Inside Dracula’s Castle

Published November 6, 2014
Updated October 10, 2021

Go inside the inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula," which is less a temple of the supernatural and more a symbol of Romanian resilience.

Located on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia in Romania is the impressive Bran Castle. Near the village of Bran and close to the city of Brasov, the fortress commands attention as it rises over the Bran Gorge, a historically strategic pass through the Carpathians.

Dubbed “Dracula’s Castle,” it is a striking destination and provides visitors with a fantastic glimpse into the past:

Dracula Castle
Bran Castle was first documented in 1377 when Louis I of Hungary gave the Saxons of Brasov (known as Kronstadt in German) the right to build the citadel. The castle was used as a defensive post against the Ottoman incursion that lasted from 1438 to 1442. The castle belonged to the Hungarian kings but due to failure to pay on a loan, it was repossessed by the city of Brasov in 1533.

Entrance To Dracula Castle
The entrance to the castle sits atop a large, stone staircase. In 1920, this cavernous safehold became a royal residence for the Kingdom of Romania. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vlad The Impaler
Vlad Ţepeş, a Wallachian ruler famous for his use of impalement against his enemies, was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The castle is marketed as “Dracula’s Castle,” but in reality, Vlad Ţepeş only spent two months in holding at the castle. However, he did use the Bran Gorge when traversing the mountains.

King Ferdinand
King Ferdinand became ruler of Romania on October 10, 1914 and ruled until his death in 1927. He spent most of his time between Bran Castle and Peles Castle. Source: Wikimedia

Queen Marie
The citizens of Brasov gifted the castle to Queen Marie, wife of Ferdinand, who stuffed the sweeping halls and grand rooms with artwork, finely sculpted cabinetry and updated hearths. When not decorating, Marie filled the imposing halls with kindness and laughter until her death in 1938. Source: Wikimedia

Inside Dracula Castle
The castle was later seized by the communist regime in 1948 and the royals were expulsed. Communism fell in 1989 but the castle wouldn’t be returned to the royal family until 2005. As of 2009, it is rumored to be for sale. Source: Susan Sims

Queen Marie Apartment
Queen Marie’s apartment was composed of a bedroom, bathroom, dining area, a hall, a dressing room and two salons. She amassed many sets of china, statues, icons and books. Source: Susan Sims

Dracula Castle Secret Passage
This secret passage connects the first and third floors of the fortification and was first “discovered” in 1927 during renovations. Another secret tunnel links the fountain in the interior garden to the castle. Source: Wikimedia

Bedroom In Dracula Castle
King Ferdinand’s room displays ornate furniture and beautiful views of the commune below. His apartment also features a dining room, working area and royal treasures.

King Ferdinand’s Daggers
King Ferdinand’s collected daggers are on display in Bran Castle. Source: Susan Sims

Bran Castle Photos
A luscious courtyard graces the center of the castle, a common feature of edifications of the time. The twisted, open passageways snake around the central patio. Source: Susan Sims

The wooden framed window looks into a sitting area from a loggia used as a dining room in the summer. Source: Susan Sims

Pictures Of Bran Castle
The round tower of Bran Castle can be seen from the loggia with the lush Carpathians providing an ideal backdrop. Source: Susan Sims

Dracula Castle Living Room
Connected to the King’s bedroom, the living and dining area centers around a hand painted hearth. Romanian pottery and painting is highly valued as a part of its cultural identity. Source: Susan Sims

Romanian Lanterns
Throughout the spacious castle, hand carved and intricate fixtures adorn the walls and ceilings. Large, metal door knobs clang and the old, dark wood floors creak, while being bathed in the light of Romanian lanterns and candelabras. Source: Susan Sims

Tprtire Museum
Bran Castle also features a small torture museum in a private area on the second floor that coils up into smaller rooms and a private balcony. Source: Susan Sims

Real Dracula's Castle
The torture museum displays an iron maiden, a chair of torture and the rack, among others. If the rooms weren’t so frightening, guests might notice the stunning view of the hamlet surrounding the castle. Source: Susan Sims

Dracula Castle View
King Ferdinand and Queen Marie had eight children, some of whom lived in the castle, including Princess Ileana. During the Second World War, Ileana turned the grounds of the castle into a hospital to care for the wounded and sick. Source: Susan Sims

Armor In Bran Castle
Costumes from King Ferdinand and Queen Marie are on display, along with suits of armor, ancient weapons and heraldic banners from the nearby cities and communes. Source: Susan Sims

View From Bran Castle
Constructed in a strategic location, the castle has purview over the mountains, town and countryside. Bran, the surrounding commune is actually comprised of five small villages, Bran, Poarta, Predluţ Şimon and Sohodol. Source: Susan Sims

Dracula Castle Cross
Outside of Bran Castle sits a dark stone cross with runic writing. Queen Marie joined the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1926 converting from Anglicanism, citing her desire to be closer to her people. However, in her later writings, she claimed that the Bahá’í Faith was a true path. Source: Wikimedia

Bran Castle Tea House
Set among a palatial garden at the foot of Bran Castle is the tea house. A black building with a moss-covered peaked roof, Queen Marie enjoyed her daily tea in this location, nestled among the many trees and shrubs she had planted. Source: Business Insider

No trip up the mountain is complete without grabbing a kürtőskalács, a sweet, yeast dough treat that is spun around a cone, rolled in sugar and baked over coals. When finished, it can also be rolled in cocoa, nuts or cinnamon. Source: Wikimedia

Dracula Castle Souveniers
Given the popularity of vampire movies, books and bands, it’s no wonder that the village below Bran Castle take the opportunity to sell vampire related items. Building off of the legend of Vlad Ţepeş and his status as a national hero, one can find vampire mugs, shirts and posters. The village even has a vampire themed haunted house attraction.

Dracula Castle Bran
From a fortress to a castle to a royal residence and a communist holding, Bran Castle has remained a towering example of Romanian fortitude and heritage, bringing in 500,000 visitors a year. A combination of medieval strategy, local construction and creative ingenuity has blended to create an icon of Romanian culture: strong, resilient and proud. Toss in a vampire legend, and the rest is history. Source: Wikimedia

If you liked this look inside Bran Castle, check out our posts on Neuschwanstein Castle and the story of Vlad the Impaler, history's real Dracula.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.