What are the best Historic Sites in Romania?
1. Bran Castle
Commanding a strategic crossroads for hundreds of years, Bran Castle in Romania is an impressive medieval fortification and popular tourist attraction. Famously known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran in fact has little or no link to any of the legends surrounding the fictional vampire or even the genuine figure of Vlad the Impaler, on who the character is loosely based.
While the figure upon which the vampire is loosely based Vlad the Impaler was a prisoner of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus here for about two months in 1462 there is little more that connects them. Indeed, according to the account on the official website, it was American tourists in the 1970s and 1980s who established the link, due to the castle’s location and exterior design.
However it happened, the myth has superseded the reality, and today as well as exploring the castle’s exterior and stately interior, tourists have to navigate a sea of pointed-toothed merchandise.
2. Peles Castle
Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania was the summer home of the Romanian royal family until 1947. Peles Castle was the first ever European palace to be powered by electricity, created in its own power plant, and to have central heating.
Carol I also built a further castle - Pelisor Castle - on the grounds of Peles Castle. This was to be a wedding gift to his heir, Ferdinand I. Other buildings within these grounds include the Hunting Lodge, the Royal Guard House, the Gardener’s House and the Royal Stables. With a wealth of artwork in over 160 rooms, including thousands of paintings and sculptures, today, Peles Castle houses the Muzeul National Peles, exhibiting these many pieces to the public. There are guides in several languages.
Histria, close to the city of Constanta in Romania is an archaeological park housing ruins which date throughout Romania’s history. Histra was once a harbour, first occupied by the Ancient Greeks in 675 BC. Over the centuries, Histria was invaded numerous times, including twice by the Romans and it served as both a Roman and Byzantine settlement. Only in the seventh century was Histria destroyed by enemy forces.
This rich yet turbulent history has endowed Histria with a wealth of sites and monuments such as temples to Aphrodite and Zeus as well as Roman baths. Visitors can walk around the site with relative freedom, looking at its fascinating collection of remaining walls, columns and structures. Histria has an archaeological museum, housing a display of finds from the site ranging from jewellery and coins to tools and weapons.
Pelisor Castle was built for the Romanian Royal Family and was an important royal home in the early 20th century. During the communist era, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu liked to stay in Pelisor Castle. After Ceaușescu’s fall, Pelisor was returned to the royal family along with Peles, who opened the complex to public tours.
Visitors to Pelisor today can explore its ornate interior which includes a unique collection of early 20th century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware.
Hunedoara Castle, also known as Corvin Castle or “Corvinesti”, was originally a fortress, the date of origin of which is highly contested. Used as a royal stronghold until 1440, Hunedoara Castle was then expanded by the General Iancu de Hunedoara, who renovated it, turning into an impressive castle with a series of towers and turrets.
One of its most impressive internal features is its Knight Hall, which now houses a weaponry exhibit. Hunedoara Castle has a number of collections, ranging in theme from the archaeological to the medieval. It also offers a fascinating insight into medieval Romanian defensive architecture.
Prejmer Fortified Church is one of a series of UNESCO-listed historic churches in Romania and is known for being the largest church of its kind in south eastern Europe. Built from 1212 and completed in 1225, Prejmer Fortified Church was a construction of the Roman Catholic Teutonic knights.
With its thick circular walls rising 40 feet, advanced weaponry and underground passageways, Prejmer Fortified Church was heavily defended, demonstrating the turbulent nature of the region at the time. The fortress was in fact subject to fifty sieges, only one of which resulted in its capture. This occurred in 1611, when it was taken over by the Prince of Transylvania, Gabriel Báthori.
Fagaras Fortress in Transylvania is an impressive stronghold originally built in 1310 and expanded from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century to create a square castle surrounded by a further thick curtain wall with five towers. The fortress also has a moat which was used in times of conflict or unrest, all of which adds up to make it the most robust defensive structure in Romania.
In the 1950’s, during the communist era, Fagaras Fortress became a prison for political dissidents. Today, it serves as the Fagaras County Museum, exhibiting an array of artifacts ranging from Roman to medieval.
The Bucharest Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a national Romanian monument commemorating the soldiers who died for the country in World War I.
The Marasesti Mausoleum is an elaborate World War I monument dedicated to the Romanian troops who died in a famous battle with German forces. Completed in 1938, this impressive monument took over 15 years to finish.
The Battle of Marasesti was fought between 6 August and 8 September 1917 and despite being a major Romanian victory, did result in a very high death toll. The names of those who died are shown on the Marasesti Mausoleum. The battle is famous for the Romanian sentiment of "Pe aici nu se trece", meaning "they shall not pass".
The Alba Iulia Fortress is a massive 18th century fortification which forms the heart of the Romanian city of Alba Iulia. Alba Iulia itself is one of the oldest cities in Romania, with a history stretching far back into antiquity. During Roman times it was an important regional centre known as Apulum.
One of the biggest fortifications of its kind in Europe, the fortress – sometimes called the Alba Iulia Citadel or the Alba Carolina Fortress – protects the centre of the city and inside are some of the most important civic buildings of Alba Iulia, including the cathedral, university and the remains of the Roman legionary camp.
Built in the first half of the 18th century, from around 1716 to 1735, the Alba Iulia Fortress served as a military center between the 18th and 19th centuries. The fortress walls measure three metres at the base and are 1.2m wide at the top. In total these massive battlements have a perimeter of 12km forming a seven-point star shape with seven bastions and six imposing gates – which are themselves impressive architectural sites to explore.
Every year, on December 1st, the Romanian people celebrate their National Day at the Alba Iulia Fortress.