Two Romanian Castles. Dracula’s Castle And Peles Castle

with 12 Comments
After visiting Budapest, we crossed the border into Romania to visit two of the most famous Romanian castles: Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s Castle and Peles Castle.
At first the train rushed for a few hours through the Hungarian Pannonian Basin, and I was very enthusiastic to spot lots of rabbits, pheasants and deer running freely; but as the train carried us deeper and deeper into Romanian territory, the views changed dramatically, and lush green forests took the place of the endless fields. The train slowed down due to speed restrictions which made the journey quite long, but I have to say it didn’t bother us at all. As the train cut through the legendary Carpathian Mountains, the scenery was breathtaking.

Bran Castle

Dracula’s Castle, inner courtyard
Once arrived in Brasov, one of the pretties places to visit in Romania, we took the city bus till the main Bus Station where we changed for a less crowded bus to Dracula’s Castle – probably the most famous Romanian castle of them all. Apparently not everybody in Romania is interested in seeing the cradle of vampirism. Romanians are deeply spiritual people. When they pass by a church, be it Orthodox or Catholic, they make the sign of the cross. So they are not really inclined to nurture a  vampire cult.

Dracula’s Castle is situated at the border between the legendary region of Transylvania and Wallachia, two of the three historical parts of Romania. It was a gloomy day; the kind of day that gives one the feeling they are about to walk into something spooky. The castle is situated on a hilltop, like any other respectable medieval fortress, and I bet they didn’t built it there for the views, though they would have had all the reasons in the world to do so.

Just before entering the castle, a storm started and lastes exactly as long as we wandered around Dracula’s estate. The place doesn’t have much furniture and the walls are all painted in white but what really impressed me were the old and narrow wooden doors and windows, nicely decorated, and the fireplaces covered in blue tiles.

There isn’t much evidence of Dracula’s presence here, in fact history has it that Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) used the castle during his raids into Transylvania only a few times. Bran Castle was never the residence of the Dark Prince as Bram Stoker imagined it to be. However, the narrow, squeaky wooden stairs and the spooky secret passage we explored screamed “Fangs!”. I prefer to give credit to the legends. It’s more charming this way. Though we are still human, don’t worry, Dracula was on strike that day!

Inside Dracula’s Castle

Peles Castle

After exploring Bran Castle, we took the train for Sinaia to see Peles Castle, the most beautiful Romanian castle, and perhaps even the most beautiful in Europe. Believe me, I’ve seen almost all the important European castles and the only real competition Peles Castle has are Neuschwanstein Castle and Warwick Castle.

In Sinaia, a very popular tourist resort, one can find double rooms with private bathroom for as low as 15euro (Update: Prices might have gone up since our visit in 2010). Romania still is one of the cheapest Eastern European destinations; nevertheless, it doesn’t get many foreign visitors, though it has lots of potential.

In the morning we headed towards the King Carol I’s Castle. We had to climb lots of stairs but our patience was fully rewarded when we got up to the castle. Magnificent Neo-Renaissance structure!

Peles Castle

Peles Castle

Inaugurated in 1883, Peles Castle cost approximately $US 120 million at today’s currency rate and it was a royal hunting preserve and summer retreat for the monarch. When the communists took the power Ceauşescu did not like the castle very much and visited rarely. According to some, that is due to the wicked resident museographers, who, counting on the Ceauşescu couple’s paranoid health phobias, declared the building to be infested with a dangerous fungus, which in 1980s was true to a certain extent but was only affecting the timber.

Peles Castle, inner courtyard
Peles Castle has about 160 rooms and today most of them are open to the public. You can choose from three different rates, depending if you want to see more or less rooms. The entry fee is a bit pricey I have to say, but you get huge student discounts (about a quarter of the full price) if you have a student card to show at the ticket office. However if it is to compare the fee with the ones they have for other European castles you actually get very good value. Except the last floor where the guests rooms are located the whole castle is covered in wood.

There is so much sculpted wood here that I believe they needed a whole forest to decorate the place. I’ve never seen anything so richly decorated in my entire life. Not to talk about the furniture, the stained glass windows depicting German fairy tales, the massive doors, the carpets, the paintings, etc. Peles Castle was the first in Europe to have central heating and electricity. The full tour lasts about 2 hours. And believe me, your senses grow tired of so much beauty and so many details after a while. It’s more than the human eyes can take. So much beauty can not be put into words. I’d just wish I had a summer retreat like this for my eyes to have time to adjust…

Peles Castle, the dinning room

What to eat: We had Romanian stuffed eggs and sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with  minced pork and rice) – the traditional Romanian meal. And we indulged ourselves in local pastries, a pretty cheap and delicious way to fill up your belly at any time of the day. My favorites were the poppy seed and nut rolls, the cabbage pie and the cherry strudel (similar to the Viennese apple strudel, but with a bit of Romanian twist). Also if you have a sweet tooth, the Romanian cakes (prajituri) are exquisite and a must try.

So, are the Romanian castles worth visiting? Definitely! Why? Because the Romanian castles are beautiful and intriguing and legendary, in spite of being under-advertised. By visiting these castles you’d be doing yourself a favor, trust me!

12 Responses

  1. Gypsy Traveller
    | Reply

    Peles Castle is way nicer than Bran castle

    • Laura
      | Reply

      It is, but Peles doesn't have vampires 😉

  2. Zorica
    | Reply

    Very nice post and photos 🙂

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Thank you, Zorica! The Romanian castles are so cool!

  3. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Visited both castles in August 2011.Both were
    amazing and well worth the time to see them.
    Romania is so beautiful.If we could affort
    it I would love to visit every year.

    Paul from Milwaukee,Wisc.U.S.A.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Romania is still on the cheap side and still little known… A gorgeous country with lots of touristic potential.

  4. Nancie
    | Reply

    Great post. I would love to wander around the grounds of Peles Castle and that dining room is out of this world.

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I've visited twice already and I could visit it a thousand times more. It's impossible to grow tired of Peles Castle. There will always be something new to discover.

  5. Hermitbiker
    | Reply

    …. old castles are cool, especially in Romania !!

    • Laura
      | Reply

      I totally agree! 🙂

  6. Jeff
    | Reply

    cool pictures. I especially like the dining room in the Peles Castle picture

    • Laura
      | Reply

      Yes, it is amazing! The whole Peles Castle is beyond words.

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