Visit Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania, Romania
A menacing blood-sucking Count with razor-sharp teeth. Who hasn't heard of Dracula, the character that has long been the subject of folklore and multiple nightmares? The character initially originated from ‘Dracula’, a gothic horror novel penned by Bram Stoker in 1897.
“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! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green treetops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”
An excerpt from Bram Stoker’s novel describes the castle to be on the edge of a cliff, perched above a river flowing through a forest. In Romania, there’s only one castle that fits this very description – Bran Castle – that has now come to be known as Dracula’s Castle.
Bran Castle dramatically teeters on a hill in Transylvania; however, it was home not to Dracula but to Vlad Tepes, a 15th-century Wallachian Prince. The Prince was known to be blood-thirsty and ruthless, whose penchant for publicly impaling enemies on stakes as a deterrence to others earned him the namesake of ‘Vlad the Impaler’. Interestingly, Vlad was also associated with the Order of the Dragon and was sometimes called ‘Vlad III Dracul’ – what a coincidence! In fact, it’s said that Vlad never stayed at Bran Castle; different recounts either place him in the vicinity or possibly imprisoned there for two months. Nevertheless, the medieval castle’s association with Dracula has made it famous all over the world.
Here’s what to expect on a visit to Bran Castle:
The entrance of the castle is through a courtyard filled with shops peddling thick fur vests, faux wooden bow-and-arrows and of course, souvenirs touting Dracula’s face in every form imaginable.
The entrance fee to Bran Castle costs RON40 (~SGD13). In the high season (1st April to 30th September), Bran Castle is open from 12pm to 6pm on Mondays, and 9am to 6pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. During the low season (1st October to 31st March), opening hours are reduced from 12pm to 4pm on Mondays, and 9am to 4pm from Tuesdays to Sundays. Last admission is at 6pm and 4pm during the high and low seasons respectively.
Built between 1377 and 1388, the stone fortress’s strategic position overlooks a pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. Initially built by the Teutonic Knights, the castle’s history dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1920, the castle was given to Queen Maria of Romania, becoming her and her family’s royal residence. Till today, the castle still belongs to the royal family; however, it has since been converted to a museum that opened to the public in 2009.
In 2016, a competition even offered the chance to stay in the castle during Halloween, where guests will be able to retrace the steps of Jonathan Harker as described in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ tale.
The castle has a total of 57 rooms, many of which containing furniture and other items that belonged to Queen Marie and her family. The rooms feel warm and cosy, unlike the cold interiors of many other castles.
There’s even a secret stairway – connecting the 1st and 3rd floors – that leads to a wood-furnished library.
You’ll find large wooden frames displaying information about the castle’s history in most rooms; as such, it’s easy to conduct a self-guided tour. However, guided tours are also available should you wish to learn more.
There are also rooms displaying weapons and suits of armour.
I was also especially intrigued by how short some of the doors were.
A balcony overlooks the outdoor courtyard, where you can also enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.
I visited on a snowy day, which made the atmosphere all the more ethereal. It didn’t feel like a castle out of a nightmare; instead, it felt somewhat like a page out of a fairytale. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that this is known as Dracula’s Castle. Some people expect dramatic iron-cast gates and wrought spikes and hence leave disappointed; my advice to you, however, is not to be too hung up on the whole Dracula premise and simply enjoy the castle for what it is.
In fact, there’s even a wishing well in the courtyard!
The castle is both beautiful on the inside and the outside, with one of the best viewpoints situated atop an adjacent hill. Located just a short walk from the castle, getting to the vantage point involves going along an uphill path through the trees.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the castle in all its glory.
Take a minute to soak in views of the surrounding area as well.
After your exploration, fuel up with a hearty bowl of beef goulash and a mug of ‘Dracula Beer’, which has been coloured red to mimic blood. Gimmicky or not, it’s your call – but it certainly fits the theme.
Getting to Bran Castle
Bran Castle is an easy 45-minute drive from Brasov. However, if you don’t have your own rental car, you can reach Bran via a 45-minute bus ride from the Bus Terminal 2 (Autogara Bartolomeu) in Brasov. The return bus journey costs approximately RON14 (~SGD5).
If you have your own car, you can stop by the fortress of Rasnov on the way.
Bran Castle is arguably the most touristy spot in Romania, welcoming up to 800, 000 visitors a year – a number that will continually be on the rise in the years to come. However, why make it all the way to Transylvania and miss out on this experience? As I mentioned before, simply enjoy Bran Castle in all its glory and don’t let the thoughts of ‘Dracula’ dominate your entire visit!