If you are looking for a thrilling and mysterious destination for your next vacation, you might want to consider visiting Bran Castle in Romania. This medieval fortress, perched on a hill in the heart of Transylvania, is one of the most popular attractions in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. But what makes this castle so special and fascinating? The answer lies in its potential connection to one of the most famous and feared characters in literature and history: Count Dracula.
Where is Bran Castle?
Bran Castle is located in the village of Bran, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) southwest of the city of Brașov, in the region of Transylvania.
Transylvania is a historical and cultural region in central Romania, bordered by the Carpathian Mountains, that has a rich and diverse heritage, influenced by Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, and other ethnic groups. Transylvania is also known for its scenic landscapes, picturesque villages, fortified churches, and castles, many of which have legends and stories associated with them.
When Was Bran Castle Built?
Bran Castle was built in the 14th century, on the site of a former wooden fortress that was erected by the Teutonic Order, a German military and religious order, in the 13th century. The stone castle was commissioned by King Louis I of Hungary, who granted the privilege to the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brașov) to build and defend the castle, in exchange for their loyalty and support. The castle was meant to serve as a strategic point of control and defense, guarding the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, and protecting the trade routes that passed through the mountain pass.
The castle underwent several modifications and expansions over the centuries, changing its appearance and function according to the needs and preferences of its owners and occupants. The castle served as a royal residence, a military garrison, a customs post, and a prison, among other roles. The most significant renovation took place in the 20th century when the castle became the property of Queen Marie of Romania. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and transformed it into a summer residence and a museum, decorating it with art and furniture from her personal collection.
Did Vlad the Impaler Live in Bran Castle?
One of the most intriguing and controversial questions about Bran Castle is whether it was ever inhabited by Vlad the Impaler, the notorious ruler of Wallachia, who inspired the fictional character of Dracula, created by the Irish writer Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel. Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III Dracula, or Vlad Țepeș, was born in 1431, in the town of Sighișoara, in Transylvania. He was the son of Vlad II Dracul, who was the voivode (prince) of Wallachia, and a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order dedicated to fighting the Ottoman Empire. Vlad III inherited his father’s title and his surname, Dracula, which means “son of the dragon” in Romanian.
Vlad III is remembered for his cruel and ruthless methods of ruling and fighting, especially for his signature practice of impaling his enemies and traitors on wooden stakes, as a form of torture and execution. He is also credited with defending his land and people from the Ottoman invasion, and resisting the influence of the neighboring powers, such as Hungary and Poland. He ruled Wallachia three times, between 1448 and 1476, with various interruptions and conflicts. He died in battle, fighting against the Ottomans, and his body was allegedly buried at the Snagov Monastery, near Bucharest.
The historical evidence of Vlad’s connection to Bran Castle is scarce and inconclusive. Some sources suggest that he may have stayed at the castle for a short period of time, either as a guest, a prisoner, or an attacker, at some point during his turbulent life. However, there is no definitive proof that he ever lived or owned the castle. The link between Vlad and Bran Castle was mainly established by the tourism industry, in order to attract and entertain the visitors who are fascinated by the legend of Dracula.
The legend of Dracula, as we know it today, is largely based on the novel by Bram Stoker, who never visited Romania, and who used various sources and influences to create his vampire story. Stoker chose the name Dracula for his protagonist, after reading a book about Wallachian history, where he learned about Vlad’s surname and his deeds. He also described Dracula’s castle as being located on the edge of a cliff, near a river, in the mountains of Transylvania, which loosely matches the location and appearance of Bran Castle. However, Stoker’s castle is also a product of his imagination, and it does not correspond exactly to the real Bran Castle.
Nevertheless, Bran Castle has embraced its association with Dracula, and it offers a variety of attractions and events related to the vampire theme, especially around Halloween. The castle hosts a permanent exhibition of objects and documents related to Vlad the Impaler and Bram Stoker, as well as temporary exhibitions of art and literature inspired by Dracula. The castle also organizes parties, concerts, shows, and contests, where visitors can dress up as vampires, enjoy traditional food and drinks, and have fun in a spooky atmosphere.
How to Get to Bran Castle?
If you are coming from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, you can take a train, a bus, a taxi, or a rental car to Brașov, a city about 30 kilometers (16 miles) away from Bran. From Brașov, you can take another bus or taxi to Bran Castle. The total journey time can vary from 3 to 5 hours, depending on the traffic and the schedule. You can also book a guided tour from Bucharest that includes transportation and entrance to the castle.
If you are coming from abroad, you have several options to fly to Romania. The nearest airport to Bran Castle is Brașov-Ghimbav International Airport, which is located in Ghimbav, about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Brașov. This airport is the first one to be built in Romania in the last 50 years, and it started operating in June 2023. It offers flights to and from several European destinations. From the airport, you can take a taxi, a shuttle bus, or a rental car to Bran Castle. The journey time is about 20 minutes and the cost is around 10 to 20 euros.
You can also fly to other airports in Romania, such as Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport, Sibiu International Airport, or Cluj-Napoca International Airport, and then take a train, a bus, or a car to Brașov and then to Bran Castle.
How Long Do You Need at Bran Castle?
Generally, it is recommended to allocate about two hours for Bran Castle. This includes the time needed to explore the castle’s interior and exterior, as well as the museum and the souvenir shops. You may also want to allocate some extra time to enjoy the views and the atmosphere of the castle and its surroundings.
Bran Castle is open to the public every day, except for Mondays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter. However, you should be aware that the castle can get quite crowded during the peak season, especially on weekends and holidays, so you may want to plan your visit accordingly. Some sources suggest that the best time to visit Bran Castle is during the spring or fall months, when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are smaller. You may also want to visit the castle early in the day, to have more time and space to explore it at your own pace.
- Kaplan, Arie. (2011). “Dracula: The Life of Vlad the Impaler”. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. ISBN: 9781448812295
- Lewis, Robert. (2023, September 11). Bran Castle. Encyclopedia Britannica
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- Pallardy, Richard. (2024, January 1). Vlad the Impaler. Encyclopedia Britannica
- Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor. (2021, November 1). Vlad the Impaler’s thirst for blood was an inspiration for Count Dracula. National Geographic