Bran Castle

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Bran Castle was never the home to Vlad Tepes Dracula (the real Dracula’s Castle is here), but it looks like it could have been and that’s why people flock here. Dracula was, it’s theorized, just a “guest” here. (It’s believed he was locked up in the castle for two months after being captured by the Hungarian army.) This fact notwithstanding, locals looking to make a few bucks sell all manner of Dracula souvenirs, encouraging the myth. Never mind the Dracula scarcity, Bran Castle is a very old, gnarly looking castle and as such deserves a good eyeballing.

It juts into the sky from its hilltop base, with plenty of turrets and lookouts to keep a wary eye out for invaders. Both inside and out, it’s an oh-wow moment of the first order (though, it must be said, the outside is more impressive), worth all the waiting and elbowing tourists.

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The Castle dates from 1378. Much later Queen Marie summered here in the 1920s. The communists grabbed it in 1948 after ejecting the royals from the country and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was returned to Dominic von Habsburg, the son and heir of Princess Ileana. After trying to sell it for a brief period, Habsburg took it off the market and has, to everyone’s relief, kept it open as a private museum.

Although there are a few places to stay in Bran, once you’ve seen the castle, you’ve seen Bran, so a half-day trip from Brasov is usually the preferred visitor tactic. Although some masochists like to descend from on the area from their hike through the Bucegi Mountains.

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