A visit to Brasov, Romania, is a journey into the heart of Eastern Europe. Brasov is an astonishingly well preserved example of classic medieval art, craft, culture, and architecture, which makes it one of the most frequently visited cities in the country. With an array of astonishing and memorable landmarks to visit, Brasov offers you nothing less than a truly magical experience.
One of the most popular tourist spots just outside the city of Brasov is Bran Castle, a looming fortress which is perched atop a rocky peak in Transylvania. The building of this castle began somewhere around the year 1378, and within its towering walls it holds centuries of tales and legends. Most famously, Bran Castle is said to have been the home of Prince Vlad Tepes, the legendary Count Dracula.
Right about now you’re probably thinking, “Dracula was a real person?” Well, there’s not exactly a yes or no answer, which is one of the things that makes this castle so intriguing and alluring to people from all over the world.
The Dracula with whom we are most familiar is a terrifying character created by author Bram Stoker in 1897. Stoker’s story is based on the life of Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who lived from 1431 to 1476. He is well known by the Romanians for having the guts to stand up to the Ottoman Empire.
However, Vlad Tepes was also known as a vicious enemy to the Turks for applying the death penalty to all those he considered enemies: robbers, cunning priests, treacherous noblemen, beggars, and usurper Saxons. The death penalty meant impalement. Historians nicknamed him Vlad Tepes while people say he was Count Dracula because he used to sign with his father’s name, Dracul. “Dracula” is derived from the Romanian word for devil or dragon.
So how much of Vlad’s life is true, and how much has been notoriously fictionalized? Everyone has varying opinions, and at Bran Castle you get to explore it for yourself. Bran Castle’s narrow corridors and mysterious labyrinth of ghostly nooks and secret chambers could easily conceal a vampire! If you imagine all castles to be similar, then your visit to Brasov will shatter that notion.
The area’s other most famous castle, called the Peles Castle, is completely different from Bran Castle and is framed by gorgeously landscaped woodlands. While the main architectural style is German Renaissance, you can will also discover elements belonging to the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo styles.
Peles Castle is said to be one of the most beautiful castles in all of Europe. In fact, it is so grand and opulent that King Ferdinand found it too big and overwhelming to use it as his summer residence and commissioned a smaller nearby castle!
While in Brasov, there are many other wonderful gems to discover. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the Brasov Synagogue, which was built in 1899. Its white domed ceiling and stained glass windows are gorgeous.
Jews have lived in Brasov since 1807, and the Jewish Community of Brasov was officially founded 19 years later, followed by the first Jewish school in 1864. Today, the community has about 230 members.
One of the most charming areas of Brosov is the medieval Old Town region, which is always full of life. One of the area’s many attractions is the imposing Black Church, the largest Gothic church in Romania. The main square, known as Piata Sfatului, is a wonderful place to admire ornately painted and trimmed Baroque structures.
You may even get to venture down Rope Street, which is the most narrow street in Europe. The magical air of Brasov’s Old Town will leave you feeling completely charmed and mystified.