Is there anything that conjures up the idea of enchanted fairy tales and romantic dreamscapes faster than a Romanian castle? Whether they are capped with snow, surrounded by a carpet of autumn foliage, or drenched in summer ivy, castles in Romania have become synonymous with fantasy. No wonder that people come from all over the world to appreciate and explore these creative marvels.
While not every Romanian castle is as famous as Dracula’s Bran Castle, all fifteen of these gorgeous spots deserve consideration as you plan your Romanian itinerary.
A Map of the Best Romanian Castles
How To Get to the Castles in Romania
The best method in terms of practicality is renting a car. Most of the castles are in Transylvania so I would recommend either renting a car in Bucharest or Brasov, depending where you fly in and out, and basing yourself out of Brasov or Sibiu. We have more details on what to do in Transylvania here, beyond just castle-hunting!
If you are basing yourself in Bucharest, it can be a bit of a pain to visit these castles independently. We recommend this day trip to visit Bran and Peles both in a single day trip. Alternately, this 3-day Transylvania tour from Bucharest will take you to both of the above castles as well as much more!
Going on a castle tour is easier and shorter as a day trip from Brasov, and I recommend this one if you are basing yourself in Brasov, which covers Peles, Bran, and Rasnov.
Outside of Cluj, Banffy Castle is one of the largest castles in Transylvania, and it is considered the most haunted castle in Romania! This is one of the legends, according to Romania Journal:
A number of legends appeared over the time, some saying the castle is haunted by ghosts. They say all started with a young girl who lived in the castle and got together secretly with someone outside the palace. Because the stableman saw her sneaking out the castle, the young girl plotted the killing. She seduced him and stabbed him with a knife. No one can know for sure if this ever happened, but a team of specialists in detecting ghosts came to the castle. They also found secret passages.
Whether or not this legend is true, the reputation has stuck. While Banffy has earned the romantic nickname of the “Versailles of Transylvania,” its creepy reputation is part of the draw for young people coming to the Electric Festival every year.
Unlike many of the entries on this list, Bethlen Castle is private property and is still held by the Bethlen family. With the exception of the communist era, the castle has been in the Bethlen family’s possession for centuries. The current Rennaisance structure replaced the early Danes Castle, and the current style is appreciated as one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture in Romania. In fact, the castle used to be the home to one of the most important libraries in Romania, since it housed an early printing press.
During the communist era, the castle was used as a camp for Young Pioneers, the “Communist boy scout” troops that were used to train young Romanians to follow the state. During this era, hundreds of rare books from the castle’s library were burned.
Today the castle is not technically open as a museum, but you can visit by going to the guard and asking to see the castle.
When you say Romania, a lot of people will think about Dracula and vampires, because of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, inspired by a Romanian ruler, Vlad the Impaler. Of course, the novel is a fiction, but the ruler has indeed a reputation based on the cruelty with which he treated his enemies. So, if you are a fan of vampires, then Romania should be on your bucket list.
The best place to walk on Dracula’s footsteps in by heading to the mountains, escape the capital, Bucharest, and reach Bran Castle. The castle was completed in the 14th century, and it is associated with the Romanian ruler Vlad the Impales. Situated in Transylvania and built on top of a rock, the castle has a mystical aura that has contributed to the arising legends and fantasies.
However, even though Dracula is just a fictional character, a visit to Bran Castle is still a great way to learn more about the medieval history of Romania and especially of the Transylvania Region. And perhaps kids will more than thrilled to visit it after the animated movie Hotel Transylvania.
Contributed by Andra from Our World to Wander
Pro Tip: Looking for great Dracula souvenir ideas? Check out the 10 Romanian Souvenirs You Need to Make Room for in Your Suitcase
This Neo-Romanian castle was built at the beginning of the twentieth century for one of the Romanian princes. However, it was nationalized and ransacked during the communist era. After the fall of communism, the castle was returned to the original family, who in turn sold it to a development company. While this castle is both beautiful and historic, a visit here is far from stepping into a time capsule. Instead, you’ll see the restoration and a number of modern amenities.
If you want to visit a castle in Romania and do more than just go on a tour, then Cantacuzino Castle is the one for you! You can actually stay in the hunting lodges of this castle, and you can call ahead to book a number of interesting and exciting activities, like horseback riding, archery, and even zip lining!
Built in the fifteenth century, Corvin Castle is still one of the largest castles in Europe and an imposing site for all who visit. This behemoth manages to be both large and beautiful at the same time because the original fortified castle was given the Gothic restoration treatment in the seventeenth century.
Legend has it that Vlad the Impaler, the future inspiration for Count Dracula, spent seven years imprisoned in Corvin’s dungeons. This time is what supposedly lead to his madness and his eventual need for extremely brutal revenge against the Turks. While this legend is most certainly just that, tourists are often regaled with this story upon visiting.
Today the castle is a museum that is open daily to the public (check for holiday closures). Located west of Sibiu, the castle is easiest reached on a day trip or by a car.
One of the lesser-known castles and fortresses in Transylvania, Faragas Fortress was built in 1310 and was enlarged over the next few hundred years. While it was an elegant residence for members of the Romanian royal family for centuries, it was turned into a military garrison in the 1800’s and lost much of its glamour.
Dark tourists will find the fortress an interesting spot to visit as well. During Romania’s communist era, the fortress was used to house political prisoners. It was only after the fall of communism that the fortress was turned into a museum and is open to the public.
Lazar Castle (Lazarea)
Just six kilometers from the Gothic cathedral in Dithru, Lazar Castle is a major tourist attraction in western Transylvania. While there are many castles and fortifications in the region, Lazarea stands out as a fortified renaissance castle with a mix of renaissance and baroque styles. A fire in the 18th century started the castle’s decline, and it has never been restored to its original glory. However, visitors still appreciate its beauty.
Today you can visit the castle, which houses a contemporary art museum.
A fortified castle in Miercurea Ciuc, Miko Castle dates back to the 1620’s. While it is commonly referred to today as a castle, the original documentation for the construction refers to it as Miko’s Citadel. The Turks burned the castle down in the 1660’s, and it wasn’t rebuilt for another fifty years. This time, it was Austrian Hapsburgs who restored the castle, and it was used to house troops over a hundred years.
Today the castle is home to an ethnographic museum and open to the public.
One of the things you should know about Romania, is that it has a huge amount of castles. Here there is something for everyone, from the most fairytale looking one those with the most history. Neamt Citadel is one that will transport you back to medieval times, as well as to a place with stunning views over the Romanian countryside.
Located in the Moldavia region, near Targu Neamt, this citadel is one of the most important medieval monuments in Romania. Built in the 14th century as a fortress, it defended the country from famous battles such as the Ottoman attack in 1476 and the Polish attack at the end of the 17th century.
Visiting Neamt Citadel will give you a great insight on a period of glory in Romanian history. Located on top of a peak, you can either hike to the top along a winding road or drive up. It’s a beautiful place to be all year round, but particularly in the autumn, when the leaves in the trees turn red.
Contributed by Teresa from Brogan Abroad.
Nestled in the foothills of the Becegi Mountains in the village of Sinaia, the fairytale Peles Castle is one of the most picturesque castles in all of Europe. Often overlooked for Romania’s most famous castle and legendary home to Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), Peles Castle is stunningly spectacular. The chalet-style palace sits atop a hill and surrounded by mountains This 160-room palace was commissioned by King Carol I of Romania and served as the royal family’s summer residence until the middle of the 20th century. It was the first European castle to be entirely lit by electricity. But, what makes this palace so incredibly magnificent is the styling of the rooms. Each of the 160 rooms, including bedrooms, theaters, libraries, bathrooms, tea rooms, playrooms, and more are decorated in a different style or theme. French, Venetian, Florentine, and Turkish influences and treasures can be found throughout the palace. Going from room to room is a constant surprise. Murano crystal chandeliers, Cordoba leather-covered walls, and German stained-glass windows are just some of the exquisite décor you will find adorning the palace.
Located about 124 kilometers from Bucharest and 48 kilometers from Brasov, Peles Castle is easily accessible by train or car.
Contributed by Chrissy from Travel Passionate
Read: Looking to visit Peles Castle from Bucharest? Check out 7 Excellent Day Trips from Bucharest Worth Taking
Part of the same complex with Peles Castle (above), there is a dispute about who owns Pelisor and who can visit. In 2006, the Peles complex was determined to legally belong to the Romanian Royal Family. While they happily leased Peles Castle back to the state so it can continue as a museum, they want to keep Pelsinor for a family residence. While the dispute is ongoing, visitors can continue to see Pelisor when they visit Peles Castle. However, if you have your eye on a visit, hurry up in case the royal family chooses to close this art nouveau masterpiece in the future.
One of the few castles and fortresses on this list from Wallachia, Poenari Castle dates back to the 13th century. While the original castle was left in ruins, Vlad the Impaler had it restored. The castle, which is high atop steep rocks, is practically inaccessible to invading armies. Vlad used the castle as one of his primary fortresses, and Romanian rulers continued to utilize the citadel over the next few hundred years.
However, it fell into ruins again in the 17th century and was not restored. Today, visitors love both the ruins and the views they offer. However, be warned that you have to earn them! The castle is only accessible to those willing to climb 1500 steps.
Dating to the early 13th century, Rasnov Fortress was built during the time when the Teutonic Knights controlled the region. However, there’s no direct evidence at Rasnov of the role the Knights played in the fortress’s construction. The fortress played a symbol of safety in an area that was constantly besieged by foreign invaders, falling only once.
The style of the fortress is less impressive than its location. Its perch makes this one of the most Instagrammed spots in Romania. Visitors often combine a trip to Bran Castle with a stop at Rasnov.
Owned by the Romanian Royal Family, Săvârșin Castle is used as a winter home and also is where they celebrate Easter holidays. Princess Margareta is quoted as saying about the palace:
Săvârşin Castle is the closest place to my soul because each time I feel the presence of Queen Elena, that has made the interior design, maintained and cared for it so much.
You can see the castle from the road, making this a fun stop on a road trip. However, if you’d like to visit, call ahead as this is the only way to make arrangements to tour the inside.
Sturdza Palace is located near Neamt Citadel in the Moldova region of eastern Romania. The estate dates back to the 1400’s, but the beautiful gothic palace was built by George Sturdza in the late 1800’s as a gift to his wife Maria. During the communist era, the palace was used as a home for orphans, but it was turned into a nunnery in 1990.
The castle is alternatively called Miclauseni Castle and Sturdza Castle. The castle is open on Saturday and Sundays from noon until 6 pm, or during the week by appointment. To call ahead check their website for their phone number or contact form. Weekday visits require at least a twenty-four hours notice.
Planning a Trip to Romania? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Romania or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Romania is a very safe place to travel for the most part, but accidents and theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.