A high stakes trip.
Vlad the Impaler (also known as Vlad Tepes) ruled the Wallachian empire in the 15th century and was well-known for his violent tendencies. The king, also known as Vlad Dracula, became the inspiration behind Irish author Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, forever connecting to the historical figure with his blood-sucking fictional counterpart. Today, Dracula enthusiasts can find evidence of Dracula throughout Europe, particularly in Romania.
WHERE: Bran, Romania
Bran Castle sits on a hill in the heart of Transylvania, surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. It’s unclear whether Vlad the Impaler ever actually visited the fortress, which was completed in 1388, however, the castle was supposedly used by Stoker as inspiration for Castle Dracula in his novel. These days the character is fully embraced in Bran, which sells Dracula-themed souvenirs and offers historical tours of the Castle. The annual Halloween party, as expected, is especially rambunctious.
WHERE: Budapest, Hungary
According to legend, Dracula was held captive by Hungarian ruler King Matthias in the 15th century and locked in a chamber in the labyrinth beneath Budapest’s Buda Castle. Brave travelers can venture inside the dark rooms of the labyrinth at the Labirintus, a tourist attraction that allows access to several underground passageways and rooms. It can be hokey in parts, especially when fog and ominous music fills the air, but the labyrinth’s caves actually have a vast and interesting history (that may or may not include one blood-sucking vampire).
The Dracula Experience
WHERE: Whitby, England
The British seaside town of Whitby, in Yorkshire, was once Stoker’s vacation home. The writer visited the town in 1890 and was supposedly inspired by the Whitby Abbey and its surrounding sights. Today, visitors can relive the past at The Dracula Experience, which recreates several scenes from Stoker’s book. For an extra scare, join one of the monthly paranormal investigation nights.
Museum of the Old Princely Court
WHERE: Bucharest, Romania
Museum of the Old Princely Court, located in the center of Old Town Bucharest, is an open-air archeological site that reveals the 15th court built by Vlad the Impaler. It was excavated beginning in 1953, and researchers have uncovered the remains of several important elements, including a Turkish bath. Visitors can explore the site, venture into some of the existing rooms, and learn more about Vlad’s rule.
Targoviste Princely Court
WHERE: Targoviste, Romania
Targoviste Princely Court is another remaining vestige of Vlad the Impaler’s reign. The fortress, some of which still stands, was built during the 15th century and was home to both Vlad and Constantin Brancoveanu. The Chindia Tower remains intact and visitors can climb the winding staircases to its pinnacle, where a view of Targoviste awaits. The nearby Holly Friday Church and Great Princely Church showcase detailed wall paintings and historical artifacts.
WHERE: Snagov, Romania
There are many claims about the location of Dracula’s tomb. Snagov Monastery, an Orthodox monastery still in operation, is one of those places. The Monastery, located on an island not far from Bucharest, was once a defensive position during Vlad’s rule. The church, which is covered in impressive wall paintings, is supposedly where Vlad was buried. Visitors can come to their own conclusions.
WHERE: Dublin, Ireland
Stoker was born near Dublin’s Castle Dracula, a site that pays homage to the author and his legacy. Pass through the castle tunnels and into Dracula’s Lair before viewing a live spectacle about the character. The Castle also houses the Bram Stoker Hall of Fame, an exhibition on the writer that features objects and photographs from his life. The experience is kitschy, but it’s a fun way to enter the world of the vampire–without actually getting your blooded sucked.
WHERE: Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest’s Dracula Museum is housed in an 18th-century mansion in the Old Town, nearby to the Old Princely Court. The museum was created by a group of Dracula enthusiasts, who are still in the process of restoring the building and fully completing the exhibitions. The partial opening took place earlier this year, revealing the life of Vlad the Impaler, the fictional depictions of Dracula and a torture gallery with devices used in the Middle Ages.
WHERE: Mureş County, Romania
The Romanian town of Sighişoara dates back to the 1st century AD, but it’s the 16th-century architecture that got the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famously the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and his former home remains for tourists to visit (among the city’s other impressive sites, like the Sighişoara Citadel). The Vlad Dracul House, where the ruler lived from 1431-1435, is located near the Citadel Square and now showcases the Museum of Weapons.
WHERE: Argeş County, Romania
The ruins of Poienari Fortress stand on a cliff in Argeş County, approximately 100 miles northwest of Bucharest. The Fortress was built in the 13th century and stood through numerous residents and rulers, including Vlad the Impaler. In 1462, the Turkish army attacked the fortress and Vlad was forced to escape through a secret passageway into the Carpathian Mountains. The castle has since crumbled, but it’s still possible to climb 1,462 steps to explore the remains and enjoy picturesque views of Romania.