Romania, tucked away in Eastern Europe, has a fascinating history that is adorned with numerous, well-preserved medieval castles and fortresses. These architectural wonders stand as a testament to the country’s rich history and give tourists the chance to travel back in time and immerse themselves in tales of political intrigue, love, and battles.
If you’re a history and architecture buff and you’re planning to visit Romania, you might be overwhelmed with all the choices you have. So I hope this article will help you decide easier, and I’ll give you a list of the most important and imposing castles, citadels, and fortresses that you can find around the country.
We cannot delve into the topic of Romanian castles without discussing Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle. Originally built as a fortress in the 14th century, Bran Castle’s story took an intriguing turn in the 19th century when Queen Maria converted it into her opulent place of residence.
Close to the popular tourist city of Brasov, the design of the castle harmoniously combines original medieval components with elegant features, creating a unique ambiance that echoes throughout its halls.
Of course, Bran Castle’s connection with Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel adds to its appeal. Dracula’s inspiration, Vlad the Impaler, increases the suspense with the tales of cruelty and punishment that are associated with him.
Today, the castle is Romania’s most popular tourist destination and a day trip to visit it is one of the most popular things to do in Brasov.
Beyond Bran Castle, Romania’s royal legacy extends to Peleș Castle, a 19th-century masterpiece built to be the royal family’s summer residence.
The luxurious design of the castle, embellished with Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows, and Cordoba leather-covered walls, effortlessly mixes diverse architectural styles.
As a fun fact, Peleș Castle is noteworthy for being Europe’s first castle with installed electricity, a remarkable feat for its time.
The interior of Peleș Castle is a treasure trove of opulent decorations, including ceiling paintings and frescoes. Visitors can explore its splendor through beautifully planned chambers and corridors, while the stunning mountain resort of Sinaia provides a picturesque backdrop.
Cantacuzino Castle: A Glimpse into Aristocratic Luxury
Cantacuzino Castle, located in Bușteni, reveals the aristocratic grandeur of the Cantacuzino family, whose wealth peaked in the early 1900s. This architectural marvel, made famous by its appearance in the popular Netflix series Wednesday, invites tourists to discover its beauty. The extravagant lifestyle of a bygone era is reflected in lavish artwork such as Roman mosaics and mural paintings.
As you go through the castle’s interior, you’ll experience the Romanian aristocracy, thanks to Italian-burnished pottery and exquisite workmanship. The terrace of the castle offers beautiful views of the Carpathian Mountains, making it an idyllic setting for dinner at its inviting restaurant.
Deva Fortress: A Citadel Perched in Time
The Deva Fortress, which dates back to the 13th century, embodies Romania’s historical bravery and resilience. Its high location provides panoramic views of the surrounding area and once served as a key vantage point for protection and defense.
The fortress can be reached via a challenging climb of steep stairs or a more pleasant cable car ride. The Deva Fortress displays architectural ingenuity while also providing glimpses into the region’s turbulent past. The centuries-old stories resound as you explore its nooks and crannies, providing a sense of connection to Romania’s enduring spirit.
Corvin Castle: A Tapestry of Legends and Grandeur
Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyadi Castle), is considered one of Romania’s Seven Wonders, and is a testament to medieval architecture and Gothic beauty. Its impressive walls, double moat, and multiple towers recall memories of warfare and imprisonment, similar to those described in legends and movies.
The Renaissance-Gothic style of the castle has earned it the title as one of the most impressive castles in Eastern Europe.
Corvin Castle, home to John Hunyade, a medieval ruler of Transylvania, has painted roofs, intricate windows, and stone-carved balconies. Exploring the majestic rooms and towers of Corvin Castle provides an immersive experience that transports visitors to a realm of medieval intrigue and power.
Sighişoara Citadel is one of Europe’s last inhabited medieval citadels. Here you’ll find colorful houses, cobbled roads, and medieval architecture, ready to be explored for hours on end by its visitors. Its well-preserved beauty has won the citadel a place on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.
The house of Vlad the Impaler’s birth, now a museum and restaurant, is among the citadel’s historic gems. The fortified walls, defense towers, and the renowned Clock Tower all add to the appealing atmosphere of this destination.
The Alba-Iulia Citadel is located in the heart of Transylvania. This citadel, known as the “Crown Jewel of Transylvania,” is a beautiful blend of architectural grandeur and historical importance.
Alba-Iulia has deep roots in the Roman Empire when it was known as Apulum. The history of the citadel is a complex tapestry woven with threads of Roman, medieval, and modern influences. Its current star-shaped layout was designed by military engineer Vauban and is a marvel of strategic design.
The Alba-Iulia Citadel is a treasure trove of remarkable architecture. The imposing Roman Catholic Cathedral has intricate details and serves as a monument of faith and craftsmanship. The Union Hall has great significance for Romanians because this is where the Great Union was declared in 1918, paving the way for the country we know today.
Rasnov Citadel is sitting high on a rocky hill overlooking the charming village of Rasnov. Its origins can be traced back to the early 13th century when fortifications were essential for survival against invaders.
The site of the citadel affords panoramic views of the surrounding Carpathian Mountains, making it a perfect defensive position. Rasnov Citadel, built by Teutonic Knights and later expanded by locals, became a refuge for villagers during times of war. Its walls, bastions, and watchtowers are not only still visible today, but also very well-preserved.
Poenari Fortress, the Haunting Beauty
With its imposing presence and haunting history, Poenari Fortress deserves its spot on its list. This fortress, which is also popularly associated with the infamous Vlad the Impaler, exudes a mysterious aura that enchants anyone who goes to its heights.
The history of the fortress is as turbulent as the winds that blow through its towers. Built by Wallachian rulers in the 13th century, it was subsequently restored and expanded by Vlad the Impaler himself. The fortress’s concealed position, as well as the 1,480-stair climb to reach its ruins, only contribute to its attractiveness in the eyes of its visitors.
Romania’s citadels, castles, and fortresses stand as a permanent reminder for both the good and the bad times in the nation’s history. These historical gems offer an unforgettable journey through time, from the enigmatic passageways of Bran Castle to the magnificent rooms of Peles Castle, and from the strategic walls of Alba-Iulia Citadel to the haunting allure of Poenari Fortress.
Each destination has its own impressive architecture and fascinating stories, ready to be discovered by curious travelers. I hope this article has turned you into one!
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