Bran Castle: the real story of Dracula’s Castle
Bran Castle, commonly known as the house of Count Dracula, is one of the main attractions in Transylvania. This is a national symbol of the region and the most visited fortification of the country. It is often called Dracula’s Castle, and there is a grand party on Halloween. But is it true that the prototype of the most famous vampire owned Bran Castle? Who built the medieval fortress and why? What does the castle look like today and how to get to it? It’s all in the article below.
In 1212, the Teutonic Knights erected a wooden fortress at the site of the present-day castle to protect the mountain pass along which traders had been traveling for about a thousand years. In 1242, the garrison was destroyed by the Mongols.
The first mention of Castle Bran dates back to 1377, when Louis the Great gave the local Saxons permission to build a stone fortress, although at their expense. That was the reason why they were exempted from paying taxes to the state treasury for several centuries. Built on top of a cliff, Bran Castle served as a strategic defense point. In 1622-1625, two towers were added to the fortress to make it stronger.
In 1438-1442, the castle of Bran was used as defense against invasion by the Ottomans. The fortress was never taken. According to one version, Mircea the Elder of Wallachia owned the castle from the end of the 14th to the beginning of the 15th century. He decided that located between Transylvania and Wallachia, the fortress was a good place for a customs post.
During long years, Bran Castle was directly subordinate to the Kings of Hungary. It was their residence. But after Vladislav II failed to pay the rent, Brasov regained possession of the castle in 1533. Bran Castle played an important strategic role up to the middle of the 18th century.
In 1920, Bran Castle became the seat of the Kings of Romania. The building passed on to Queen Marie. She ordered an extensive restoration from the Czech architect Karel Liman. During the Second World War, Maria’s daughter Ileana opened a hospital in the castle to treat wounded soldiers.
After the royal family was evicted by the communist authorities in 1948, the castle was abandoned. Only in 2005, under the law of restitution, did the Romanian authorities return the property to Princess Ileana’s son, Dominic von Habsburg. On May 18, 2009, the state transferred the administration of Bran Castle to Dominic and his sisters. On June 1 of the same year, the recovered castle was opened to the public as the first private museum in Romania.
The surroundings of the castle are now full of life. Gift shops, cheese shops, cafes, restaurants, a chamber of horrors, and a park – the infrastructure is 100% developed. After all, it is the most popular castle in Romania.
About Vlad Tepes and Count Dracula
How did it happen that Bran Castle began to be called Dracula’s Castle? This is the “fault” of Bram Stoker, the Irish writer who settled his character in a castle on a rock. After the novel was released at the end of the 19th century, vampire themes became extremely popular. Hundreds of Stoker fans traveled to Transylvania to find any evidence of the vampire. And Bran Castle, located over the gorge, was considered as Dracula’s refuge. Local authorities did not refute such a misconception, and furthermore, began to actively support it.
In fact, it has not even been ascertained whether the prototype of Count Dracula, Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes in Romanian), had ever been to Bran Castle. The most famous Transylvanian prince could have stayed here for several times, but nothing more. Indeed, the suburb of Budapest, Visegrad, where Vlad Tepes was detained for some time, has much more to do with Dracula.
The popular stories that present the castle as the main residence of Tepes are just a travel brand. The fortress is located in a good place, it is well-preserved and looks much gothic. So, local authorities began to actively promote Bran Castle turning it into a vampire shelter. And they have succeeded.
Useful information for visitors
During the high season, there are many people everywhere: in the parking lot, in souvenir shops, at the ticket office, at the entrance to the castle, and in the park. Get ready to wait in line before you finally reach the castle. There are a lot of negative reviews on the Internet about that. Something like most of the time you look at the back of a visitor in front of you instead of enjoying the interiors of the castle. As for the castle itself, it was built in the medieval centuries and it has no large stairways, huge halls or ballrooms that are common for palaces of later times. In contrast, Bran Castle is characterized by narrow stairs, small passages, and low ceilings. However, it has its own special atmosphere and boasts a number of unique advantages, such as an impressive exterior and Queen Marie’s collection of art. Bran Castle has 4 levels that are connected by a staircase. Its halls and corridors make up a mysterious labyrinth. Besides, there is a well in the courtyard. According to legend, it leads to the underground premises.
The exhibition presents furniture and clothing, household items, weapons, armor, etc. All the explanatory plates in the castle are written in Romanian and English. But if you want to get more information, be sure to take a guided tour from Brasov.
Official website: bran-castle.com
From April 1 to September 30: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (on Monday from 12 p.m.).
From October 1 to March 31: from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (on Monday from 12 p.m.).
Adults: 40 lei.
Seniors (ID is required): 30 lei.
Students (ID is required): 25 lei.
Children: 10 lei (for children under 7 years old – free of charge).
Prices are indicated depending on the season.
Buy tickets online: bilete.castelulbran.ro/en (if you want to avoid queues at the ticket office).
How to get to the castle
By bus. Buses to Bran Castle leave from Brasov Bus Station (Autogara 2 Transbus Codreanu) daily. The frequency of departures is 30-60 minutes. A tour to the castle can be easily combined with a visit to Rasnov Fortress. It is located halfway between Brasov and Bran.
By car. The distance from Brasov to Bran Castle is 30 km. The journey will take about 40-60 minutes. Paid parking is within 10 minutes walk from the castle.