Shortly before our trip to Romania, one of my coworkers went there on a business trip and told me that he visited Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, while he was there.

He said it wasn’t worth visiting, to which I replied “I can’t go to Romania and not see Dracula’s Castle!”

He answered “Well, you COULD……”

I should have listened.

We had planned to visit two castles during our week in Romania, with the first being Peleș Castle.

We drove to Peleș on our second full day in Romania, parked the car, and hiked up about a kilometer to the castle.

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Unfortunately, we arrived to find a closed ticket office.

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Fortunately, the weather was better than it had been the last couple of days and the castle grounds are just gorgeous.

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We enjoyed the outdoor scenery as much as we could but were still not ready to get back in the car and really didn’t have an alternate plan for the day.

On the walk back downhill, we decided to duck in here to have coffee and cake at the café.

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Originally we had planned to go to Bran Castle later in the week, but we decided we might as well go that day since our plans were dashed.

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It looks like a pretty nice castle, right?

Actually, it wasn’t all bad.

As you walk through the interior, there are signs in English providing information about the rooms, the furnishings and the royal family members who lived there.

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At a certain point you end up looking out from a balcony over the castle courtyard.

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The sky had suddenly turned blue during our visit and the view over the castle tower and the Transylvanian hills was just magnificent.

So, you get to some interesting historical background from the posted signs, the interior rooms are not bad and that view was one of the best we’d had so far in Romania.

What’s not to like?

Okay, now for the downside of visiting Bran Castle.

First, you have to go through this both entering and leaving the castle.

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You have to run the gauntlet of outdoor stalls selling kitschy souvenirs.

(Although don’t tell anyone, but I did end up buying a beautiful scarf there on the way out.)

Then, the first thing we saw after entering the castle was this.

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So cheesy.

This is probably a good place to tell you that Vlad Tepes, the real guy on whom the Dracula character is very loosely based, never lived at Bran Castle.

Accounts differ as to whether he ever stayed there at all.

If he did, it seems he was there as a prisoner and it was for a very short time.

So if you’re gonna capitalize on the Dracula thing, you should at least have something scary to set the tone and not an ad for an animated movie aimed at children.

Second – and speaking of children – this was another downside for us.

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Everywhere we went at the castle, there were hordes of uncontrolled school children running around screaming and snapping as many photos as possible on their smart phones.

It was enough to give you a headache and really detracted from the whole experience.

With the good mixed into the bad, I’d rate this castle average at best.

It has potential but doesn’t live up to it.

If you insist on going, I recommend going as late in the day as possible when hopefully all the school children and other crowds have dissipated.

One little side story that has nothing to do with castles.

Be warned that Romania has some very crazy drivers whose sole purpose in life seems to be to pass other drivers, regardless of road conditions.

On the way back to the hotel after visiting the Bran castle, we were driving up a 2-lane mountain road.

As we started to go around a blind curve to the left, a huge tanker appeared.

It was coming straight at us.

In our lane.

Yes, the driver of a gigantic tanker decided to pass a van on a 2-lane winding mountain road.

Mr. Tipples slammed on the brakes and moved over to the right as far as he could without going in a ditch.

The driver of the van slammed on his brakes and moved over as far as he could to his right.

The tanker missed hitting us by about a foot.

It was a nerve-wracking experience to say the least.

Even the van driver put his hands on his head and gave us a look of disbelief.

So seriously, be vigilant if you plan to drive in Romania.

Anyway, after finding the Peleș castle closed, we were ready to write it off as a loss.

But two days later, we decided to give it another try and I’m so glad we did.

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You have the option of taking a guided tour or touring the castle on your own.

We opted for the latter and rented audioguides, although you still need a guide to visit the top floor of the castle.

The Peleș castle is relatively new as far as castles go, having been built in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

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When the communists took over Romania in 1947, they also took over all royal property.

In 2006, the Romanian government gave the castle back to the former monarch, King Michael I.

King Michael I was reigning when the communists ousted him in 1947 and he is still alive as of this writing.

Romania currently leases Peleș castle from the royal family.

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The rooms in the castle are all luxuriously decorated in different styles.

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The woodwork, furniture, statues, stained glass windows, rugs and various artworks are all incredible.

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There is a whole section in the castle dedicated to thousands of pieces of armor and weapons.

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The main claim to fame at Peleș is that it was the first castle in Europe to be entirely lit by electric lights.

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The power came from a plant on the castle grounds.

One thing to note is that if you want to take photos inside, you apparently have to purchase a pass to do so.

I didn’t know that (nothing is really clear when you purchase your tour ticket) and was happily snapping away until about ¾ of the way through the tour, at which point someone stopped me for not having a pass.

If you have time for only one castle in Transylvania, make it Peleș instead of Bran.

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After getting back to Brasov, we met up with the fabulous blogging team behind The Travels of BBQboy and Spanky for tipples.

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Lots of them.

They wrote a great post on why you should visit Peleș Castle that you can (and should) read by clicking here.

If you’ve visited either of these castles, leave a comment and let us know what you thought of them.

 

About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com