Bran Castle is perhaps the most famous landmark in Romania, widely popularized by vampire films and novels. Only a couple of kilometers away from Brasov, Bran Castle was built at the border between the historic regions of Wallachia and Transylvania. Although there is no evidence that Bram Stoker knew about the existence of Bran, the castle is often referred to as the home of his infamous character, Dracula, hence the name of Dracula’s Castle.
Bran Castle was first mentioned in documents in 1377, and it was built by the Saxons of Kronstadt at their own expense and labor force. As time passed, and military conflicts intensified, the Castle was heavily fortified and was used over the ages as a defense point against the invading Ottoman Empire. Despite popular belief, Vlad the Impaler had little to do with the castle, although he passed through the area occasionally. In 1920 the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania, and it quickly became Queen Marie’s favorite home, who ended up renovating it. During World War II, the Castle was used as a hospital, but in 1948 it was seized by the communist regime.
In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law that allowed restitution claims on properties illegally seized by the Ceausescu regime, and in 2006 the castle was awarded to Princess Ileana’s son, Dominic von Habsburg, and in 2009 it was transferred to his sisters, Maria-Magdalena Holzhausen and Elisabeth Sandhofer. In June 2009, the refurbished castle was opened together with the Bran Village in order to preserve and boost the Romanian tourism and to improve the economic situation of the region.
Besides playing an important military role, Bran Castle also had a commercial purpose. Being placed at the border of two important regions, it provided safe passage from one location to another, thus improving the relations and economic development of both Wallachia and Transylvania.
Today, the Castle is a museum that displays art and furniture collected by Queen Marie.