Vampires have always fascinated and inspired tourists from all over the world to visit Romania. Searching for Dracula, or what we think Bram Stoker use for his inspiration—Vlad the Impaler, has always swayed travelers to visit this Easter European country. While some of the popular attractions that usually make it on a Dracula tour are history-rich, not all of them are accurate. Here are a few tips to help you plan a Dracula-inspired tour of Romania, mix with fantasy, historical facts, and amazing sites linked to Dracula.
When to Plan a Dracula-Inspired Tour of Romania?
First things first: when to visit? Most of these sights are in the mountainous regions of Transylvania. Any time between mid to late spring and mid-autumn would be a great idea. Of course, if you’re looking for a winter wonderland, Romania is a perfect choice. However, you might have to stick with only one destination to explore. Heavy snow and mountain roads might see you either stuck somewhere for a few days or struggling to make it to the next place you want to visit. These are not particularly close together and quite far from international airports. So if you want a lengthy tour visiting all these spots, try to plan it during a warmer season.
Why You Shouldn’t Skip Bran Castle
Bran Castle has been branded Dracula’s Castle for a couple of decades. However, it’s connection with Vlad the Impaler or the fictitious Dracula is feeble at best. Vlad the Impaler may or may not have stayed here during a journey. It’s not really clear, as there are no historical documents to back this up. However, I would not skip this castle on my vampire tour. First of all, it’s gorgeous. Secondly, it’s a historic landmark, dating back to the 14th century, or even earlier, a fortress built right on the old border dividing Transylvania and Wallachia. Finally, it’s been recently decorated to match Bram Stoker depictions of Dracula and most vampire lore.
Insider tip: whatever you do, don’t miss the secret passageway! Slightly lit and cold, this will feel weird in a scary way even with a group of people going through it.
Where to Find the Real Vlad the Impaler?
If you’re looking for a more accurate and equally creepy quest to find Dracula, add Sighisoara to your itinerary. It’s easy to reach from Bran by car, but there are trains taking you there too. Sighisoara is a medieval citadel that’s still inhabited. But the reason why you should visit is that Vlad the Impaler was born here.
Once you get to Sighisoara, visit Casa Vlad Dracul which is right next to the Clock Tower. Currently, a restaurant where you can enjoy a traditional meal, it’s the birthplace of the historical figure most often associated with Dracula. For about 50 cents, you can also visit the room in which Vlad the Impaler was born.
To complete the medieval experience, I recommend you also check out the weapons section of the museum and the torture room (they are on either side of the tower, so they are hard to miss. If you plan to also visit the history museum in the Clock Tower, get a 3 in 1 ticket and you’ll see them all for about 5 USD. Although dealing with different parts of history, the Clock Tower shouldn’t be skipped and the view from the top over the citadel will leave you breathless.
Insider tip: Like almost all museums in Romania, these are closed on Mondays.
Next on your tour is the city of Targoviste in Wallachia. This used to be the capital of the province and it’s where Dracula reigned. The Chindia Tower, a reinforced addition to the Court’s fortified complex, was commissioned and built during Vlad the Impaler’s reign. The tower and the entire complex are now turned into a museum and can be visited Tuesday to Sunday, for under 3 USD.
Insider tip: please be aware that most Romanian museums do have a website, but rarely have an English version. Enlisting help from locals might help if you want to check the websites.
Other Destinations Connected to Dracula
If you have more time to spend on Dracula’s trail, here are a few other attractions to add to your list:
Brasov – other than being a beautiful city with centuries of history behind it, there is a Dracula connection here. Vlad the Impaler first tried to seek refuge in Brasov but was initially denied it. Later, he was tasked with protecting Brasov from the Ottomans. He plundered villages around Brasov and Sibiu on at least two occasions, and as his conflict, the Saxon burghers escalated, he ransacked and tortured a few Saxon traders
Hunedoara/Corvin Castle – this is one of my favorite medieval castles in the world and it’s said that Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned here by John Hunyadi for seven years. It’s only a three-hour drive from Sighisoara.
Poenari Castle – only two hours away from Targoviste, this citadel was in ruins before Vlad the Impaler realized its potential in the 15th century and turned it into one of his main fortresses.
The Ideal Itinerary
If you want to see all these on a Dracula-inspired tour of Romania, here’s your best choices. Renting a car and driving would be the most flexible option, but trains and buses can be worked into the itinerary as well. Drive from Bucharest, drive to Bran first. Then visit Brasov, and next up is Sighisoara. From Sighisoara, drive to Hunedoara, then into Wallachia to Arefu to see Poenari Castle. The last stop is Tragoviste, and then it’s time to head back to Bucharest.
About Our Guest Blogger
Alina Popescu is a writer, traveler, and coffee addict from Romania. She’s loved travel all her life, and although she does not remember it, her first seaside vacation happened when she was two. She’s been traveling internationally since she was thirteen and she shares her guides and tips on TravelTweaks.com and her adventures with her dog on PetTravelTales.com.