About Bran Castle
Commanding a strategic crossroads for hundreds of years, Bran Castle in Romania is an impressive medieval fortification and popular tourist attraction. Famously known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran in fact has little or no link to any of the legends surrounding the fictional vampire or even the genuine figure of Vlad the Impaler, on who the character is loosely based.
History of Bran Castle
Built on the orders of King Louis I of Hungary, Bran Castle was completed in just a few years around 1377. It served as an important strategic stronghold in an area which was often involved in local and regional conflicts. Frequently garrisoned by mercenaries, one interesting note Târnava mentions brigades of “English ballista men” serving at the castle.
The castle was modified a number of times over the centuries, and was occasionally a focal point in the conflicts of the region – most notably in 1442 when it withstood a siege from Ottoman forces. It also served as an important trading and customs post, generating significant income for the local towns. Over time, the military importance of Bran Castle diminished and it became an important political centre and residence.
In 1920, Bran Castle became an official palace of the Romanian Royal Family, and the famous Queen Maria played an important role in its restoration, development and décor – as she did with many of the royal residences at the time.
In terms of its links to Dracula, Bran Castle doesn’t seem to be an obvious choice. While the figure upon which the vampire is loosely based Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler) was a prisoner of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus here for about two months in 1462 there is little more that connects them. Indeed, according to the account on the official website, it was American tourists in the 1970s and 1980s who established the link, due to the castle’s location and exterior design.
However it happened, the myth has superseded the reality, and today as well as exploring the castle’s exterior and stately interior, tourists have to navigate a sea of pointed-toothed merchandise.
Bran Castle today
Bran Castle is extremely atmospheric – and whilst its links to Dracula are best known, Queen Maria gets just as much airtime in the castle’s displays and stories. The castle is open year-round (closed Mondays), with shorter hours during the winter. Come at Halloween for the extensive and ghoulish programme of events and tours. The views from the castle across the surrounding landscape are glorious, particularly in summer.
Getting to Bran Castle
Bran itself is a tiny village 30km south west of Brasov – you’ll need to drive via the DN1 and DN73 to get here. Public transport options are non-existent.
The landscapes of Europe are littered with medieval strongholds, built centuries ago to defend regions and people of great importance. Here are 15 of the continent's most incredible castles to visit.
Explore the impressive history of Romania in our guide to the 10 best historic sites to see, including the supposed home of Dracula at Bran Castle and the imposing Alba Iulia Fortress.