Visiting Bran Castle this year was one of my absolute travel highlights. It's a place that has been on my bucket list for years and I couldn't wait to finally visit. There's nothing quite like the feeling of finally ticking off a place you've been dreaming of for as long as you can remember. Eastern Europe really has a gritty charm that has been lost in other, busier parts of the continent. While yes, Romania does get busy and Bran Castle is one of the most popular tourist spots, there's something about it that still manages to feel a bit off the beaten track. If you do it well – Bran Castle can be a fairytale experience. Just be sure to eat something garlicky the night before you visit to scare off any vampires!
How do I get from Bucharest to Bran Castle?
Romania's road systems are a bit slow travelling due to the lack of highways but the countryside is absolutely beautiful. Bran is located in the mountains a few hours from Bucharest, so if you're flying into the city, it's a lovely little trip out to the castle. There are two main options for travel:
Hire a car
This is something I've always wanted to do in Romania. My dream is to road trip across the countryside one day. Not only is it fairly cheap to hire a car over there, but the most magical sights are out in the rural areas. By hiring a car, you gain freedom to pick your route and build in several different stop-offs along the way. Google Maps says the journey is around 3 hours from Bucharest to Bran Castle – but this very much depends on what time of day you travel and the traffic. For us, it took over four hours on the way there, and nearly six hours on the way back. The roads are not great quality, so expect a slow journey but take it slow and enjoy a slow cruise through the mountains with beautiful views.
Take the train & bus
If you don't want to hire a car, you could also reach the castle by public transport. Taking the train is a great way to skip the traffic and take a relaxing ride. You can get the Brașov train route from North Railway Station (Gara de Nord) in Bucharest, which takes around 3.5 hours. Then, from Brașov, you can take a taxi to Bran Castle, or even the public bus which goes every 30 minutes/hourly from auto-station No. 2 Brașov.
When should I visit the castle?
I really recommend thinking carefully about when you choose to visit. This part of the Romanian countryside will be beautiful all year round, no doubt, but you may have a very different experience. Perhaps you love the snow and magical feeling of seeing Bran Castle at Christmas, or maybe you prefer a sun-drenched visit. Remember these times of year may also bring big crowds to the area as it is a popular tourist attraction for both Romanians and tourists from abroad.
I visited at the end of September which was a great time of year to go. Not only was the weather still absolutely lovely, but the first signs of autumn were beginning to appear. It also meant I was there during the "shoulder season" so it was a lot less busy than during peak summer. But there was also still a lot happening – all the shops and markets were open plus there was even a sheep festival held while I visited. Do your research and plan your trip around either the perfect time of year for you, or avoiding the crowds.
Where should I stay?
There are two main options available when you visit Bran Castle. You can either stay in the nearby city of Brașov which offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. This includes hostels, B&Bs and everything up to luxury hotels which are just a 30 minute drive from the castle – perfect for a day trip. It also means you'll have time to explore Brașov and spend more time there, as I know there is so much more to see in this area.
If you would prefer to stay in Bran – there are a range of accommodations available. While a selection of luxury and mid-range hotels and even glamping close by the castle. Two days would be enough time to visit the castle and also to hike one of the trails, but there isn't really enough close by to stay for longer.
[Press trip] I stayed in Pensiunea Gentiana which was in a great location – just a 20 minute walk from the castle. Just outside the busiest part of Bran, it was surrounded by mountains and beautiful countryside. The hotel came equipped with a swimming pool, a tennis court and spa. Despite the facilities, I would say that this hotel was rather basic for the price – the rooms were a bit of a disappointment. I think this hotel was a bit over-priced for the level of service and for the slight distance to the castle, compared to other nearby accommodations. I also was rather disappointed that despite advertising itself as 400m from the castle, it was actually nearly a 2km walk alongside a very busy and quite dangerous road. Rooms were around £80 a night for two people.
Costs and opening hours
The castle is open every day throughout the year, with longer opening hours during peak season. From April 1 to September 30 – the castle is open from 9am to 6pm daily, with last admission at 6pm. From October 1 to March 31, the castle is open daily from 9am to 4pm, with last admission at 4pm. On Mondays, the castle has shorter opening hours, open from 12pm throughout the year.
Entry to the grounds of the castle is free and there is a coffee shop and a gift shop as well as lovely gardens to walk around. If you wish to go inside the castle, you must pay 40 lei (around €8.5) at the gate. There are reduced entry rates for seniors, students and children.
For all the up-to-date information on Bran Castle - check the official website.
Do you need a tour guide for Bran Castle?
Tours are readily available for the castle. Whether you book with a company before arriving, or pay on the gate for a tour. These tours are great if you want to learn more about the history of the castle and its inhabitants. Normally I love learning about these things. However I found the tours I encountered there rather brash, loud and rather ruined the experience. I arrived at opening time and was the first through the gate as I wanted a chance to capture photos before the groups arrived. Later I wandered back through the rooms of the castle alongside the tours and it was a horrible experience. The rooms are small and if you get trapped with a tour guide booming at the top of his lungs, it's not much fun.
I would really recommend visiting the castle mid-week to avoid the crowds of the weekends. And, if you prefer a quieter experience to take in the rooms and the views, definitely consider arriving at opening or towards the end of the day. By the time I was finished at the castle – at around 11am – there were so many people everywhere as this is when most of the tour groups arrive. I would also recommend doing the castle first and the grounds after – as the grounds are more spread out, they're much more enjoyable and you can still get great views.
Camera equipment at the castle
A note for anyone who likes photography – you are not allowed to fly drones within the grounds of the castle. However, there doesn't seem to be any problem with flying them from nearby. There is a small park behind the castle – keep following the road through the village to find it.
For those who wish to take photos within the castle, there are a few rules for photography equipment. The website states: "The amateur photo / video pass are both included in the basic ticket.
Professional filming / photography requires a signed contract." When I visited the castle, I took my tripod and camera. I had no knowledge of the restrictions and no-one commented when I entered.
I was fine shooting photos all the way around the grounds. When I was nearly finished, a security guard came over to tell me I wasn't allowed to take photos with a tripod. Obviously I don't advise you to break the rules, but this is something I was not aware of. So if you have a friend who can take pics for you – perhaps this is a better option.
Hiking near Bran Castle
If you like getting active when you travel, this part of Romania is surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for hiking. Why not check out the popular and challenging Bran Castle to Magura village walk? It takes around 3-4 hours and covers 8km, starting with a steep climb. The climb starts opposite the castle and soon levels out to offer panoramic views across the village and surrounding mountains. Find the beginning of the trail in front of Vama Medievala Bran Museum and follow the red bars. You can also continue the trail to explore the isolated villages of Magura and Pestera.
- Find out more about the Bran to Magura hike here.
- Read: Glacial Lakes in Dracula’s Transylvania | A Guide to Hiking in Romania
- Top 20 Hikes and Walking Routes in Romania
What else is nearby the castle?
As it doesn't take long to see the castle, you may also wish to explore the local area. There is a little market at the entrance to the castle which sells lots of lovely gifts. You can find handmade pottery, art, food and drink, woodwork, clothing and much more here. Plus there is also a local life museum which is found just to the left of the entrance where you can find preserved traditional Romania housing. There is also a horror house in the market for the tourists – more aimed at children.
Have you been to Bran Castle – would you like to visit? Is Romania a country you would like to visit?