As dark as it may be, I was always fascinated by Vlad Dracula in high school history class. The guy was a ruthless leader who was able to carve his name into the history books, and the rumors and myths that surround him only add intrigue and mystery to his almost 700 year old legacy. Before I traveled to Romania, visiting Dracula’s Castle was easily one of my top bucket list things to do in Europe. I mean, a trip into Transylvania has to sound appealing to just about anyone, right?
To add to the intrigue, I love experiences that aren’t commonly frequented by tourists. This castle is hours away from Bucharest and an hour away from the nearest city. I figured I was bound to be stumbling on a real gem, and I could not wait to get there. The anticipation was very real! We decided to do a trip through parts of Eastern Europe, and visit Budapest, Athens, Bucharest, Brasov, and Sofia.
Dracula’s Castle Is a Long Trip from Bucharest
Like I said, I figured this place has to be raw and uncultivated for international tourism. It is 4 hours from Bucharest, tucked away into the mountains. Romania already isn’t the most touristy place in the world, and a small town 4 hours from its capital city has to be dead…right? We did our homework looking for the best ways to get into the heart of Romania without renting a car, and came up with a pretty solid route.
To get to Dracula’s Castle from Bucharest via public transportation, you need to take a 3 hour train from Bucharest to Brasov and then a 45 minute bus from Brasov to Bran, where the castle is located. We added Romania to our trip itinerary solely to go to Dracula’s castle, so to us, it was well worth the trip. We planned to stay in Brasov for the weekend to make the long train into the heart of the country more worth it.
Arriving at Dracula’s Castle and Our Initial Thoughts
When we finally pulled up to Dracula’s Castle, or known officially as Bran Castle, I was so excited to get out of the bus and start exploring. Our first impression of Bran was that it is a raw and authentic Romanian town that we were going to have the chance to intimately experience. I love experiences like this, and it was clear that we were in for a great day. Hopping off the bus, we looked left and right, and we started to walk in one direction to see what all there was to do before heading up towards the spooky castle at the top of the hill.
Well, frankly, this is where the letdown began. After hours of travel, we were ready to explore the town and find a nice place to eat! However, we realized very quickly that there is not much of a town here and it is certainly not a charming, local, intimate place. It felt more like walking off of a bus at Chichen Itza in Mexico where there are vendors everywhere selling “authentic Mexican items” that are, in fact, made in China.
There are a few cool stores and restaurants, but ultimately the main area of the town felt like a flea market selling Dracula souvenirs. This was not was I was anticipating, and I was unfortunately a bit let down. We had a bite to eat at La Cristi, and it was fine. It was not nearly as good as the food we had been eating in Brasov and Bucharest, so we decided to finish up quickly and head to the castle.
Entering the Walls of Dracula’s Castle
When we walked up to Dracula’s Castle, we were a bit taken aback by how small it was. This is not a grand, royal castle. It is more of a governor’s house, which makes sense considering that Vlad Dracula was more of a local lord than a national king. We went to the ticket counter, and were pleasantly informed that tickets only cost €9 per person with additional add-ons of a couple Euros to visit the Torture Museum and the Time Tunnel. Both attractions get good reviews, and I think they are both the highlights of visiting the castle. I recommend adding both to your ticket.
As we entered the castle, it was a well-done museum about the lifestyle of people that lived in Vlad Dracula’s day, and they restored many of the rooms of the castle to look like they did when royalty lived there years ago. This is not a museum about Vlad Dracula at all – it is about the many different royal families that lived here throughout the centuries. They’ve started to add some more Dracula-centric exhibits due to the rise in tourism, but ultimately the museum is not about him exclusively. That is one of the things that I thought was a let down, as I traveled all the way to Romania to visit DRACULA’s Castle.
My Disappointment Was Not Their Fault
I was very disappointed when I visited Bran Castle, but that was not in any way the fault of the people working there. The staff were all very friendly, and the owners of the castle have done a great job of turning it into a nice museum. After all, they weren’t the ones that told me I was visiting Dracula’s Castle! If you go on their website, they are very clear about what the castle is and what to expect. It is named Bran Castle, after all…not Dracula’s Castle.
My disappointment was only in the fact that I set my expectations way too high. Had I been expecting a museum about Romanian royalty instead of a museum about a sick, twisted dictator, I bet I would’ve had a much better experience. The museum itself is nice, the castle is nice, and the town is touristy but nice enough to visit for a day. If you go looking for a museum on Romanian royalty, you’re in for a treat.
Is Dracula’s Castle Worth Visiting?
So, now for the moment of truth; is Dracula’s Castle worth visiting? Was it worth traveling so far out of my way to get to Dracula’s Castle in the middle of Romania? I would say no, it was not. However, there are still some reasons that I think make traveling to Bran Castle worth it!
Firstly, the castle itself is interesting and the people in the town are all very nice. While I was let down by what the castle WASN’T, I wasn’t let down by what the castle WAS. It was a nice museum, but it was just about things I cared less about. Traveling to Bran is fine, but I have no need to ever go back.
A couple of the stops along the way, though, were pleasantly very surprising, and I never would have visited them if not for traveling to Bran.
Do I recommend visiting Bran Castle? Yeah, if you’re in the area already. It is a great little trip from Brasov. Would I recommend going to Brasov just to visit Dracula’s Castle? Not a chance. Stick around Brasov and enjoy all that this stunning city has to offer instead. Only head to Bran if you’re tired of Brasov.
Thanks for reading my post about visiting Dracula’s Castle in Bran, Romania. Hopefully this post helps you decided whether or not to step off of the beaten path in Romania and head toward Dracula’s Castle. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out or drop a comment below.