Discover Bran Castle, The Transylvanian Fortress Said To Be The Home Of Dracula

Published September 6, 2022
Updated November 7, 2023

From its haunting passageways to its creepy "torture museum," Bran Castle is the stuff of horror legends.

Dracula's Castle
Vlad The Impaler
Entrance To Dracula's Castle
Bran Castle Courtyard
Discover Bran Castle, The Transylvanian Fortress Said To Be The Home Of Dracula
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Located on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia in modern-day Romania, Bran Castle stands out among even the other fortresses in the area. Near the village of Bran, the stronghold commands attention as it rises over the Bran Gorge, a historically strategic pass through the Carpathian Mountains. But perhaps most notably, this fortress is known as "Dracula's Castle."

Because of this ominous nickname, many visitors assume that the castle was the home of the "real" Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. A 15th-century Wallachian ruler, Vlad was undeniably brutal. During his reign, he killed some 80,000 people and impaled 20,000 of them. However, Vlad never ruled over Bran Castle, though some sources claim he was once held as a prisoner there.

So how did this fortress become inextricably linked with one of history's most famous fictional vampire? This is the real story of Bran Castle and why it's known as "Dracula's Castle."

The Early History Of Bran Castle

Built during the 14th century, Bran Castle started out as a defensive post for Transylvanian Saxons as they fought back against the Ottomans. From there, the fortress would play a number of roles in the region's tumultuous history, according to Britannica.

Along with being used for defensive purposes, the castle was also utilized as a customs house in its early years. Occasionally, it'd also be used as a place to hold prisoners (potentially including the infamous Vlad the Impaler). And during other times, it'd simply be a place for royals to live.

Bran Castle

Wikimedia CommonsBran Castle dates back to medieval times and has played many roles throughout the centuries.

From the 17th century to the 19th century, the structure underwent a variety of modifications and restorations under the orders of various Transylvanian royals and other local authorities. But soon afterward, it began to decay.

In 1920, Queen Marie of Romania took over Bran Castle and restored the fortress once again, transforming it into a beautiful summer residence. But just a couple of decades later, Marie's children would be forced to flee the area when communists took control of the country in the late 1940s.

Interestingly enough, the communist regime chose to turn the castle into a museum. And though communism eventually fell in Romania in the late 1980s, Marie's grandson Archduke Dominic of Habsburg eventually decided to keep the castle a museum, and it's still used in this way today.

How This Fortress Became Known As "Dracula's Castle"

Despite the fascinating and varied history of Bran Castle, most people today visit the fortress due to its connection to Dracula. It's unclear exactly when rumors of this link spread, but according to the castle's official website, it may have all started with the author of Dracula himself.

While there's no proof that Bram Stoker, the Irish writer behind the 1897 novel, ever visited Bran Castle — or anywhere in modern-day Romania — it's believed that he may have had access to a written account of the fortress. This could explain how he potentially based his fictional castle on it.

Bram Stoker

Wikimedia CommonsThough Bram Stoker may not have visited Bran Castle, it's possible he had access to a written account of it.

As the official website for Bran Castle points out, it's the only fortress in Transylvania that really fits the description of Dracula's castle. That, combined with the fact that the "real" Dracula may have been jailed there, is enough to convince many modern-day tourists that the castle is a must-see.

Though you probably won't see any real vampires walking around the castle grounds if you choose to visit, the fortress does include some chilling features, such as secret passageways and a small "torture museum" that displays various devices like an iron maiden, a chair of torture, and a medieval rack device that stretched victims' limbs until they dislocated.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some tourists say that the torture museum was one of the highlights of their visit to "Dracula's Castle" — such is the dark, enduring legacy of the one-and-only Bran Castle.

After this look at Bran Castle, explore Houska Castle, a Gothic fortress in Prague that has housed mad scientists, Nazis, and perhaps even "demons." Then, check out nine abandoned castles that are haunting shells today.

Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Anglis, Jaclyn. "Discover Bran Castle, The Transylvanian Fortress Said To Be The Home Of Dracula.", September 6, 2022, Accessed June 13, 2024.