Castles & Fortresses of Romania

Romania's collection of castles and fortresses perhaps best illustrates the rich medieval heritage of the country. While castles built from the 14th to the 18th centuries are strong and austere fortresses built mainly for defense against invaders, those erected beginning in the late 1800s are imposing and luxurious. The most popular include the 14th century Corvinesti Castle, built on the site of a former Roman camp, the elegant 19th century Peles Castle with its 160 rooms filled with priceless European art and, of course, the Bran Castle, built in the mid-1300s and legendary home to Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. 

Universal literature found valuable sources of inspiration in some of Romania's castles, with the most famous novels written about them being "The Castle in the Carpathians" by Jules Verne and "Dracula" by Bram Stoker.

As a result of almost nine centuries of Saxon presence, Transylvania, located in central Romania, claims a cultural and architectural heritage unique in Europe. This region is home to nearly 200 Saxon villages, churches and fortifications built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Seven of the fortified Saxon churches (in Biertan, Calnic, Darjiu, Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor, and Viscri) were designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. A visit to these quaint villages, placed amidst lush farmland and green rolling hills, will give you a taste of the long-gone medieval times.

Explore some of Romania's best-known castles and fortresses:

Surrounded by quaint streets and vineyards, the 15th century fortified church at Biertan is perched high on a hill in the middle of the village. Three tiers of 35-foot-high defensive walls, connected by towers and gates, encircled the complex, making the church impossible to conquer during medieval times.

Featuring late-gothic architecture with heavy doors and double exterior walls, the church boasts the largest Transylvanian multi-paneled wooden altar and a remarkable wooden door which once protected the treasures in the sacristy. The altar was built by artisans from Vienna (Austria) and Nurenberg (Germany) between 1483 and 1513. The door, a true marvel of engineering, has a particularly ingenious locking mechanism with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated by a key. The mechanism stirred quite an interest at the Paris World Expo in 1900.

Couples seeking divorce were locked in the Prison Tower for two weeks. Sharing one set of cutlery and one bed, the couple had to make their final decision. In 400 years, only one couple decided afterwards to go through with the divorce!
The church's organ features some 1,290 pipes, as well as 25 registers, and was built in 1869 by the Hessian Company in Vienna.

Visitors can also admire the towers surrounding the church, namely the Clock Tower, the Bell Tower, the Gate Tower and the Bacon Tower. Within the grounds are several other interesting buildings, including the Prison Tower - which once served marital counseling purposes.

From 1572 to 1867, Biertan was the seat of the Saxon Evangelical bishops of Transylvania; their fine gravestones can be seen inside the Bishops' Tower.

Bran Castle

Surrounded by an aura of mystery and legend and perched high atop a 200-foot-high rock, Bran Castle owes its fame to its imposing towers and turrets as well as to the myth created around Bram Stocker's Dracula.  

Built on the site of a Teutonic Knights stronghold dating from 1212, the castle was first documented in an act issued by Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brasov) the privilege to build the Citadel.

Although Stoker never visited Transylvania, the Irish author relied on research and his vivid imagination to create the dark and intimidating stomping ground of Count Dracula, leading to persistent myths that it was once the home of Vlad Tepes, ruler of Walachia. While the association with Dracula is sketchy at best, the castle continues to hold a strong attraction for all fans of the Count.

From 1920 to 1957 Bran served as royal residence, a gift of the people of Brasov to Queen Marie of Romania. The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie.

Narrow winding stairways lead through some 60 timbered rooms, many connected by underground passages, which house collections of furniture, weapons and armor dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The castle overlooks the picturesque village of Bran, which offers an open-air Ethnographic Museum consisting of old local-style village houses complete with furniture, household objects and costumes.

Nearby attractions: Rasnov Fortress (7 miles); Brasov (16 miles); Peles Castle in Sinaia (35 miles); the ski resorts in Poiana Brasov (10 miles) and Predeal (15 miles); the medieval cities of Sighisoara (88 miles) and Sibiu (96 miles); Bucharest (110 miles).

Calnic Fortified Church - ( UNESCO World Heritage Site )

Location: Transylvania – Central Romania
Nearby large town: Sibiu (30 miles southeast)
Nearest train station: Miercurea Sibiului

Built in the 13th century by Count Chyl de Kelling, the Fortified Church at Calnic (German: Kelling) is one of the most imposing defensive structures in Transylvania. First mentioned in a 1269 document, the fortress served as a residence for Saxon nobility until 1430, when it was sold to the peasant community of Calnic.

Enclosed by one and a half rings of high walls fortified with a defensive tower to the south and a gate tower to the north, the fortress withstood several Ottoman sieges. Its defense system was completed in the 16th century when a small Romanesque chapel, surrounding walls and a water ditch were added by the Calnic community.

The five-story-high Siegfried Tower, the landmark of the fortress, is endowed with defensive corridors and firing windows. An on-site medieval art museum displays various artifacts.

Cetatea de Balta - Bethlen-Haller Castle

Location: Transylvania – Central Romania, Alba County
Nearby large town: Blaj (13 miles)

The Bethlen Castle was built in the 16th century in the French Renaissance style and restored in the 17th-18th centuries in the Baroque style. The Reformed Church, situated next to the Castle is a 13th century building.

The Castle Bethlen-Haller, with its eclectic combination of cultural styles, can be found on the outskirts of Cetatea de Balta in Transilvania, and this premier location provides guests with stunning views of the quiet village. Cetatea de Balta is a commune in Alba County, Romania. It is located between Tarnaveni (15 km / 9 miles) and Blaj (21 km / 13 miles) on the country road DJ 117.

A castle in a spectacular historical setting, the unique Bethlen-Haller overlooks gorgeous landscapes and exudes a distinct, incomparable charm that makes a stay in any one of its luxurious rooms truly unforgettable. Bethlen-Haller features 14 guest rooms, 4 luxurious suites in a variety of styles, meeting spaces suitable for business use, and a large banqueting garden with panoramic views. Perfect for conferences, weddings, and receptions, Bethlen-Haller is the ideal choice for any vacation or event. Visitin hours: every day from 6 am to 11 pm.

DINING: The Castle Bethlen-Haller is the ideal location for meeting and celebrating, at any time of year. The beautiful historical architecture of the 16th century and the panoramic views of the walls all contribute to making any event at the Bethlen a memorable experience. The unique location, personal service, and outstanding cuisine are Bethlen Haller trademarks. Bethlen Haller's professional and courteous staff guarantees that your event – business meetings or conferences, private dinner parties or wedding celebrations – will be both elegant and memorable. Original menus prepared by our chefs are available, including Traditional styles.

Cisnadie Fortified Church

Location: Transylvania – Central Romania
Nearby large town: Sibiu (6 miles north)
Nearest train station: Sibiu

Originally built in the 12th century as a Romanesque basilica, the church was fortified during the 15th century to protect the local Saxon population against repeated Ottoman raids. The fortification process included the construction of fortified towers over the two side entrances and the choir, the building of a double structure of defense walls, a moat and several defensive towers along the walls.
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