We have all heard tales of the undead; the most infamous of them all being Count Dracula himself. Man, myth and literary legend, his name is enough to inspire nightmares. Monsters are rumoured to reside in delightfully Gothic Transylvania, and Bran Castle is no exception. The primary inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, this looming setting more than lives up to its reputation. It’s just pretend, right? Enter at your own will.
A haunted history
The real question is, who was Dracula?
Aside from being influenced by Victorian England’s societal issues and other Vampire literature at the time, a major inspiration for Stoker’s novel was the bloody history of a 15th century prince. Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracula, was a notoriously vicious leader. With over 80,000 deaths to his name, there are several historical accounts documenting Vlad III’s reputation for cruelty (viewer discretion is advised).
Despite imagined connections, it is believed that Vlad III never stepped a foot into Bran Castle due to hostile relations between him and the Bran Lords. Instead, on a visit here you will learn more about Marie of Romania: the last Queen of this country. One of her favourite residences, she transformed the 14th century Saxon fortress into a lively summer house. Today, much of the castle is a museum dedicated to her memory.
Blood is the life
Historical ties may not be absolute, but a trip to Bran Castle can still feel sinister. Having embraced its infamy, Bran Castle offers blood-curdling expeditions to those who dare.
Ready to face your fears? On the fourth floor, visitors are welcome to try the live-action History of Dreads exhibition. Folklore legends and Hollywood horrification, you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about the supernatural here. Who knows what hides in the dark…
Or maybe this Halloween you want to raise the stakes. From a Transylvanian dinner in celebration of this holiday, to dancing the night away, Bran Castle is one of the best places to spend this time of year. Put on your most horrifying costume and brace yourself: the party doesn’t stop until the sun rises!
It is hardly a surprise that Bran Castle is best seen in the dark. As part of the Dracula experience, you can be escorted on a night-time tour through the castle as you learn more about its old legends. Capes and lanterns are provided as you wander through narrow passageways and staircases that spiral.
After a close encounter with a creature of the night, your evening ends with a traditional Romanian feast followed by local wine tasting. What started off as a spine-chilling trip ends on quite the leisurely note!
Spoiler: It’s not all doom and despair
Remember when we said Queen Maria converted Bran Castle into her summer residence? Horror haters need not be afraid of visiting. Between the peaceful gardens and the museum rooms that are more occupied with Romanian history than an Irish author, it is easy to come across from this place scare-and-care-free. In the daytime, that is.
Split across a high and low tourism season, Bran Castle is typically open from 10am to 4pm — with closing hours being extended to 6pm in April to September. Tickets cost around 60Lei (12€) for adults.
With souvenir stalls just outside the castle and a nearby pizzeria, there are plenty of activities here to take your mind off of any terrors, and enough garlic to keep the vampires at bay…