Wandering around the dark Gothic castles of Brasov in Romania in search of Dracula
Brasov is considered to be the number one tourist destination in Romania. Being the home to Dracula and a number of dark Gothic castles, it’s easy to see why so many people want to visit Brasov.
Just two and a half hours north of Bucharest (the train costs 44 lei, approximately €9), the train to Brasov is worth the trip alone.
Leaving the often chaotic scenes of the capital city behind, the train quickly takes you through landscapes that have come to define Romania; flat plains, light green rolling hills, dense dark green forests, and of course the Carpathian Mountains, the second longest mountain range in Europe.
It is among these mountains in Transylvania that you will find Brasov.
With a population of just shy of 300,000 people, Brasov feels like a small mountain town a 10th of its size. The city is extremely easy to walk around, and wherever you look you’ll have the Carpathian Mountains as your backdrop.
I stayed at Kismet Dao Hostel (45 lei, approximately €9 per night), a place with nearly 1,200 reviews on Hostelworld, though I think that’s partly due to the free beer you get (yes, the hostel gives you a free beer a day – how amazing is that!?)
One of the first things I did in Brasov was to go on the Brasov Free Walking Tour. This takes roughly two and a half hours and it is a fantastic way to orientate yourself with the city. Even though it is a free walking tour you should leave at least a 10 lei (approximately €2) tip; the people who run the tour are excellent and they really bring the history of Brasov to life.
One of the major draws to Brasov is its close proximity to the castles in the surrounding area, some among the finest in the whole country.
If you’ve only got one or two days in Brasov, I recommend a private taxi as you’ll get to see more of the area and you’ll get to spend longer at each site. A private taxi costs 80 lei (approximately €16) per person, though local transport to each Peles Castle, Bran Castle and Rasnov fortress is an option.
The first place we went to was Peles Castle in Sanaia, 60kms from Brasov.
In the 1860’s, attracted by the area’s wild beauty, Romania’s first king, Carol I (born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen), decided to build his summer residence here – this is Peles Castle.
Soon the place became a favourite among the Romanian upper class and Sinaia was transformed into Romania’s unofficial summer capital.
Today, it is still as alluring as it was 150 years ago, and still Peles Castle is the major attraction.
Even though people refer to it as a castle, it is in fact a palace. Built in a neo-renascence, gothic-revival and baroque style, Peles Castle is as grand and luxurious on the inside as it is on the outside.
An English guided tour of Peles Castle is included in the ticket price of 20 lei (approximately €4), but you need to pay extra to take photos inside
Next we visited Bran Castle, which many associate as the home of Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler or Dracula. Also, even though he never visited Romania, Irish author Bram Stoker used Bran Castle as the setting for Dracula, hence the connection here.
A ticket to Bran Castle costs 25 lei (approximately €5) and gives you access to the museum and grounds.
One of the things that will strike you about Bran Castle is how bleak it is, further shrouding Vlad Tepes in mystery, and a tour of the castle and museum is well worth it.
And finally, our private taxi tour took us to Rasnov, a fortress overlooking the Romanian countryside and only 20km from Brasov.
The medieval citadel of today is considered to be built between 1211 and 1225, and you can still walk on the original foundations.
Within the walls of the citadel, there are a few tourist attractions and you can quite literally try your arm at archery and axe throwing (naturally I tried my hand at both. Let me give you a hint – axe throwing has absolutely nothing to do with strength).
At the top of the citadel you are met with spectacular views of the Romanian countryside and everyone I was with, myself included, thought that Rasnov fortress was the best of the tree castles surrounding Brasov we saw.
With the castles surrounding Brasov and the city itself, it is easy to see why this area of Romania is so popular among tourist and locals alike.
Have you ever been to Brasov? If so, what was your favourite castle of Brasov? And did you manage to find Dracula!? Let me know in the comments below.
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