Delve into the dark inspiration surrounding Dracula and Bran Castle, tour the opulent rooms at Peles Castle and stroll baroque Brasov all in one day.
Transylvania and Sinaia in One Day
If you love European castles, the countryside and are intrigued by the royal life – and fancy a bit of Dracula folklore – a day trip from Bucharest offers adventures in all of that and more.
While on a Travelmaker Bucharest Two-Castles-in-One-Day Tour, our guide Valentine led us into two of Romania’s most famous castles: Peles in Sinaia and Bran in Transylvania. All the while we were on the “hunt” for Dracula.
Peles Castle: Dreamy and Beautiful
As a cozy group of seven, we headed out of Bucharest in a comfortable, well-heated minivan. During the almost two-hour drive to the first castle, Valentine pointed out interesting sights off the road until we found ourselves in the snow filled Bucegi Mountains in the town of Sinaia.
We reached the outskirts of Peles Castle and took a short walk, passing amazing scenery cloaked in a fresh coat of snow, to stand under the awe of Peles Castle’s German new-Renaissance architecture.
Inside was just as impressive. Built by King Carol I, it was finished in 1883. Romanian royalty summered here until 1947. What a place to live! We followed a guide through many of the 160 rooms.
Each inch was covered in opulence. Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows, Cordoba leather covered walls, beautifully painted high ceilings added the royal touch to themed rooms including the Turkish Salon, Music Room, Theatre Hall (to project movies), a library (complete with a secret door), armories and more.
It was also the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current which was produced by the castle’s own plant.
After the hour-long tour, we headed to front yard where regal garden statues awaited us, as well as a stunning and complete view of the castle itself.
Bran Castle: More than Dracula
Bran Castle was built upon a 200-foot-high rock, complete with imposing towers and turrets. Nothing like Peles Castle.
We were told some come touring the region believing Dracula was real. Well, this fantastic fictional character – birthed in the awesome imagination of Irish author Bram Stoker – wasn’t.
Inspired by the tour, I just finished reading Dracula. Stoker’s descriptions of old world Transylvania and the gruesome thrills make the story so classic. So, it was fascinating to learn that Stoker never visited Transylvania. He was completely inspired by the what he learned about the “untouched” frontier that was the Romanian countryside and an infamous 15th-century ruler named Vlad Tepes. Known as Vlad the Impaler, the morbid nickname explains his favorite way of killing his enemies.
The truth is that Vlad the Impaler has little association with Bran Castle. Yet, the castle has gained the famous and fabulous modern marketing connotation of being Dracula’s Castle.
Sound confusing? It can be if you think about it too long.
But I can say, having read the book and having visited Bran Castle, I easily imagined that Bran Castle was Dracula’s Castle.
Valentine took us through the rooms. We learned it a fortress, and later it served as a royal residence for Queen Marie of Romania between 1920 to 1957.
The interiors were quite simple featuring small winding staircases connecting dozens of plain wood-beamed rooms stocked with dark hand-carved furniture. Along the way, Valentine let us in on a lot of details about Bram Stoker, Dracula and the history of Romanian royalty here.
So, in the end, I would say we found Dracula in a way – as much as our imaginations would let us. Just like Stoker perhaps.
Final Stop: Brasov
After a relaxing lunch in the touristic town under Dracula’s Castle (food was excellent by the way), we headed on a final stop in the historic Transylvania city of Brasov.
Surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, the picturesque pastel colored town was built with medieval Saxon walls and bastions. There was a charming main square. A must-see sight is the towering Gothic style Black Church which were advised schedules some of the most fantastic organ concerts in Europe.
The white Brasov sign – high in the mountains – was very Hollywood indeed. Perhaps Brasov inspired Hollywood?
Conclusion: Travelmaker Bucharest Two-Castles-in-One-Day Tour
Friendly and enthusiastic, Valentine made sure to point out interesting facts, vignettes and stories throughout the journey. You get a lot of value for your money, a complete tour with excellent tour guide and transport to two of Romania’s most famous castles. In the end, you may compare castles, wondering which one you liked better. Both are charming and storied in their own right, making the combination tour even more worth it.
The stop in Brasov was also well worth it, a perfectly timed opportunity to see another lovely place in Romania before returning to Bucharest. Highly recommended.
How to Get to Bucharest
The main airport is Henri Coanda Otopeni International Airport which is 17 km from the center of Bucharest, about a half-hour drive.
Many major European cities have direct flights into Bucharest. Flights from Athens are 1.5 hours direct. Return tickets with Ryan Air can be as low as 26 Euro!
- How to Get to the City Center from the Airport
The taxi fare to the city center is about 50 lei (approximately 12 Euro). Avoid drivers that approach you inside the terminal!
The 783 Express line connects the airport with the city center in 45 minutes. Don’t confuse this line with the 780 that heads to the rail station. Buy the ticket (10 lei or 2.5 Euro) at the vending booth next to the bus stop in front of the airport building exit.
Where to Stay in Bucharest
I highly recommend the centrally located Radisson Blu Bucharest on Calea Victoriei. The breakfast was fantastic and the service was impressive. For my full review, check out my post Radisson Blu Bucharest: Five-Star Luxury.
Where to Eat in Bucharest
If you eat at one place eat at Carul Cu Bere (the Beer Wagon). This restaurant has been going strong since 1887 – a favorite among locals – offering excellent traditional Romanian cuisine at excellent prices in beautiful art nouveau interiors. Located in the Old City.
What to Do in Bucharest
Travelmaker Bucharest Two-Castles-in-One-Day Tour
From 75 Euro per person
For full details on what is included in the price, visit www.travelmakertours.com.
Begins at 8 am and returns at 8 pm
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*Travel Greece, Travel Europe was a guest of Travelmaker Bucharest. As always, all opinions are my own.
Have you ever read Dracula or visited the castles in Romania?