First off, I know vampires aren’t real and Vlad the Impaler didn’t live in Bran Castle, but even so, the chance to step inside Dracula’s Castle was an absolute dream come true for me!
I took a “Dracula Tour” with Rolandia who offer a selection of small group and personalised tours in Romania.
I took their customised day trip that started off in Bucharest and took me to three awesome Transylvanian historical sights: Peles Castle, Rasnov Citadel, and finally Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle)!
I’ll be telling you about what I saw on my Transylvania tour, but will also tell you all about how to visit Transylvania if you’d rather go DIY. Without further ado, let’s get our fangs stuck into Transylvania Romania!
Bucharest is Romania’s capital city, and a popular jumping-off point for travellers on the way to visit Transylvania. Bucharest was once nicknamed the “Paris of the East” and has a certain faded splendour and a charming mismatch of architecture. If you have time to spare in Bucharest before your tour begins, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy, be it hip coffee shops, quirky bars or laidback drinking gardens.
Bucharest also has some excellent museums, such as the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum, which offer a glimpse into Romania’s fascinating history and culture.
Many airlines operate flights into Bucharest, including Wizz Air, Ryanair, Blue Air and British Airways.
You can also arrive in Bucharest by rail or bus connections from other major cities.
Peles Castle is located in Sinaia, a small resort town in the Carpathian mountains about 40 miles from Brasov and 80 miles from Bucharest. Peles Castle was built by the first king of Romania, Carol I of Hohenzollern, and was used as a summer residence for the Romanian Royal Family until 1947 when the monarchy was replaced by communist rule.
From the outside, Peles Castle looks like something out of a fairy tale with its ornate turrets and stone terraces. Inside the castle you can marvel at an opulent collection of European artworks, crystal chandeliers and exquisitely carved furniture.
Peles Castle is located about a mile from Sinaia station, which is on the train line that runs between Bucharest and Brasov. Admission is 30 Lei (about €6.40). Peles Castle is open from 9:15am until 4:15pm, except on Wednesdays when it opens at 11:00am. In winter, Peles Castle is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and in summer it is closed on Mondays, but you can still look at it from the outside when it is closed. See Peles Castle’s website for more information.
Rasnov Citadel, also called Rasnov Fortress, is a historic monument dating from the 13th century, when it was built by Teutonic Knights to defend the region against invading Tartars. Rasnov Citadel sits imposingly atop a 650-foot rocky hilltop overlooking the dense evergreen forest, and also has its name in Hollywood-style white lettering.
Unlike Peles Castle which was reserved for royalty, Rasnov Citadel was designed to provide ordinary people with a safe place to live during times of attack, and so it has over 30 houses, a schoolhouse and a small church.
Some of the buildings have been restored and inside them you will find an assortment of souvenir shops and the chance to take part in traditional Romanian activities such as archery and axe throwing. Hurgh!
Rasnov is located about 10 miles from the city of Brasov. To get there, you can take a bus, taxi or train from Brasov. The citadel is open daily from 9am to 7pm. The entrance fee is 12 Lei (about €2.50).
Club Vila Bran is a delightfully kitsch holiday village located a stone’s throw away from Dracula’s Castle. At the restaurant, you can try some traditional Romanian food while enjoying the spectacular view of Bran Castle and the surrounding countryside.
I ate a delicious lunch of traditional Romanian food and the view was absolutely amazeballs.
Club Vila Bran is located about 800m from Bran Castle, so it’s not too far of a walk, or you could grab a taxi. You can get a decent lunch at Club VIla Bran for about €13.
Bran Castle (Castelul Bran in Romanian) was built in the 14th century, in what was then part of Hungary. The castle was initially used to defend German colonists in the region against the Ottoman Empire. It later became a customs post on the trade route between Transylvania and Wallachia.
In 1920, when Transylvania became part of Romania, the castle became a royal residence and was home to Queen Marie. Bran Castle was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana, who ran a hospital there during the Second World War. Ownership of the castle passed to the communist regime after the monarchy was abolished in 1947.
Nowadays, Bran Castle is a museum that is mostly devoted to collections of art and furniture that belonged to Queen Marie, as well as weapons and armour dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. You can wander through narrow passages and underground tunnels, and even see the torture chamber. Don’t expect coffins and bats, though – the castle is actually quite cute and cosy, and doesn’t really play up to the Dracula myth.
Some people believe that Bran Castle was the inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but actually, Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania and Bran Castle doesn’t match the description of Count Dracula’s castle in the novel.
Stoker did take inspiration from the real historical figure Vlad the Impaler who lived in the 15th century, but Vlad the Impaler was only loosely connected to Bran Castle and probably never set foot there.
The most likely explanation is that the Romanian government wanted to boost tourism in the 1970s and decided to advertise the castle as Dracula’s Castle to get more people to visit. But in my eyes, that doesn’t make the place any less interesting. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of history and imagine what life must have been like for the people who lived there.
Bran Castle is open daily from 9am, except for Mondays when it opens at 12pm. It is open until 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer. The adult ticket price is 40 Lei (€8.50). See Bran Castle’s website for more practical information.
On my tour with Rolandia Travel, I saw all of the above sights in one day from 8am to 8pm, but Rolandia are able to adapt your tour to your needs. If you prefer a more relaxed pace or want to rearrange the itinerary, add or remove stops, you got it!
If you want to recreate this tour DIY-style, first travel by plane, bus or train to Bucharest. From there you have the option to either take public transport, or rent a car.
From Bucharest, you can take the train to Sinaia Station to visit Peles Castle, which is a direct train and takes about 1.5 hours. You can check train timetables here.
From Sinaia, you can take the train onwards to Brasov which takes about an hour.
If you’re short on time, you could skip Peles Castle and just take a train straight from Bucharest to Brasov which takes about 2.5 hours.
Once in Brasov, you can either take a bus, train or taxi to Rasnov Citadel.
Finally, to get to Bran, you will need to take a bus from Brasov. There are 1-2 buses per hour and the journey takes about 45 minutes. You can check the bus timetable here.
Several car rental companies operate in Romania, including Enterprise and Sixt, which have pick-up points in Bucharest. From Bucharest to Brasov it’s a 200km drive.
You can drive via Ploiesti or Pitesti and both of these routes take around 3-4 hours depending on the traffic. The roads are more likely to be busy at weekends.
You’ve got questions? I’ve got answers!
Transylvania (Transilvania in Romanian) is in Romania, in Eastern Europe.
Transylvania is not its own country – it’s a part of Romania.
Yes! Transylvania wasn’t just invented for vampire stories.
It depends if you want to explore the wider region of Transylvania, or if you just want to visit Dracula’s Castle. If you only want to visit Bran Castle, I would recommend Bucharest as the easiest starting point as it has the best transport links. You can also get flights to Transylvania that land in Sibiu and Cluj-Napoca.
For the purposes of visiting Dracula’s Castle, you could stay in Bucharest or Brasov. Other places to stay in Transylvania include Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Sibiu.
As I experienced, you can pack a lot into just one day, especially if you book an organised tour. However if you have a longer time to spend in Romania, you could easily spend a week or more exploring the region in more detail.
It’s not just Dracula’s Castle! There are plenty of other things to do in Transylvania. As well as the sights I’ve mentioned above, some of the best places to visit in Romania include Brasov Historical Centre, Turda Gorge, the medieval town of Sibiu and the spectacular cathedral of Timisoara.
The official language of Transylvania is Romanian, so you may like to learn a few words or phrases before you visit Romania. However you will certainly get by if you don’t speak any Romanian. My tour guide spoke excellent English!
You can visit Transylvania at any time of year. Winter in Transylvania is picturesque and snowy, but summers are warm and pleasant, so you can go at whichever time of year takes your fancy.
Yes, you can get a variety of Transylvania tours from Bucharest, and that’s exactly what I did with my Rolandia tour. In a 12-hour day trip you can see Bran Castle and some other nearby historical sites as I detailed above. Check out Rolandia for Dracula’s Castle tour and other Romania tours.
As per current FCO advice, Romania is considered a fairly safe country. There have been political protests in major cities recently, mainly in Bucharest, but you can keep safe by staying alert and avoiding any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. Also, pickpockets operate in touristy areas so you will need to be cautious of your personal belongings just like you would when travelling anywhere else.
Jonathan Harker, the protagonist of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was basically an estate agent. He travelled to Transylvania to meet the mysterious Count Dracula to help him to buy a house in London. If you like, you could try to retrace his steps.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that vampires aren’t real, but I sure do love a good vampire story.
Visiting Transylvania was one of my most favourite experiences in Romania! If you want to make your Dracula dreams come true too, I hope this blog post has helped!
Have any questions or thoughts to share?
Ask me about Romania, other destinations in Europe, or just share your thoughts on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I know almost all of the book off by heart.