Tour the famous Castles and Fortresses of Romania

Discover some of the most famous castles and fortresses in Romania to inspire you for your next trip.

Romania is one of the most underrated countries in Eastern Europe offering more than just a ‘land of Dracula’ reputation, with the impressive Carpathian Mountains covering 45% of the country. The UNESCO Danube Delta is the best preserved on the region, with over 360 species of animals. And the Transfagarasan Highway is considered the best driving road in the world according to Top Gear.

The Transylvania region is much loved for its well-preserved rural lifestyle, welcoming people, and delicious foods. But most travellers are attracted to the many castles, fortified churches, and medieval cities Romania has to offer. And thanks to its Game of Thrones-like history, there are plenty to visit.

Romanian castle in autumn

See inside the world-famous Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle

Bran Castle is Romania’s #1 attraction. It’s known as Dracula’s Castle since it was said to have inspired Bran Stoker, who wrote Dracula in 1897 and later made into the 1992 Hollywood movie. The Dracula character itself was based on Vlad the Impaler, a medieval Romanian ruler known for his ruthlessness against enemies and criminals. 

Beyond its fictional reputation, Bran Castle dates back to medieval times. It was first built as a wooden castle in 1212 by German Teutonic Order to protect the Carpathian Mountains crossing into Wallachia, Southern Romania today. In 1242, however, the castle was destroyed during the Mongol Invasion.

Around the late 1300s, a new stone castle was built on the premises, used through the centuries to fend off incursions from the Ottoman Empire. Perched atop a cliff with a menacing look that only contributed to its mystery and legends, Bran Castle’s role as a strategic military stronghold remained uncontested until the 18th century.

Romanian Royalty

From the 1920s it became a royal residence and the favourite home of Queen Marie of Romania. Under her guidance, extensive renovation projects were carried out, restoring the ancient castle to its former glory. However, after the expulsion of the royal family in 1948, the castle was seized by the communist regime. 

Inside the castle, which has maintained its historic look, you can admire a wide array of artwork collected by Queen Marie. There are 57 rooms, including the private quarters of the King and Queen, as well as a remarkably well-preserved inner courtyard. The rooms and suites contain elaborate, hand-carved and artisan-crafted furnishings.

If you’re courageous and want to try something different, opt for a tour, including the castle’s torture museum. It is home to several unnerving artefacts, devices and contraptions. There’s also a secret stone passageway that was discovered during the 1920s. In 2009, the refurbished castle was opened to the public as a museum, making it one of the best things to do in Brasov.

The spectacular Corvin Castle

Corvin Castle is one of the largest in Europe and one of the Seven Wonders of Romania. The castle’s foundation was laid down in 1446 and has undergone several construction phases since. Built above the Zlasti River, the castle has several bastions, towers, balconies, roofs and a large courtyard. Corvin Castle features a double wall flanked by circular towers, perfectly fortified to resist enemy attacks. Some towers were created for defence, while others were used as prisons or to accommodate weapons.

One of the more unique parts of the castle is the Nje Boisia Tower. The name stands for “Don’t be afraid” and was probably chosen due to the influence of the Serbian mercenaries that lived here. The tower has a unique opening designed to accommodate the use of firearms and is linked to the rest of the castle through a covered passageway. 

A day trip to visit Corvin Castle is one of the most popular things to do in Sibiu, the nearest tourist city, which is a beautiful medieval place to explore.

Corvin Castle is one of the largest in Europe

Discover the UNESCO Sighisoara Citadel

Although Romania is home to many well-preserved buildings, few keep the atmosphere of the Middle Ages as well as the medieval citadel of Sighisoara in the heart of Transylvania. 

The citadel is surrounded by defence towers that act as independent fortresses. They included the Bootmakers’, Ironsmiths’, Tanners’, Ropemakers’, Butchers’ and Tailors’ Towers. And the Clock Tower, the city’s landmark, 64 metres high and visible from nearly every corner of Sighisoara.

Inside the citadel are many alleys, small squares and essential sights. So walking here will make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time. All houses have preserved their medieval looks. You’ll discover artisan shops, charming cafes, restaurants and hotels that keep up with the medieval atmosphere. Just one of the reasons the citadel is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

If you’re a history lover looking for a place that has fostered its medieval atmosphere perfectly, there’s no better place than Sighisoara. You can get there by train or on a day trip from Brasov, Sibiu or Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second-largest city and the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

Romania culture
Sighisoara is for history lovers looking for Romania’s medieval atmosphere

The superb Peles Castle, a Royal residence

Built in the Renaissance revival style, Peles Castle is located in a superb setting at the base of Bucegi Mountains in the resort of Sinaia on a route dating back to the Middle Ages. Its construction began in 1873 with an estimated cost of USD 120 million to build today. 

The Summer residence of the Romanian Royal family, Peles Castle contains many cultural and architectural influences, including Anglo-Saxon, Gothic and Baroque. It has nearly 200 rooms, including several libraries, art galleries and offices decorated in several styles. These include Florentine, Turkish and French with an extensive collection of art pieces. From paintings, furniture, stained glass, ivory, precious metals, tapestries and rugs. The gardens boast stunning murals, stairways, marble paths and fountains.

Part of the same complex is Pelisor Castle, smaller and more straightforward than Peles. Yet no less striking built to be the residence for the ‘next in line’ to the throne. The interiors combine Byzantine and Celtic designs. Apart from the castles, you can also join guided tours of the ceramics, glassware, clocks and silver collections.

Peles Castle was declared a museum in 1953. Yet it was mostly ignored and kept closed with everything in its original place until 1990. That’s why Peles Castle is almost like a time-bubble museum for a Royal family’s residence. And why you should visit when travelling in Romania. 

Built in the Renaissance revival style, Peles Castle is located in a superb setting

Alba Iulia Citadel, the spiritual birthplace of Romania

The Alba Iulia Citadel is the largest in Romania, with a history dating back 2,000 years. The new expansion works started in 1715 when Transylvania was under Habsburg rule. And when the citadel got its unique star shape, an element of Vauban architecture. Built in the Baroque style, the citadel has many buildings of significant importance. As you’d expect for the seat of power: a military garrison, a church, a school, houses, governor’s palace. 

As Empires dissolved at the end of WWI, in 1918, the union of the three historical provinces (Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania), where Romanian people were the majority, was proclaimed in the Alba Iulia Cathedral. And in 1921, King Ferdinand and Queen Marie had their coronation ceremony here. And that’s why Alba Iulia has a special place in Romanian history and culture. 

The citadel is also home to festivals and classical and orchestral music concerts where artists from around the world perform. You can visit Alba Iulia Citadel only by car on a day trip from Cluj-Napoca or Sibiu. 

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