One of the main reasons we decided to plan a trip to Romania in the first place was the country’s castles. The idea of going castle hunting in Transylvania fascinated us. Bran Castle or Castelul Bran, one of the best castles in Romania, was definitely among the ones we wanted to visit. Since picturesque Brasov was the first stop on our Transylvania road trip, a half day trip from Brasov to Bran Castle was one of the very first things we enjoyed in Romania.
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Is Castelul Bran Dracula’s Castle?
You’ve probably all heard that Bran is Dracula’s Castle. But how accurate is that?
Before even going into this, let’s set something straight: Which Dracula are we talking about?
Count Dracula is the fictitious main character in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. He was a vampire count living in a remote castle in the Carpathian Mountains. On the other hand, Vlad Dracula is an actual historical figure. Vlad III was a Romanian ruler in the 15th century, infamous for his cruelty. He was the Prince of the Wallachia region. The name Dracula means son of the devil and it comes from his father Vlad Dracu, which means Vlad the Devil. Vlad III is also known as Vlad Tepes which means Impaler in Romanian. Vlad III used to punish his enemies by, that’s right, impaling them.
So, the only connection between Count Dracula and Vlad Dracula seems to be that Bram Stoker was inspired by the latter to create the former. But how are either the Count or Vlad III connected to Bran Castle? Sorry to break it to you but they’re not. Historians firmly believe that Vlad Dracula never set foot in Bran while Bram Stoker never visited Romania either. Then why all this fuss? Apparently, Bran Castle fits Stoker’s description of Count Dracula’s castle in the novel more than any other castle in Transylvania. People’s imagination took it from there and the rest is history.
Is there a real Dracula castle then?
The answer is yes. Poenari Castle in Romania is the actual residence of Vlad Dracula. It’s located near the point where Romanian regions of Transylvania and Wallachia meet. The castle stands above Arges River overlooking the entire area from a completely remote location. It is perched on a steep cliff and ruined at its most part. To visit one needs to climb more than 1450 steps. We didn’t. At least not this time. We just got a glimpse of the imposing structure from a distance while driving the scenic Transfagarasan Road.
How to get from Brasov to Bran Castle
Romania, and especially Transylvania, is one of those destinations that are best enjoyed on a road trip. The countryside is utterly beautiful and there are amazing scenic routes. Furthermore, driving is the only way to visit even the most remote yet gorgeous little villages and towns at one’s own pace. Castelul Bran is only 30 km away from Brasov and it takes about 35-40′ to get there. The only problem is traffic which can be unbearably heavy. Therefore, try to set off as early as possible, especially at weekends. Once at Bran, parking is available near the castle’s entrance and it costs less than 1€/hour (4 lei).
Castelul Bran from Brasov by public transport
If driving is not an option, you can take the bus from Bus Terminal 2 in Brasov to Bran Castle. Buses run every 30′ on weekdays and hourly at weekends. The ride takes about 45′ and it is ridiculously cheap: 7 lei per ride. That is about 3€ for a return trip.
Brasov to Bran Castle by taxi
Taking a taxi from Brasov to Bran Castle is also quite affordable, especially for larger groups. It costs about 80 lei (20€) per ride. If you’re staying in Brasov, consider downloading the Bratax app. Bratax offer taxi services in air-conditioned cars with English-speaking drivers. We haven’t used them ourselves but we would if we hadn’t rented a car.
Join a guided tour
Joining a guided tour is by far the most hassle-free way to visit Bran Castle from Brasov. Although this option costs more than the others, you won’t have to worry about things such as transport and entrance tickets. On top of that, you’ll enjoy being shown around the castle by an expert tour guide.
Our very own Bran Castle tour
Bran Castle History
Before we go on to talk to you about our visit to Castelul Bran, let’s say a couple of things about the castle’s history. Bran Fortress was built in the 14th century so as to protect the border between the regions of Transylvania and Wallachia from Ottoman raids. It belonged to the people of Brasov until 1920 when they decided to donate it to the Romanian royal family. Castelul Bran became Queen Marie’s favourite residence. She managed to turn the austere fortress into a genuine royal court. Even nowadays, the Queen’s favourite flowers, lilies, decorate the castle’s rooms. In 1947, the castle became property of the Romanian state and in 1957 it was turned into a museum. In 2009, Bran Castle was returned to Queen Marie’s grandchildren and it operates as a private museum ever since.
Bran Castle tour
As soon as we parked the car and started walking, the sight of Castelul Bran soaring above the tiny town caught our attention. The castle is built at the top of a rock and it’s marvellously imposing. On the way to the castle’s entrance there are a lot of souvenir shops and snack bars, so the ambience is rather touristy.
Right after the ticket office starts the uphill path to the castle. It takes about 10′ minutes to go all the way up and it’s a bit steep.
As we ascended, we marvelled at the magnificent park to our right. Formerly the castle’s garden, the park was created at the request of Queen Marie herself. It has two lakes and it’s a heaven of flowers and trees.
The exterior of the castle does not resemble other more fairytale-like castles in Transylvania. It was initially constructed in Gothic style. Later on, Queen Marie of Romania asked architect Karel Liman to give a more Romantic appearance to her favourite castle.
The interior of Bran Castle reflects mainly the taste of Queen Marie as it has been restored to look exactly the way it did in her time. The various rooms are decorated with furniture and objects from the family’s personal collection.
Everything is arranged so as to narrate tales from the personal lives of the royals who inhabited Castelul Bran. We particularly liked the typical Romanian tiled stoves we saw in various rooms.
The castle features narrow corridors, winding staircases and a couple of exciting secret passages. We particularly liked the interior courtyard of the castle.
Seeing the castle at a leisurely pace shouldn’t take more than an hour. There are informational plaques everywhere which are easy to read, useful and fun. There are even sections dedicated to Vlad III, Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as insight into the folklore vampire legends in Romania.
Bran Castle opening hours and ticket prices
From April 1st to September 30th, the castle is open daily from 09:00 to 18:00. Opening time on Mondays is at 12:00. However, from October 1st to March 31st closing time is two hours earlier. Full ticket costs 40 lei (8.5€) with concessions applicable to students and senior citizens. Castelul Bran also hosts various events all year round and it’s available for private events as well. For more information on planning your visit to Bran or the upcoming events, visit the castle’s official website.
Other Romanian castles from Brasov
Of course Bran is not the only castle near Brasov. Peles Castle as well as Rasnov Fortress are in the same area and you can visit all three on the same day trip from Brasov. That’s what we did anyway and it was really interesting seeing three completely different castles in one go. The enchantment of Peles and the raw beauty of Rasnov compliment in the best possible way the unique charm of Bran. And our castle hunting in Romania had only just begun!
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Disclosure: Bran Castle kindly offered us admission free of charge. However, as always, we express nothing but our very own and honest opinion about the experience we had.