should help the young boy prove his origins.

One day, when the family halted for lunch in the open and did not pay attention, a raven flew above them, and tempted by the shine of the ring, stole the important jewel. But John Hunyadi, a mere child back then, took the arrow and shot the raven to get the ring back.

The raven with a ring in the beak – the coat of arms of Corvin Castle

The legend of the well says that John Hunyadi offered the chance to three Turkish prisoners to save themselves if they dug a well in the yard of the castle. Dreaming about freedom, the three men dug for many years in harsh conditions until they found water. In the meantime, John Hunyadi had died, and his wife decided to kill the prisoners. As their last wish, the Turks asked to write one inscription on a piece of stone in the well that says: You may have water, but you have no soul.

The well and its legend

The Guilds’ House

Upon the purchase of tickets, we were told that the Guilds’ House is also included in the ticket. With little expectation, we headed for the building that sheltered the guilds, and I must say, it was a nice surprise.

The shoemaker

The exhibition sheds light on the guilds that were at the core of some basic needs of people: the shoemakers, the tanners, the furriers, or the weavers.

There, if you have patience to read the info, you’ll discover some interesting facts, such as, becoming a member of a guild and learning a job came along with what we call today discrimination. The candidate had to be male, born of a legitimate marriage and a German ethnic. After the 17th century, things got more relaxed. Still, the road from apprentice to becoming a master implied years of practice and hard work, not to mention the sacrifices involved.

The tanner

If I whetted your appetite, you should visit the exhibition. I can assure you that you won’t regret!

Where to eat

We tested 2 locations: Rustic and Werk Restaurant. From our point of view, Werk is superior and has a better vibe than Rustic, not to mention that it is almost linked to the castle.

Zoe’s Gardens (I Giardini di Zoe)

Entrance fee: 10 lei
You should check here for timetables that change according to the seasons.

Giardini di Zoe/facebook

But who is Zoe? Is she some kind of secret muse who inspired the artist?

We could put it this way, too.

Zoe is the granddaughter of Giovanni Salvatelli, the Italian who bought a piece of land in this part of Romania after falling in love with the place. Then, step by step, he started playing with the land as kids model clay, and after many years of work and self-teaching in terms of botanics, Salvatelli’s work literally blossomed. This garden is dedicated to Zoe, but now as the Italian has a grandson as well, he dedicates a piece of the garden to the newest family member also.

Marvellous alley
Spring in full bloom

The garden is an oasis of peace and relaxation. Everything was imagined by the mind of the owner, for whom this garden has become a reason to live. Hundreds of hours of studies are at the basis of this botanic marvel, where Salvatelli brought part of Italy and adapted it to the species that the Romanian climate can accustom.

The ground is wavy, and it adds to the beauty of the place. If you visit it in spring, you can admire the blossomed trees, while in summer you will enjoy the colourful palette of roses. The place serves lemonade for the thirsty.

Recommended by TTF:

  • Don’t miss Corvin Castle, one of the largest castles in Europe, filled with mystery and history;
  • Experience the Gothic adventure and dark haunted spots;
  • Visit the torture rooms to understand history, evolution and society; visit the guilds’ museum to understand trade;
  • Zoe’s Gardens are a true place for relaxation.

5 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.