Bran Castle, about an hour from the city of Brașov, certainly seems like the kind of place Dracula and vampires would live. It sounds exciting, but that’s where the legend ends. It’s known in popular culture as Dracula’s Castle only because Bram Stoker chose it as the setting for his novel. Even the real historical Dracula, Vlad Țepeș, never lived there and probably only visited briefly.
In reality, this Transylvanian fortress was built in the 1377 and later used to guard the town of Bran against the Ottomans. In the 1920s, it became a summer residence for Queen Marie. It was seized by the Communists in 1948, but later returned to the royal family who opened it to the public as a museum in 2009. Bran is known as Törzburg in German and Törcsvár in Hungarian.
I made my visit to Bran in the afternoon. I arrived in town and saw a large castle that seemed to sit perfectly on a piece of rock that sharply jutted out of the ground. As I walked up the path to the castle entrance I had all kinds of creepy feelings running through my body.
Once inside, however, it was a bit of a letdown. No dungeons. No vampires. No tales of blood curdling deaths. Instead, it was a rather quaint and simple place with bare walls and a few pieces of furniture. It was just another royal residence but without too much excess.
I was able to visit several rooms of the house that were decorated the way Queen Marie would have seen them, including the queen’s bedroom, the prince’s school room, a dining room, and a music room.
Some of the rooms contained short texts about life in the castle, period costumes, and even explained myths about Dracula.
One secret passageway was open to visitors. It involved passing through a small door and climbing up a narrow stone staircase. That was as exciting as it got.
The most beautiful part of the castle for me was the inner courtyard. It seemed like a pleasant place anyone would enjoy spending time.
Another highlight was the spectacular views provided from some of the windows.
I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by my visit to the castle, but I was left wanting more. It’s worth seeing for its dramatic setting and architectural beauty, but don’t expect to be terrified, bitten by any vampires, or see anything terribly unique inside. The castle very effectively uses its legend to draw in tourists and it does have a tourist trap kind of aura to it.
Bran Castle is open daily and charges a 35 lei admission for adults, 20 lei for students, and 7 lei for children (as of December 2016). Buses from Brașov’s Autogară 2 leave often and take one hour to make the trip to Bran. The town of Bran isn’t that interesting, but you’ll find all kinds of touristy things like craft shops near the entrance to the castle and some restaurants. Bran Castle makes a great day trip from Brașov combined with Râșnov, which is just 30 minutes from Bran.