Castle Bran is located in the town of the same name among the hills of central Romania, on the border of Transylvania and Muntenia. Built originally as a defense structure, in the XX century the castle became widely known as the residence of Count Dracula. Mystical fame and the second name of the medieval fortress brought the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and the desire of fans of the vampire saga to settle the bloodthirsty character in the most appropriate place.
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Video: Castle Bran
Over its more than six hundred year existence, Dracula’s castle has changed quite a few owners. At various times it was a haven for Hungarians, Saxons and Teutonic Knights. The history of the castle began when in the early XIII century residents of the town of Bran on their own forces and at their own expense erected a well fortified and impregnable fortress. The bastion was necessary to protect the road connecting Transylvania and Wallachia. In addition, the citadel served as a customs post. For the construction of such a strategically important facility the Romanian King thanked Bran by exempting him from paying taxes for several centuries. In the first half of XIX century, when the border between Wallachia and Transylvania was moved up into the mountains, Bran lost control over the trade routes.
At the end of the century the authorities, not wanting to spend money on the restoration of the castle, gave it to local residents.
In 1920, the townspeople presented the castle as a gift to King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary, as they thanked the royals for the unification of the provinces and the development of the country. The Queen, titled Princess of Edinburgh, was the daughter of Prince Alfred of England and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Until 1927 the castle was rebuilt under the direction of the Czech architect, Liman, who radically changed its internal layout and surrounded the castle with a park, walkways, wells and terraces. The castle was equipped with telephone and electricity, and an elevator was installed for the guests’ convenience. After all these changes the unpleasant building turned into a comfortable summer residence of the royal couple. Maria later left the castle as a legacy to her daughter Ileana.
In 1947, after the communists came to power, all the royal estates were nationalized, and the following year the crowned heads were expelled from the country. The castle became state property and was opened to the public in 1956, at the same time a medieval museum was founded there. For a long time the castle was not given proper care, and after 30 years it was on the verge of destruction. However, in the early 90s the castle was restored, and in 2005 Romania adopted a law on the return of property nationalized by the former communist government. In 2006, Dominic von Habsburg, son of Ileana, took possession of the castle.
The castle became known as Castle Dracula about 40 years ago, when tourists from all over the world began to seek in Romania evidence of the existence of the vampire Dracula, so realistically described by Stoker in 1897. Demand begets supply, and enterprising Romanians allowed those who wished to satisfy their penchant for mysticism. The emergence of the Prince of Darkness has given rise to a boom in tourism in Romania. Fans of the vampire gather in Transylvania every four years for their world congresses.
Currently the Castle Bran is put up for sale, its owners want to gain 140 million euros for the real estate, covered with the glory of the vampire.
Prototype of the mythical bloodsucker was a very real man – Vlad III Tsepesh, who was the ruler of Wallachia in the XIV century and became famous for his cruelty. The nickname “Dracula” Tepesh inherited from his father, who was a member of the Order of the Dragon, whose knights defended the Christian faith in Europe. Vlad II produced coins with the image of a dragon, for which he received his second name “Dracul. Adherents of this order wore black cloaks, the same way Vlad III was dressed, which added gloom to his image.
The real residence of the Prince of Wallachia was the castle of Proenari, and in Bran he only spent a few nights during his campaigns or hunting.
Tepes also had another chilling nickname – “the piercer”, which he earned by impaling his enemies as well as robbers and thieves. Vlad adopted this terrible execution from the Turks and was the first to use it in Europe. Tepes did not neglect the mockery of innocent people whom he killed just for fun. The tyrant took a particular pleasure in eating next to the bodies of the executed impaled on stakes. Once the count ordered his guards to nail to the heads of foreign ambassadors who refused to remove their hats in the presence of Tepes. At the cost of many lives the ruler of Wallachia put an end to crime, in proof of which Vlad ordered a golden chalice to be set up in the central square of the capital. The precious vessel was not guarded by anyone, but the fear of punishment for theft was so strong that the bowl remained in its place for 25 years after the death of the ruler of Wallachia. Some thought the count was crazy, and many believed that he had made a deal with the dark forces, replacing the Orthodox faith with the Catholic one.
Historians believe that Vlad III’s mental health was undermined by his brutal captivity with the Turks, where his younger brother was sexually abused and his older brother was buried alive.
During one of the palace coups, Tepes was assassinated. After his death there was a rumor among the people that the count was turned into a vampire. The reason for this was that no one reliably knew where the resting place of Vlad III was. And according to one of the legends his body even disappeared from the tomb, which is irrefutable proof of his bloodsucker essence. The real burial place of Tepes was decided to change after the start of the pilgrimage to the Bran Castle.
Now an epidemic of vampiromania is gaining momentum around the world – people are attracted to the life force of human blood, attributed to it by mystics, as well as everything mysterious and disturbing consciousness.
Dracula’s castle is crowned by four towers, two of which were built together with the fortress, and two were added later, in the 16th century, for a better view of the surroundings. The irregular geometric shape of the towers was made for the cannon balls to hit the fortress walls tangentially and not to cause them much harm. The bastion was built on a sheer cliff, the top of which was the foundation of the structure. The fortress has the form of a trapezoid with four floors connected by stairs. Grim passages with uneven stone steps and dark corridors are interwoven into an intricate maze.
Nowadays there is a museum of medieval art in the castle, which has 17 rooms. Among the exhibits are works of arts and crafts, royal clothes and dresses of the Princess of Edinburgh, silver jewelry and products, medieval armor, weapons and dining utensils. In some rooms, the furnishings remain as they were when the queen was here.
The Bran Castle houses: the music salon; the living rooms; the royal apartments; the armory; several bedchambers, among which the most interesting is the bedroom of Vlad Dracula; the dining room of King Ferdinand; the Saxon Hall; the library. It is not advisable for the impressionable to enter the torture room, where it is easy to visualize the torture of the victims, crucified on terrible devices.
In the middle of the courtyard is a well. Legend has it that it leads to a mysterious dungeon. The castle has a lot of secret underground passages and mazes, which can be used to enter or leave the building unnoticed.
In the castle environs you can walk along the paths of the Palace Park, admire a small picturesque lake, look into the tea house of Queen Mary and the house of Princess Ileana.
In 1992, director Francis Ford Coppola restored Romania’s most famous architectural landmark for the filming of “Dracula”. The fortress turned out to be the perfect setting for the bloody tale.
To give the area a dramatic atmosphere, benches in nearby bars and cafes were stylized as coffins. In many places you can be photographed with cardboard Dracula, and local vendors offer tourists as souvenirs vampire masks, bottles of “blood”, false jaws with creepy fangs.
With or without Dracula, Bran Castle is a splendid example of medieval architecture, worth a visit to see the colorful antique setting and touch the history of picturesque and mysterious Transylvania.
The Bran Castle welcomes visitors every day, but its opening hours vary depending on the season. From April 1 to September 30 and during the Easter vacations the Castle Dracula is open from 09.00 to 18.00. Opening hours from October 1 to March 31: 09.00 to 16.00. On Mondays at any time of the year the castle is available from 12.00.
Entrance fees: 7.8 € for adults; 5.6 € for people over 65; 4.5 € for students; 1.5 € for pupils. Tourists can take photos and videos for free.
In summer, usually in the first days of August, near the castle, the festival “At Dracula’s” takes place, during which you can listen to folk music, buy themed souvenirs and red wine “Dracula”, take pictures in the national Romanian costume.
At the local market, don’t forget to buy the excellent local sheep and cow cheeses, the recipe of which has been handed down from generation to generation. In addition, tourists take away from here plum moonshine and original knitwear.
How to get there: take a train from Bucharest to Brasov (188 km), then take a bus, which leaves for Bran every half an hour. Be careful – get off not on station Bran, but go further till the castle. Travel time – 30 minutes.
Castle Dracula in Romania
adults – 45 lei, pensioners – 35 lei, students – 25 lei, schoolchildren – 10 lei. Audio guide – 10 lei.
The Romanian Castle of Bran at the end of 14th century, steeped in legends, is known to tourists as “The Castle of Dracula”. It is located about 28-30 km by road from Brasov, on the border of the historical regions of Transylvania and Muntenia.
In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula the prototype of the vampire was a real historical character, Vlad Tepes, who was the ruler of Wallachia. The writer placed his character in a castle located on a rock in the principality of Transylvania. Since the Castle of Bran fits the description in Stoker’s novel, the image of the castle of Count Dracula is firmly entrenched in people’s minds.
This image is cleverly used by marketers and travel agencies that are actively attracting tourists here. However, even if you are not interested in mysticism and vampire themes, you should still visit this beautiful castle to appreciate its architecture and picturesque park, as well as learn a lot of curious facts about the history of the country.
Castle and surroundings
The Castle of Bran is not only an architectural monument, but also a museum that tells about the formation of the country and the development of this area.
Architecture and park
The castle consists of four levels connected by stairs and is shaped like a trapeze. The building was originally a defensive structure, as evidenced by its substantial walls built of stones and boulders, and relatively small windows.
After Bran became a royal residence, its grounds underwent changes. New buildings were built – a teahouse, a church, stables, and a garage. A magnificent English-style park with artificial ponds also appeared. Some tourists spend perhaps even more time in it than in the castle. It is pleasant to stroll around in the park, nature is a good backdrop for memorable photos.
The tea house now houses a cozy cafe that treats visitors to Halloween themed meals – blood sausage, for example. Also, almost all of the food contains garlic, which legend has it that vampires fear so much, and even the tea here tastes like garlic.
On the courtyard grounds there is an ancient well, which, according to legend, may lead to underground labyrinths. There is also a beautiful fountain.
Near the castle there is a market where you can buy local products, souvenirs with the castle and vampire themes.
Castle Dracula inside
The interior of the castle is quite laconic, the rooms are small and there are many passages of stairs. The halls and corridors resemble a labyrinth. The halls display antique furniture, a collection of weapons and armor. A separate exhibition tells the story of the famous ruler Vlad Tepes, who was nicknamed Dracula, the novel by Bram Stoker and his famous character. For a fee you can visit the torture room in the basement of the castle.
Virtual walk through the Bran Castle on Google Panoramas.
The cost of visiting the attraction:
- For visitors over 14 years old – 45 lei
- for pensioners (older than 65 years) – 35 lei
- for students – 25 lei
- for pupils – 10 lei
- audio guide – 10 lei
The ticket price includes a permit for photo and video shooting.
Children under 7 years old visit the site for free.
Before visiting it is recommended to check the current prices on the official website of the Castle of Dracula in Romania. It is also possible to buy tickets online, it will not waste time in line at the ticket office.
It is better to come here in the morning to avoid a large influx of visitors.
The peak of attendance is usually from April to the end of September, at which time the opening hours are increased by 2 hours. Also a lot of tourists come on Halloween, the castle prepares a special holiday program with costume events.
In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights built a defensive fortress of Bran, but 15 years later they abandoned the area. Well-fortified castle on the top of the rock was built by locals in 1388 on the site of an old fortress, it was originally a defensive structure to protect Transylvania from external enemies. It also served as a kind of customs – important trade routes passed through Transylvania.
Bran is also associated with Vlad III (Dracula). He was nicknamed Tepes (Romanian for “the stake”) because he cruelly dealt with his enemies by putting them on a stake. He ruthlessly settled the conflict in Brasov, ravaged the villages in the vicinity and killed several hundred Transylvanian Saxons.
Perhaps his toughness and bloodthirsty politics created a lot of speculation and legends around his name. This information became the basis for the creation of Bram Stoker’s character.
Throughout its history, the castle was rebuilt and restored after the fighting. In 1920 Bran was given by the inhabitants as a gift to Queen Mary of Edinburgh and received the status of a royal residence. Nowadays the castle is owned by Dominique Habsburg – grandson of Queen Maria and there is a private museum in it.
How to get to Dracula Castle
It is convenient to buy a guided tour to the Castle of Bran, it solves the problem of transfer. However, you can also get to this attraction on your own. To get to Bran from Bucharest on your own by intercity transport, you must first overcome the route to Brasov. The optimal transport is the local trains: there are enough flights on the timetable, and the distance between cities is short – about 170 km.
From Brasov to Bran and to the castle nearby there is not more than 30 km to go. There are regular suburban buses, you can easily buy a ticket at the bus station ticket office in Brasov upon arrival. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Please note: do not get off at the Bran stop, but go further to Castelul Bran.
If you have a rental car take the DN1/E60 freeway and then turn off at the DN73/E574 which will take you to the castle.
Those who have money and value comfort can take a cab from Brasov to the castle, such services are offered, for example, by Bratax.