• Samantha Lara

Journey to Bran Castle to find Dracula

From Barcelona to Bucharest for less than 48 hours

I snagged a great flight deal to Barcelona from Dallas, but Barcelona wasn't really the place I wanted to see. However, once I was in Europe, budget airlines are an affordable way to hop over to the destination I really wanted to see: Romania. I felt in the Halloween spirit and have always loved the story of Dracula. So, Romania for less than 48 hours was the move!

Before booking my flight, I made sure to check out tours to the castle. I found tickets for a tour on GetYourGuide.com and booked it immediately! An eleven hour tour, complete with two castle viewings, lunch in an old Romania town, and a drive through the countryside. After I had these tickets, I started looking for an affordable flight from Barcelona to Bucharest. I was able to snag roundtrip tickets for less than $100 on a budget airline. Next, I looked for accommodations. I opted for a hostel since I wasn't planning on being there more than 2 nights. Lastly, I did some research on places I wanted to eat and see while briefly in Bucharest.

For more in depth info on my planning process, and my review of the tour, keep reading!

How the heck did I end up in Bucharest?

I was already planning a solo adventure to Barcelona, Spain, but my heart was set on Dracula's castle. There's nothing more European than hopping to another country for the weekend by plane or train! I learned so much from my brief weekend in Bucharest. If you are curious or wanting to plan a Romanian trip, here are some pointers!

First things first; book the tickets

Next up: how to get there and where to stay

Making it to the castle and what I thought about it


First things first: book the tickets

I know people like to go with the flow and see where the wind takes them, and sometimes that is a-okay. But not always. Being a solo traveler, I like to have certain things always, ALWAYS squared away, and one of those things is TICKETS.

There are so many different ways to look for tickets! I love using Airbnb experience to find great tours and excursions, but for this Bucharest trip, I used GetYourGuide to find a tour to Dracula's Castle. The one I booked was a full day tour to Peles Castle, Brasov, and Bran Castle (AKA Dracula's castle). It literally cost me $25. YEA. I love doing tours as a solo traveler because the people typically conducting the tour are locals so you get to hear tons of local folklore, legends, and history. The guide I had had a degree in history and was super well versed in Romania history. We had ample time to explore both castles, eat lunch in a quaint old tour, and the drive was absolutely lovely. Here is the link for the tour I booked!

Next up: how to get there and where to stay

Let me just say, I am not a budget airline traveler. Not because I don't appreciate a good travel deal but, 1) because I am loyal to those American Airlines points, and 2) I do not like the anxiety that comes with navigating budget airlines. That being said, there is a time and a place, and that time and place was getting from Barcelona to Bucharest.

I opted to go with Wizz Air for my quick weekend trip. Roundtrip cost me $89, BUT, I had to be careful with all the hoops I had to get through to keep that fare. First off, luggage allowance. Be wary of this! They seriously will charge you upwards of $100 if you bring a bag that does not comply with their restrictions. You should also download the app for Wizz to check in and get your digital ticket. If you don't, they will charge you $$$ to just print your ticket! Talk about the anxiety. Also, to note for new travelers, gates will be scheduled maybe thirty minutes prior to departure, AND there will typically be TWO passport checks, so be sure to get eyes on your gate before getting that coffee! Another strange thing for new travelers: European airlines, and very often budget European airlines, will take you by bus to the plane and you will board at the front and back of the plane. Same for deplaning.

When I book accommodations, I consider how long I will be in a place, what my budget is, and whether or not I will be spending a good amount of time in the place I am staying. For Bucharest, I stayed in a hostel that I found on hostelworld.com with good reviews and ratings. I am not a typical hostel stay-er, although I have stayed in so0me fabulous hostels in Kathmandu, Lisboa, and Prague. I stayed at T5 Social in Bucharest, which I found to be... three stars. I would recommend staying in the city center. This hostel was maybe a twenty minute walk from what I wanted to see. I also did not like the bathrooms or just overall upkeep of the place. Since I was not staying too long, it didn't really matter, but just recommending to you: pick somewhere else.

Making it to the castle and what I thought about it

The first stop of the tour was Peles Castle. The guide was very excited about this stop and told us that Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle) would pale in comparison to Peles Castle.

Peles Castle was very modern for its time. The castle had electricity, running hot and cold water central heat, and a retractable ceiling in the throne room. Opulence was not short in this castle! Commissioned by King Carol I, a German Prince that was appointed to rule Romania, in 1873 and completed in 1883, the castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947. Its 160 rooms are adorned with the finest examples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls. I was floored by the beauty and intricacy of the many different themed rooms!

After Peles Castle, we continued the journey to Brasov where we stopped to have lunch. The guide told us that Romanian dishes take a lot of time because everything is made to order. I ordered this incredible lamb stew and the traditional liquor. I have never had anything more savory and delicious in my life! Brasov was adorable, with a huge plaza area, lots of colorful shops, and the perfect crisp autumn weather. There was a city wall and entrance left standing from hundreds of years ago as well!

The last, and most anticipated stop, was next: Bran Castle, aka Dracula's Castle. Getting up to the little town at the base of the castle, you could feel the bubbling tourism. Signs for "Camping with Drac," souvenir shops with fangs and masks, and haunted halls welcomed us. The line to get into the castle was pretty long but definitely quick paced. Once in the castle... you could feel the waning excitement. The castle had been an old war post, definitely not designed for royals so no opulence was around. I feel as if the Romanian government could really capitalize on this site, making it truly a place for tourist with music, candles or lighting, story telling, maybe some velvet curtains, etc. It was sort of.. plain on the inside. Then at the top, there was some kitchy vampire stuff that felt out of place. The story is of Vlad Types, or Vlad the Impaler, known for his brutal acts against his enemies. Vlad was born in Transylvania to Vlad II Dracul and took the name Dracula, or son of Dracul. Overall, I am glad I went, because now I can say I did, but it was a bit underwhelming. I suppose that's the American in me, looking for the big Hollywood story and effects!

What do you think? Will you be going to Romania? I'll definitely be returning for a longer duration to camp, travel the countryside, and eat more of that delicious food!

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