A Tour of Romania’s Castles: Day Trip to Transylvania

20191228081720_img_9272 (2)-148215106794361028..jpg
The exterior of Peleș Castle.

After spending a few days in Bucharest, Romania’s bustling capitol, Daniel and I decided to get out of the big city. Romania is home to many spectacular castles, including Bran Castle in Transylvania – which has long been associated with Vlad the Impaler (of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fame). Peleș Castle, used as a filming location for A Christmas Prince, is located about an hour’s drive away in the Carpathian Mountains. Gorgeous castles draped with snow and nestled in the forests of Romania’s countryside? Yes please!

All we had to do was figure out how to get there. Since we didn’t have a car, we ultimately decided to book a tour. Daniel and I don’t usually go for organized tours, but it would have been difficult for us to visit many castles on our own in a single day. After searching around a bit, we eventually chose the AirBnB Experience 3 Castles and Brasov City in One Day.

Our guide, George, picked us up bright and early on the morning of December 28 in his personal car. As it turned out, Daniel and I were the only two people signed up for the event that day so it was just the three of us. At first we were concerned that it would be awkward to spend 14 hours in such close proximity with a complete stranger, but we needn’t have worried. George is a super chill guy and soon the 3 of us were chatting like old friends. It ended up being one of the best days that we’ve had on our trip so far.

20191228121013_img_9393 (1)2576632720584756156..jpg
The exterior of Bran Castle.

Peleș Castle

Our first stop of the day was Peleș Castle near the village of Sinaia. Located along a medieval trading route in the Carpathian Mountains, Peleș Castle was originally commissioned by King Carol I of Romania as his new summer residence. Constructed in a Neo-Renaissance style beginning in 1873, the castle boasts a 3,200-square-meter (34,000 sq ft) floor plan with over 170 rooms.

What really drew me to the castle, however, was its association with the Netflix movie A Christmas Prince. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it is a romantic comedy starring Rose McIver as an American journalist who meets the prince of the fictional country of Aldovia. Romance ensues. It is a heartwarming but sappy guilty pleasure that I typically watch alone after ensuring that no one else is around. The exteriors for A Christmas Prince, as well as its sequels A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, are all shot at Peleș Castle.

Coincidentally, I had just watched all three movies in a holiday movie marathon the previous week. I was pretty sick during our stay in Sofia, Bucharest, and so spent an entire day binge watching Netflix holiday movies. In fact, looking back at my blog post from Sofia, I included a photo of the apartment which happens to clearly show Peleș Castle from A Christmas Prince on the television screen. Totally unplanned, I assure you.

Due to our early start, we arrived at Peleș Castle just as it opened. We only had to contend with minimal crowds as we toured the interior which was nice. They charged a fee for taking photos inside the castle, so we decided to save some money and only paid for Daniel to take pictures. All the photos of the castle’s interior below are his.

Peleș Castle exterior photos

20191228092515_img_92872890209854531284774.jpg
Peleș Castle as seen through the trees.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail.

Peleș Castle interior photos

_IMG_4387
The Ottoman Room inside Peleș Castle. Photo by Daniel.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail. All Peleș Castle interior photos by Daniel.

Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle)

Our next stop of the day was Bran Castle. Located across the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, the castle is situated ominously above the village of Bran on a rocky crag. The fortress is commonly referred to as “Dracula’s Castle” due to its alleged connection with Vlad III Dracula. Crowned the ruler of Wallachia in 1436, Vlad Dracula became known as Vlad Tepes or “Vlad the Impaler” due to his ruthless habit of impaling enemies on pikes. When Bram Stoker wrote his novel Dracula, published in 1897, he borrowed the name Dracula as well as snippets of local legends for inspiration.

Ironically, Vlad Tepes never lived at Bran Castle. In fact, there is no evidence that he ever actually set foot in the castle. According to one legend, Vlad was imprisoned in Bran Castle for a short while in 1462. That’s the only connection between Vlad Tepes and Bran Castle that seems to exist (and most scholars don’t believe that it is true). But regardless of the castle’s tenuous connection to the real Vlad Dracula, the imposing fortress is worth a visit on its own right. And it’s a fun excuse to learn about one of Romania’s national heroes. The inside of the fortress, which has been converted to a museum housing Romanian Queen Marie’s furniture, isn’t terribly exciting. But the dramatic and lovely exterior for Bran Castle more than makes up for it.

Bran Castle exterior photos

20191228121416_img_93983048248296300779247.jpg
The exterior of Bran Castle.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail.

Bran Castle interior photos

20191228113219_img_93364762583498383387187.jpg
View from the balcony of Bran Castle. This is where Vlad Dracula allegedly impaled his enemies. Although that is probably not actually true.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail.

20191228121607_img_94007449645285395314815.jpg
A band plays Christmas Carols outside of Bran Castle as we leave. Ho ho ho!

Lunch in Bran Village

As we exited Bran Castle, we passed through a row of little shops and stalls selling local delicacies and souvenirs. So we decided to stop for a quick lunch of goulash from a food stand. George shares Daniel’s passion for food and they had long conversations about the different kinds of local foods in Romania throughout the day.

George also introduced us to a new local food: lángos. Comprised of a fried circle of dough which is deep fried, lángos is traditionally topped with sour cream and salty cheese although other toppings can be added as well. Daniel was *really* excited to try this new food and I think it may have even been the highlight of his day.

_IMG_4654
Our guide, George, introduces Daniel to Lángos. Photo by Daniel.
20191228123724_img_94115029826660622140190.jpg
Daniel tries Lángos for the first time.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail of some of the other foods we saw in the village.

Râșnov Fortress

We ended our castle tour with a stop at Râșnov Fortress. Located on a hill not far from the city of Brașov, Râșnov Fortress provides amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Or at least we assumed that the views would be amazing on a clear day. It started snowing during our visit to the fortress and visibility was quite poor, so the views were limited. It was fun to walk around the fortress in the snow though. The ride in a tractor-pulled wagon from the parking lot to the fortress entrance was fun too.

20191228141033_img_94706147976663028078205.jpg
Râșnov Fortress.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail.

Brașov

Before heading back to Bucharest, we stopped off in the town of Brașov for dinner and to explore the city. Brașov’s Christmas Market was still going strong, so we wandered the town square for a bit and sampled some mulled wine. George introduced Daniel to another one of his culinary favorites, Soric (salted raw pork rind). We also got to see the Black Church (Biserica Neagră) as well as Rope Street (Strada Sforii) – which is believed to be one of the narrowest streets in Europe.

20191228153130_img_94966769322995048550063.jpg
Brașov’s Christmas Market.

Click on a photo in the mosaic below to see more detail.

Where are we now?

Location: Transylvania and the Countryside in Central Romania
Date: Saturday, December 28, 2019
Vagabonding Journey Status: Day 89

Transylvania

For more details on our vagabonding journey, see my previous posts:

Like this post? Pin It!
Click on the image below to save it to your board on Pinterest.

Romania is home to many spectacular castles, including Bran Castle in Transylvania – which has long been associated with Vlad the Impaler (of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fame). Peleș Castle, used as a filming location for A Christmas Prince, is located about an hour’s drive away in the Carpathian Mountains.

4 thoughts

    1. Too bad you couldn’t make it inside Peles. It is fabulous – and much nicer than the inside of Bran Castle. Next time ☺️☺️

Leave a Reply