Transylvania, Romania’s central region, is not as spooky as it is portrayed in the book ‘Dracula’. The region charms visitors with its medieval towns, iconic castles, and opulent churches. And no, there aren’t any vampires here… at least, that’s what they say.
Historically part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Transylvania has a large Hungarian-speaking population. The Hungarian influence is noticeably present in the architectural styles, cuisine, and on street signs. This mixing of cultures gives Transylvania a flavor that is distinguishable from the other regions of Romania.. and I’m not just talking about the paprika!
Brasov’s old town is colorful and picturesque, full of cafes, bars, and traditional restaurants. The city is surrounded by medieval walls and lush mountainside-parks. With some of the narrowest streets in Europe, something Brasov is quite proud of, this city retains its medieval prestige. At the same time, Brasov’s colorful homes emit a youthful energy.
Bran and Peles Castles
No trip to Romania is complete without a trip to the iconic Bran Castle, known also as “Dracula’s Castle”.
The character ‘Dracula’ was loosely based on Transylvania’s infamous ruler, Vlad Tepes, son of Vlad Dracul, who cruelly impaled countless Ottoman soldiers as well as his Hungarian and Romanian constituents during his reign. This earned him the nickname “Vlad the Impaler”.
The castle’s museum debunks Vampires myths and recalls the ancient Romanian folklore which inspired stories such as Dracula.
Ironically, Bram Stoker never even visited Romania. If he had, he would’ve known that the ‘real’ Dracula, Vlad Tepes, never lived in Bran Castle.
Further south is the Peles castle, a stunning German Renaissance style palace, nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Inside, the castle is even more beautiful.
Serving as the former home of the Romanian royal family, the castle’s 170+ rooms are built from Romanian marble and walnut wood and lavishly decorated.
Peles and Bran are doable in a single day by car or bus. Start early because these castles close before sunset.
The small town of Rasnov is known for its fortified medieval village which sits on top of the hill. Inside the fortress are medieval-themed shops run by traditional smiths and artisans.
The new town is also pleasant, with a jazz club and many bakeries on its main street. Rasnov is a quiet, less-touristy day-trip from bustling Brasov.
The town of Hunedoara is home to the Corvin castle (known in Hungarian as the Huneyard Castle). Corvin castle is the best castle I have ever visited, hands down.
Arrive around lunchtime and you’ll find it completely empty. Walk across the drawbridge to explore the many banquet halls and bedchambers. Medieval music concerts are often hosted here as well.
Sighisoara is a small, walled medieval village, and the birthplace of the infamous Vlad Tepes. Full of museums and churches, the town of Sighisoara is very proud of its ‘Dracula’ history. Climb the antique clock tower, tip-toe through the eerie old graveyard, and walk the cobblestone streets.
Like Brasov, Sighisoara is a mix of many different architectural styles, with many Hungarian-style pastel buildings as well as medieval fortifications.
Cluj-Napoca is a large city and the unofficial capital of Transylvania. Cluj-Napoca is where all the events happen in Transylvania: concerts, Hungarian Opera, film festivals, Christmas markets, etc. Make sure to book accommodation far in advance: 1000’s Romanians and Hungarians travel all the way across the country to attend Untold, Romania’s largest EDM festival every July!
Cluj-Napoca also houses many of Transylvania’s best museums, such as the National Museum of the Transylvania, the baroque-era Banffy Palace, and Ethnographic Museum, all of which provide keen insight to Romanian history and traditional life.
Transylvania’s rich folklore and gruesome history inspired one of the most famous fantasy novels of all time. The region continues to spellbind tourists with its vampire-themed attractions and mysterious castles today, hundreds of years after the days of Vlad the Impaler and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.
Despite the myths, Transylvania is not full of blood-sucking undead who live in coffins; it’s full of friendly people who live in pastel homes, and it’s a truly incredible place to visit.