Transylvania, Peles Castle and Bran Castle, Romania

Transylvania, Peles Castle and Bran Castle, Romania

For us, the big draw in visiting Romania was the chance to see Transylvania. Transylvania had captured both of our imaginations with its tales of vampires and castles. Andrew found day tours that would take us there from Bucharest during our weekend in Romania. We booked one for that Saturday that would take us to Transylvania, Peles Castle and Bran Castle, intending for the tour to be the main event of this trip.

As quirky a locale as it is, I was super excited we were going. This was definitely the type of trip that we wouldn’t have flown all the way from the US to make, so it felt extra special to be there.

As we learned on our trip, any vampire-chasing tends to be popular with Americans, not so much others around the world – ha! I guess we’ve really taken to Bram Stoker’s tale in a way the rest of the world has not. Kinda like our affinity for Halloween.

I can remember GoogleMapping Transylvania at some point in my life (yes, that interested – I love all things Halloween) and not seeing much there. Then, it seemed Transylvania was a myth. And well, it is, seeing as the story of Dracula was completely fabricated by an Englishman who had never actually been to “Dracula’s castle,” but that’s a story for later. Now, having visited, I understand why there is not much on the map – the area is rural and it is beautiful.

Transylvania traffic

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a cart with a license plate!

We unknowingly picked the perfect time of year to go – mid October – when Transylvania and much of Romania is at peak autumn foliage. As the bus moved further and further out of Bucharest, the leaves on the trees became brighter and brighter.

Our tour’s website seemed to indicate that the tour would take about twelve hours from start to finish. Unfortunately, traffic management in Transylvania wasn’t at its best and our tour guide warned us that this trip would likely be more along the tune of 14-16 hours. That is a long time on a bus. But we had already boarded and were all geared up to see Transylvania, so there was no going back.

It was an adventure we won’t soon forget. Discovering more of Romania’s history and countryside was captivating.

Peleș Castle

Our first stop was the beautiful Peleș Castle. Nestled in the Carpathian mountains, we even passed through a ski resort town on our way to this beautiful castle.

Peles Castle, Romania

The spot was chosen for its beauty year round, and as we discovered, autumn is particularly beautiful there.

Foliage and Peles Castle, Romania

Peles Castle, Romania

The history of the castle is as fascinating as its woodwork is extraordinary.

Beautiful woodwork in Peles Castle

More woodwork in Peles Castle

Built in the late 1800s, Romania’s struggle to establish a monarchy and cultural identity more like those of Western Europe is reflected in this castle. It is a smorgasbord of the best of Europe’s design and art.

Peles Castle, Romania

The result is a castle that is incredibly beautiful and luckily well preserved.

Peles Castle, Romania

Peles Castle, Romania

Try to visit the castle on a tour that has pre-booked tickets. The castle is not very large, but it is very popular with tourists and the line for tickets was long when we went. It gets crowded and the entrance is also the exit so it can get pretty crazy.

Bran Castle

Our next stop was in actual Transylvania. We were headed to Bran Castle, the inspiration for Dracula’s castle. Set on a rocky outcrop, you can see why such a place was deemed fit for a vampire!

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

Made of stone, this castle is very different from Peles. It feels more like a fortress.

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

Built in medieval times, there are some castlely elements to its design, which provide a beautiful contrast to the cliffs and foliage.

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

The original fireplaces remain, with beautiful tiling detail.

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

We were expecting this place to be full-on touristy cheese, but it really wasn’t that bad. There was a little market at the base of the hill of the castle selling vampire wares, but compared to US tourist sites, it is barely commercialized.

 

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

After touring the castle, we enjoyed a traditional Romanian meal at Galeriile Bran which was delicious. Seriously, I loved Romanian food. I tried sarmale, which are stuffed cabbage rolls, served with polenta.

Sarmale, Romanian dish

Andrew went for the more-appetizing-looking beef gouash, also delicious.

Goulash in Romania

When we finished our lovely meal, it was time to get back on the bus for our final stop before returning to Bucharest.

Brasov

We arrived in Brasov as the sun was setting and because of the traffic we encountered, our tour guide made it snappy.

Brasov, Romania

We did a quick tour through the town, which was interesting and I do wish we had had more time to explore a larger town outside Bucharest. What we did see of Brasov was pretty neat.

We saw the beautiful Jewish temple there.

Brasov, Romania

As well as the Black Church.

Brasov, Romania

The square was large and lively. It would have been fun to wander around.

Brasov, Romania

We made it back to Bucharest around 10pm, slightly tired from our adventure, but so glad we went!

Good to Know

  • You will need to pay extra to take photos in Peles Castle.
  • Our tour guide was awesome and did a great job keeping us in the loop of expected arrival times, sharing his thoughts and experiences living in Romania and giving us details and history of the sights we saw that day. He was funny and made our long day aboard the bus more fun.
  • Romania has built some nice rest stops along the way to accommodate the tourist traffic. We were able to easily get snacks, even gluten free ones, along the way.
  • There is skiing in Romania! Who knew? There are several ski resorts near Peles Castle, which our guide said can cause serious traffic in the wintertime. Keep in mind if you book during the winter months!
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Jenn

Jenn is an American expat living in London, spending her time freelancing, traveling and writing on this here blog. Thank you for reading. Are you planning a trip here? Tell me your plans in the comments!

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2 Comments

  1. July 10, 2018 / 10:26 pm

    Pele castle is amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before, is it typical Romanian architecture?

    • Jenn
      Author
      July 11, 2018 / 11:59 am

      Hi, Kelly! Love your blog! Such an awesome concept and clever name, I, too, am doing my best to keep that Gap Life going!!

      Pele Castle is truly amazing! It is gorgeous and a blend of all different types of architecture from around Europe. It was built for the king who came to Romania from Germany and had traveled and was influenced by styles from all over Europe. Throughout Bucharest there are tons of different architectural influences, due to Romania’s desire to align itself with Western Europe as well as the many different empires and cultures that have left their mark on this fascinating country. Bucharest has the nickname “Little Paris of the East” – it is a beautiful city definitely worth exploring!

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