Is there really anyone out there who is not fascinated by castles? Or someone who wouldn’t be intrigued by the prospect of going castle hunting in Europe? As far as we are concerned, we love wandering around lush palaces and dark fortresses alike. So we knew we had to plan a castle hunting trip of our own at some point. But why choose Romania? The answer is simple. The Balkan country is among the best value-for-money destinations we have ever visited and Romanian castles are among the most impressive ones in Europe.
The entire country is dotted with castles, fortresses and enchanting citadels. However, we only had time to explore just one of Romania’s regions and we went for the obvious choice: Transylvania. The latter is the largest and most well-known region in Romania. Transylvania castles are famous across the globe for good reason. They are abundant, each of them has its own unique charm and they are surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
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Where is Transylvania?
Transylvania is a region in central Romania, surrounded by the majestic Carpathian Mountains. It is possible to go directly to Transylvania, without getting to Bucharest first, as there are two international airports in the region. One in picturesque Sibiu and the other in vibrant Cluj-Napoca. However, most international travellers arrive at Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, before proceeding to Transylvania.
When we plan a trip to a new country we always buy one of our favourite Lonely Planet guides first.
Grab yours here: Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria (Travel Guide)
How to get from Bucharest to Transylvania
We’ll never get tired of saying that driving is the best way to explore Transylvania. We are talking about a region of incredible natural charms here, where quaint towns and hidden gems of medieval villages are scattered everywhere. Especially when it comes to a weekish-long trip, like our own, driving can give you the freedom to discover little treasures you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Either drive your own car all the way from nearby European countries or rent a car the minute you land at the airport in Bucharest and you can thank us later.
Spending some time in Bucharest?
Check out our essential travel guide to the Romanian capital!
Still not convinced? Then check out train timetables and routes and plan your trip to Transylvania accordingly.
If on a shorter trip, consider choosing among many Transylvania castle tours available so as to save yourselves some valuable time. Don’t worry, we have handpicked the best ones for you. Just keep reading!
Top 7 Romanian Castles in Transylvania
We have already mentioned two of the reasons why castles in Romania rock: there are plenty of them and they are affordable. However, there is a third reason, too. There are many different types of castles so even though we visited a couple of them every day, it never got boring. They can be loosely divided into three categories: castles, fortresses and fortified churches. What’s more exciting is that there is great variety in architectural styles and historic periods even within the same category.
Best of Transylvania Castles
There are so many castles scattered across the region that we wish we had time to visit all of them. However, we made sure to visit the ones we consider must-sees for every traveller to Romania.
Technically, Peles Castle is not in Transylvania. It is located in the neighbouring Wallachia region in the quaint town of Sinaia. But it couldn’t possibly be left out of this list because it is one of the best castles in Romania. Not to mention that 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 a visit to Peles Castle should not be missed. By the way, there is yet another castle you can visit in the same complex as Peles Castle. The Art-Nouveau Pelisor Castle. However, we didn’t have time to visit ourselves, so we’ll stick to our experience at Peles Castle.
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 and it was the first castle in Europe ever to be entirely lit by electric current.
As soon as we parked the car in one of the castle’s parking lots, we started walking along the beautiful path towards the entrance. 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 was 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.
Visit to Peles Castle is by guided tour only. After we bought our tickets, we waited for about 20′-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 at 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.
Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Peles Castle immensely. The only thing we didn’t like was that, upon entering the castle, it wasn’t clear which guide was assigned to each group. So, we ended up following the Romanian-speaking group for more than 10′ before managing to find where the English-speaking group was. That means we missed the introduction to the tour and all the precious info that went with it. In their defence, it was an awfully busy day. Last but not least, Peles Castle was by far the most expensive of all the Romanian castles we visited.
Opening hours: From May 15th to September 16th: Tuesday & Thursday to Sunday 09:15 – 16:15, Wednesday 11:00 – 16:15, Monday closed. From September 17th to May 13th: Thursday to Sunday 09:15 – 16:15, Wednesday 11:00 – 16:15, Monday & Tuesday closed.
Entrance fee: 30 lei/adult for the Ground Floor guided tour. 60 lei/adult for the Ground Floor & 1st Floor guided tour. Concessions applicable to senior citizens, students etc. There is also an additional fee for use of camera inside the castle: 35 lei for photos and 60 lei for video.
Coordinates: 45.3600° N, 25.5426° E
Website: peles.ro (Good luck with that. It’s only in Romanian. Google Translate is our best friend.)
Bran Castle is probably the most famous one in Romania because it is known as Dracula Castle. Built atop a rock in Gothic style, it is an imposing and impressive construction. 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 up to this day.
Opening hours: From April 1st to September 30th: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 18:00, Monday 12:00 – 18:00. From October 1st to March 31st: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 16:00, Monday 12:00 – 16:00.
Entrance fee: 40 lei/adult. Concessions applicable to senior citizens, students etc.
Coordinates: 45.5149° N, 25.3672° E
Also known as Hunedoara Castle or Hunyadi Castle, Corvin Castle is regarded by many as the most spectacular one in the entire country. The Gothic style structure is one of the largest castles in Europe. Corvin Castle is in Hunedoara, an industrial town in southwestern Transylvania. We drove from Sibiu to Hunedoara and it took us about an hour and a half to get there. Sadly, the route was not what we’d call a scenic one as we mostly drove on boring highways.
We parked near the castle’s entrance for a tiny fee. After passing various food trucks and souvenir stalls we got to the castle. The minute we set eyes on it, 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, one must cross a gorgeous and utterly dramatic drawbridge. Visiting on a foggy and rainy day only added to the overall mesmerising effect the castle had on us.
Once inside, we found ourselves at 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 30m deep well. Legend has it that the well was dug by three Turkish prisoners when 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 I don’t have to go into much detail about what used to go on in there. It’s rather self-explanatory.
We liked Corvin Castle for its dark and mysterious ambience. Far from being the typical palace-like castle, its raw beauty is captivating. It 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 photo shoot going on. Upon exiting the castle, though, the view is not at all rewarding and we were brought back to reality rather abruptly.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 20:30, Monday 12:00 – 20:30. Please contact Corvin Castle directly before visiting because it’s not clear if these opening times are valid all year round.
Entrance fee: 30 lei (May, June, July, August), 25 lei (March, April, September, October), 20 lei (November, December, January, February)/adult. Concessions applicable to senior citizens, students etc. There is also an additional but very reasonable fee for use of camera inside the castle: 5 lei for photos and 15 lei for video.
Coordinates: 45°44′57″N 22°53′18″E
Website: http://www.castelulcorvinilor.ro (Other than the Tickets and Opening Times page, the website is in Romanian).
Best of fortresses in Transylvania
Transylvania has no shortage of fascinating medieval fortresses. Either ruined or restored to their former glory, Romanian fortresses are enchanting places to visit and let one’s imagination run wild. Most of them are built on high ground and this is why they are also called citadels.
Rasnov Citadel is situated on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains. It is one of the fortresses that flourished during the time when Saxon populations settled in Transylvania. Unlike other Saxon fortresses, Rasnov was designed to provide refuge for extended periods of time. 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. Invaders discovered the secret route people used to bring fresh water inside the fortress. After that incident, it was imperative that a well within Rasnov’s walls was dug. Rasnov Fortress suffered from sieges, fires and natural disasters before it was completely abandoned. Nowadays, it is restored and operates as a museum.
The town of Rasnov is a 30′ 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 all the way up to Rasnov Fortress. However, we chose to use the Citadel Elevator so as to save time and much-needed energy. The elevator is brand new. It started operating in 2015. It is fast (about 2′) and frequent and it offers the opportunity for some breathtaking views to Rasnov and the surrounding mountains. The cost is 12 lei/person for a return trip.
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 along with Peles Castle and Bran Castle. That’s how we did it anyway.
Opening hours: November to February daily 09:00 – 17:00, March & October daily 09:00-18:00, April to September daily 09:00-19:00.
Entrance fee: 12 lei/adult, 6 lei/child or student.
Coordinates: 45°35′26″N 25°28′8″E
Website: It seems that the Rasnov Fortress website doesn’t help much. Instead, contact their Facebook page for whatever information you need, including confirmation of opening times and ticket prices. They respond almost immediately.
Not driving? No problem!
Check out this amazing day trip from Bucharest and explore 3 castles in one day!
Halfway between Brasov and Sighisoara lies Rupea Fortress, one of the most well-preserved medieval structures in Romania. The fortress was founded by Transylvanian Saxons in an effort to protect themselves from Ottoman invasions. However, 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 all the way up a quaint uphill cobblestone street. Alternatively you can drive to the fortress. We did so and we were happy to find out that there were two parking lots right outside the entrance. The best part is that they were free of charge. Before even entering the fortress, we were taken aback by the natural beauty surrounding it. The sight of one green hilltop after another was almost dreamy.
As soon as we entered Rupea Fortress, it got us under its spell. If we loved wandering around Rasnov Citadel, we absolutely fell in love with Rupea. 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.
Opening hours: November 1st to March 31st 09:00 – 17:00. April 1st to May 31st 09:00 – 20:00. June 1st to August 31st 09:00 – 21:00. September 1st to October 31st 09:00 – 18:00.
Entrance fee: 10 lei/adult
Coordinates: 46.03715°N 25.21241°E
Website: Their website doesn’t help at all. Try also their Facebook page although they aren’t responsive.
Best of fortified churches in Transylvania
By far the most impressive sites we visited during our Transylvania road trip, were the region’s unique fortified churches. Part of the Saxon heritage of Romania, the fortified churches built from the 13th to the 16th century in southeastern Transylvania are among the reasons why the latter is a must-visit destination. But what are fortified churches exactly?
The largest towns had great fortresses like Rasnov and Rupea to protect their people. But how did small villages survive the constant threat of being invaded by Ottomans and Tatars? Every smaller Saxon community created fortifications around the village church. The latter came to be the centerpiece of the village’s defensive structure. With the addition of watchtowers and storehouses, the fortified churches of Transylvania protected people from all sorts of invasions. There are hundreds of fortified churches all across Transylvania. Unfortunately, we only had time to enjoy two of them. But we’re definitely going back for more.
Viscri fortified church
The fortified village of Viscri, along with the church, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church is built in Gothic style. The first fortifications were added around 1525. Viscri lies on the route between Brasov and Sighisoara and it can easily be combined with Rupea Fortress.
In order to reach Viscri, we had to leave the main road connecting Brasov to Sighisoara at some point. We expected to enjoy some stunning views to 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 puddles everywhere and we had to be extra careful not to damage our rental car.
However the time and the effort were totally worth it. Viscri was a unique experience for us. We are talking about a village with no paved roads, where domestic animals like hens and ducks are roaming freely everywhere. We are also talking about a village of indescribable charm. Its colourful houses 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 a house in this picturesque village lost in time.
It started to rain as we ascended the cobblestone path to the fortified church. This gave us time to stop and just take in the beauty surrounding us. Soon we were on our way again. The fortified church itself 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 seven Romanian castles described in this post.
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. 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 at Viscri before hitting the road again. Our experience couldn’t have been more authentic. We almost literally 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.
Opening hours: Daily 10:00 – 13:00 & 15:00 – 18:00.
Entrance fee: 8 lei/adult
Coordinates: 46.054712°N 25.088622°E
Website: http://www.viscri-info.ro. Check out the Romania Tourism official website as well.
Staying in Brasov and your schedule is tight?
Indulge in a day trip to Viscri and enchanting Sighisoara!
Biertan fortified church
The fortified church and village of Biertan is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. An exquisite example of late Gothic architecture, the 15th century church is perched on a hill right in the middle of the village. One of the most renowned strongholds, the fortified church of Biertan was impossible to conquer in medieval times. Biertan is a 30′ drive from Sighisoara. From Sibiu to Biertan it takes a bit longer: about one hour and a half.
When we arrived at Biertan, it was siesta time. The church closes for one hour from 13:00 to 14:00. This gave us plenty of time to walk around the quaint village with its colourful houses and flowing streams. When the time was right, we were among the first visitors to climb the covered staircase towards the spectacular church.
The fortified church of Biertan is a wonderful site. It houses a famous door which is considered a marvel of engineering for good reason. The door features a super smart lock with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated by a single key.
Another interesting story related to Biertan is the one referring to the Prison Tower of the construction. 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 the course of centuries decided to actually end the marriage after their imprisonment of sorts.
Opening hours: April to May & September to October: daily 10:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 17:00. June to August: Sunday to Friday 10:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 19:00, Saturday 10:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 17:00. November to April: Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 – 15:00.
Entrance fee: 10 lei/adult
Coordinates: 46.135198°N 24.521323°E
Website: Check out https://comunabiertan.ro/turism/ and here but don’t expect to find all the information you may need.
Staying in Sibiu and don’t feel like driving? No problem!
Visit Biertan and Sighisoara in a day and fill your eyes with medieval magic!
Top Tips on visiting the best castles in Romania
Before ending this post, we would like to sprinkle it with a few tips so as to help you have the best experience possible. Just like we did. First of all, the best time to visit Transylvania and its castles is during summer. The weather is amazing and you can make the most of your visits thanks to the long summer days.
Secondly, driving is the best way to explore Romania castles. This way you’ll have the absolute freedom to plan your visits to the castles and enjoy the Romanian countryside at the same time. One more reason why we loved driving around Transylvania is that we came across citadels and castles all the time. I’m not talking about the ones we actually visited. I’m talking about many many more. Sounds like we need to plan yet another trip to see the rest of them, right?
Another point we would like to stress is that all the beautiful castles included in this article can be easily done as day trips from the largest and prettiest towns in Transylvania. Peles Castle, Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress can be seen on a single day trip from Brasov. Rupea Fortress and Viscri can be visited on the same day from either Brasov or Sighisoara. Corvin Castle makes for a fabulous half-day trip from Sibiu while Biertan is an easy trip from either Sighisoara or Sibiu.
So, what are you waiting for? Get on that horse, sorry, in your car and happy castle hunting!
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