Stirring the imagination with legends of medieval sieges, bloodthirsty counts, and royal intrigue, Transylvania’s Saxon castles are a major draw for visitors to Romania. From crumbling fortresses to elegant estates, here are the region’s must-see castles, all accessible by car from Bucharest or Brasov.
Also known by its nickname, Dracula’s Castle, this well-restored medieval haunt seems a fitting residence for Bram Stoker’s mythical vampire—though any connection to the real-life Vlad the Impaler is murky. Straddling the border of Transylvania and Wallachia near the village of Bran, the castle’s red-roofed towers and delightfully Gothic rooms can be toured independently or with a guide.
The one-time summer residence of the Romanian royal family, this storybook neo-Renaissance palace tucked into a forest near Sinaia is considered by some to be the most beautiful in the country, and perhaps all of Eastern Europe. Admire lush baroque furnishings and art on a guided tour, and check out nearby Pelisor Castle, a smaller art nouveau manor in the same complex, if you have time.
Partially in ruins, this imposing hilltop citadel in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains was built in the 13th century as a refuge from marauding Tartar armies. Learn about medieval warfare and sieges while exploring the crumbling courtyard and ramparts of the walled compound.
Recently renovated by the Romanian government, this fortress near the city of Brasov sits atop one of the country’s oldest archaeological sites. The current hilltop citadel dates back to the 14th century and was used as a refuge from invading Turkish and Hungarian armies, plague, and other medieval threats.