The Old Fortress of Bucharest, one of the former residences of Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian ruler who sparked the Dracula legends, can now be seen right in the center of the most important city of Romania.
Bonus photo below as a fun fact: Notice a very interesting shadow on the right of the photo. I noticed it only when I got home. I don’t remember seeing it on the spot. Weird…
A fortress seen by many, visited only by a few
Even though there isn’t much left of this construction dating back to 14th century, visiting it is actually an interesting experience, not necessarily due to its greatness or beauty, but to its historical value and to that special creepy feeling you get when you enter the ruins of the fortress of “Dracula”.
Also, another big plus of this fortress is that not even people living in Bucharest know that they can visit it, even though they pass by its gates every day. There are high chances that, if you chose to enter here, you would be totally alone. As I and a friend were there at 1 PM, on a Tuesday. There aren’t any signs inviting tourists in so, if you want to visit, you will have to take my word for it and enter the gate, no matter how weird it feels. Look closely for the ticket office. It is somewhere on the right.
History of the fortress
The area where these ruins are to be found is in fact the oldest area of the city. Archeologists believe that this area was inhabited long before the 14th century. For four centuries, this building was modified many times depending on which ruler inhabited it. After 400 years, in the 18th century, the building was left to ruins and the rulers of Wallachia moved to the New Court in Dealul Spirii. A museum was founded here in 1972 when the archaeological diggings revealed the remains of the fortress. All that is left today are pieces of wall and a few arcades. You can find out more historical facts by reading the poster at the entrance.
The medieval vibe of the fortress
As the fortress was abandoned in the the mid 1700’s and had to stand four fires and a powerful earthquake very little of it can be seen today. As historians say, many parts of the old court were used by locals for their houses. Now, only the core can be seen next to a Vlad the Impaler bust. And even though there is nothing left inside reminding of an era when all was decorated in marble and amazed with luxury for kings of that time, there is enough to feel the medieval vibe.
The fortress as I saw it
As we went down the wooden steps and a guy opened the iron gates for me and my friend I felt exactly like I was going into a cave. The light was dim and it was cold with a mouldy smell. As we were alone down there we could clearly hear water drops dripping from the ceiling. Fortunately we had an audio guide in English and Romanian so there was also a voice in a telephone like device which filled the emptiness inside the fortress walls. As we strolled around the fortress, we noticed we were allowed to touch anything, climb any wall, yell anything. Nobody would be watching us. The guy at the door told us we could spend the entire day in this fortress if we wanted.
After we visited the underground, we entered an exterior yard where we saw some tombstones and messages carved on stone. Also, we saw and took pictures of the famous bust of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula. In the end of our visit, we went up the building, on a roof platform. We were amazed to see an open space, with places to sit on and enjoy your time there, right on the top of a medieval fortress.
When, where, how much
This fortress is actually right in the center of Bucharest, in the most populated and touristic part of the city. That fact makes its emptiness really odd. To get to it you have to reach what is called Unirea or Unirii center (Union Square if you must translate). It is near the subway with the same name. The actual address is French Street no 21. The visiting hours are every day of the week from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM.
A ticket for adults costs 3 lei – meaning about 0.75 eurocents. An audio guide is 8 lei – the first one purchased and 6 lei the second. This means about 1.75 euros and 1.25 euros. Also, if you want to take pictures, there is a 15 lei fee – about 3.25 euros. Don’t forget to have local money on you and not euros.
The fortress is located in the old town meaning that, after you visit it, you can enjoy a good coffee in a nearby bar or club.