Bran Castle: The Real Story of a World Famous Attraction

Diana Condrea
Diana Condrea
Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer. You can find Diana on LinkedIn

Bran Castle is included in our one day tours and our tours in Transylvania

If for you Bran Castle is all about vampires and mythical characters, then you may as well skip this article. Because Bran Castle is ultimately a magnificent medieval fortress that Queen Maria turned into a special royal residence, one of her favorites, in the years that followed WW1.

While many of the visitors who show up in large numbers, making it the most visited attraction in Romania, go in search of the Dracula legend, the castle itself has nothing to do with Bram Stoker’s famous novel. It’s instead a great place to imagine centuries of medieval fights and past times of royal glory when Romania’s most beloved Queen turned it into a home.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle was first a medieval fortress

The fortress of Bran was first mentioned in the 14th century, but an older construction most likely existed in the same location. Enjoying a strategic location, at the border of Transylvania with Southern Romania, the fortress controlled the commercial route that linked the two historical provinces, but also the Ottoman Empire with Central and Western Europe.

Considering the risk of attacks over the commercial convoys but also the constant threat of the Ottoman Empire, the fortress was destined to serve a military function besides its border point role.

Bran Castle

Architectural detail, Bran Castle

Built between 1377 and 1382 by the German colonists after King Louis I of Anjou granted them this right, the fortress remained for long periods of time under the control of the city of Brasov with a few major exceptions. One of these cases was in the early 1400s when Mircea the Old, the prince of Southern Romania and the grandfather of future Prince Vlad the Impaler, got the right to use the fortress in order to support his anti-Ottoman crusades.

His grandson was, nonetheless, less keen on continuing granting the merchants from Brasov commercial privileges. Vlad the Impaler attacked Brasov and killed many merchants who in return started a strong defamation campaign, comparing him to the devil.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

The fortress remained in the possession of the city of Brasov for the following centuries, but its military role gradually became less important, and until 1920 it was used as an administrative building. Partially ruined, the fortress was offered as a gift to Queen Maria for her key role in the Great Unification from 1918. She restored the old fortress, transforming it into one of her favorite royal residences.

Royal times at Bran Castle

Extremely talented and very passionate about architecture and decorations, Queen Maria worked with Karel Liman, the chief architect from Peles Castle, to transform the fortress into a true royal castle. Built partially on a rock, with an irregular architecture, the medieval fortresses left little space for ample remodeling. Modern facilities like telephone lines, tap water, electricity, and an elevator were installed.

The Queen prepared an ample apartment for herself and one for King Ferdinand as well as for her youngest children, Prince Nicolae, and Princess Ileana. In the vast garden, she had built a Tea House and various traditional houses. A small wooden church received as a gift from a village in Transylvania was also brought here.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

After the Queen’s death in 1938, the castle was inherited by her favorite daughter, Princess Ileana. She lived here with her family until the end of 1947 when the communists forced her to leave the country. During WW2, she even built a hospital here where she took care of war victims just like her mother did 30 years before.

Bran Castle today

A museum during communist times and regained by the children of Princess Ileana in the 21st century, Bran Castle managed in just a few years to become a highlight of Romania’s castles. Before you visit, just remember that its real story has nothing to do with Dracula, but everything to do with its 600 years old past.

Read also From Bucharest to Bran: The Stories of Queen Maria and Princess Ileana

Where to stay in Bran

While there are many accommodation options in Bran, we recommend you pay attention to customer reviews and services offered before you book your stay as Bran is mainly a mass tourism destination. However, there are also some great options. We recommend the guest houses Conacul Bratescu, Inspire View, Casa din Bran, and Casuta Bunicii.

Travel tips

Bran Castle is the most visited attraction in Romania. Expect long queues especially on weekends and summertime. Book your tickets online.

Just a few kilometers away you’ll find small and peaceful mountain villages.

Brasov is less than one hour away. Spend one day or more in this beautiful city.

From Bran, you can also start hiking to Piatra Craiului National Park and Bucegi Mountains.

Bran Castle is included in our one day tours and our tours in Transylvania.  

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