When you think of Romania, the first thing that comes to mind is likely Transylvania, home of the best preserved medieval towns in Eastern Europe. Many of these towns are related to the legend of Dracula. Ask anyone, chances are that even if they don’t have a clue as to where Romania is, they will instinctively associate it with Count Dracula. Even though his legend traveled all around the world, now it’s your time to come and discover his spine-chilling playground. Make sure you have prepared your weapon that will save you from the most famous vampire of them all, it’s going to be a garlicky situation! But don’t worry, in this article we’ll provide all the information you need to know about Transylvania, Dracula’s Castle, and the real story behind the legend, blending fact and fiction.
Transylvania, the land beyond the forest, seemed to be the perfect source of inspiration for Bram Stoker, particularly Bran Castle, which matched with his idea of a spooky castle. He imagined it perched on a steep hill with a river washing the valley below. Fascinated by the horror folklore stories and legends around Vlad III, the one with endless thirst for blood, he masterfully connected all of these together and created a hell of a main character – Dracula.
Born in 1431 in Sighișoara, Vlad III or Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, ruled Wallachia multiple times during 1456 and 1462. Throughout his life, he was one of the fiercest enemies of the Ottoman Empire and his methods were brutal, yet awe-inspiring in their efficiency, leaving onlookers both horrified and mesmerized by his macabre method of killing. His victims would be impaled to death, and their bodies would be displayed as a warning to others. His reputation alone was enough to make him one of the most feared figures in history. The origin of his name, “Dracul” comes from his father’s position as a member of the Order of the Dragon.
Despite many searching for a connection between the legend of Dracula and real life, the truth is far from the fiction, yet still captivating. Located in Romania, deep in the heart of the Carpathian forests and atop an imposing hill, Bran Castle is, indeed, hauntingly beautiful. The 13th-century medieval castle is often associated with Vlad Dracula, but there is no historical evidence that he ever lived or was imprisoned there. The Castle became popular as a tourist destination after the release of Bram Stoker’s novel, “Dracula” in which the vampire count lives in a castle that is said to have been based on Bran Castle. But this is more of a literary device than factual connection.
So, if you wish to fully experience the legend of Dracula, follow in his footsteps through some of the most breathtaking places in Romania. First things first, pack all the garlic you can get! Here are some of the most famous tourist attractions that will lead you through the entire thrilling story of Dracula… or of Vlad the Impaler… or Dracula.
The City of Sighișoara
Sighișoara, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, is the only major destination truly connected to the “Dracula of Transylvania.” It is a beautiful city with colorful houses and narrow cobblestone streets adorned with nine towers that will immediately capture your attention. It is home to an idyllic inner citadel that is associated with the mythical legend of Dracula, but the city welcomes its darkness into its ever-developing history. The iconic yellow house located in the Citadel Square is where Vlad was born. Visitors can also find an impressive collection of weapons including swords, shields, armor, muskets and other pieces representative of medieval Transylvania.
Poenari Castle, located on a mountain peak in the Carpathian Mountains, was a powerful fortress against invading Ottomans in its past. During Vlad’s reign, it served as his secondary residence. The castle was abandoned in the late 16th century and today only ruins remain. The once towering and imposing stone walls now lie in crumbling disarray. However, the castle’s past is still palpable, with echoes of battles fought and lost resonating through the halls, the screams of the impaled still haunting the walls, and the memory of Vlad, the infamous prince, still looming over it all. To reach the top, you must climb 1,480 concrete steps, but the view from the top is worth the effort.
On a small island in the middle of Snagov Lake just outside of Bucharest, stands the Snagov Monastery, the burial place of Vlad the Impaler. As the story goes, he was buried in the church as per his request prior to his death. This legend began to circulate in the 18th century, and it is said that his tomb was discovered during excavations in the 1930s. Many archeologists and historians have researched the area but none of them were able to prove that the ruler of Wallachia ever laid to rest on this island. Whether or not Vlad the Impaler is truly buried there, the legend adds to the mystery and intrigue of the place.
The Royal Court of Târgoviște
Târgoviște was the capital of the medieval principality of Wallachia and the Royal Court of Târgoviște is believed to be the first place where Vlad the Impaler used his trademark torture, the impalement. The ancient architectural ensemble is nowadays a National Museum Complex which houses the Great Royal Church, the Chindia Tower which was built by Vlad the Impaler and used for treasury and defense, The Royal Palace, St. Friday Church and Balasa House, as well as several other museums such as the History Museum. For those in search of old-world charm, and the unspoiled traditions and ancient legends of Romania, Târgoviște is the perfect destination.
It’s important to note that you may not find any evidence of the famous vampire at Bran Castle as it is not his actual residence, but rather a fictional one. Nevertheless, you’ll surely be charmed by the “vampireless” fortress. Today it functions as a museum where you will find a permanent exhibition of remembrances from the former Romanian Royal family. As you walk along the castle’s narrow passages, you’ll discover the different rooms and medieval furniture that will make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time! The entire castle is a masterpiece and should not be neglected.
For anyone interested in Romania’s history and culture or a lover of Bram Stoker’s well-known book, seeing the Dracula tourist attractions is a must. Walking through this land full of mystery, you’ll gather greater knowledge of the historical setting that gave rise to the Dracula legend as well as a look into the life of Vlad III Dracula, the historical man who served as the inspiration for the book. Aside from that, you’ll also get to explore some fascinating hidden gems in Transylvania!
Therefore, reserve your tour today and get ready for an incredible adventure if you’re willing to confront your anxieties and travel back in time to discover the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler.