“The castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice,” wrote Bram Stoker—as solicitor Jonathan Harker—in his legendary 1897 novel, Dracula. “A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green treetops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”
Though researchers have concluded that Bran Castle is one of several cavernous abodes to inspire the homestead of Stoker’s titular bloodsucker (Poenari and Hunyad Castles are two others), the Transylvania tourist attraction is known to many simply as “Dracula’s Castle.” And that accurate passage from the novel explains why.
Built in 1212 on more than 20 acres near Brasov, Romania, historians have concluded that Vlad the Impaler—upon whom Dracula is based—never actually resided in Bran Castle. But he did spend a little time there; some claim it was just for a few days as a guest, while others insist that he spent two months in the castle’s dungeon. Whatever the case, it was enough for Stoker to incorporate the dwelling into his writing. Amazingly, the author himself—an Irishman—never stepped foot inside the country where he set his famous novel; his research was conducted in the Reading Room of The British Museum.
In 1920, the castle became one of Romania’s royal residences, and one of Queen Marie’s favorite homes. Much of the furniture and the artwork that hangs from the castle’s walls today belonged to the Queen, who ruled from 1914 to 1927.
In order to make the castle feel more like home, Queen Marie decorated it with one-of-a-kind photos and paintings of Romanian royalty and a collection of armor and weaponry from the 14th through 19th centuries.
Among the Queen’s most personal of items to remain in the castle today is her heart. It resides in a cloister in the castle, per a directive in her will. Originally it was at Balchick Palace, but was transferred to Bran Castle in 1940.
Like any mythic dwelling, Bran Castle is not without its secrets. A hidden staircase, which was previously concealed by a fireplace, connects the castle’s first and third floors. Winding staircases and underground passages also help to make getting around this 60-room abode faster.
Each year, nearly 400,000 visitors from all over the world drop by Dracula’s pad for a visit.
Halloween is a particularly popular time for visitors. On November 2, the castle will host its annual lineup of holiday-themed festivities, including a horror fantasy festival, a screening of Nosferatu and an after-party.
All images courtesy of Bran Castle.