Have you ever dreamt of visiting Transylvania? As a child growing up with stories about Dracula and vampires, Transylvania seems like a place of nightmares, but it’s quite the opposite.
A mountainous region full of historic castles and cozy small towns, Transylvania is an easy day trip from Bucharest in Romania. While autumn is the perfect time of year to share stories about “spooky” Transylvania, I recommend visiting year-round.
There are three main destinations worth seeing on a trip to Transylvania. Rather than tell you, I’ve created two videos – be sure to watch them to see what visiting Transylvania is really like! (Need more inspiration to visit? Here are some of the best tours options in Transylvania.)
Stop 1: Visiting Peleș Castle
If you’ve never heard of Peleș Castle, or the rumors that it’s the most beautiful castle in Europe, I forgive you. I hadn’t either until I started planning my trip to Romania!
Peleș Castle was built between 1873 and 1914 in the small town of Sinaia. King Carol I, the first king of Romania, wanted a hunting reserve and summer residence, and thought the mountainous region was a perfect setting. The neo-Renaissance castle he built is beautiful inside and out, with turrets, towers, and gargoyles to capture your imagination.
Inside, each room is a work of art, with ornate wood panelling, tapestries, and more marble and gold than I’ve ever seen before. There’s also a collection of weaponry from around the world, as Romania was a crossroads for many trade routes for centuries, and gifts of swords or guns were common.
Though our guided tour only showed the lower floors of the castle, it was still an impressive experience – on par with Versailles but with a bit more “hunting lodge” vibe. If, you know, a hunting lodge can have 170 rooms and 34,000 square feet of space.
Details of Visiting Peleș Castle
- In order to visit Peleș Castle, you’ll have to purchase tickets for a guided tour. These only happen in English at set times throughout the day, and it’s best to arrive early for a less crowded experience of the castle. Peleș Castle is typically open 9:15am-5pm each day.
- Inside the castle, you can only take pictures if you purchase a photographer pass. These cost about $8US, and are well worth it if you want to document your experience. You will also be required to check in any backpacks or large bags you bring.
- Near Peleș Castle are several amenities, including a hotel and restaurant/cafe where you can enjoy a beer before or after your tour.
Stop 2: Exploring Brașov
Despite its beauty, Peleș Castle is actually not in Transylvania, so if you want to say you’ve officially been there, you’ll need to travel deeper into the Carpathian mountains.
The town of Brașov is a perfect stop on the way to “Dracula’s Castle,” and is ideal if you’re starting to get hungry, as we were. In the center of town is a huge market square, surrounded by restaurants on three sides. Many of these restaurants walk a fine line between touristy and authentic, but make up for it with delicious Romanian food to placate and satiate you.
Afterwards, it’s worth exploring Brașov. There are several interesting things to see:
- The market square with its fountain and beautiful surrounding buildings.
- The massive “Black Church” (Biserica Neagră) located near the city center, a gothic behemoth that is also the largest Lutheran church in the region.
- The Neolog Synagogue with its distinctive red and white striped stone.
- Any alleyways that give you a view of the Hollywood-style “BRASOV” high on the mountain near town.
After Brașov, it’s time for the “grand finale” for all trips to Transylvania: Dracula’s Castle!
Visiting Dracula’s Castle, aka Bran Castle
Actually, strictly speaking, it’s called Bran Castle, located in the town of Bran, located on the former Austro-Hungarian/Transylvanian border. A building was situated on the steep ridge as early as 1212, built by the Teutonic Knights to defend the mountain pass.
Throughout the centuries, it maintained importance for its strategic defensive location. Bran Castle is only loosely related to Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler), the man who many believe inspired Bran Stoker’s Dracula character, but the nickname caught on and stuck – now over one million tourists visit every year!
Bran Castle is not as beautiful as Peleș Castle – not even close! Castle, Bran Castle was a working castle for centuries, unlike than recreational Peleș Castle. You’ll find bare walls and few decorations, but there’s so much history at Bran Castle that it’s equally fascinating in its own way.
Details of Visiting Bran Castle
- Bran Castle draws a crowd on nice days. Be prepared to wait in line for tickets, and show up early in the day for lesser crowds. Bran Castle is open 9am-6pm during the high season.
- You have to climb to reach Bran Castle, so be prepared for this with good shoes! There’s also a fair amount of stair climbing in the castle itself.
- The town of Bran has embraced tourism, and there is a great little market surrounding the entrance to the castle. There are some cheap souvenir options, but you can also find nice Romanian handcrafts if you look for them.
Other Stops in Transylvania
One destination I wasn’t able to visit that I heard great things about is Sighişoara.
Embracing its European roots, Sighişoara is a town close to the fortified churches, colorful houses, and a lot of medieval heritage. You can even spend the day exploring the city dressed like someone from the Middle Ages! Like Braşov, it’s a great spot to spend a day while exploring Transylvania.
Day Tripping with Mr. Tripp
In order to see so much of Transylvania in a single day, Mr. Valise and I took a day trip with Mr. Tripp. Now part of the Gray Line family, Mr. Tripp is the lead tour provider in Romania – at least in my opinion! Their Day Trip to Dracula’s Castle is a 12-hour adventure that visits Peleș Castle, Brasov, and Bran Castle in a comfortable van that only allows for small tours and a professional guide.
Our day trip itinerary was as follows:
- 8:00am – Hotel Pick-up
- 8:30am – Depart Bucharest with narrated history of Bucharest, Transylvania & Romania
- 11:00am – Arrive at Peleș Castle, free time to explore castle grounds
- 11:30am – Guided tour of Peleș Castle
- 12:30pm – Depart Sinaia for Brașov
- 1:30pm – Lunch in Brașov followed by walking tour
- 3:00pm – Arrive in Bran, Bran Castle Tour
- 5:00pm – Depart Bran for Bucharest
- 8:00pm – Hotel Drop-off
As you can see, it was a busy day, but also jam-packed full of experiences we would have struggled to put together on our own in an efficient itinerary.
In addition to visiting each place, we were escorted by a wonderful guide who gave us history lessons in our van between destinations. Our guide was Rodica, and her knowledge of the various chapters of Romanian history made the experience truly unique and valuable.
Day trips to Transylvania with Mr. Trip – Gray Line Romania are €79. This include admission to both Peleș Castle and Bran Castle (and skips the line at the latter!). This post was produced in partnership with Mr. Tripp – Gray Line Romania.