On a trip to Romania, a visit to Corvin Castle should not miss from your itinerary.
Corvin Castle, also known as Hunyadi Castle, is a Gothic treasure of Transylvania and an important cultural landmark of Romania. Though located not so close to Bucharest, every year it attracts thousands of visitors.
And why would it be otherwise?
This place meets all the conditions to be a magnet for travelers. It is the largest Gothic castle in Transylvania, an architectural masterpiece, the story of the former owners and guests would have been on the front page of the scandal newspapers of the time, it had its share of action and war, and lately, it became the set for Hollywood movies like “The Nun” and “Ghost Rider 2”.
So, let’s find out why and how to plan your visit to Corvin Castle:
- How to get to Corvin castle?
- Who built it?
- Which are the famous legends of the castle?
- Which is the best time to visit Corvin castle?
- Corvin castle vs Bran castle. Which one is better?
1. How do you get to Corvin castle?
If you are in Bucharest, you need more than one day to visit Corvins’ Castle. It is located in the South-West of Transylvania, in the city of Hunedoara. Though surrounded by steel factories, Corvins’ castle puts a spell on every visitor from the moment he walks on the former drawbridge.
By car: 6-hour drive from Bucharest
1-hour and 30min drive from Sibiu
3 hours and 30min drive from Brasov
3-hour drive from Cluj Napoca
2 hours and 30min drive from Timisoara
By train: From Bucharest, Sibiu, Brasov, Cluj Napoca, Timisoara to Deva. Continue from Deva to Hunedoara by bus.
2. Who built Corvin castle?
Corvin Castle has a long history. It is known under different names: Corvinus Castle, Corvins’ Castle, Hunyadi castle, or even Hunedoara Castle.
It was initially built 600 years ago atop a stone fortress by John of Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara). Most of the towers of defense date from his time: The New Tower, the Old Tower, Capistrano Tower, and the Painted Tower. Then, the Knight's Hall and the Council Hall were built.
Later on, new elements and fortifications were added to the castle by Matthias Corvinus and Gabriel Bethlen.
Mathias’ loggia was built during Mathias Corvinus time. Here visitors can admire the only secular painting from Transylvania’s 15th century.
The most notable expansion occurred during Prince Gabriel Bethlen in the 17th century, who built more towers and brought important changes to the castle's architectural style.
Who was John of Hunyadi?
John of Hunyadi was one of the most important personalities in Europe in the fifteenth century.
He remained in history as the man who saved Belgrade besieged by the armies of Sultan Mehmed the Second, Conqueror of Constantinople.
His victory in Belgrade against the Turkish army brought him the gratitude of the entire Catholic world.
In the same year, the Pope decreed, by a papal bull issued on August 6, 1456, that all bells of the Catholic churches in Europe be drawn daily at 12.00. This practice is traditionally attributed to the international celebration of victory of Christianity lead by John of Hunyadi, in the battle of Belgrade, against the Ottoman army.
John of Hunyadi spent his childhood in the lands of Hunedoara, in the castle that he would later transform into one of the most imposing medieval monuments in Europe. His father, Voicu, died when John was a child.
The future commander of the Christian armies has acquired his military education as a young man.
Due to his successful military career, he greatly increased his wealth and attracted the gratitude of the King of Hungary. He became Governor or Transylvania and even Regent after the death of the Hungarian King.
Unfortunately, he did not have time to enjoy the victory from Belgrade, as he died few month later of the plague.
John of Hunyadi had two sons with Elizabeth Szilagyi: Ladislau, and Matthias Corvinus. The latter was to become at only 15 years old, King of Hungary and ruled the country until his death, aged 47. He is considered to be one of the most important kings of Hungary.
3. Corvin Castle – an architectural masterpiece
The castle is built in Gothic-Renaissance style, around the courtyards of the former fortifications. The new structure has thick walls with numerous circular defense towers. Usually, the towers had 2 levels: the ground level belonged to the guards, and the upper level represented living areas for the noblemen or guests and spaces for defense. The castle is built on a rock, and it used to be surrounded by water. The access inside was possible only with the drawbridge.
Let’s see the most important attractions of the castle. What to see during a visit to Corvin Castle:
– the Chapel – built during John of Hunyadi’s time.
– The Knights’ Hall – is divided into two naves with five marble pillars and late Gothic vaults. The Knights’ Hall was used as a dining room for festive occasions.
– The Council Hall
Both the Knights’ Hall and the Council Hall are unique in Transylvania
– The Capistrano Tower – this is the place where Giovanni Capistrano, a Catholic priest, used to live. He was an ally of John of Hunyadi during the battle of Belgrade. He also died of the plague. In this tower, visitors can admire the only Gothic restored fireplace in the castle.
– The Nje Boisia tower – is a unique military construction consisting of 5 levels with openings for firearms. The connection with the castle is ensured through a suspended gallery, over 33 m long, a gallery that rests on massive pillars. The name “Nje Boisia gallery and tower” most certainly comes from the Serbian mercenaries, members of the castle garrison. “Nje Boisia” means “Do not be afraid.”
– the prisons and the Bear Pit are quite chilling places to visit. The prisons are located at the entrance, right after crossing the drawbridge. Here, visitors find out about how the prisoners were tortured. At the end of the visit, one can see the Bear Pit, a place where the prisoners were thrown to animals after their usefulness expired.
– the Mace Tower is the only one where you can admire the faint but beautiful frescoes. If you lift your gaze, you will see a small bronze medieval knight placed at the top during the 19th-century restorations.
4. Legends of Corvin Castle
Like any medieval castle, Corvin castle does not lack interesting legends.
- The Legend of the three Turkish prisoners. During the visit, you will pass by an ancient well in one of the inner courtyards of the castle. The legend has it built by three Turkish prisoners whom John of Hunyadi kept in the castle. He promises the three that he will release them if they dig a well with good water. The prisoners did so and dug in the rock for 15 years, and at 28 meters deep, they finally found the precious water. Meanwhile, John had died, and his wife, Elisabeth Szilagyi, decided not to respect the word given by her husband and to execute the three Turks. As a last wish, the Turks request permission to write on the fountain an inscription: “You have water, but you don’t have a heart!” In fact, the inscription says as follows: “The one who wrote it is Hassan, a prisoner in the fortress near the church.” The old Arabic characters contained in the inscription date back to the middle of the 15th century. The current position of the inscription is on one of the buttresses of the chapel.
- The Legend of the Raven is probably the most interesting one. It explains the story of the heraldic sign of the first noblemen who built and ruled the castle 600 years ago. A raven holding a golden ring in his beak is inscribed on the Corvin family's coat of arms. And there is a reason why. It is said that John of Hunyadi was actually an illegitimate son of Sigismund of Luxembourg, king of Hungary, and a beautiful woman from the Land of Hateg, named Elizabeth. To protect her and her honor, the king gives her one of his brave militaries to be her husband. His name was Voicu. The king also offers her a ring as a gift for the unborn child to be recognized when he grows up and goes to the royal court. Later, after years, during a trip made by Voicu’s family, they stopped for lunch. The ring was forgotten on the edge of the towel on which the snacks were placed. A raven, attracted by the glow of the ring, stole it, trying to get away with it. The child John of Hunyadi took a bow and arrows the raven, thus recovering the ring. When he grew up and reached the royal court, he told this story to the king. Impressed by the boy's courage, the king decided that the symbol of the family of the Hunedorenians would be the golden ring in the beak. Moreover, the family name also comes from the Latin “Corvus,” which means “raven,” a bird that symbolized wisdom and longevity in the Middle Ages. During the visit to the castle, visitors discover the 500-year-old frescoes, which show the legend we just mentioned earlier.
- The Legend of Ana Török – According to some historians, the courtyard of the Corvins’ Castle was in the past the place of public executions. According to legend, Ana, John Török's wife, the nobleman who owned the Corvin Castle, was killed in the courtyard. John Török spent most of his time on the battlefield. He was a very jealous man, so every time he left home, he would remind his beautiful Ana not to go through her mind to deceive him, for he would have no mercy on her. Once, it happened that the young woman remained locked in her room and had to call for the blacksmith to unlock her. The spy who Török left to follow his wife told his master what had happened. Török ordered his wife to be removed and tied to a pillar to punish her. Then he ordered the execution of Ana.
5. Tickets & Opening Times
- The visiting schedule for Corvinus Castle is quite accessible:
Tuesday – Sunday 9:00-17.00*
* the last entry is possible 45 minutes before closing time.
The visiting program can vary depending on Romania’s National Holidays, and it is updated here.
- Do you need to book in advance to visit?
No, you do not need to book in advance a ticket to visit Corvin Castle. You can show up at the ticket office and pay for the entrance fee, cash (Romanian currency only), or card (Visa or Mastercard).
- Corvins’ Castle entrance fees:
Adults – 31 lei
Student – 7 Lei (based on the student ID card)
Pensioners – 16 Lei (based on pension coupon)
Photo Tax – 5 Lei
Video Tax – 156 Lei
6. Corvin castle vs Bran castle
Though both Corvin and Bran castles are medieval structures, with over 600-year long history, they are very different, and it is rather a matter of taste when you decide which one is better to visit.
First of all, Bran castle is officially considered Dracula’s castle, being similar to the one described in the novel of Bram Stocker. Bran castle is located closer to Bucharest, only a 3-h drive, and it can be easily visited during a day trip from Romania’s capital city. You can see more details about The Carpathian Castles Tour, the most popular one-day tour from Bucharest.
Bran castle belonged to Queen Mary of Romania. That is why visitors will find out more details about Queen Mary and the Romanian Royal family members. You can read more on our travel blog and discover 5 Lesser known facts about Bran castle – Home to Dracula and a royal heart.
Corvin Castle is larger than Bran castle with more diverse architectural features, though there is no more furniture inside. It is also located further from Bucharest, so you need more days to reach it and visit it. The entrance fee is slightly cheaper than the one at Bran castle, but if you spend more days in Romania and take a longer trip to Transylvania, a visit to Corvin Castle should be on your list. If you book our small group Dracula Tour, you can visit both Corvin and Bran castles.
For more travel inspiration, you can check some other beautiful castles and palaces of Romania that you should not miss.