Hidden away by the Carpathian Mountains are the forests, valleys, and castles of Transylvania. Legends and fairy tales have been passed down over the ages so much that this mystical place is arguably better known than the country it belongs to – Romania! By visiting the castles of Transylvania, you can see where Vlad the Impaler committed heinous acts and what inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best castle of Transylvania, helping you to plan your trip and make the most of your holiday to Romania’s most mysterious and magical destination!
When talking about the best castles of Transylvania, there’s only one place to start. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Brasov, Bran is thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s castle. Even though it’s a very accurate representation, Bram Stoker never visited. All he had to work with was the description available to him in 19th century Britain!
Bran Castle dates back to the 14th century, and its strategic location overlooks a mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. It’s also associated with Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracul, although it’s unknown exactly what their links to the castle are. It has seen many wars, but nowadays, you can visit the castle. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Romania. Read more about this place and discover 5 lesser known facts about Bran castle.
Just be careful when it comes to deciding where to stay… In the villages surrounding the castle, there are rumored to be tales of strigoi. Normal people during the day, their souls would leave their bodies at night and taunt villagers. This folklore shouldn’t put you off a night in a typical Transylvanian village, though – especially when you realize how good local hospitality is!
Hunyadi Castle may not be as well-known as Bran Castle outside of Romania, but it certainly gives it a run for its money! Also known as Corvin Castle, this one dated back to the 15th century and was the brainchild of Hungarian military leader John Hunyadi.
Located on a bluff, one of the largest castles in Europe is only accessible by a narrow bridge, adding to the mystique! In its current guise, Hunyadi Castle looks like something out of a fairy tale. This is not how it was originally, but after Hunyadi’s death, the castle fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 17th century that works begun to restore it, and by that time, Gothic architecture was the best way to do so.
If you tour the castle, you’ll probably be told the story that Vlad the Impaler spent some years here, slowly going mad. There’s no evidence to the story, but if you use your imagination in a place like this, it’s not hard to believe it! Read more about how to visit Hunyadi Castle, also known as Corvin Castle, here.
If you visit Rasnov, one thing you won’t be able to miss is the incredible citadel looming 650 feet above the town. Rather than being a castle, this is considered to be a fortification. Really though, it’s a village. Inside, you’ll see 30 houses, a school, and a chapel, among other things. And they’re all beautifully preserved!
Rasnov was first mentioned in 1331. Built as protection against invading Tatar armies, it was a safe spot for the Teutonic Knights of the time. Rasnov has seen much blood and brutality over the years, including a siege against the Ottomans in the late 17th century and a fire in the early 1800s. It was damaged by fire and eventually abandoned in the 19th century after a revolution.
Nowadays, it has been restored to its former glory and is a fascinating place to visit!
If you’re travelling to the city of Cluj-Napoca, you won’t want to miss Bánffy Castle of your itinerary. Once known as the Versailles of Transylvania, you’ll find this outstanding edifice in the village of Bontida.
The castle has been standing for over 600 years, but has been adorned and added to over the years. That’s why you’ll see Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neo-Gothic styles among the halls and buildings of the castle – just to name a few!
Now, Bánffy Castle is known as much for its history as it is for hosting one of the most popular music festivals in Romania – Electric Castle.
Castle Churches of Transylvania
To get an idea of the imprint the Saxons left on Transylvania, look no further than their fortified castle churches. Nowadays, they’re some of the most impressive tourist attractions in the country and rightly so! Being too expensive to fortify their entire villages to resist in battles against Ottomans, Tatars, Mongols, and others, the Saxons fortified only their churches. Originally there were around 300, of which 150 still stand today.
There are several across Transylvania, and it can be hard deciding which ones to put on your itinerary. May we suggest Biertan, Prejmer, and Viscri, all considered UNESCO World Heritage sites. However, you’ll get valuable insight into Romanian history and culture, whichever castle church you choose to visit.
Peles and Pelisor Castles
Okay, so it’s cheating, including Peles and Pelisor on a list of the best castles of Transylvania. That’s because it’s in neighboring Wallachia! However, since it’s one of the most stunning castles in Europe, we didn’t really want to miss it off our list. Plus, it’s just 30 miles South of Bran Castle!
Commissioned in the 19th century, this was actually the royal summer residence of Romania until 1947. The opulent interior includes fine art, crystal chandeliers, and intricate stained-glass windows.
If you’re happy to step outside of Transylvania, Peles Castle should not be missed! Here you will find All there’s to know about Peles castle.
So, now that you know all about the best and most important castles in Transylvania…
You’ll be wanting to book a trip. If you’ve set your heart on 1 or 2, or even all of these castles, sometimes the simplest way is to book a tour. After all, on the roads of Transylvania, it’s not unusual to get stuck in a traffic jam behind goats or sheep. And that can be tricky to navigate! If a tour sounds like it might be for you, then check out Covinnus Travel. We offer tours for small and private groups in Romania and Eastern Europe. There are some great options in Transylvania!