Travel Guide to Transylvania: Brasov, Bran and Dracula’s Castle

Travel Guide to Transylvania: Brasov, Bran and Dracula’s Castle

Transylvania, the storied territory west of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, can make for an entire trip on its own, or an unforgettable shore excursion if you’re cruising the Danube River. In March 2016, Lonely Planet  voted Transylvania the #1 Region in its Best in Travel 2016 top travel list.

When you’re planning a visit to Transylvania, Romania be sure to include these three items on your checklist:

What is Transylvania really like?Thanks to Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula, there’s hardly a soul in the world who hasn’t heard of Transylvania. We’re  familiar with the spooky, forbidding atmosphere invoked by Stoker in his novel – but what is Transylvania really like?

You may not think of Transylvania as memorable for its well-preserved medieval cities, breathtaking natural beauty and marvelous array of restaurants and cultural offerings,  but all of these are highlights of “The Land Beyond the Forest.”

Beautiful views abound in the Transylvanian countryside Photo: Phil Kidd

Beautiful views abound in the Transylvanian countryside
Photo: Phil Kidd

Who lives in Transylvania?Covering roughly a quarter of Romania’s territory, Transylvania is home to a mix of ethnic groups, including Hungarian, Roma and a tiny German-speaking Saxon minority, in addition to the majority Romanian population. The terrain, architecture and scenery are just as varied as the people. 

Brasov, Romania

Brasov’s main square, Romania
Photo credit: David W Allen

Transylvania Recommended Stop: BrasovThe medieval Transylvanian city of Brasov is pleasant, walkable and boasting a claim to being one of the cleanest cities in Romania.

Brasov is a great introduction to Transylvania. Its central “Council Square” delights visitors with its multicolored buildings, outdoor cafés and a variety of restaurants, and the cultural sights are remarkable.

From the imposing 14th-century Black Church built in the Gothic style to a bright and active synagogue, not to mention the Strada Sforii (Rope Street), the narrowest street in Europe at only four feet wide, Brasov is full of surprises. Less than ten miles away is the popular ski resort, Poiana Brasov, which offers 12 runs and draws visitors from all over Europe and beyond in the wintertime.

Bran (Dracula's) Castle, Romania

Bran (Dracula’s) Castle, Romania
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Transylvania Recommended Stop: Bran and Dracula’s CastleFrom Brasov, head to nearby Bran, home to the infamous Dracula’s Castle. Vlad the Impaler, the ruthless medieval prince said to be Dracula’s forebear, never actually lived in Bran Castle. However, the edifice served as an inspiration for Stoker’s 19th-century novel and the name “Dracula’s Castle” stuck despite its inaccuracy. You can easily imagine the bat-like vampire crawling down the tower walls of this 14th century castle.

Some of the highlights of Bran Castle, aside from all the inevitable vampire kitsch, are the labyrinthine architecture of the castle’s interior and the furniture inside, collected by Romania’s Queen Marie herself nearly a century ago.

Dracula's Castle, Bran Romania; Photo: Michel Behar

Dracula’s Castle, Bran Romania
Photo: Michel Behar

Transylvania Recommended Stop: Try a Chimney CakeAnother experience not directly connected to Bran Castle, but still unique to the area, is the opportunity to try kürtős kalács, or chimney cakes, from one of the many vendors at the base of the castle.

A sweet pastry found in the Hungarian-speaking regions of Romania, kürtős kalács are made from a long strip of dough wrapped around a cylindrical spit and rolled in sugar. The raw pastry is then roasted over a fire; melted butter is applied during the process. What results is a hollow cylinder of pastry that can be peeled off and shared among friends. Soft on the inside and sweet and crispy on the outside, kürtős kalács is a Transylvanian culinary delight that is not to be missed.

Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania

Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

On Your Way to Transylvania: Visit Sinia, RomaniaEn route to Transylvania is the Carpathian town of Sinaia. Just two hours north of Bucharest, you can already feel the changing atmosphere. Sinaia’s steep, winding streets, chalet-style homes, restaurants and ski lodges and abundance of evergreen trees are all reminiscent of Switzerland. 

The town of Sinaia is Romania’s most popular ski resort and a gateway to the beautiful Bugeci Mountains. Winter sports, including a 5,000-foot bobsledding run, and excellent summer hiking and climbing make Sinaia a year-round destination. In 1870, King Carol I built his summer residence, Peles Castle, here, guaranteeing the town fame and fortune.

And Sinaia is right at Transylvania’s doorstep!

A welcome to Romania. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

A welcome to Romania
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Travel to Transylvania with MIR

MIR has more than two decades of Romania travel experience, offering on-the-ground support and quality you can trust and guides and tour managers that clients rave about. 

You can discover the legends and the beauty of Transylvania on these MIR tours:

MIR can create a custom, private tour that hits all the highlights of Transylvania, including Bran Castle; or a full tour of the region for travelers cruising the Danube who’d like to get out and take a look around.

Chat with a MIR destination specialist today by phone (1-800-424-7289) or email to start planning your visit to Transylvania.

Want to know more about Romania? Check out:

(Top photo: Traditional methods of farming and harvesting are preserved in Romania. Photo credit: Peter Guttman)

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2016

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