Join Romanian, Marius Iliescu, from Romanian Friend, as he takes us on a tour of the top ten Romanian castles and fortifications.
Romania has had a long and riotous history during which many castles, fortresses and fortified settlements were built to protect the population and ruling feudal lords against invaders, in particular, the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey). Most of these magnificent buildings have withstood the test of time becoming Romania’s top tourist attractions.
Top Ten Romanian Castles
This top ten list will show you some of the most important castles and citadels that you should consider visiting while in Romania – but it’s not complete. There are many more.
10. City of Suceava Fortress
The fortress of Suceava was consolidated and expanded during the reign of Stefan the Great, ruling voivode (or prince) of Moldavia from 1457 to 1504. The fortress suffered a lot of damage from later Romanian rulers that actually served the interests of the Ottoman Empire: they set it on fire or tried to blow it up, just to please the Turks and weaken Moldova’s defences. Over time, people tried to rebuild the missing parts of the fortress in order to make it look like it once did, but nothing can really bring back all that has been destroyed. The fortress underwent significant restoration works in recent years and deserves a visit when visiting the famous region of Bucovina.
9. Deva Fortress, Deva County
This impressive Romanian castle was built in the 13th century but was destroyed in the 19th century by a powerful explosion that started in the ammunition depot. Although only ruins of the fortress can still be seen today, we included it in this list for several reasons. First, even the remaining ruins speak of the centuries of history this fortification has seen. Second, there is a cable car from the base to the top of the hill where the fortress is located which makes for a splendid ride. And finally, Deva Fortress was built on top of a volcano in the Western Carpathian Mountains of Romania. From here tourists can enjoy breath-taking views of the surrounding area and an exceptional 360 panorama – the same view the defenders had hundreds of years ago!
8. City of Oradea Fortress
This is one of the oldest fortified settlements in Romania built sometime in the 12th century. The site has witnessed a dramatic history throughout the years, having been upgraded, damaged, reconstructed, destroyed, abandoned and finally restored in 2010 to its present form. It is a star-shaped citadel with towering brick walls defending many buildings within its perimeter of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style and a Roman-Catholic church. Within the fortress walls, there was also a library and an astrology observatory, unique of its kind in Medieval Europe. Today the Oradea Fortress can be visited freely and many events are held within its walls.
7. The defence network of Braşov
Long ago, the city of Brașov was surrounded by 3 km-long fortified walls with guard bastions every 100 meters. Built sometime after 1395, this was one of the largest and most modern defence networks in Eastern Europe’s Middle Ages. The defence bastions were funded by rich merchant guilds of Brașov and were named after them. So you can visit the Weaver’s bastion, the Tailors’ bastion, the White Tower and the Black Tower. They have been very well preserved and should not be missed when visiting this famous city in Romania.
6. Făgăraș Citadel in Brașov County
This is amongst the few citadels in Europe that still preserves its original moat filled with water surrounding it – and it’s truly a spectacular sight! Although originally built from wood, Făgăraș Citadel underwent several stages of consolidation, expansion and modernization, mostly done by the many feudal lords who lived here and wanted to leave their mark and display their power. The impressive citadel with its towering walls was also used as a political prison by the communist regime of Romania and a wing of this historic attraction is dedicated to those times.
5. Râșnov Citadel in Brașov County
Built by the locals of Râșnov with the help of nearby villagers, Râșnov Citadel served as an important defence bastion of Transylvania against the Ottoman invasions in the Middle Ages. Built on top of a 700m hill with sweeping views of the area, the citadel is an impressive sight and has never been conquered by attackers. It also has a well 143m deep which is still used today. Râșnov Citadel is one of Romania’s best-preserved citadels and is easy to visit on a day trip from Brașov.
4. Peleș Castle in Sinaia, Prahova County
Built at the end of 19th century in the German Renaissance style, Peleș Castle served as a summer residence for the Royal House of Romania led then by King Charles I (Carol I). This stunning Romanian castle was built using state of the art German engineering and the finest decorations, both interior and exterior, and for this reason, it is considered the most beautiful castle in Romania. Numerous original decorations and objects belonging to the royal house can be seen inside. Beware though – tourist queues are quite big as Peleș Castle became the #1 tourist attraction in Romania in 2017!
3. Bran Castle in Bran, Brașov County
Bran Castle is hugely popular thanks to its association with Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel and the Hollywood movie. Though there is no connection with Vlad the Impaler, the supposed inspiration for the Dracula character, the castle is visited by thousands of tourists each year. Towering in the hills over a valley leading into Transylvania, it served as an important medieval defence fortification and customs point.
2. Corvin (Hunyadi) Castle in Hunedoara, Hunedoara County
A superb Gothic-Renaissance jewel, this castle is one of the best preserved in Romania and ranked among Europe’s most beautiful. Used mainly as a residence for the Corvin ruling dynasty of Transylvania, the castle boasts numerous defence structures and a bridge is the only way of accessing it. There are many legends surrounding Corvin Castle which has witnessed 600 years of Romanian history and it can be visited on day trips from the cities of Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu or Timisoara.
1. Sighișoara Citadel in the heart of Transylvania
This is one of the few remaining inhabited citadels of Europe and among the fewer that have been almost entirely preserved. Built at the beginning of the 13th century, the citadel has been continuously expanded, fortified and modernized. Thanks to its location in the heart of Transylvania, Sighișoara was an important trading centre for merchants, craftsmen and farmers. Boasting many towers and colourful buildings, Sighișoara Citadel is now part of UNESCO heritage and a living testimony of to medieval times. Walking its cobbled streets, you should not miss the Clock Tower built in Switzerland in 1648 which still works today.
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Marius Iliescu is the founder of Romanian Friend, a locally-run initiative connecting travellers to handpicked local guides and recommended tours and trips that promote the authentic beauty of Romania & local, responsible travel. Our website will help you plan your trip and follow us on Facebook to keep in touch!