When you hear “Transylvania,” you probably think “vampires.” Known as the birthplace of Dracula, this region of Romania is famous worldwide for its castles and mystique. And there’s no better place to start exploring than Bran Castle — the real-life Dracula’s Castle. Bran is an easy side trip from Brasov, the cultural heart of Transylvania. In this post, I’ll walk you through how to do a day trip from Brasov to Bran Castle!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you, which helps me keep this site up and running.
The Dracula legend and a brief history of Bran Castle
The vampire Dracula may be a legend emerging from a 19th-century novel. But the character was based on Vlad the Impaler, a military leader in 15th-century Romania.
Vlad the Impaler was a Christian leader affiliated with the Roman church during the Crusades. As Ottoman armies passed through his territory, he wreaked havoc on them. Some estimates say he killed over 80,000 people, including 20,000 who he impaled publicly.
Based on the territory Vlad the Impaler was responsible for, it’s reasonable to believe that he regularly traveled from Brasov to Bran Castle. He may even have staged campaigns there, and some locals say he was imprisoned there. The castle was an important military fortress throughout the Crusades and into the 1800’s, so these stories are plausible, but little historical documentation exists.
However, the castle’s connection to the Dracula legend is a bit more tenuous. Bram Stoker, the novelist who wrote Dracula, never visited Romania. He described Dracula’s residence as a castle in the Carpathian Mountains, and drew on local Transylvanian legends to develop the concept of a vampire.
Romanians know Bran Castle more as a royal residence in the early 20th century, which it became in the early 20th century. Queen Marie spent much of her time here in the 1940’s.
Today, Bran Castle is known as “Dracula’s Castle” largely because of Vlad the Impaler’s use of it, plus the fact that it’s the only castle in Transylvania that closely matches Stoker’s description of Dracula’s castle.
How much time do you need for a day trip from Brasov to Bran Castle?
Bran Castle is one of the most popular castles to visit in Romania. It’s very accessible even without your own car. Plus, who doesn’t want to say they’ve seen Dracula’s castle (even if that statement is a bit dubious)?
If you’re tight on time during your Romania trip, you could easily fit in a trip to Bran Castle in half a day. You could take the bus there in the morning, explore for a few hours, have lunch in town, and then head back to Brasov. You could even fit in a stop in Rasnov to see another great castle on your way back.
If you have more time, Bran is a good base to do some surrounding hikes into the mountains. Ask at your hostel or guesthouse in Brasov for maps. You could also extend your day-trip and tack on a visit to Zarnesti, the base for hikes into the gorgeous Piatra Craiului National Park.
If your Romania itinerary is really tight, you could even do a day trip from Bucharest to Bran Castle. This would be a full day adventure. I wouldn’t really recommend it though, since Transylvania has so many other great things to see if you take your time.
How to get from Brasov to Bran Castle
The easiest way to get from Brasov to Bran Castle is to drive yourself. This would be a quick 30-minute drive along good paved roads. Traffic can be a bit slow, but that’s just life in rural Romania. You can rent a car in Brasov for around $30 a day. Alternatively, you could take a taxi to Bran Castle, but it would be astronomically expensive.
However, it’s almost as easy and way cheaper to do the trip from Brasov to Bran Castle on public transportation.
The first step is getting to Bus Station 2 in Brasov. This is not the large bus station next to the train station — it’s a much smaller station 1 km north. It’s a pleasant walk from the center, or you can take Bus 12. The lovely Crisandy Hostel is a short walk away and a great base for visiting Brasov.
When you get to the bus station, ask someone for the bus to Bran. They’ll say “Bran-Moieciu” on them. Pay your 7 lei for a ticket and hop onboard.
The ride from Brasov to Bran Castle takes about an hour, through idyllic Transylvanian countryside. You’ll pass farmers herding sheep and goats — often right in the middle of the road! — and you’ll get some lovely views of the Carpathian Mountains.
The bus stops just outside the Bran town center. It’ll be very obvious when you’ve arrived. You’ll suddenly be surrounded by large tour groups, kitschy souvenir stalls, and hawkers selling giant pretzels. Get off at the next stop and take note of where it is for when you want to go back.
Bran Castle is a short uphill walk from the town center — you’ll see the castle from the main road (it’s totally unmissable).
What to do in Bran
Most things to do in Bran involve visiting the castle and getting a number of different perspectives on it.
First, take some time to admire the views from outside — from all angles. The castle is extremely photogenic. Some of the best spots are from the balconies of restaurants and cafes in town, from some of the roads leading up the hill behind it, and from the park in the town center.
Really, the outside is far more impressive than the interior. If you’re on a tight budget on your Romania travels, it’s still worth traveling from Brasov to Bran Castle just to get some photos from outside. The architectural style is Gothic — it was designed to look imposing, and it definitely delivers.
But if you want to see more, shell out the 40 lei for admission (students with a valid ID get in for 25 lei). Inside you can further admire the architecture. The castle houses a small museum with an emphasis on its time as a royal residence in the early 1900’s, but it’s totally skippable.
The biggest reason to buy a ticket to go inside isn’t the museum. It’s actually the incredible views over the Carpathian Mountains that you can get from the terrace.
Food and drink for your Brasov to Bran Castle day trip
Bran isn’t exactly a food-lover’s paradise. After all, most tourists pass through in a morning and aren’t likely to come back.
However, you can still find some good cafes to have a cup of coffee with a great view of the castle. In particular, look for places with a second-floor balcony — perfect for photography.
If you get hungry, stop in at the market opposite the castle for a snack. Alternatively, pick up a giant pretzel from one of the vendors selling them on the street — delicious, and it won’t cost you more than a few lei. If you are planning to drive or take the bus to Rasnov to see the fortress, you’re better off having lunch in Bran — Rasnov has even fewer options.
Going back to Brasov
After you finish exploring Bran Castle and the town itself, you’re ready to head back to Brasov.
The route is super-simple — just go back to where your bus dropped you off and wait for one to arrive. You won’t have to wait more than 30 minutes. Confirm with the driver that they’re heading to Brasov (not all the buses are marked), pay your 7 lei and take a seat.
Buses get pretty crowded starting around 11 am. You may have to stand for at least part of the way back.
If you want to extend your day trip from Brasov to Bran Castle, you can also visit the medieval fortress of Rasnov. Hop on a Brasnov-bound bus, but ask the driver to drop you off in Rasnov town. It’s a short walk to the fortress, or you can take a cable car.
Not into public transportation? No worries! Take a tour of Bran Castle.
Sometimes you just want things to be easy when you’re on holiday. I get it — sitting around waiting for a bus, trying to figure out where to get off — it’s a hassle. While the Brasov to Bran Castle route is pretty straightforward, there is an option if you don’t want to do it on your own.
A few agencies offer tours of Bran Castle from Brasov. They take in a few nearby sights as well, including the bear sanctuary near Zarnesti.
Tours aren’t the most budget-friendly way to go. It’ll cost you ten times what it would cost to go independently. But you won’t have to worry about the language barrier or confusing public transportation, and you’ll get to see a bit more of the Romanian countryside.
However you choose to travel, a day trip to Bran Castle — Dracula’s castle itself — will surely be one of your top memories of Romania. Don’t miss the chance to explore one of the top attractions in Transylvania!
Like this post? Pin it!
[…] It’s distinctly lacking in the historic center that makes Transylvanian towns like Brasov and Bran so charming. That being said, it has plenty of traveler amenities like cafes and grocery stores, […]
[…] it’s a short stop on your way to other Romanian gems like Transylvania, the Maramures and Bucovina, or you’re just looking for a quick city break within Europe, a […]