Stavropoleos Church (Biserica Stravrapoleos)0
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Built in 1724, the Stavropoleos Church is the only surviving portion of the original monastery by the same name. The adjacent 18th-century buildings were intentionally demolished or razed by earthquakes over the past two centuries. Squeezed into the center of Bucharest, Stavropoleos retains its connection to Byzantine traditions through its choral style and collection of Byzantine music books. At this Eastern Orthodox church, nuns restore ancient texts and sacred objects that the monastery discovers and collects.
As this is a functioning house of worship, be particularly attentive to observed customs, and remember to dress conservatively. When inside, note the intricate ornamentation and frescoes characteristic of 18th-century ecclesiastical architecture in Eastern Europe. One Virtual Tourist user says: "Although tiny, every little detail is worth looking at: the richly adorned columns of the porch, the exterior paintings and carvings, the wooden door. I think it's impossible to visit churches like Stavropoleos and not be moved in some way."
You can enter the Stavropoleos Church for free, though donations are appreciated. It's open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but closed to visitors for religious services and occasional renovations. The worship schedule is posted on the official website.
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#0 Bran Castle
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.
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