Bran Castle is the most visited tourist attractions in Romania. People from all over the world come here hoping to meet Dracula.
Although Poenari Castle would be a much more notable place to see if you are a Dracula fan, the Bran Castle has its own very interesting story. Here, Vlad the Impaler (the ruler who sparked the Dracula legends) slaughtered hundreds of Saxons from Transylvania (people who lived there at that time). However, three years later after the mayhem, in the fall of 1462, the army of the Hungarian king Matei Corvin captured Vlad the Impaler. It appears that Vlad was taken to Bran Castle and locked up here for two months.
Bran Castle History
The actual construction of this stronghold began in 1377 on an old fortified settlement, in times when the Transylvania region (center of Romania) was part of the Hungarian Empire. The first ones who had seen the potential of this area were the Teutonic Knights who started here a smaller construction around the year 1220.
For hundreds of years, this castle was used for battles and territorial conflicts in a military purpose. Only in 1920, Queen Marie, one of the most beloved members of the royal family of Romania, started some very important restoration works which transformed Bran Castle into a true castle rather than a military stronghold as it had been until then. So, the Castle became a favorite residence of Queen Marie, who restored and arranged it to be used as a residence of the royal family. For more history facts, enter the official website of Bran Castle.
Bran Castle, home for a Queen’s heart – for a while
The area around the Castle was turned into an English Park with two ponds and a Tea House. An elevator was installed into the well shaft to provide easy access between the castle and the park for the Queen, as she was suffering from arthritis. Other buildings were erected: a guesthouse, a wooden church, staff housing, stables and garage. After the death of queen Marie, her heart was placed in a silver box in the Bran Castle. The silver box was placed into a precious ornate box, which were then wrapped in the flags of Romania and of her native England and then placed in a marble sarcophagus. Nowadays, the heart is no longer in Bran Castle. You can see the boxes at Peles Castle and her heart lies at the National Museum of History in Bucharest, but it is not on display.
Even though the legend of count Dracula (as Vlad the Impaler) has only a few links to the castle, you would be amazed to see how many symbols of vampires you would see in the area. Right at the entrance gate there is a castle of horror for kids, also many many merchants that would sell almost anything – from Dracula T-shirts, to local produced cheese, to plastics vampire fangs, swords or terrifying masks. Also, all around the castle area you can eat at the local restaurants. The food is great and also fresh, as there are so many tourists there. And also not expensive. But don’t forget to change your money into lei.
Legends of spirits haunting Bran Castle and the villages in the area
Nevertheless, even though some may find it disappointing not to meet Dracula here, there are however many legends among locals that tell terrifying stories of spirits. In the villages near Bran, there is a belief that evil spirits called ghosts or “strigoi” are walking around. Until half a century ago, it was believed that there existed certain living people – “strigoi” – who were leading a normal life during the day but at night, during their sleep, their souls left their bodies and haunted the village tormenting other people in their sleep. These evil spirits would haunt their prey from midnight until the first cockcrow, when their power to harm people faded.
When, where, how much
Bran is not far away from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. It is at about 187 kilometers – a two hour a half drive. Also, if you want to spend more time in this beautiful region, you can first get to the extraordinary city of Brasov, at 184 kilometers from Bucharest, and then travel another 30 kilometers to Bran Castle. If you choose to travel by train you should take one from Bucharest to Brasov city and then, from here, take a bus to Bran Castle.
There are many many places where you can find accommodation in the area. Either in Bran or Brasov, there are many places to stay.
The visiting hours are different in winter from summer. So, in low season – 1 October to 30th of April – you can visit the castle, on Monday, from 12 PM to 4 PM and the rest of the week from 9AM to 4 PM. In summer, (1st May to 30th of September) the visiting hours are on Monday from 12PM to 6PM and on the rest of the week from 9 AM to 6PM.
As for the ticket prices, the fees are like this: Adults: 25Lei (6€), Seniors (65+): 15Lei (3.5€), Students: 10Lei (2.4€), Pupils: 5Lei (1.2€), Filming: 20Lei (4.8€). Amateur photography is free.