If you are making a stop in Bucharest on your European travels, it goes without saying that you’re thinking about making a day trip to visit Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, which is a day trip from the city. Another beautiful castle on the way to Bran is Peles Castle, and being the crazy, ambitious, travelers that we are, we combined both into one huge day trip out of Bucharest. If you want to do the same – read on. I will explain in great detail how to do these trips on your own so you don’t have to shell out €80 on a guided tour by a sketchy cab driver.
Bucharest to Bran Castle, Step by step
- Wake up early. Like, really early. If you are trying to cram in these two castles, you’re gonna need to give yourself enough time to make it to both before they close (which is 5pm in the winter season, 6pm in summer)
- Go to the Gara du Nord Bucharest train station and buy tickets to Brasov (about €10 one-way) and get an early train. Timetables can be found online – we took the 7AM train which gave us just enough time to do both these castles in one day, but there are a few trains offered earlier if you want to get an even bigger head-start on the day. Pick an “IR” not “R” train – as they are the faster, regional train.
- The trip to Brasov is about 2 hours and 45 minutes (it’s the last stop on the line), once you are there, exit the train station and buy a bus ticket for bus 23 at the kiosk, either from the lady or the machine. Be wary – if you are speaking English, people will approach you and try to sell you a rip off “guided private tour” of the castle. DO NOT SAY YES it is not worth what they will charge you, you can do it yourself for much cheaper. When I refused politely, the huge, hulking guy trying to get us to go with him even asked “What, are you scared?” No sir, I am just not stupid.
- The bus stop for the 23 is just off to the right on the main road from the train station, it ran about every 10 minutes, be sure to validate your ticket on the bus and hold tight to your belongings.
- Take it 4 stops to Autogara 2 (bus station) you will see a roundabout on your left and on the right a blue sign that says “Prodlacta” and there are train tracks on the right. Get off, cross the street and walk to the bus station (through a parking lot)
- Buy a ticket from the bus driver on the bus with the sign that says Brasov-Rasov-Bran (7 lei or about €1.50)
This is where we timed things poorly and had just missed one of the hourly buses to Bran, so to kill 40 minutes, we drank in the tiny “bar” in the parking lot of the bus station. Nothing like cognac and whiskey at 10 am, but since we had woken up at 4am it felt like the afternoon. If you like an early morning drink, you’ll definitely fit in with the locals who frequent this spot! It was quite the cultural experience, and a moment I will never forget. After we paid our bar bill, we got on the 11AM bus and made it by 11:40 to the base of the castle.
The bus to Bran from here takes about 40 minutes, it’s the last city the bus stops in. Once you are there it will be very easy and obvious to find the castle, and there are cool markets (albeit touristy) with vendors selling food and tacky souvenirs everywhere. Before heading back to Brasov to catch the train to Sinaia to see Peles, we grabbed some food from the market for lunch.
We paid the 10 lei (€2.20) to get into the castle but did a self-guided tour since we didn’t have a ton of time. We walked through, took our pictures in and around, then grabbed a bite to eat in the market before catching the bus back to Brasov to start making our way to Sinaia to visit Peles Castle.
To get to Peles Castle – head back to the train station in Brasov from the bus station (bus 23 again) and buy a ticket just to Sinaia (these were much cheaper, about €3 per person) and again make sure it is an IR train.
From Brasov to Sinaia, is about an hour back on the same train line you took before (headed in the direction of the Bucharest Nord station).
Get off in Sinaia, exit the train station and walk across the street and climb up the stairs. You’ll come to the super cute little city of Sinaia where there are lots of bars and restaurants, and if you follow the signs and continue walking (up up and away) you will make it to Peles Castle.
The tour cost about 7 lei and took 30 minutes. No photos are allowed inside the castle unfortunately, but believe me when I say it is BEAUTIFUL! – You can look up some interior pictures on Google Images to get an idea of what you’ll see.
Food in Sinaia
We had a late lunch/early dinner here after finishing all the tours and running around for the day. It was a traditional Romanian restaurant, and despite being in a touristy town, it was still super cheap and amazing food. The service was not the best, but it’s worth a stop for a hearty meal. After a day of insanity of getting up so early, taking trains all over Transylvania, this was the perfect end to the day. Stop at La Cerdac for a beer and a meal.
If you don’t want to have a rushed day and would rather choose one castle to spend more time at – GO TO PELES CASTLE! Forget all the tourist BS and stories about Dracula/Vlad the Impaler. Bran Castle is so underwhelming and a much bigger pain to get to. Peles Castle is beautiful and the surrounding town of Sinaia is awesome to walk through and eat in, there are so many restaurants and cafes to choose from. Bran was cute, but it was really small and far more touristy and tacky. I couldn’t recommend more to skip Bran and go to Peles.
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As someone who has visited both castles more than once, I do have to say I think Peles it’s so much worth visiting. Bran castle has become a little too “gimmicky” over the last years, but nevertheless, it does has its charm if you get passed the whole Dracula thing.
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For your next visit to Romania, I recommend going to Bran and visit the nearby Bran National Museum as well. Entrance is very cheap and it’s just across the street from the castle. Inside, there are fabulous exhibits, old furniture, weapons, clothing and a lot of interesting stuff. After Bran, you can go to Moeciu de Sus, for beautiful hiking trails or even explore the idyllic mountain villages of Magura and Pestera and why not, Sirnea.
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