Highlights around Brasov, Romania (including Bran Castle)

Highlights around Brasov, Romania

There are some easy day trips from Brasov, including to the famous Bran Castle (also known as “Dracula’s Castle”). You may find yourself surprised by some of the highlights you’ll find below – we actually enjoyed them in reverse order of popularity and were astounded that some get little to no visitors.

The locations covered below are truly the closest around Brasov and can all be visited by taxi. Unless you have your own wheels it is the simplest mode of transport to these attractions. The furthest is Bran Castle, 30 km away. As I mentioned in my previous post on Brasov, the cost of taking a taxi is inexpensive in Romania. Note: There is another spectacular destination (our favorite in all of Romania) 50 km away from Brasov that can be visited by train. That will be covered in my next post (it deserves it’s own post).
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Attractions around Brasov:
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1) Bran Castle

Bran Castle is the most famous (ie touristy) Castle in all of Romania. It is promoted as “Dracula’s Castle” and I guess people gobble that up because the place is packed with tourists.

Below: views of Bran Castle

Bran Castle from street

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There was no Dracula, he was a fictional character based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Stoker had actually never been to Romania and the idea of using a castle in the Carpathian mountains was only inspired by accounts he heard of cruel rulers and mysterious palaces hiding among the rolling hills and peaks of this region. Somehow, Vlad Tepes, a real-life prince known for the impalement of his enemies, became the embodiment of Dracula. And Bran Castle, which fit Stoker’s description of what Dracula’s castle should look like, became “Dracula’s Castle”. Never mind that Vlad Tepes most likely never set foot in Bran Castle.

Today Bran Castle milks the whole Dracula story to the fullest.

Below: entrance to the Castle, where you can meet the cartoon character’s of Hotel Transylvania 2.

Bran Castle

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Lines to get from one room to another…

Bran Castle crowds, interior

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Views of the Castle courtyard and balconies.

bran castle crowds

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Below: Around the Castle. No original furniture, these are all replicas – the owners didn’t want tourists damaging the good stuff.

Bran Castle, bedroom

Bran castle courtyard and furnishings

Bran Castle views

bran castle exterior views

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Visiting Bran can be summed up as boring, uninspiring, and would have been totally forgettable if it wasn’t for the memories of having to bump shoulders with hordes of tourists for the better part of 45 minutes. We couldn’t wait to get out. Unfortunately there was a line for that too. How the heck does a place become so popular when it is so awful? It boggles the mind.

A few momentos you can buy to remind you of Bran Castle…

Bran Castle souvenirs

Bran Castle dracula cups

 

Bran Castle? For us a total waste of time and I’m not recommending it to anyone.

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2) Râșnov Citadel

About halfway between Brasov (18 km from Brasov) and Bran lies the town of Râșnov, known for the Râșnov Citadel.

Above: Very impressive views from town looking up at the Citadel.

Rasnov Fortress from town

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The Citadel was built in the 11th century by Germanic Teutonic Knights as a refuge against invading Tatars. It was expanded upon by Saxons who came to Transylvania from Germany in the 12th century – encouraged by the rulers at the time – to build up the land and defend the southern borders of what was the Hungarian Empire. Strategically located on the commercial route that linked Transylvania to Walachia, the Citadel had homes, a school, a chapel and was essentially a fortified hilltop village. The Citadel repealed the first Ottoman sieges in the 1400′s and did so again in the late 1600′s.

The fortress was abandoned in the mid-1800′s and it is only in recent years that it has been restored.

Rasnov Fortress from the tower

Rasnov Fortress views

Rasnov Fortress interior

Rasnov Fortress background

Rasnov Fortress inside the walls

Rasnov Fortress ruins and views

Rasnov Fortress from gate

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Our thoughts on the Râșnov Citadel: There is not that much to see of the Citadel itself – it actually looks more impressive from outside the walls and looking up from the town below. Inside the walls you’ll find a few buildings and lots of walls. The views however are great and I think it is worth a trip here from Brasov just for that.

 

Note: We saw Bran Castle and Râșnov Citadel on the same day. We took a taxi one way to Bran which cost, by meter, 100 Lei ($ 25 USD). It took a little over 30 minutes to get there. No need to ask your driver to wait, there is a taxi stand in Bran and you’ll see a lot of them waiting around. Coming back, we paid 125 Lei ($31 US) for a driver to bring us to Râșnov Citadel, wait for approximately an hour, then drive us to Brasnov. I think it’s better ask for the driver to wait in Râșnov because we didn’t see any other taxis around. So Total taxi cost for the day: $56 US. Entrance to the sites: 30 Lei per person for Bran (that’s $7.50 US – rip off!), 10 Lei per person to Rasnov (that’s $2.50 US).
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The Fortified Churches of Brasov County

We have to thank our friends at Westwards.de for this recommendation: they are always full of great tips.

Very close to Brasov are 3 little German towns – all in very close proximity to each other – that have fortified churches. One of them is a UNESCO site but all 3 are equally worth a visit. We knew they were there but didn’t make them a priority. We were so wrong – they were a highlight in the region and a fabulous and easy day trip from Brasov. And the best thing is that we saw 2 or 3 other tourists the whole day.

3) Prejmer Fortified Church

Prejmer fortified church exterior

This is the largest fortified church in southeastern Europe. Like Râșnov Citadel, the fortified churches were built by the Germanic Teutonic Knights in the early 1200′s for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the town from attack by invading forces (and there were many including the Mongols, Tatars, Ottoman Turks, Cossacks and Moldavians). Prejmer repealed them all.

The walls around the church are 40 feet high and 10 to 15 feet thick. Within the walls is a mini-town, including 272 rooms on 4 floors. Within the center of the circular walls is the church.

Below: entry into the compound means going through a 100-foot long passageway fortified with 2 sets of gates.

Prejmer fortified church entrance

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Below: Passing through the above, you have to go through another gate.

Prejmer fortified church entry

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Below: Passing through the gate brings you to the church. Note the homes built into the round wall surrounding it.

Prejmer fortified church

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Below: inside the church.

Prejmer church interior

Prejmer fortified church interior

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Below: you can go into the homes in the wall which are all interconnected with different passageways. You’ll find a schoolroom and different workshops, as well as a long passageway that circles the whole wall, with nooks for firing and dropping boiling oil on attackers. Incredibly impressive and spooky wandering around all by yourself.

Prejmer fortified church classroom

Prejmer fortified church fortification wall

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Below: a look at the church from the outside.

Prejmer fortified church views

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4) Harman Fortified Church

A 5 minute drive away from Prejmer, Harman is every bit as impressive. Interestingly, the 3 towns that we would visit are still Germanic and the townspeople still speak German. We were given a “Danke” from the man we bought the ticket from a Harman. There wasn’t a single other tourist there.

Harman from the exterior.

Harman fortified church exterior

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Below: The entryway to the compound

Harman fortified church entrance

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Below: Diagram showing Harman from the above, complete with moat (no longer maintained).

Harman fortified church description

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Inside the compound.

Harman fortified church church grounds

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Below: The church

Harman fortified church views

Harman church interior

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More views in the church grounds.

Harman fortified church

Harman fortified church courtyard

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5) Sînpetru Fortified Church

This church sees no tourists. In actual fact I think we woke up the caretaker when we came knocking at the door. But what followed was a very interesting visit to a fortified church that has received very little restoration work – as well as a very pleasant tour by the caretaker who seemed excited to have visitors.

Below: church steple

sinpetru fortified church views

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Below: the grounds of the church.

sinpetru fortified church courtyard

sinpetru fortified church arch

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Below: inside of the church and the friendly caretaker lady.

sinpetru fortified church interior

sinpetru fortified church caretaker

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Below: getting artsy fartsy with this photo.

sinpetru fortified church artsy shot

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We spent a little over 2 hours exploring these 3 churches in the little towns of Prejmer, Harman, and Sinpetru. All the churches you see above are within about 5 minutes drive from each other and the furthest was Prejmer which was about 20 minutes from Brasov. Really, a fantastic afternoon.

Cost of entrance to the churches: Prejmer 8 Lei per person, Harman 7 Lei per person, Sinpetru 5 Lei per person. Totally worth each.

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On the last post I had complained by the miserable taxi drivers we’ve had in Brasov. No kidding. Well, I think Brasov was trying to give us a kick in the face because we totally lucked out on this day. We met Gabriel and he was one of the most pleasant taxi drivers we’ve met anywhere:

Gabriel, our taxi driver in Brasov # 0040758571739

Above: Gabriel. Super friendly guy.

We paid him 100 Lei (about $25 US) for the tour of the 3 Fortified churches. His English is good and he knows his history. Call him if in Brasov: 0040758571739. Believe me, he’s a rarity.

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These above are the highlights in the immediate vicinity of Brasov. We did both segments (Bran and Rasnov, then the 3 fortified churches) as half day trips by taxi from Brasov.
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Next post: A little further away but easily done by train – our absolute highlight in Romania.

 

Have you been to any of the above? Especially to Bran? Let me know what you thought!

 

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Comments

  1. I agree with you – sometimes the most famous tourist attractions turn out to be boring and you just have to get out of the tourist zone a little to discover something even nicer. But again, in the photos (just like Brasov), the castle looks really tempting.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Really??! Is it the Hotel Transylvania 2 photo? :)
      Wait until I post in a couple of days about the other castle we visited. It’ll blow your mind.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Tomasz.

      • No, it’s not the Hotel Transylvania that caught my eye ;) Anything associated with pop culture puts me off ;) I was talking about the other photos. I like the old/medieval/ancient buildings/sites. I’m sure that the less popular castles are much nicer. But it makes me wonder why tourists usually just go to a place, see the most famous thing, take a selfie, tick it off the list and that’s it. In Malta, at the Blue Lagoon beach I saw people pay 10 EUR for a sunbed set on a dirt road near the beach (it was so crowded) – the sunbeds were squeezed one next to the other and I doubt it was a pleasure to watch the person’s back in front of you – while 10 minute walk further there was an amazing secluded area without crowds and with the most spectacular views. And none of the tourists even thought of walking a bit away from the main beach.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          Most people are sheep, following where everyone else goes. The worse thing is they’ll tell people “yes, I went to the Blue Lagoon and it was so cool” thinking that if everyone else goes then they should be enjoying it. It’s Ok not to like a popular place and to admit it. The problem is that it just perpetuates the idea that some of these touristy spots are really worth seeing…the fee just to get into Bran is crazy for Romania and the only the reason they get away with it is because the people continue flocking there like sheep.

          • The same applies to SE Asia. Everyone tells you how cheap it is but for Bangkok Grand Palace you must pay 12 USD, for Bagan in Myanmar 20 USD and for Angkor Wat in Cambodia also 20 USD. The balloons over Bagan 1 hour flight is over 300 USD! Even in Cappadocia you can get it for half of that price. However, when you visit a place you want to see its most famous attractions too – even just to see it yourself so you’re able to judge it. But what’s important – don’t limit yourself – also go and see beyond :)

          • Frank (bbqboy) says:

            Exactly. All true.

  2. Glad that you enjoyed visiting the fortified churches. Harman and Sinpetru look interesting too. Greetings from Berlin!
    Natascha from Westwards recently posted…Moss balls in Hokkaido’s clear lakes – the extraordinary marimo in JapanMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks again Natascha. Yes, great fun, I especially enjoyed climbing around all the passages and stairs in Prejmer.

  3. Now I’m wishing we’d gone to a couple more fortified churches! We went to Prejmer and were very impressed. Your visit to Bran castle looks a lot more crowded than our visit, and ours was bad enough. We were there at just about closing time, though, so once the huge group of school children left it was more bearable. It is kind of crazy how big of a tourist attraction it is. And I bet I can guess what your highlight in Romania was!
    Travels and Tipples recently posted…The Witching HourMy Profile

  4. I got a kick out of what Tom said above about Malta’s Blue Lagoon! We always laughed when guests would ask us about it, and yes..they all,paid the outrageous amount for the sun bed and get squished like sardine while we went a bit higher and got the awesome view. We visited it just once in the 15 months, complete tourist trap. The castle does look impressive. I might take a pic from the outside as l like the building, but l would probably skip,the line. Sometimes l don’t mind doing the touristy stuff and waiting in line if l like it. Do you guys plan on checking out the monasteries? C. Had some gorgeous ones on a post that l am dying to see. Great pictures!!!
    Kemkem recently posted…Medical tourism in India – It’s a thing!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Monasteries? In this area? I’m not familiar with that Kemkem. Do you have a link?

      The only photo of Bran that you can take for free is actually the first one, taken from the main road. To get to the castle you have to pick up your tickets, go through a gate, and work your way through a village of souvenir shops to the castle…where the best exterior shot I was able to get is that of the cross. So you have to pay to get anywhere close…

      I had never heard of the Blue Lagoon before you and Tom mentioned it! Good to know if we ever head that way.

  5. I will give it a miss then methinks :-) . Here is C’s article. I’m not sure how close they are to you, but l would love to see some of these.

    http://www.romaniaexperience.com/visiting-romania-the-most-beautiful-monasteries-in-the-country/
    Kemkem recently posted…Medical tourism in India – It’s a thing!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      They’re beautiful!
      Actually they’re not in the part of the country we’re in (Transylvania), he’s in the northeast corner near Moldova and the Ukraine. But it goes to show how many beautiful, and untouristed places there are in regions we don’t even know about. I see that the first is a UNESCO heritage site yet had never heard of it.

      Thanks for linking this, you never know, we may get back to Romania. I think (like everywhere else) we’ve warmed up to it more as we’ve gone along.

  6. Wow – there was no one else there in Rasnov ten years ago, now it’s going great guns! Not sure about all these big town names on the hills!
    Andrew recently posted…Train Journeys – Mornington RailwayMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      You’re right about the big names. I’m told Rasnov copied Brasov…actually I thought it was really tacky when seeing them in photos but in real life doesn’t seem as bad. Almost adds a little touch of something..

      Those fortified churches though were very impressive as was Peles castle which was just absolutely fantastic.

  7. Great wrap up and photos of Brasov. Got to spend some time in Romania, but only Bucharest. So much more to see in Romania! Thanks for all of the great info.
    Ric recently posted…Visiting Hong KongMy Profile

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