No trip to Romania is complete without a visit to Bran Castle, famously known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’. If you’re familiar with the story of the vampire, written by Bram Stoker in 1897, you’ll know what I’m talking about. That dark, mysterious-looking medieval castle located high up on a hill above the village. The one in all the pictures. And the main tourist attraction in Romania.
Since my mum and I were only in Romania for a weekend, we didn’t have time to get off the beaten path, so for once, we decided to stay on it. We followed the other tourists to Bran to visit the castle, but also made a stop in Brașov to see that city (which, apparently, many tourists don’t do – and that’s a real shame! Read why here!).
Getting to Bran is a tad bit complicated, but it was made easier by all the friendly locals that we met along the way, who all spoke excellent English (because English films aren’t dubbed in Romania – France, do you hear that!?).
We arrived at Bran Castle after travelling for about 4 hours, including an hour of waiting in Brașov, and then the explorations began.
Bran Castle was built in the 14th century. In 1438-1442, it was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later it became a customs post between Transylvania and Wallachia. Many royalties have lived in the castle over the years, including Queen Marie, who lived there in the early 20th century.
Bran Castle is often referred to as the home of Count Dracula, Bram Stoker’s character, who ‘has a castle located high above a valley perched on a rock with a flowing river below in Transylvania’, although there is no evidence that Bram Stoker even knew that this castle existed, as he never travelled to Romania. However, Bran Castle is said to be the only castle in all of Transylvania that actually fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle.
It’s often said that the character of Count Dracula is inspired by Vlad the Impaler, a blood-thirsty ruthless Wallachian prince, who ruled Transylvania in 1448-1476. It’s not known if Vlad the Impaler ever visited Bran Castle, but he’s known to have passed through the Bran Gorge several times.
The castle is a museum today, and it displays original furniture and arts collected by Queen Marie. The museum was interesting, but really had little to do with the Dracula story, which is probably what most people come to the castle for.
The castle is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, in the tiny village of Bran, which more or less has been built up as a tourist village surrounding the castle with one big market in its center. We spent quite a while looking at the market, and I even bought myself a Romanian styled top (it’s really cute and colourful!).
Visiting Bran Castle was one of those “tick it off the bucket list” experiences – one of those things that you just HAVE to see. It’s world famous and full of interesting history – a history that varies a lot, depending on who you ask. Together with the city of Brașov, Bran Castle is a great and worthwhile day trip to do from Bucharest, especially if you’re a Dracula fan – although, don’t expect to see his coffin there (or himself) ;).
This post sums up our third mother/daughter trip in three years. In 2015, we explored Riga, Sigulda and Turaida in Latvia; in 2016, we discovered Vilnius and Trakai in Lithuania; and in 2017, the time had come for Romania, where we saw Bucharest, Brasov and Bran. I wonder where next year’s trip will take us!
Here’s some information on travelling to Bran:
- From Bucharest, take a train to Brașov from the Gara de Nord train station. It takes 2,5 hours and costs 49 lei per person one way. The timetable can be found here: http://www.infofer.ro/en/.
- From the train station in Brașov, catch bus 23 to Autogara 2 (4 stops), which costs 4 lei per person one way. You’ll find bus 23 in front of the parking lot to the right from the train station.
- From Autogara 2 catch a bus to Bran, which leaves every 30 minutes on week days and every hour on weekends. The bus stops right below Bran Castle. It costs 7 lei per person one way and takes about 40 minutes. It’s a beautiful ride, and you’ll pass by Râșnov Citadel on the way!
- On the way back you can catch a bus on the side of the road in Bran. We waved the busdriver down as we couldn’t find a bus stop. Luckily he came just as we were finished looking at the market, but I don’t know how frequent it is.
- We then caught a taxi from Autogara 2 to the city center of Brașov for 10 lei. If you have time, I definitely recommend spending some time in Brașov as well!