Romania. Castles, ruins and medieval villages

The 20 Best Castles in Romania

Although Romania was considered the outskirts of Europe, but it sought to keep up with the center. This is particularly evident in the castle architecture: both ancient, strictly defensive buildings, and luxurious estates absorbed the best of European fortification and traditional decor. Dozens of castles are scattered across the relatively small territory of the country, most of them in picturesque areas, among forests and mountains.

Today, the abodes of the Romanian lords and nobles are turned into museums, packed with collections of all kinds of antiquities with works of art. Since ancient times, Romania has been considered a haven for all sorts of evil spirits, legends of werewolves and vampires come from here. Therefore, almost every castle is bound to find a pair or three eerie tales.

Medieval castles and fortresses of Romania

List, pictures with names and short descriptions.

Castle Dracula (Castle Bran).

In fact, the legendary Walachian prince, the prototype of the famous vampire, did not live here permanently. He came here to hunt in the surrounding forests. Over 20 years ago this medieval fortification was turned into a thematic museum and a few halls were occupied with exposition devoted not to the real man, but to his literary image. The castle is interesting because of its structure, representing a four-level labyrinth, in which without a guide you can get lost. The very place Bran, where the fortress is located, known for excellent cheeses and vampire souvenir market.

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Pelesh

Romanian king Carol I was a German and he very much wanted a piece of native Germany near him. In 1875 he ordered to build a castle in Alpine style with elements of Italian classicism and German neo-Renaissance near the mountain stream. Now it is a museum, the exposition of which counts more than 4 thousand pieces of armor and weapons. There are also collections of oriental carpets, porcelain, tapestries and antique furniture.

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Corvinov Castle

It is also the castle of crows: its founder King Corvinus had the nickname “The Crow”. A 14th-century fortress situated on a rocky cliff with a long bridge spanning a deep gorge. Outwardly it presents a classic knight’s castle and its outlines may seem familiar: movies were filmed here more than once. Apart from the classic displays of weapons, armor and other medieval items, there is a huge torture chamber.

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Rysznow Fortress

A classic 14th century fortress for defense purposes, founded by the Teutonic Order to save peasants during enemy raids. The main attraction is a 62-meter deep well dug by captive Turks to provide water for the citadel during sieges. There is also a museum dedicated to the Teutonic Order crusaders and peasant life in medieval Romania.

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Cantacuzino

This is a relatively new palace, built in 1903 by order of the then Prime Minister Cantucasino in the center of Bucharest. It is now the national museum named after George Enescu, the famous Romanian composer. The exhibitions are devoted to the development of music and include collections of instruments and personal belongings of musicians, conductors and composers. It regularly becomes the site of classical music evenings.

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Pelisor

A unique summer palace residence of Ferdinand I, representing an unusual mixture of styles: Art Nouveau with a touch of Celtic and Byzantine symbolism. The basis of the exhibition are the personal belongings of Queen Maria and her collection of paintings. In 70 rooms are preserved original interiors of the bedrooms and offices of the Romanian kings who stayed here with their families.

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Neamtz fortress

It is located in the Carpathian Mountains near Transylvania. The citadel has a rich military history: it was stormed by Turks and Poles, the walls of the bastions still bear the traces of those early battles. The Stefan cel Mare Museum at the castle does not indulge its visitors with an abundance of exhibits, but tourists are eager to explore the well preserved medieval buildings and admire the stunning views of the valley from the castle walls.

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Throne Fortress

A coronation site for the Moldovan rulers and in the past an important defense junction for the surrounding area. A classic military castle with strong walls, a drawbridge, and tall towers. Accessible for visits, though there are no museum exhibitions as such, but there are regular art exhibitions and medieval festivals, including sports knight tournaments and mass battles of foot soldiers.

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Alba Julia

A fort on the territory of the town of the same name in Transylvania. Inside, there is a neighboring Orthodox monastery and Catholic cathedral, an ancient Transylvanian library and an Association Museum (essentially a local history museum), which painstakingly assembles exhibits that tell the story of Romanian history from ancient times. Attendance is free, with the exception of the museum.

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Fagaras

A 14th-century citadel, for a long time an important defensive structure, which has been turned into a residence for the wives of Transylvanian rulers. There are no separate museum exhibits, it is interesting by itself, as it is perfectly preserved. It is a classic castle with a moat and a fortified wall and the corresponding grim interiors inside the buildings: a dungeon, a torture chamber and long dark passages.

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An ancient Dacian fortress, which after the conquest by the Romans served the invaders, and then rebuilt into a medieval castle. Now of the citadel is not much left, but the ruins are so picturesque that the tourists there literally can not be pushed. For a safe visit to the ruins ennobled and strengthened, making convenient bridges for movement along the dilapidated walls and the remnants of internal buildings.

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Poienari

This castle is unique: except for the fact that Vlad, the prototype of Dracula, actually lived here, there is only one road to the castle: a winding staircase with a thousand and a half steps leading to this mighty mountain citadel. The truth is now seriously dilapidated, but it has not lost its attractiveness due to the many legends associated with it, such as the secret passage leading all the way to Turkey.

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Julia Hasdeu Castle

The legend says that the project of building the castle was passed on to the father through a medium by his dead daughter. Soon after its construction it became the only spiritist’s museum in the world. There is a special “room of the dead” for séances, an exhibition of supernatural artifacts such as photographs of spirits and spiritistic notebooks. A special attraction is the statue of Christ, which miraculously survived the two destruction of the castle.

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Sturdza Castle

A relatively fresh neo-Gothic palace, built on the site of the Sturdza mansion in 1904. After World War II, the castle was used as an explosives warehouse, then a children’s psychiatric hospital and seriously dilapidated. Currently, the building has been given to the local diocese, whose efforts began restoration with a view to subsequently opening it to tourists. For now, you can only look at the castle from the outside and take a walk in the surrounding park.

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Rupea Fortress

Built by the Teutonic Knights of the Crusades in the 14th century. It is located on the top of a small mountain, where the serpentine road leads. The main part of the buildings is well preserved and has been restored, they decided to leave in the form of picturesque ruins. Except for the castle itself there is nothing much to see here, there is no museum in the castle. Fans of ancient ruins come here to feel the spirit of the Middle Ages.

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Boncida Banffi

Palace of the XVI century, nicknamed the “Versailles of Transylvania. Previously it had fortifications around it, and chronicles tell of its siege by the Austrians. Today it is an elegant manor house of the nobility, but in decay, the revival of which began recently with the financial support of Charles, Prince of Wales. You can admire the old interiors and luxurious park.

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A powerful seventeenth-century stronghold defending the border with Hungary, it has played a purely military role for most of its history. After losing its importance as a fortification structure, it was slightly rebuilt in the late Renaissance style. Since 1930 is a museum, after 1978 was combined with the library. The exhibitions mainly reflect the military past of the fortress: arms, armour, banners and the like.

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Kemeni

It is a private property, but the Kemeni family has opened the castle to tourists. The citadel was rebuilt several times, eventually from a military fort turned into a palace. Unfortunately, the natural old interiors are not visible here, all alike: during the war everything was stolen by the locals. It remains to admire the magnificent architecture and stunning scenery of the surrounding woods.

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Oradea Fortress

A pentagonal star-shaped military fort in the middle of the Romanian town of the same name. The ramparts are in ruins, and only the inner corps of a later building has survived. There is a museum with exhibitions of various topics: toys, medieval costumes, photography, and more. The exhibitions are temporary and are updated frequently, so before visiting them you should find out in advance what you can see there now.

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Sigishoara Citadel

This fortress is lucky: since XIII century it remained practically unchanged and the spirit of antiquity permeated literally every stone. The knightly citadel of Sighisoara returns to the Middle Ages every July. It holds a festival with a grand fair, large-scale battles, craft workshops of potters, blacksmiths and weavers, concerts, and competitions.

Three castles worth going to Romania for

Romania is not only Dracula, Ceausescu and gypsies (although they too!), but also amazing architecture and castles – medieval and not so medieval. We’ve chosen three of the most impressive ones that are definitely worth including in your itinerary if you’re going to those parts.

Aleea PeleSului 2, Sinaia

From the outside, Peleş resembles German half-timbered houses, and for good reason. The castle was built on the orders of the first Romanian king, Carol I: German by birth, he saw a resemblance to his native land and bought this land for his summer residence and hunting grounds.

The monarch turned out to be a very strict architectural critic: he rejected several of the first projects that were too similar to existing foreign palaces. In the end, Karol I opted for an idea that combined the aesthetics of various styles, including the German neo-Renaissance. Construction of the castle began in 1873. It was named Pélès after the mountain river of the same name on whose bank it was built. Along with the construction of the building a power plant was being built on it, so Pelesh was the first completely electrified castle in the world. Its construction resembled the Babylonian pandemonium: several hundreds of people from more than a dozen countries worked there. The castle was inaugurated in 1883 but was not finished until more than thirty years later – in 1914.

After the Second World War and the Socialists came to power, Peljes was nationalized and turned into a museum. However, by the end of the reign of the Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu, the public was no longer allowed to enter the building, and only museum personnel and people from the military and government circles were allowed to enter. After the Romanian revolution in 1989, the authorities first made the castle a museum again, then – returned to the previous owner, the last king of Romania Mihai I, and then bought it from the royal house for 30 million euros.

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Looking from the outside at the elegant castle, which looks more like an Alpine mansion, it is difficult to believe that it has about 160 rooms. Tourists are only allowed on the ground floor and first floor. Tour resembles a little trip: there are rooms in Turkish, English, Italian, German, French, Spanish-Moorish and other styles.

Next door is another castle – Pelishor, whose name can be translated as “little Pelesh” – it has “only” 70 rooms. It was built for Ferdinand I – nephew of Karol I.

Getting there: Sinaia is accessible from Brasov (from €2,3 by train) or Bucharest (from €4,8 by train).

Prices: Basement and ground floor guided tour €13 or €3.2 for students; basement only €6.5 or €1.6 for students.

Strada General Traian Mosoiu 24, Bran

The 14th-century castle of Bran was world-famous as the home of the vampire Dracula from the novel of Irishman Bram Stoker. Bram himself had never been to Romania and he based his impressions of the country on books and prints. As a result, Bran turned out to be the only castle in those lands that matched the description of his hero’s fiefdom. “On either side was a vast chasm. The castle was built on the edge of a great cliff, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable. To the west there was a great valley, and beyond it, in the distance, were jagged cliffs, arranged one after the other; they were covered with mountain flowers and thorns, the roots of which clung to cracks and ruins of stone,” the book says of the vampire’s residence – and it does resemble the fortress at Bran.

However, the historical prototype of Dracula – Prince Vlad III Dracula – never lived in Bran. He ruled Wallachia, a medieval principality in the south of modern Romania, in the 15th century and owned the castle of Poenari, the ruins of which are preserved near the stunningly picturesque mountain highway Transfagarashan. Dracula waged an implacable struggle against the Turkish conquerors, but was betrayed by his allies and imprisoned. Through the efforts of one of them, the Hungarian King Matvei I Corvinus, the prince went down in history as a bloodthirsty tyrant nicknamed Tepes – “the impalement man”, which inspired Bram Stoker several centuries later. Some historical sources link the treachery of the Hungarian ruler to the embezzlement of funds allocated by the Pope to fight the Ottomans, which he wanted to hush up by accusing Dracula of secret ties with the Turks and blaming him for military failures. It was then that the Prince of Wallachia visited Bran, but not of his own free will: according to the castle staff, he had been held there for several months imprisoned by Matvei Corvinus.

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The famous Wallachian ruler and his literary incarnation in the castle has only one exhibition room. The exposition is dedicated primarily to the last owners of the castle – Queen Maria and her descendants, who received it as a gift for the efforts to unify Romania, and who own the castle today. Those who are more interested in the legends about Dracula, it is better to visit the fair at the foot of Bran, where they sell “vampire” souvenirs for all tastes.

Getting there: The best way to get to Braná is from Brasov (bus € 1,5).

Prices: Adult ticket € 8,6; student ticket € 5,4.

Strada Castelului 1-3, Hunedoara

The Corvinov Castle in the industrial town of Hunedoara is the biggest Gothic castle in Romania. The fortress, which was first mentioned in the 14th century, was awarded for its military merits to the grandfather of the aforementioned Hungarian King Matvei Corvin (Hunedoara). His son, Janos, rebuilt the fortification and added seven towers, and Matvei Korvin completed his work.

The Hunyadi family owned the castle until 1508, after which it changed hands over 20 times, each time changing something in its architecture. In the mid-19th century a fire destroyed all wooden structures, including roofs, which used to be flat. The castle was restored and reconstructed, and in 1974 it became a museum and opened its doors to visitors.

Visitors are led into several towers and halls and are introduced to the legends of its owners. Here, too, was not without Dracula: there is a version that here Matvei Korvin for many years held captive Vlad Tepesh. There is no historical evidence of it, but employees of the castle willingly tell a story that attracts tourists. Another legend is associated with a thirty-meter well in the courtyard of the castle: a few captive Turks dug it in the rock for fifteen years in exchange for the promise of freedom, but the will never saw. This is reminded by the names of the prisoners carved on the wall by the well, which supposedly add up to the anagram: “Now you have water, but no heart”. Wandering through the darker halls of Corvinus Castle, compared to the decoration of Pelesh, it is easy to believe in the truth of these words.

Getting there: Take a train from Bucharest to Simeria (€ 19,5, from Brasov € 14,3) and a bus to Hunedoara.

Prices: € 6,5 from May till August, € 4,3 from November till February, € 5,4 in the rest months. For students: € 1,1.

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