Bran Castle is one of the most photogenic castles in Europe and is often linked to Bram Stoker’s Dracula book. For many Romania visitors, Bran Castle is the highlight of their trip. I visited Bran Castle halfway my trip and it was the second (and busiest) castle I visited in Romania. In this blog post, I share my thoughts on Bran Castle and I give you practical tips on how to get there.
Read next: 10 great things to do in Brasov.
Bran Castle & Dracula: what’s the deal?
In 1897 Irish writer Bram Stoker wrote the book Dracula. The story revolves around the fictional figure Dracula and is set in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. Fact is: Stoker never set foot in Romania and Bran Castle isn’t mentioned anywhere in the book. So why is this castle associated with the book? Two factors play a role here:
- Similar location: the fictional Dracula’s Castle and the Bran Castle are both perched on top of a cliff overlooking a river.
- Historical vindictive character: Count Vlad III lived in the region (not in this castle however) in the 15th century, also known as ‘Vlad the Impaler’. He often impaled his enemies on wooden poles. Rumor has it that Stoker was inspired by this man.
In short, Bran Castle fits the description of Dracula’s castle, but the similarities stop there. Dracula never lived here and nothing spooky will happen while visiting. Don’t come here for Dracula, come for the castle itself.
In the 13th century, the Order of the Teutonic Knights built Bran Castle. At that time it was a wooden citadel named ‘Dietrichstein’. Under the Saxons, the wood was replaced by stone. In 1920, the Hungarian Kingdom lost rule over Transylvania and the region became part of the Kingdom of Romania. The city of Brașov gifted Bran Castle to Queen Marie of Romania. Marie turned the castle into a home for the royal family.
Under the communist rule the royal family was ousted from the castle, but things didn’t end there for Bran Castle. Circling back to the Dracula theme, this was actually the starting point. Following the popular 60s movie about Dracula, the Romanian communist government decided to promote Bran Castle as Dracula’s castle in the hope to attract more tourists coming to Romania. And it worked. In just 4 years’ time, the tourist numbers rose from 5,000 (1956) to 103,000 (1960).
Practical tips for visiting Bran Castle
1. Avoid visiting in summer
In my experience, the western part of Romania is not too busy, but the more you go to the east, the more tourists you will see. The Bran Castle was the busiest place I saw in Romania. It already started at the bus stop with a souvenir market leading all the way up to the entrance. Once inside the castle, things didn’t get any better. The hallways and stairs are narrow, so it meant a lot of waiting for people to pass. Therefore the most important tip I can give you is, don’t visit Bran Castle in summer. You probably have a better experience in the spring or fall. If summer is the only option for you. mentally prepare yourself for the crowds.
Of course, during COVID-19 Bran Castle things are different. It will probably not be as busy as usual.
2. The balcony views are the best
Apart from the crowds, I have to say that Bran Castle is worth the hassle. Is this the most beautiful castle in Romania? No, it’s not. However, I did think it was quite impressive. For a 13th century castle, the rooms are very well maintained. It is a museum, so every room has a story to tell about what it was used for.
The most beautiful place is the balcony overlooking Bran Courtyard, the inner garden of the castle. After a visit to the castle, please make sure to also take a walk in the park and get a good view of Bran Castle and its cliff position.
3. Take the bus to Bran Castle: hot but cheap
The cheapest and easiest way to get from Brașov to Bran Castle is by bus. It departs from Bus Terminal 2 (Autogara Bartolomeu). A single ticket costs 7 RON and the journey takes 45 minutes. It can take longer though, depending on the traffic towards Bran. In our case, there was a traffic jam. You can buy tickets directly from the driver on the bus. The bus leaves every hour, but the schedule is flexible. Good to know: it can get very hot in the bus.
Entrance fee: 40 RON (prices 2019). Open every day, but on Mondays only in the afternoon (12:00 – 18:00).
And there you have it, practical tips for visiting Bran Castle. Do you want to visit this castle?