The Bran castle is probably Romania's most popular tourist attraction as its associated with the main character of the famous vampire story - Dracula. Located in the forested region of Transylvania, it's easy to reach and visited by hordes of tourists and organised groups. But what is the castle really like? Is it unique and worth seeing? Or is it yet another overrated tourist attraction?
How to get to Bran Castle
Getting to the castle couldn't be easier - if you don't drive, just take a bus from the beautiful city of Brasov (for around 2 USD) and you'll get in the village of Bran in approximately 50 minutes.
The village is tiny and not that interesting although I liked the distinctive style of some houses in the region. However, the town itself has lost its native atmosphere due to the ubiquitous souvenir stands, cafes and restaurants that aim only at the tourists. It's a typical tourist area, extremely crowded not a charming village and besides the castle, there’s pretty much nothing to see.
The castle is located on the hill and a short walkway up leads you to its gates. Don't be surprised when you see the lines - you'll probably have to wait at least half an hour before getting in - especially in the summer.
The entry fee is around 40 LEI (8.50 EUR/10 USD) which is not that bad considering how popular the site is. You can check the latest prices and info on the official website.
The Dracula Story
The Dracula Story is completely false in a sense that it never happened in reality and was written by Bram Stoker, an Irish writer who hadn’t seen neither Romania or the Bran castle itself. However, people do associate this tale with the infamous, incredibly cruel ruler Vlad the Impaler who fought against the Ottoman invasion in the 15th century. Vlad was known for its extreme bestiality - he is believed to have been responsible for a "forest" made of wooden stakes onto which his enemies were impaled. They remained there for weeks in order to deter the Ottomans approaching Romania and it apparently worked.
However, Dracula - the main character of the novel didn’t have much in common with Vlad (except for his unsatisfied thirst for blood) and Vlad, in turn, had nothing to do with the Bran castle. He surely didn't live there and it's unlikely he ever visited it. So why do people call it "Dracula castle"? The reason for that is that the castle as well as the location in the novel is situated in Transylvania and the Bran castle has the distinctive, old, medieval appearance.
If you really want to see the place of where the infamous Vlad was born and lived - go to an unbelievably charming little town of Sighisoara (it was my favorite in Romania). Sigisoara resembles a Disney film set and at some points I started thinking it was fake - but of course it's not. I'll write about Sighisoara in one of the future posts.
Is Bran Castle worth visiting?
As I mentioned above, the castle, although not very large, has the typical, medieval look from the outside and also the courtyard is very pretty. However, the interior is kind of empty and the halls as well as the rooms are quite bleak. If you didn't know it's the famous Dracula castle, you wouldn't notice anything spectacular. It could pass as yet another, ordinary medieval castle, one of thousands in Europe.
Although Vlad never resided in the castle, his portraits are present on the walls as is the precisely described legend.
Bear in mind that you will have to squeeze through the narrow passages among the crowds which won't make it easy.
There's one unique thing about this castle, though, which seems to be unnoticed by other travel bloggers. What I'm talking about here is the torture room displaying all the fanciful medieval torturing devices. The models of the actual machines are enriched with drawings and exact descriptions that will tell you all about how they were used in gruesome detail.
If you're not too sensitive, this part is interesting to see, even though you have to pay a little extra to enter. Although small, it was surprisingly empty comparing to the crowded castle.
Overall, we enjoyed the visit in the Bran castle although it wasn't anything that surprising or exciting. It is a bit overrated, I must say. If you want to see a really outstanding castle - visit the Peles castle. It's absolutely amazing - the most beautiful castle we've ever seen.
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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