Looking for something spooky? Well, there are plenty of castles in Romania with fear-factor.
For starters, there’s Bran Castle – the supposed home of Count Dracula. And if you’re still up for a fright, the gothic bulk of Hunyad Castle is an imposing sight.
On the other hand, if you’d like to visit something from a fairy-tale, the delicate shape of Peles Castle is definitely worth seeing.
Apart from these famous fortresses, there are plenty of smaller sites – often fortified churches – which warrant an exploration.
Romania: Exploring Transylvania and Paying The Witch Tax
Nestled in Eastern Europe, Romania is a relatively new country.
Most tourists associate the place with Dracula: and it is a deeply superstitious place. In fact, sorcerers, spells and black-magic are so common that, in 2011, the Government tried to officially tax witchcraft. (I’m not even joking!)
Modern Romania emerged from three separate countries, which all existed during the Medieval period.
These three principalities were:
- Wallachia: a rolling territory at the Southern border of modern Romania, bordered by the fertile Danube.
- Moldavia: a mountainous land, frequently invaded and annexed by stronger powers.
- Transylvania: the most successful of them all. A rich, influential land, filled with gold and ambition.
Nowadays, we think of Transylvania as the home of Dracula. But Vlad III ‘The Impaler’ (the real-life horror figure who inspired the character of Dracula) was actually the ruler of Wallachia.
Bran Castle: Home of Dracula?
Bran Castle, at the gateway to Transylvania, is commonly thought of as ‘the home of Dracula’.
Truth be told, its connection to the legendary vampire is actually a bit hazy. Nonetheless, thousands of tourists descend on the castle each year. Armed with a stake and some garlic, no doubt.
The castle was originally built to defend the Bran Pass – the lifeline of trading town of Brasov.
The first stones were laid in approximately 1377, and the castle was further fortified over the next century to repel a number of devastating attacks.
The castle is perched on a jagged rock – and it has a particularly imposing outline. Over time, the legend of Dracula – written by Bram Stoker in the 1890s – has become linked to this castle.
(Even though Bram Stoker didn’t ever visit the place!).
Nevertheless, it’d be easy to get lost in its thin, winding corridors, and maze of darkened rooms.
Peles Castle is a romantic, mock-Medieval castle, built for Romanian Royalty. Construction began in 1873.
As a result, Peles is a larger-than life, fairytale castle. It’s quite different from the other fortresses on this page.
Peles is nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, and its tall towers and soaring turrets complement the surrounding terrain. It contains more than 170 rooms, decorated in a variety of European styles – from Moorish halls to decadent French chambers.
In style and ambition, it has a lot in common with Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. Neuswanstein was built at approximately the same time, too.
Peles was always linked to high society, and filled with the most modern of conveniences. It had its own electricity plant, and hosted the first movie-projection in Romania in 1906.
Corvin Castle (Hunyad Castle)
Corvin Castle (also, confusingly, known as Hunyad Castle or Corvinesti Castle) is a hulk of a fortress – a gigantic, Gothic-Renaissance castle that cuts one of the most impressive outlines of any in Europe.
This place has everything you might want from a Medieval castle: a huge Knight’s Hall with vaulted ceilings; a profusion of tall turrets; a Keep of last resort; and an ornate Medieval chapel.
It was once a place of grand hospitality and entertainment. The nicknamed ‘bacon tower’ was a tall turret where foods, including salted bacon, were preserved.
If the castle looks a little bit too good to be true, that might be because it was extensively renovated between the 1800s and 1900s. A lot of its features were exaggerated.
Nonetheless, Corvin Castle is full of spooky stories. It’s said that Vald the Impaler was imprisoned deep beneath the castle, and was forced to eat rats for sustenance. Perhaps that’s what drove him to madness.