Are you curious about the land of Dracula but not sure where to visit in Transylvania? Read on and we’ll fill you in on the best places to visit in Transylvania to get your fill of Dracula.
Transylvania. A name that conjures images of vampires, Gothic castles and eerie moonlit nights.
It’s a land where the spirit of Dracula lingers in the shadows. But beyond the myths and legends, Transylvania is an enchanting region of Romania, just waiting to be explored.
Imagine cobblestone streets winding through medieval towns, pastel-coloured houses that are straight from a fairy tale, and towering castles perched atop rocky cliffs. Transylvania is all this and more.
Whether you’re a fan of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” or simply looking to explore the charm of old-world Europe, here are the best places to visit in Transylvania.
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Where is Transylvania?
Myths aside, Transylvania is a real place.
It’s not a town, like I had originally thought, but a historic region in Eastern Europe that forms part of modern-day Romania.
Bordered by the Carpathian Mountains to the south and east, Transylvania is centrally located within Romania and is easy to reach from the capital city of Bucharest.
A Quick History of Transylvania
Transylvania has a rich and complex history. Over the years, it’s been conquered by the Romans, ruled by the Bulgarians and the Hungarians and influenced by the Saxons and Ottomans. It became part of the Roman Empire during ancient times and later saw periods of Hungarian rule, followed by Transylvanian Saxons settling in fortified towns.
And then there’s the legendary figure of Vlad Ţepeş, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who ruled Wallachia and inspired Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire character.
The Origins of Dracula
While Dracula is a myth, the character is based on the historical figure of Vlad Ţepeş, who ruled the neighbouring region of Wallachia in the 15th century. His brutal and gruesome methods of punishing his enemies earned him the infamous nickname of “Vlad the Impaler”.
Bram Stoker’s classic novel “Dracula” was inspired in part by the legends surrounding Vlad Ţepeş. Although Vlad Ţepeş ruled the neighbouring region, his connection to Transylvania and the eerie landscapes of the Carpathian Mountains contributed to the mystique of Dracula’s tale.
When’s the best time to visit Transylvania?
Transylvania is a great place to visit any time of the year. Summers are warm and gorgeous, but fall is beautiful as well with the changing foliage and the crowds are fewer.
October was when I REALLY wanted to visit.
I mean, Dracula and spooky castles; what better way is there to really get into the Halloween spirit?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, we fell in love with Romania. I’d come back and visit ANY time of the year. In fact, that’s definitely on our list.
But if you only have one chance, take my suggestion and visit in the Fall! There are fewer tourists in the off-season, the leaves are changing colour and you can visit the places from the spooky myths and legends you’ve heard as a kid! Who wouldn’t want to visit Transylvania in October?
Read more | What to Pack for Romania
How to Explore Transylvania
While the region of Transylvania is large, we’re concentrating on three main cities and towns in the region, often known as the Transylvania Triangle: Brasov, Sibiu and Sighisoara.
Travelling between these three towns is fairly easy, and there are guided tours or tours that arrange transportation, as well as public transport options such as the bus and train. Trains in Romania are notoriously slow, and we would recommend taking the bus or a tour, or renting a car.
We spent 2 weeks in Romania, exploring as much as we could in Transylvania, with a few days in the Maramures as well. We rented a car, and found this the easiest and most convenient option for us, although I’ll be honest – there were times (like trying to find Peles Castle as dusk was quickly approaching) that I wished we had opted for a guided tour.
We recommend DiscoverCars, which is an aggregate and checks the best car rental companies and options for you. Check here for the best rates.
Best Places to Visit in Transylvania
Bucharest, the capital of Romania is the most logical starting place, as most flights and trains connect through here. Spend a night or two here, but to be honest, the rest of the county is MUCH more interesting.
It is possible to opt for a day trip from Bucharest that visits some of the highlights of Transylvania, including Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, Peles Castle, as well as some free time to explore the town of Brasov. However, it would make for a really long day with quick stops everywhere, but it would be a good way to see Transylvania if you are short on time.
In my opinion, a better option would be to start from Bucharest and spend a day or two in each place. Travel by train and bus is possible, but not always the quickest (buses are much faster than the trains though!). If possible, it’s best to rent a car and explore the area at your leisure. Check DiscoverCars for the best deals.
Brasov: A Medieval Gem
From Bucharest, head north to Braşov. It’s a little over a 2.5-hour drive from Bucharest, or just under 2.5 hours if you pick a car up from the Otopeni airport. Buses are frequent, or you could opt for a day trip from Bucharest, but I honestly feel it warrants more than a day trip. (If you only have time for one spot to visit in Transylvania – this is THE spot that most people visit.)
Braşov is the most popular town to visit in Transylvania, and with its historical charm and stunning landscapes, it’s easy to see why. Nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, this medieval town is a great place to explore and one of our favourite spots in Romania.
There are plenty of things to do in Brasov, but if you’re short on time, be sure to visit Piata Stafului, the main square, as well as the Black Church, Strada Sforii, St. Catherine’s Gate and Mount Tampa.
Where to Stay in Brasov:
Hotel Gott – a boutique hotel, just steps from Black Church and the main square
Casa Mandl – fantastic private apartment on the main square
Apart City Center – private apartment in a beautiful area of Old Town, and a 20-minute walk from Main Square (3 9.2/10 on Booking)
Bran Castle: Dracula’s Castle
Braşov also makes a great base for exploring Transylvania, and it’s easy to take a day trip to Bran Castle, supposedly “Dracula’s Castle”.
Bran Castle is about a 30-minute drive from Brasov if you’re driving yourself, or you can opt for a tour, like this full-day tour which visits Peles Castle, Bran Castle & Rasnov Fortress. It’s the one that we would have taken if we didn’t have our own transport.
Although Bran Castle was not actually home to Vlad Dracula, the tourism industry has popularized it and declared it ‘Dracula’s Castle’. While it may not have been Dracula’s residence, the castle is an imposing site, rising high above the town on a rocky point.
Once you climb the hill to the castle, you can enter and wander through the castle (although there is more information about Queen Maria inside than anything to do with vampires). The grounds of the castle are open to wander through and make a great spot for a picnic or snack. There are cafes back in town, but as it’s a tourist town, the prices reflect that!
There are LOTS of souvenirs at the bottom of the hill and entrance to the castle. You can find any type of Dracula souvenir here, although I’d suggest saving your money and buy souvenirs when you’re back in Braşov. Trust me, there are plenty of (slightly cheaper) opportunities there too!
Around Halloween, the castle holds different events which are guaranteed to get you in the Halloween-ish spirit! Although we didn’t attend it, there was a Halloween dinner at the castle that would have been perfect (without kids though). You can find more information on Bran Castle’s website.
Nearby, and often paired with Bran Castle if you’re doing an organized day trip from Braşov, is Râşnov Fortress. The medieval citadel is not as well-known as Bran Castle, but just as impressive and interesting to visit (and not as overrun with tourists!).
Sighişoara: The Birthplace of Dracula
From Braşov, head north to Sighişoara. The drive is scenic and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, or there are several buses and trains running between the two cities each day.
Sighişoara is an incredibly well-preserved medieval town and often called a fairy-tale city, with pastel-coloured houses, cobblestone lanes, a beautiful clock tower and other medieval towers and fortified city walls.
It’s also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, and one of the most popular places to visit in Transylvania.
Sighişoara proudly claims to be the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeş, aka Dracula, and you can visit the house where the infamous ruler was born. The house is now a restaurant, and you can tour his old room above – we didn’t, but I’ve heard there’s a bit of a scare involved. Behind the nearby church, pose for a picture with the bust of Dracula!
Although many come to the city to see the birthplace of Dracula (wouldn’t you?), there’s so much more to see and do in Sighişoara. The UNESCO Old Town and Citadel is worth wandering around with its’ well-preserved nine towers, including the Clock Tower provides a bird’s eye view of the town.
Sighişoara, Dracula ties aside, is an enchanting town and one that you can easily spend a day or two exploring. Wander the narrow streets, climb the steps to the Citadel and explore this magical city where history and legends meet.
Where to Stay in Sighisoara:
Pensiunea Casa Sighisoreana – This fantastic place was where we stayed in Sighisoara. Traditionally decorated and only a short walk from the historic Citadel, it was a great location, and parking in the inner courtyard was a bonus. (The historic center is pedestrian-only, so something to consider if you are driving to Sighisoara).
Hotel Central Park Sighisoara – another well-recommended hotel, only steps from the historic city center.
Sibiu: The City with Eyes
Head southwest from Sighişoara to Sibiu, the third town in this triangle of best places to visit in Transylvania.
Nicknamed “The City with Eyes”, Sibiu is known for the distinctive windows on its houses. Shaped like eyelids, the windows give the feeling that someone is always watching!
Also known for its culture, history and diverse architecture, Sibiu is a must-see spot if you’re wondering where to visit in Transylvania.
There are plenty of things to do in Sibiu, but be sure to take some time to wander around the Upper Town, where you’ll find the historic core of the city.
Then stop for a bite to eat at any of the cafes lining the main square, admire the architecture surrounding the square and climb to the top of the Council Tower for a great view over the city. And be sure to walk across the Bridge of Lies. Legend has it that the bridge will creak when someone tells a lie while crossing it.
Where to Stay in Sibiu:
Hotel Casa Luxemburg – a historical hotel with a great view of the Bridge of Lies, and a great location to explore the city.
Downtown Residence – a great family-friendly place to stay in the Old Town, this one bedroom apartment has a fully equipped kitchenette, which is perfect for families, and is only a few minutes walk from the main square.
Transfagaraşan Road: World’s Best Road
Sibiu is also the starting point if you’re driving the Transfagaraşan Road. The road was voted one of the “World’s Best Roads” by the TV show Top Gear. It’s an adventure that not all will want to take!
Similar to driving the Vrsic Pass in Slovenia, this road is full of hairpin turns, steep cliffs and breathtaking views, which are all part of the adventure.
Driving the Transfagarasan Road is an adventure in itself, but it is only open seasonally until the end of October, weather-dependent. We were lucky and the weather was great, so we were able to drive it at the end of October.
If you don’t have your own car, this day trip from Bucharest lets you experience the Transfagarasan Road, with several photo stops along the way.
For those that complete the drive, you can see the REAL Dracula’s castle at the end!
Although not as impressive or photographed as Bran Castle, Poienari Citadel is where Vlad Ţepeş ( Vlad Dracul) actually lived and ruled from.
Unfortunately, the castle was closed when we were there, due to the presence of bears on the property. But it’s still formidable to see, towering high above the highway and guarding entry to the region of Transylvania.
Maybe it helped that it was a bit gloomy and close to dusk when we finally arrived. It seemed a fitting way to end our trip exploring the land of Dracula!
Cluj-Napoca: A Vibrant City
Cluj-Napoca, often referred to simply as Cluj, lies in northern Transylvania and is one of the country’s largest cities.
And while it’s definitely worth exploring, it’s a bit farther from the Transylvania Triangle, which includes Braşov, Sighişoara, and Sibiu. While not part of the core itinerary, Cluj is a city worth exploring if you have a few extra days to spare.
Explore the city’s historic center, with its unique mix of architecture ranging from Romania’s second-largest Gothic church to baroque buildings and medieval towers. The city also boasts a thriving cultural scene, with the National Art Museum, Ethnographic Museum, Pharmacy History Collection and National History Museum of Transylvania being some of the most prominent museums.
Cluj is also known for its vibrant atmosphere, with a large student population, numerous cafes and bars, and music festivals throughout the year.
It’s worth spending a day or two exploring Cluj. Thanks to some traffic and bad directions, unfortunately, we only had a few hours to spend in Cluj, but it’s a city that we would love to return to and explore further.
FAQ’s: Visiting Transylvania
Is it worth visiting Transylvania?
Absolutely! Transylvania is well worth visiting. Whether you’re interested in exploring medieval towns, visiting historic castles, enjoying the stunning landscapes of the Carpathian Mountains or experiencing the folklore and legends of Dracula, Transylvania has something to offer every traveller.
When is the best time of year to visit Transylvania?
While Transylvania is a great spot to visit any time of the year, summer and fall are the most popular times to visit. Summer boasts warm temperatures, but also larger crowds, while fall has fewer tourists, stunning fall colours and the intriguing spooky atmosphere of Dracula in October.
How many days do you need in Transylvania?
To truly experience Transylvania, 10 days would be perfect to visit multiple cities and explore their surroundings. However, if you’re short on time, 3-4 days would give you a quick glimpse of the best places to visit in Transylvania.
If you’re still considering where to visit in Europe, find out here why you should visit Romania.
Final Thoughts: Best Places to Visit in Transylvania
An important region throughout history, today Transylvania is known for its unique blend of cultural influences, historic landmarks, and the enduring legacy of Dracula.
From the cobblestone streets of Brasov to the medieval charm of Sighisoara, or the imposing Bran Castle to the unusual architecture in Sibiu and the impressive Transfagarasan Road, there are some great places to visit in Transylvania.
Whether you’re intrigued by the legacy and legends of Dracula or simply looking to soak in the magical atmosphere of old-world Europe, Transylvania is an amazing place and one that promises an unforgettable experience.
For more inspiration and tips on visiting Romania, be sure to check out these posts:
- 10 Great Reasons to Visit Romania
- What to Pack for Romania
- Top Things to Do in Sibiu with Kids
- Best Things to Do in Brasov
- Things to Do in Sighisoara
- Driving the Transfagarasan