Bran Castle, also known as Dracula Castle, is one of the most notorious landmarks in Romania. The fortress at the border between Transylvania and Wallachia was built between 1377 and 1382.
And before all the Romanians roll their eyes at me about Dracula Castle, make sure you read until the end where there is a video surprise from 8 years ago. I have also talked about the whole experience on my podcast, Travelling Inside Out.
How to get from Sinaia to Brașov
Back to the present, I mean kinda past because I visited the castle in August this year. As I said in the previous post it is best to take the train whenever you are in Prahova Valley. It’s always more than crowded, especially during weekends. It’s a bit over a one-hour train ride to Brașov where we had to change for a bus to get to Bran.
There are two main websites that show the train schedule and ticket info:
https://www.cfrcalatori.ro/en/ – it only shows the public trains (you can also purchase tickets directly on the website)
https://www.infofer.ro/ – it shows private trains too, unfortunately it is only in RO.
* I usually try to go with private trains – you buy the ticket while on the train – but they don’t have so many options on all the routes I’m interested in;** when travelling with CFR (the public train company) remember to check for discounts – they have a lot of them for groups (2-5 pax), for buying it in advance, for buying it online etc.
It was quite nostalgic to ride the train especially since I went back into my routine of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. I used to do that a lot when I was in high school and then I would write short stories about how I was imagining the characters’ life. You can say it is not polite, but I have always seen it as a great way to spark my imagination. This might be something I’m missing here in Iceland – listening to strangers talk. And that’s on me since I don’t speak the native language. Anyway, back to Brașov, where we made it with no problems.
Brașov – train station to bus station
From the train station, we had to go to a bus station where we could take the bus to Bran. Except nobody would know exactly where that bus station is, not even the taxi drivers, so after 20 minutes of trying to figure out how the hell to make it there, we decided to take an uber. It was very frustrating and way overpriced. If you want to hear more about how I completely lost it, make sure you tune in on Travelling Inside Out where I give you more insights about what angered me that I started yelling at people around me.
One city bus ticket in Brașov – 5 RON/$1.5 (it’s for two trips)as of August 2021
How to travel from Brașov to Bran
We made it to the bus station, finally got on the intercity bus. The bus was completely full and luckily we got to a good seat, but it was insanely hot inside. You can imagine it was an old bus with no AC.
The main website to use for buses around Romania:
https://www.autogari.ro/?lang=en – it’s always better to call the bus company just to be extra sure about the scheduling but you can buy tickets directly on the website too
Brașov – Bran: 9 RON/$2/€1.5 per person (Transbus Codreanu)as of August 2021
Where to stay in Bran
Finally, we arrived in Bran and the first thing I saw was the Ferris wheel – it wasn’t there 8 years ago. And then, immediately after, I’ve noticed the crowd. It was completely packed, with people everywhere and cars parked all over the place. Granted Bran, it is not that big and it only has a two-lane street going straight through, but still. I was happy we didn’t get stuck in traffic and we were finally there. The accommodation wasn’t too far away and so we got lucky when they let us check in even before the official time. And the room was stunning. I highly recommend this place, Zara Chalet, it was over our budget but we decided to splurge a little. And we have no regrets about it. Or maybe just one, but I will tell you about it later.
What to eat in Bran
Since we were staying only one night we wanted to do the same thing as the previous day in Sinaia: visit the castle, go for lunch and then have the evening for ourselves. Except being so crazy busy all around us, we decided to first go for lunch and then visit the castle. Big mistake! But we didn’t know about that quite yet. We had a walk around the few places, checked the prices, and finally decided to go to Restaurant Bran Parc, a few more steps outside of the craziness. And we did very well because the food was amazing, the serving was great and we found a place with shadow because let me tell you… the sun was still not my friend. Not during summer in Romania. I had the tripe soup (and let me tell you how much I missed it!!!), and my partner had the barbecued sausages.
Bran Castle aka Dracula Castle
And finally, we made it to the castle. Well, not really because when we got towards the ticketing office we were stunned to see over 100 people in front of us. It was an incredibly long queue and I even considered skipping it and returning the next day. But my partner wanted to wait so we waited for probably 45 minutes. And just when we were about to buy the tickets I heard someone saying we could have bought them online. Arghhh, it still bothers me now. So make sure you check their website for that before going.
The actual castle exists (clearly), the name, however, oh well… In 1395 the fortress was used as a strategic point in a military attack. Eventually, the castle is being donated from the city of Brașov to the Queen Mary of Romania in 1920, being used as her part-time residence and finally being inherited by her daughter Princess Ileana.
The castle is on top of mountain rock, we had to walk up a little, and finally, we made it inside. I have been to Bran Castle three times in total and I still like it very much. Except I dislike crowds, but at least this time we got to take plenty of pictures inside too. Not like in Peleș Castle (I told you about it in the previous post).
There was one difference in the castle compared to the previous two times I have visited the castle before. This time, in some rooms, they had a spookier approach. And I loved the idea behind it because you get to read some Romanian eerie legends.
After we left the castle we went for a short stroll along the lake and eventually went back to our accommodation. Except we had to do one more stop and get some crepes, because you know, desserts are a must when you visit Romania. We hang out in a park and then we went back in.
We actually didn’t explore more of the town because we were getting really tired and it was starting to be windier and windier. I still took advantage of the lovely balcony we had and I loved seeing the sunset colours on the mountains around us.
Remember telling you about how cars were incredibly weirdly parked everywhere? A few meters down the road there was a whole empty parking lot. Why are people like this? If you are a driver, please be okay with using your legs for two extra minutes and don’t park in a forbidden place. Some of the cars were really taking the whole sidewalk space and it was only possible to walk in the middle of the street. Not very safe, for literally anyone.
The breakfast was one of the best ones we ever had. We took our time to really enjoy it and after that, we decided to just hang out in the common area dreaming about a cabin or a house that has a living room like that. Doesn’t everyone do this in their travels?! This was actually the only regret, we didn’t know about this beautiful common area because we would have stayed there in the evening too.
Trip back to Brașov from Bran
Finally, it was time to go. We went to the bus stop where we waited for probably one hour – the bus was late. So much so that it started to stress me out, especially since the traffic was horrible. And we had to catch a train, continuing our travel deeper inside Transylvania. In the end, the bus came with a 20 minutes delay. We had one more challenge: get back to the train station. I hoped that it won’t be as difficult, but after the bad experience from the day before, anything was possible. However, I managed to reset my negativity and try to give Brașov another chance. Just when we were close to arriving, a man was talking with other passengers telling them there is a city bus that takes people close to the train station. Ha! I knew it. So we made it back in a 10-15 minutes ride plus 10 more minutes waiting for the city bus. Ugh, it could have been so easy if only I knew that one day before.
Anyway, for those who need this information:
Bus station Transbus Codreanu to Brașov Train Station: city bus 23 or 23b
* the bus stop to go off at is called Căprioara (Deer) and is leaving you in front of the Train Station but on the main road(or just ask around where to take it from and where to go off)
We got our tickets and waited for the train to leave – we had three hours in front of us. Horrible ride with no AC in insane heat and no possibility to open the windows. Unfortunately, this is very common in trains within Romania. And I hate it!
If you made it to the end, congrats but also I mentioned a video, here it is as promised. My friend from Singapore visited me back in 2013 and we didn’t skip it. After reading the information within the castle he wanted to explain what he understood about Dracula. I think he did an amazing job, didn’t he?!