Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, visiting Romania’s spooky castles is an inspired travel experience, guaranteeing culture, history, fairy-tale scenery and a few frights, if you’re up for it.
No expense was spared in the building of Peles Castle
A vision in cream, burgundy and gold, Peles Castle was built as a summer residence for the Royal Family of Romania. Clearly not on a budget, the royals saw that the castle was filled with Murano glass chandeliers, German stained glass windows, teak furniture that was a gift from an Indian Maharajah, frescoes by Gustav Klimt, and an ornate German New Renaissance exterior. With pointed towers, turrets and Gothic arches, and the Peres Creek flowing through the courtyard, it is a wonderfully eerie place. Stay at the Oblique Forest & Spa, just a few hundred metres away.
Bran Castle feels like a vampire's home
Bran Castle is pretty creepy, whether or not it really was the home of fictional character, Count Dracula. Atop a 200-foot rock in Romania, this 14th-century fortress peeks out of the pine tree tops with red tiled, turreted roofs and weathered grey stone walls. Speculation has it that the Castle inspired author Bram Stoker, who based Dracula on the real life adventures of notorious Romanian hero, Vlad the Impaler. But truth be told, there is likely no connection – just considerable coincidence that this 14th-century fortress certainly feels like a vampire’s home, with dungeons, dark, wood-panelled rooms and dusty artefacts. Make the most of the Castle atmosphere by signing up to a night tour on Halloween via a private company. Check into Trattoria Al Gallo, a highly rated accommodation just a few minutes’ walk from Bran Castle.
See the well built by 12 Turkish prisoners who met their fate at Corvinesti Castle
The 14th-century Corvinesti Castle is one of Romania’s most magnificent fortresses. Approached via an impressive wooden drawbridge, Its Gothic-Renaissance buttresses, chapel, dungeons and sumptuous dining halls are engrossing. It also features a 100-foot well dug into stone, which is believed to have been built by 12 Turkish prisoners who were promised to be set free if they could reach water. After 15 whole years of labour, they finally did – but were not freed. An inscription on this particular well has been translated to ‘you have water but no soul.’ Check into the nearby Hotel Krystal.
This 13th-century Citadel was built to protect locals from invading armies
Fascinatingly, this 13th-century Citadel was built in order to shelter vulnerable villagers from invaders in turbulent times. As the villages were on the route of invading Tatar armies, refuge into the Citadel – on a rock in the Carpathian Mountains 650 feet above the town of Râșnov – was the only way to survive. Thanks to constant bombardments and threats, the people of Râșnov and nearby villages turned the castle into a permanent dwelling, with a chapel, a school and a well. Rem's Pension is the most highly rated accommodation in Râșnov.
Poenari Castle is the real Dracula castle
Poenari Castle is the real Dracula Castle. Built in the 13th century, it fell into ruin until Vlad the Impaler rescued it 200 years later and made it one of his main fortresses. Accessed by 1,480 stone steps, it sits on a rocky precipice 860 metres tall and boasts quite a view. Legend states that Vlad the Impaler’s wife committed suicide by jumping from the walls of the fortress to avoid capture by the attacking Turks. And that the river that passes below became red with her blood, since when it has been known as The Lady’s River. Check into the Pensiunea Ioana, the highest-rated accommodation in the nearby city of Curtea de Argeș.
See stucco marble and stained glass at Cantacuzino Castle
Cantacuzino Castle stands out from the rest of Romania’s Gothic fortresses, as it was built in the early 20th century in the Neo-Romanian style of architecture. The family who constructed it were one of Romania’s wealthiest aristocratic families and they decorated it in expensive and rare materials. Byzantine and Italian Renaissance features include stucco marble, painting ceilings, and stained glass imported from Venice. Stroll around the castle’s extensive gardens of grottoes, waterfalls and fountains. The turreted Hotel Casa Frasin resembles a castle, as well as being conveniently close to Cantacuzino.