In 1897, Bram Stoker’s described a dream vacation house—a historic castle that offers 360-degree views as it “sits on the very edge of a terrific precipice.” This nature lover’s paradise offers plenty of privacy because “as far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops,” and “here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”
The castle is real, though, as Stoker based Dracula’s home on descriptions he read of Romania’s Bran Castle. While Stoker never bothered to make the trip to Romania himself, visitors are welcomed to walk the cliff-top castle nestled into the Carpathian Mountains.
Bran castle was originally started in 1226 as a military fortress to defend Transylvania. The castle was completed in 1388, and since then has hosted everything from Saxons to Teutonic knights to Romania royalty to military regiments. The castle narrowly avoided the fiery wrath of Vlad “the Impaler” Tepes in 1459, who may have been held captive in the castle’s dungeons.
Five hundred years later, the castle became part of Romania and the city council voted to bequeath it to Queen Maria and it became a royal residence and a popular summer stopover. Then the Communists took over, and the royal family fled, and the castle was turned into a museum, run by the government. It was returned to scions of the royal family—Dominic Habsburg-Lothringen and his two sisters, Maria Magdanela Holzhausen and Elisabeth Sandhofer—in 2009.
The administration of the castle was transferred from the government to the family, who has decided not to sell it, despite what many outlets have reported. The family opted to re-open it as the first private museum in Romania. The castle was already one of Romania’s top tourist destinations hosting over 560,000 people a year and the current owners hope to expand that number. To reach that goal, they have added new exhibits, are making modern upgrades to the castle (including an elevator that cuts through rock), and planning a full roster of events, including Medieval tournaments, jazz concerts, theme dinners, and, naturally, Halloween celebrations.