Although this remarkable fortress has weathered centuries of war, poverty and multiple political empires, Bran Castle is most famous for being the assumed residence of Dracula. Vlad Tepes, the real-life inspiration for the fictional vampire, attacked the fortress several times and even conquered it once in 1459. This castle, which sits on the border of the Transylvania and Wallachia regions, has endured legal battles and state-seizures. It has changed hands between the Romanian royals and the government several times in the past hundred years.
Hopefully, the ownership issue was permanently resolved in 2009, when the royal family transformed the castle into a public museum. Now, you can tour the five floors of this ancient structure and its grounds. However, don't say yes right away. A TripAdvisor user criticizes, "This castle is just a line of tourists goin' in one door and out the other with little of interest." Less of a tourist trap is a village museum, also located on the premises. Near the castle gates, you'll also be able to load up on vampire gear and traditional Transylvanian snacks from local vendors.
You'll need to take a two- to three-hour bus ride (for approximately $20 USD) from Bucharest to Bran Castle, which is open daily to visitors from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on most days. The price of entry is disputed; some sources say you'll pay as much as 80 RON (or about $25). Check out the castle's website for more information.
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#0 Village Museum (Muzeul Satului)
An outdoor museum? Many struggle to conceive of the idea, but the Village Museum defies any preconceived notions. In this exhibition of folk architecture and life, you'll think you have been magically transported to the Romanian countryside, complete with cottages, windmills and wildlife. One TripAdvisor user confirms, "The buildings are laid out nicely to give a feel for rural Romania." Located in Herastrau Park (Parcul Herastrau), a pleasure in its own right, the sprawling museum contains more than 300 structures imported from all over the Romanian countryside. Several homes, chapels and barns date back hundreds of years. Also, museum workers dress as traditional peasants and take care of their respective buildings. The portrayal of rural life stuns many visitors. At times, you may even feel more like an anthropologist than a tourist.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, while the exhibition hall closes on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission costs about 6 RON (or about $ 2 USD), but exploring Herastrau Park is free. Go to the museum's website for more information.
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