Bran Castle is a castle in Bran, 25 kilometres (16 mi) southwest of Brașov. It is a national monument and landmark in Transylvania. The fortress is on the Transylvanian side of the historical border with Wallachia, on-road DN73.
Commonly known outside Transylvania as Dracula’s Castle, it is often referred to as the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
There is no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has only tangential associations with Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia, the putative inspiration for Dracula.
Stoker’s description of Dracula’s crumbling fictional castle also bears no resemblance to Bran Castle.
The castle is now a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Tourists can see the interior on their own or on a guided tour.
At the bottom of the hill is a small open-air museum exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, water-driven machinery, etc.) from the Bran region.
In 1212, the Teutonic Order built the wooden castle of Dietrichstein as a fortified position in the Burgenland at the entrance to a mountain pass through which traders had travelled for more than a millennium. This castle was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242.
The original name of the castle, Dietrichstein or lapis Theoderici in Latin, lit. “Dietrich’s Stone”, seems to have been derived from the Comthur (Commander) and regional Preceptor, frater Theodericus, mentioned in a 1212 document.
This Dietrich is the probable builder of the castle. A 1509 document confirms that the Törzburg county had once belonged to Commander Dietrich of the Teutonic Order.
The first documented mention of Bran Castle is the act issued by Louis I of Hungary on 19 November 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (modern Brașov) the privilege to build the stone castle at their own expense and labour force; the settlement of Bran began to develop nearby.
In 1438–1442, the castle was used in defence against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. Although many castles of the time belonged to members of the nobility, it has been established that Bran Castle was built almost exclusively for the fortification and protection of German colonists in Transylvania.
It is believed the castle was briefly held by Mircea the Elder of Wallachia (r. 1386–95, 1397–1418) during whose period the customs point was established. The Wallachian ruler Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler; 1448–1476) does not seem to have had a significant role in the history of the fortress, although he passed several times through the Bran Gorge.
At some point, Bran Castle belonged to the Hungarian kings, but due to the failure of King Vladislav II (r. 1471–1516) to repay loans, the city of Brașov regained possession of the fortress in 1533. Bran played a militarily strategic role up to the mid-18th century.