The Dracula Castle in Transylvania is the most overrated tourist attraction I’ve ever visited in Romania. There I said it. I’m going to be as brutally honest about it as I can in this article. Maybe I can save you the horror of discovering the truth and not from seeing a real vampire in the castle.
I’m not a hater, nor am I trying to be. I just think there are better places in Romania that should get the spotlight more so than Bran Castle. That’s because Romania ranks up there as one of my favorite places (in the world) to visit. That’s no to say you shouldn’t check out the famed Dracula Castle, in fact, maybe you should just to see what the fuss is all about. However, I will present some facts in this article that will make you more informed so you won’t be disappointed if you do decide to visit.
What I’m going to say here will likely fall on deaf ears because you’ll probably visit Bran Castle anyways. But bear with me and hear me out for a minute; let me be your guide and adviser for this article and will provide pictures and facts so that I may just save you from wasting your time in Bran. I believe there are so many more intriguing castles and citadels in Romania that you should be visiting instead of Bran.
If you do visit, I recommend you stay in Brasov. It’s only a few kilometers away, and in fact, it’s quite fun to hike up to the Dracula Castle from there. I recommend the hotel below if you want to stay in style (and luxury); if you’re on a budget read and scroll all the way down for a budget option (but still in style!)
If you would rather stay near Bran and risk running into Vampires at night, check out this hotel below:
Now that’s out of the way. Below are facts that you should be aware of about the Dracula Castle.
Bran, a Transylvania Castle, is universally known as the Dracula castle. Bram Stoker, who’s never even heard of Bran, popularized it with his novel Dracula. The place Bram Stoker mostly had in mind for the cast is Mount Izvorul Călimanului, in the Transylvanian Călimani Alps close to the previous border with Moldavia.
There’s no castle on this mountain at all. It’s still a mystery as to why Bran Castle owns the label as the Dracula Castle. Tourist stalls and tents selling Dracula knick-knacks and vampire paraphernalia line the street leading to the castle. They’re making a killing selling fake plastic vampire fangs.
There are several theories competing for the Dracula castle, and Poenari Castle is probably the more legit because Vlad spent more time there than any other competing castles. Another castle often mistaken as the Dracula castle is Corvin Castle. But unlike Bran, Corvin is actually creepy with its dungeons full of medieval torture machines and can hold a candle to the vampire myth.
Bram Stoker’s titular character is often confused with Vlad Tepes (aka, The Impaler). For some reason, some historians depict this guy as a bloodthirsty despot who drank the blood of his victims.
The truth of the matter is, Vlad is a national hero in Romania. The dude kept the Turks, the enemy, at bay and protected his kingdom with religious zest.
Sure he impaled people, but they were mostly conquering Turks and criminals that deserved punishment. He did it to scare off his enemies and to keep law and order for his subjects.
It’s been rumored that thieves wouldn’t even touch a pouch of gold left on the streets because they were too afraid of being impaled.
The fact is, people in the middle ages were all fucked up. They did all sorts of weird shit like boiling people alive and encasing them in a coffin full of sharp nails. Impaling was probably a normal everyday thing back then.
Bran Castle was not where Vlad lived. In fact, it may have served as his prison for just a few days.
The Hungarian king at the time ignored Vlad’s transgressions because his kingdom was in Wallachia (the area where Bucharest is today), and it served as a buffer zone between the Hungarians and Turks.
Vlad got too overzealous with his impaling addiction and started impaling German merchants in Brasov for not paying taxes and not abiding by his commands.
The merchants started complaining to the Hungarian king, and hence Vlad got into a scuffle with the much more powerful kingdom of the Hungarians.
Vlad the Impaler spent a couple of months or maybe even just a couple of nights in Bran Castle from being captured and imprisoned there.
It doesn’t give credibility to Bran as the true Dracula Castle.
Pure genius marketing made Bran the legend that it is today.
The Wallachians, whom Vlad ruled, built the Poenari Citadel nearby, and Vlad did spend more time there.
This makes it likely that Poenari is the real Dracula Castle.
Vampires don’t exist in Romanian mythology. Bram Stoker might have based it on Romanian “Strigoi,” which are people who live ordinary lives during the day but then turn into evil creatures during the night.
They seem more like the glow in daytime fairies from the Twilight series than the ones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What about the legend of Vampires being scared of garlic? Just about every Romanian dish has garlic. Vampires are screwed when they’re sucking on a Romanian’s blood because it is coursing with garlic.
All this wouldn’t have been bad if Bran Castle was the only castle in Transylvania or the whole of Romania, but that’s not the case.
Transylvania is home to many castles and citadels dwarfing Bran in both history and grandness.
Bran is bland inside and bland outside, it’s like eating All-Bran cereal with water instead of milk.
Although Bran Castle can’t compare to any of Romania’s other magnificent castles and fortresses, it somehow made its way to the top as the most visited tourist attraction in Romania.
The Dracula Castle sucks. No, not with long fangs to suck the blood out of your neck.
Despite how boring it is, it brings busloads of tourists that you’ll be bumping shoulders to shoulders with on its cramped and narrow stairways.
I went to Bran during the off-season, and it has insane crowds.
I can only imagine how crazy it will be during the high season.
Whoever came up with this castle as the Dracula castle is a marketing genius, thousands if not millions of tourists flock to this castle every year.
You’re probably going to ask, well, why did you go then genius? Well, nobody wrote this anti-Bran piece but for me (I googled it). Bran Castle’s legend fooled me. Don’t let it fool you.
If I could take back the money spent and the 2 hours of my life back, I’d gladly do it.
If you still don’t agree, then go ahead, find out for yourself, bite me (pun intended) and drive a stake through my chest (not literally because I’ll rise from the grave and haunt you forever).
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What makes the whole thing frustrating is that it’s not responsible for tourism. Not even one bit. It’s literally shitting on the culture and history of Romania to proliferate this sort thing.
There’s actually really cool and exciting history around Bran as long as it’s separated from Bram Stoker’s novel. The whole vampire and Dracula myth have nothing to do with Vlad or Romania.
It’s sending out the wrong and incorrect message, and tourists are just buying into the whole thing, likely thinking it’s a fact.
Regardless of all the controversies, it’s still worth visiting the Dracula Castle simply because of the interesting facts I’ve covered above. If you want to make your visit more enjoyable, check out Halloween at Dracula’s Castle! If you’re staying in Brasov, check out these fantastic day trips!
Do you still want to visit Bran Castle but low on funds? On a budget? Check out my favorite hostel in Brasov below! When I stayed there, they were having a promotion where you get an extra night per three nights of stay, and each visit gets you a nice cold beer!
THE LEGEND OF DRACULA IS ALLURING BUT HERE ARE A FEW CONTENDERS
- The number 1 contender for the Dracula Castle title is Corvin Castle. In fact, Vlad the Impaler spent time as a prisoner on its creepy dungeons.
- The Poenari Castle deserves the Dracula Castle title because Vlad used it as a residence. The Wallachians also built it.
- Peles Castle, which is really a palace, deserves more attention than Bran. It’s more interesting and visually more pleasing.
- The fact is, no one really knows where the “real” Dracula castle is. The Dracula Castle sits somewhere in an empty mountain in Transylvania, based on handwritten notes by Bram Stoker. So use your imagination!
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Bus from Brasov to Bran and back – $4
- Entrance Fee – $8.5 (not worth it)
- Breakfast at the hostel – free (included)
- Hostel in Brasov – $14
- Lunch at a touristy restaurant in Bran – $7
- Cooked dinner in Brasov – $1.5
- TOTAL: $35
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