Transylvania is Romania’s most popular travel destination, and its charming and mysterious castles are a big part of the almost mythical fascination it spreads. From well-known monuments like Bran Castle to smaller castles that once belonged to the local aristocracy, the hundreds of castles of Transylvania tell a story of their own rise and decay, often directly connected to the troubled history of Romania.
We’ve prepared a short guide to the top five castles of Transylvania to help you better plan your visit, but don’t forget there are many more waiting to be discovered.
One of the top medieval attractions from Transylvania, Corvin Castle from Hunedoara is for good reason listed by all travel guides as a must-see of the region. The residence of Price Ioan of Hunedoara centuries ago, one of the most successful medieval combatants of the Ottoman Empire, this impressive Gothic castle is today one of the most visited attractions in Transylvania.
Dating from the 14th century, the castle went through several architectural changes and renovations over the years, remaining still one of the most impressive Gothic castles in Eastern and Central Europe. The castle was used as the background of several movies and hosts many events including opera and film festivals.
Location: Hunedoara, Hunedoara County
For the visiting schedule, check www.castelulcorvinilor.ro
For sure the medieval Saxons who built the fortress of Bran in the 14th century had no idea how famous their work will be more than half of millennium later. Emerged overnight as an international attraction given its false, yet so much promoted, connection to the Dracula myth, Bran Castle is Romania’s most visited museum.
Essentially a medieval fortress built to defend and control the commerce done via the mountain pass Rucar-Bran, the construction found its most glorious use after 1920 when Queen Maria received it as a gift for her support to the cause of Romania’s Great Union from 1918. A royal residence until it was confiscated by the communists in 1947, Bran Castle functioned ever since as a museum.
Location: Bran, Brasov County
For the visiting schedule, check www.bran-castle.com
A castle in ruins that has a real chance to recover its past glory, Banffy Castle from Bontida has recently become the scene of a major music festival. Once known as the Versailles of Transylvania, the castle went through several construction phases from the 16th until the 19th century. It was fortified with towers and ramparts in the 17th century and remained in the possession of the Banffy family until the nationalization done by the communists.
Famous for its vast gardens, the most beautiful from Transylvania until 1944, the castle and its park were destroyed by the events of the Second World War and once more by the communist authorities who intentionally used it for activities that contributed even more to its decay. The amplest restoration works of the castle began only a few years back by the Foundation Transilvania Trust.
Photo source Foundation Transilvania Trust
The city of Cluj-Napoca is a great nearby attraction.
Location: Bontida, Cluj County
Visiting hours: from 10 am to 8 pm
The area of Mures is well-known for its many aristocratic residences. There are so many that you’d actually need an entire vacation to see all of them, but the imposing Teleki Castle is for sure one of those unmissable attractions. With a history that extends over centuries, the Teleki family was one of the most notable from the history of Transylvania, its members occupying high political functions. One of them, Laszlo Teleki, built the castle we see today at the end of the 18th century, while his descendants created one of the region’s most famous gardens.
Damaged by the Second World War and turned into a medical care center by the communist regime, the castle with 365 windows – one for each day of the year – is, nonetheless, part of the few castles of Transylvania that found their way back to their rightful owners.
Photo by Andrei Kokelburg via https://ro.wikipedia.org
The closest attraction is the city of Targu-Mures, only 17 km away.
Location: Gornesti, Mures County
More information on http://gernyeszeg.com
We’re back in Cluj County, in Manastirea this time, for a castle that was once one of the gorgeous Renaissance-style monuments from Transylvania. Kornis Castle dates from the end of the 16th century and was for hundreds of years the residence of the aristocratic Kornis family. Sadly, the monument, once known as the ‘castle with unicorns’ after the two statues that guard the entrance, was severely damaged in the 20th century. Only the tower gate from 1720 and the ruins from the main part of the castle are still standing today.
Photo by Daria Virbanescu via https://ro.wikipedia.org
The closest attractions include the cities of Cluj-Napoca and Bistrita.
Location: Manastirea, Cluj County
These are just five of the many castles of Transylvania you should see while exploring the ‘land beyond the forest’. But remember that you’ll find many more along the way. Keep your eyes open for signs pointing to historical monuments and buy a reliable map or travel guide.