Bran Castle is one of the most iconic Romanian landmarks, thanks in large part to the legend of Dracula. Irish novelist Bram Stoker based his fictional character, the bloodthirsty vampire Count Dracula, on the historical 15th-century prince, Vlad the Third of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler, (Vlad Tepes in Romanian), whose fondness for impaling his enemies on the battle ground earned him his nickname. Yet Stoker never put foot in Transylvania nor anywhere in Eastern Europe, much less Bran Castle. And most likely nor did Vlad (although some sources indicate that he was held prisoner there for a couple of months).
Located in the heart of Transylvania, in a small commune named Bran, 25 miles from beautiful Brasov city, between the peaks of the Mountains Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains, the castle offers splendid views of the nearby hills, Moeciu Valley and Valea Bârsei.
The castle was built between 1377 and 1388, however, evidence dates back to the year 1212, showing the castle was constructed on the site of a Teutonic Knights stronghold with the purpose to establish the Teutons in the area and to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania. The construction was completed in 1388 and it served a double role: as a fortress against the Ottoman Empire’s expansion, and as a customs house for Transylvani, (holding 3% of goods coming in and out of Transylvania).
Over the next 5 centuries the castle went through different stages and was inhabited by woodsmen, kings … it even belonged to Hungarian kings at some point, when King Vladislav II failed to pay his debts.
Fast forwarding towards modern times, in 1918 Transylvania became part of Greater Romania with Queen Maria of Romania, (the last queen consort of Romania and granddaughter of Queen Victoria), working hard to unify the country. Therefore the town of Brasov gifted her the castle in 1920. She refurbished and decorated many of its 57 rooms, making the castle her royal residence. After her death, her daughter, Princess Ileana, ran the castle as a hospital during World War II. In 1948 the castle was seized by the Communist regime. In 1956, after the Romanian royal family had to leave the country, the Communist regime transformed the castle into a museum. In 2009 the building was given back to Princess Ileana legal heirs, namely Archduke Dominic, Archduchess Maria Magdalena, and Archduchess Elisabeth.
Currently, 4 floors of the castle operate as a museum, largely devoted to Queen Maria, hosting collections of weapons and armor, costumes and furniture. The castle is also a popular location hosting incredible Halloween events.
Check out the castle’s official website to learn more about it, and plan your visit as soon as you can when traveling is safe again.