Last updated on January 8th, 2023 at 02:22 pm
If the idea of stepping inside beautiful castles to explore secret corridors and hidden passageways sounds appealing to you, this Romanian castles guide to the 10 most fascinating Transylvania castles is exactly what you need. Read on and get ready to discover the best Romanian castles!
Romania is a country with a lot of castles and fortresses. What’s more, castles in Romania are among the most impressive ones in Europe. Therefore, planning a trip to explore some of them is definitely among the best things to do in Romania.
Some of the best castles in Romania are in Transylvania. The region’s castles are famous across the globe and for good reason. Transylvania castles are plentiful, charming and surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful nature. During our 8-day road trip across Romania, we had the pleasure to visit some of the best Romanian castles and we hope to check out more of them in the future.
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Where Is Transylvania?
Transylvania is a region in central Romania, in the shadow of the majestic Carpathian Mountains. You can fly directly to Transylvania, as there are two international airports in the region. One in picturesque Sibiu and the other in vibrant Cluj-Napoca. However, if you’re planning to go to Transylvania, you’ll most probably fly to Bucharest, Romania’s vibrant capital. If that’s indeed the case, here’s our essential travel guide to Bucharest.
How To Get To Transylvania From Bucharest
Driving is the best way to explore Transylvania, as it’s a region of incredible natural beauty with quaint towns and hidden gems of medieval villages scattered everywhere. Especially when it comes to a multi-day trip, driving gives you the freedom to discover little treasures you wouldn’t be able to explore otherwise. Therefore, make sure you rent a car the minute you land at the airport in Bucharest and you can thank us later.
Another way to get from Bucharest to Transylvania is by train. You can check out train timetables and routes to plan your trip to Transylvania accordingly. Alternatively, you can visit many places in Transylvania, including some of the best Transylvanian castles, by joining high-rated guided tours that start from all major Romanian cities.
Romanian Castles: What To Expect
When you embark on a trip to discover the best castles in Romania, you should know that the quest never gets boring. That’s because there are many different types of castles to visit in beautiful Romania.
We can loosely divide Romanian castles into three main categories: castles, fortresses and fortified churches. Romanian castles and fortresses are rather self-explanatory. But what are fortified churches and why do we consider them the most impressive sites we visited during our Transylvania road trip?
Fortified Churches in Transylvania
Part of the Saxon heritage of Romania, the fortified churches that were built from the 13th to the 16th century in southeastern Transylvania are among the best places to visit in Romania. While the biggest Romanian cities of the time had great fortresses like Rasnov and Rupea to protect their people, small villages didn’t. Therefore, they had to come up with a way to survive the constant threat of being invaded by the Ottomans and Tatars. And they did.
Every smaller Saxon community made good use of the main village church by creating fortifications around it, thus turning it into the centrepiece of the village’s defensive structure. With the addition of watchtowers and storehouses, these newly created fortified churches of Transylvania managed to protect people from all sorts of invasions.
There are almost 150 well-preserved fortified churches in Transylvania. Unfortunately, we only had time to visit two of them. Yet we believe that a road trip to explore as many of the region’s fortified villages as possible is one of the best things to do in Romania and we plan to go for it soon.
Top 10 Transylvania Castles
1. Bran Castle
Bran Castle is probably one of the most famous Romanian landmarks due to its association with the infamous Count Dracula. That’s also why Bran Castle is one of the coolest castles in the world.
Built atop a rock in Gothic style, it is an imposing sight to behold. Ever since it was built, Bran Castle belonged to the people of Brasov. However, in 1920 the latter decided to offer it as a gift to the Romanian royal family. Bran Castle became Queen Marie’s favourite residence in Romania and it reflects her taste and personal touch to this day. We enjoyed our visit to Bran Castle immensely and this is why we decided to write an entire article about it. You can read it here.
2. Corvin Castle
Also known as Hunedoara Castle or Hunyadi Castle, Corvin Castle is one of the best places to visit in Romania. This Gothic-style structure is one of the largest castles in Europe. Corvin Castle is in Hunedoara, an industrial town in southwestern Transylvania.
The drive from Sibiu to Hunedoara takes about an hour and a half. Sadly, the route is not what we’d call a scenic one as you get to drive on boring highways for the most part. But let us take you with us on a virtual trip to Corvin Castle, one of the most famous castles in Romania.
Once we got to Corvin Castle, we parked near the entrance for a tiny fee. We started walking towards the castle, past various food trucks and souvenir stalls that weren’t exactly the quaintest thing you’d wish for. Yet, the minute we set eyes on Corvin Castle, its remarkable size and unique charm left us speechless.
Hunedoara Castle is built amid lush greenery on a rock around which flows the small Zlasti River. To enter the castle, you must cross a gorgeous and utterly dramatic drawbridge. Visiting on a foggy and rainy day only added to the overall mesmerising effect Corvin Castle had on us.
Once inside, we found ourselves in the castle’s massive interior courtyard. We started our tour around Corvin Castle from the famous Knight’s Hall, one of the most impressive rooms in the castle. We spent more than an hour wandering around the medieval castle. There are informative signs everywhere and that helped us learn a lot about the castle and its former residents. We also read about various legends related to the castle.
The most striking of all was the one about the castle’s well. Corvin Castle is home to a 30-metre deep well. Legend has it that the well was dug by three Turkish prisoners after the Hunedoara ruler of the time promised he would set them free if they found water. It took the three men 15 years and 28 days to find water but the ruler was dead by then and his wife did not live up to his promise. She chose to behead the prisoners instead.
Just around the corner from the well, another gruesome part of the castle awaits. The infamous bear pit. I guess we don’t have to go into much detail about what used to go on in there. It’s rather self-explanatory.
What we liked about Corvin Castle the most was its dark and mysterious ambience. Far from being the typical palace-like castle, we found its raw beauty captivating. Corvin Castle has its own special elegance and this is why people prefer it for private events and celebrations. Actually, when we visited, there was a wedding photoshoot going on.
Keep in mind that upon exiting the castle, though, the fairy-tale goes bad instantly as the view is not at all rewarding and it brings you back to reality rather abruptly.
To plan your visit, click here for the official Corvin Castle website (available only in the Romanian language at the time of writing).
3. Sighisoara Citadel
Far from being just another of the best castles to visit in Romania, Sighisoara Citadel is a living and breathing medieval town that never ceased to be inhabited throughout the centuries. In our humble opinion, a short visit to Sighisoara Citadel wouldn’t do it justice. Ideally, you should overnight within the citadel’s walls to feel you’ve been transported to times long gone but never forgotten. That’s what we did and you can read all about our trip to Sighisoara Citadel here.
Learn the secrets of Sighisoara Citadel during an amazing walking tour of this gorgeous medieval town.
4. Viscri Fortified Church
Viscri is a UNESCO World Heritage site alongside six other villages with fortified churches in Transylvania. The fortified church of Viscri is built in Gothic style. The first fortifications were added around 1525. Viscri lies on the route between Brasov and Sighisoara and you can easily combine it with Rupea Fortress on the same day trip.
To reach Viscri, we had to leave the main road connecting Brasov to Sighisoara (E60) at some point. We expected to enjoy some stunning views of fantastic landscapes along the way and we weren’t disappointed. What we didn’t expect though, was how terrible the road condition would be. There were huge potholes everywhere and we had to be extra careful not to damage our rental car.
However, all this was totally worth it. Viscri was a unique experience for us and one we won’t easily forget. It’s a village of indescribable charm with no paved roads, where domestic animals like hens and ducks roam freely everywhere. The colourful medieval cottages in Viscri made us fall in love with the place and we’re not the only ones. It seems that Prince Charles went as far as to buy and restore an 18th-century house in this picturesque village lost in time.
As we ascended the cobblestone path to the fortified church, it started to rain. This slowed us down and gave us time to take in the beauty that surrounded us. The fortified church of Viscri was unlike any other castle or fortress we had seen until then. To cut a long story short, we believe that Viscri is the most enchanting of all the Romanian castles in Transylvania you see on our list and hands down one of the most beautiful places to visit in Romania.
Apart from wandering around its fairytale-like paths, we admired Viscri’s gorgeous chapel as well as its collection of traditional clothes and objects that were on display at the small on-site museum. We couldn’t get enough of the place’s peacefulness and magic. Not to mention that the nature surrounding Viscri is equally stunning.
After an hour or so, we left the fortified church but decided to have lunch in Viscri before hitting the road again. Our experience couldn’t have been more authentic. We had homemade bean soup at a Romanian lady’s front yard. One thing’s for sure. We’ll be back for more. Next time we’ll definitely plan an overnight stay in Viscri. It must be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we don’t want to miss.
Click here to visit the fortified church in Viscri from Brasov in the most hassle-free way.
5. Rupea Fortress
Halfway between Brasov and Sighisoara lies Rupea Fortress, one of the most well-preserved medieval structures in Romania, built in an area of rare natural beauty amidst dreamy hilltops. The fortress was founded by Transylvanian Saxons for protection against Ottoman invasions.
Many historians claim that Rupea Citadel was built on the ruins of a Dacian settlement. The Dacians were populations that inhabited this area in ancient times. It is also believed that Rupea coincides with the very place where the last Dacian king took his own life so as not to fall into enemy hands.
It is possible to reach Rupea Fortress from the centre of Rupea Town by walking along a quaint uphill cobblestone street. Alternatively, you can drive to the fortress. We did so and we were happy to find that there were two parking lots right outside the entrance. The best part is that they were free of charge.
As soon as we entered Rupea Fortress, the citadel got us under its spell. Once we were inside the main gate, an utterly beautiful scenery awaited us. Our eyes filled with colour as the red roofs of the towers contrasted with the green grass. The latter was dotted with tiny flowers of various colours. We could almost feel the peace and safety that people must have felt within the thick walls of Rupea Citadel.
Admire the gorgeous Romanian countryside on your way from Brasov to Rupea Fortress during a unique half-day trip.
6. Biertan Fortified Church
The fortified church and village of Biertan is a UNESCO World Heritage site alongside the other six villages with fortified churches in Transylvania. An exquisite example of late Gothic architecture, the 15th-century church is perched on a hill right in the middle of a quaint village with colourful houses and flowing streams. One of the most renowned strongholds, the fortified church of Biertan was impossible to conquer in medieval times.
Biertan is a 30-minute drive from Sighisoara. From Sibiu to Biertan it takes a bit longer, about one hour and a half.
The fortified church of Biertan is one of the best places to visit in Romania. It houses a famous door that is considered a marvel of engineering. The door features a super-smart lock with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated by a single key.
Another fascinating story about Biertan is the one referring to the fortified church’s Prison Tower. Married couples who wished to divorce were locked inside this tower for weeks. During this time, they were forced to share a super tiny space. If they still wanted to divorce after this, the bishop allowed them to do so. However, only one couple in centuries decided to go through with the divorce after their imprisonment of sorts.
Visit Biertan and Sighisoara on the same full-day trip.
7. Rasnov Fortress
Rasnov Citadel is situated on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains. It is one of the fortresses that flourished when the Saxon populations settled in Transylvania. Unlike other Saxon fortresses, Rasnov was designed to provide refuge for extended periods. This is why it eventually became more of a village than a fortress. It housed a school, a chapel and more than 30 residential buildings.
Surrounded by mountains, Rasnov was not an easy fortress to conquer. The only time Rasnov Citadel surrendered to the enemy was in 1612. How? Invaders discovered the secret route used by people to bring fresh water inside the fortress. After that incident, a well within Rasnov’s walls needed to be dug. Rasnov Fortress suffered from sieges, fires and natural disasters before it was completely abandoned. Nowadays, it’s restored and operates as a museum.
The town of Rasnov is a 30-minute drive from Brasov. As soon as we parked the car, we started strolling around one of the cutest towns we visited during our trip to Transylvania. Colourful houses, cobbled streets and the Citadel rising above the tiny town make Rasnov irresistible.
There is a path leading up to Rasnov Fortress. However, we chose to use the Citadel Elevator to save time and much-needed energy. The elevator started operating in 2015. It is fast, frequent and affordable and it offers the opportunity to catch the most breathtaking views of Rasnov and the surrounding mountains.
Once inside the fortress, we walked along its paths, went up and down its towers and in and out its buildings. All of a sudden, we were kids again. We let our imaginations fly to the past and tried to picture what life must have been like for the Transylvanian Saxons living within the Citadel’s thick walls. We wouldn’t leave before exploring all the hidden corners and admiring the magnificent view.
Rasnov Fortress can be part of the same day trip from Brasov alongside Peles Castle and Bran Castle. That’s how we did it anyway.
Step inside three castles in one day by booking this fascinating tour from Bucharest.
8. Poenari Castle
Bran Castle may be the most famous castle in Transylvania but Poenari is the real Dracula Castle. Perched on a cliff overlooking the gorgeous Romanian countryside, Poenari Castle is now reduced to ruins.
The only way to reach Poenari Castle is hiking. On top of that, expect to climb almost 1500 steps to get to the top. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to go anywhere near Poenari Castle as there are a lot of bears in the area. Therefore, make sure you visit Poenari Castle with a local guide who will know when it’s safe to visit.
Even if you don’t get to climb to the top of Poenari Castle though, you can still get a glimpse of the real Dracula’s castle in Romania while driving along the world-renowned Transfagarasan Road.
Read our guide to the perfect Transfagarasan road trip and start planning your own adventure at one of the world’s most exciting routes.
Alternatively, leave the driving part to the hands of an experienced driver, sit back and enjoy the ride to Poenari Castle via the Transfagarasan Highway.
9. Peles Castle
Technically, Peles Castle is not in Transylvania. It is located in the neighbouring Wallachia region in the quaint town of Sinaia. But we couldn’t possibly leave Peles Castle out of this list of the best Romanian castles. After all, it is very close to where the two regions meet. Now that we got this tiny detail out of the way, let’s talk about why Peles Castle is among the best Romanian sites.
A fine example of German new-Renaissance architecture, Peles Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. It served as the summer residence of the Romanian royal family from 1883 until 1947. Peles Castle has 160 rooms. Impressively enough, it was the first castle in Europe ever to be entirely lit by electric current.
As soon as we parked the car at one of the castle’s parking lots, we started walking along the beautiful cobblestone path that leads to the entrance of Peles Castle. It is an uphill yet marvellous path. Tall trees provide thick shade while a stream runs alongside creating small waterfalls every now and then.
Suddenly, Peles Castle appeared to our right. It didn’t take us long to understand why it’s considered one of the best places to visit in Romania. Peles Castle is dazzling. More of a palace than a castle, it’s a sight for sore eyes as it rises above the spectacular nature surrounding it. A million selfies later, it was time for us to go inside the castle.
You can visit Peles Castle on a guided tour only. After buying our tickets, we waited for about 20 to 30 minutes until we could enter the palace and join the rest of our English-speaking group. This gave us some time to stroll around the stunning garden with its sculptures and topiaries. We also marvelled at the wonderful murals in the interior courtyard.
Once inside the castle, we were taken aback by the lavish decoration of the various rooms. Peles Castle houses a large collection of unique pieces of furniture, fine art and various invaluable objects.
On the ground floor, mostly armours and weapons are on display. We particularly enjoyed the tour of the first floor where we got a glimpse of the everyday lives of the royals who spent their vacation at Peles Castle. Our guide showed us around the luxuriously decorated rooms while sharing historical facts and anecdotes with us.
10. Pelisor Castle
Peles Castle and Pelisor Castle are part of the same complex, tucked away in the glorious Romanian countryside. Pelisor Castle was built between 1899 and 1902. This lesser-known Romanian castle is a fine example of the Art Nouveau architectural style. For that alone, it’s one of the most amazing castles in Romania. If you make the trip to Peles Castle, make sure you have enough time to stroll around the charming Pelisor Castle too.
Travel Resources For The Best Romanian Castles in Transylvania
We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best Romanian castles.
Are there any other Transylvania castles you have visited that we should add to our list for the next time we travel to Romania?
Let us know of your favourite Romanian castles in the comments!