Bran Castle is the most famous landmark of Transylvania and Romania, the main goal of most tourists. Even if you have never heard the word "Bran", you know about Dracula's castle.
Though there is no exact data on Vlad Tepes-Dracula's connection with the castle. He was very cruel, but ruled a different historical area and could only enter Transylvania during a war. There is unconfirmed information that he was imprisoned in a dungeon of the castle, but that's all!
So, why this is the castle of Dracula? It's convenient and profitable. In 1897 appeared a famous novel "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, who collected together the ancient legends of a cruel ruler and bloodsucking bats. At that time historical accuracy did not play a big role and the writer mistakenly settled the protagonist in Transylvania, confusing the letters of the name with another real historical character, from whom he wrote Vlad Tepes and who really lived here.
In the 1970s, during communist era, the goverment started to discuss the myth of Dracula. Opinions were divided, some wanted to preserve historical certainty, while others realized that this is a great opportunity to earn money. And if there is a myth and a novel, there must be a castle. There are many castles in Transylvania, but only Bran looked like a real medieval, fairytale castle. The choice was obvious.
In 1992 Francis Ford Coppola showed Bran Castle in his film "Dracula". The film crew even invested money in the restoration. This was a turning point and millions of tourists went to Romania, moreover the communist regime fell. The legend got a new life.
Since the 16th century the castle belonged to different people, including Maria - the last Queen of Romania. In 1948 the country became a Socialist Republic and the communist government took away the castle.
Only in 2005 a new law was adopted that allows the acquisition of objects illegally taken by Communists. A year later the castle became the property of the Duke of Dominic of Habsburg. In 2009, Bran Castle became the first private museum in Romania. The Duke and his sisters work in close cooperation with the city of Bran and nowadays the castle is the basis of the region's economy.
In 2014, the Habsburgs made an offer to the Romanian government to sell the castle for $80 million, but as of 2017 it has not yet been bought. Most probably, they also finance the inclusion of the castle in a variety of ratings in recent years. For example, in 2016 Lonely Planet placed Transylvania on the first place in the ranking of the best places in the world. Now you know how all these ratings are created :) Nevertheless, this brings more and more tourists and further increases the price of the castle. At some point, it reached $135 million.
In addition to the ratings, there are excellent advertising campaigns. In 2016, there was a promo action, which was mentioned by all the leading mass media around the world. Dacre Stoker, the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, held a contest at the airbnb. Two winners received a free flight from anywhere in the world, a transfer to the castle, individual tour and the opportunity to spend the night in the castle! We took part, but did not win.
Find opening times and prices on the official website. Note that the castle is quite small and incredibly popular, so coming in the middle of the day is a bad idea.
There are two good viewpoints on the castle. One is located on the terrace of the restaurant Club Vila Bran (N 45 31.313 E 25 22.418, booking.com), we spent the night in this complex. There are hotels, swimming pools, sports facilities, a zoo, a concert hall, an excellent restaurant and many more. The complex is very interesting, we recommend.
The second viewpoint is located near the cross, on the hill next to the castle. You need to go over the bridge here N 45 30.850 E 25 21.994, then up and to the right. Note, there is no trail, you need to climb. And don't go during the bad weather.
Getting there: paid parking near the entrance to the castle (N 45 30.982 E 25 22.070), free one is a little further (N 45 30.864 E 25 21.997). There are regular buses from the Brasov bus station Autogara 2 (1.5 euros, N 45 39.822 E 25 34.999). Find schedule here, but usually buses go every 30 minutes. Brasov can be reached by train from Bucharest Nord Gara A (10 euros), find schedule here. Use buses 23 and 23b to get grom the central railway station Gara Brasov to the bus terminal Autogara 2.