Bran Castle information
Facing the flatlands and backed by mountains, the 60m-tall Bran Castle is spectacular. If you can manage to avoid bottlenecks from tour groups that appear in waves, you may enjoy the largely renovated interiors and claustrophobic nooks and crannies.
Built by Saxons from Braşov in 1382 to defend the Bran pass against Turks, the castle may have housed Vlad Ţepeş for a few nights on his flight from the Turks in 1462, following their attack on the Poienari fortress in the Argeş Valley. From 1920 Queen Marie lived in the castle, and it served as a summer royal residence until the forced abdication of King Michael in 1947. It became a museum in 1957. Much of the original furniture imported from Western Europe by Queen Marie is still inside the castle. A fountain in the courtyard conceals a labyrinth of secret underground passages. Your ticket for the castle includes entrance to the open-air village museum, with a dozen traditional buildings at the foot of the castle.
Opposite the former customs house are some remains of the old defensive wall, which divided Transylvania from Wallachia (best viewed from the soldiers’ watchtower in the castle). On the southern side of the wall is an endearingly petite stone chapel, built in 1940 in memory of Queen Marie. The church, now boarded up, is a copy of a church in the queen’s palace grounds in Balchik, Bulgaria (formerly southern Dobrogea). A memorial tomb where the queen’s heart lies has been carved in the mountain, on the north side of the wall.
In 2006, after 60 years in communist/government hands, Bran Castle’s keys were handed back to Dominic Habsburg, a New York–based architect and Queen Marie’s grandson. The castle was initially put on the market in 2007 (a US$135 million final sale price was predicted), but in 2009 the family decided not to sell it, ensuring the castle would remain open as a museum.