15 best Romanian castles and the stories behind them

Wondering which Romanian Castles are worth to be visited? Then you have come to the right place.

We have compiled a list of the 15 Best Romanian Castles/Palaces along with the interesting historical stories behind them.

From the famous Bran Castle to the lesser-known Rasnov Fortress, this list of Romanian Castles should give you an idea about the most iconic symbols of Romanian medieval history.

Whether you want to visit Romania during a tour or you simply want to learn more about medieval Romanian history and its rich heritage, this list is a good starting point.

Click on one of the below castle names from the table of contents to learn more about it:

I. Peles Castle – unique Romanian castle

Peles Castle through its precious artistic and historical values represents one of the most important monuments not only in Romania but also in Europe.

Peles Castle was for a long time of its history the summer residence of the Romanian Royal family.

Peles Castle is one of the most beautiful castles that Romania, at the time it was built it was also unique not only in Romania but also in Europe. With a special beauty and a charming atmosphere, this castle surely takes you with your thoughts into a wonderful world, full of magic, princes, and princesses.

The castle was built between 1873 and 1914 at the initiative of King Carol I.

To ensure the success of his plans, King Carol I hired skilled workers and craftsmen from all over Europe(Italian stonemasons, German and Hungarian Carpenters).

It is estimated that 300 workers have worked hard to fulfill King Carol I dream.

The building of the Peles Castle was truly an international achievement, the 300 skilled workers were brought from 14 different countries. It is even more remarkable how these workers manage to coordinate, given that they spoke many different languages.

On the construction site, there were Italian stone masons, German and Hungarian carpenters, and Romanian workers.

The English were doing the measurements, while the French were drawing the plans.

The castle was built according to the vision and plans of foreign architects Johannes Schultz, Carol Benesch, and Karel Liman.

J.D. Hemann of Hamburg, August Bembé of Mainz, and Bernhard Ludwig of Vienna were responsible for the beautiful and unique decorations of the castle.

The central tower of the castle is 66 meters high, and the impressive interior has 170 rooms and numerous entrances and interior stairs.

Peles castle is also unique because it is one of the first electrified castles in the world. King Carol I was passionate about new technologies, so he even insisted on bringing the latest tech discoveries/inventions inside the castle like: a large vacuum cleaner, sliding windows and even telephones.

Peles castle has been, over the years, the center of several political and historical events in Romania.

Important political meetings were held here, such as the Crown Councils of 1914 and 1925.

The castle has hosted, over time, several personalities, writers, musicians, but also Kings and Queens, the most important visit being considered that of the old emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Joseph, in 1896, he was very impressed by the beauty and splendor of the castle.

Between 1916 and 1918, Peles Castle was inhabited by General Mackensen and German officers who were content to use it only without caring for it, but also without changing anything, not even the administration or staff.

Peles Castle is currently the second most visited castle in Romania, in the first place being Bran Castle, passing only last year over 300,000 visitors, both from the country and from America, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Europe.

II. Bran Castle – also known as Dracula’s castle

Bran Castle, known today by many modern tourists as Dracula’s Castle, gained huge popularity due to the success of Bram Stoker’s famous novel “Dracula”.

I must mention that the real history of the castle is much more complex and interesting, and the episode of Vlad the Impaler (the real Vlad Dracula) represents only a minor chapter in the history of Bran Castle.

In fact, Bran Castle was never the residence of Vlad the Impaler, the renowned Wallachian prince.

The first historical mention of the fortress takes place with the construction of the first wooden fortified settlement by the Teutonic Knights during the years 1211-1225.

The wooden fortress was intended to protect the borders of Hungary from the attacks of the Cumans and the Pechenegs.

The Teutonic presence in the area didn’t last because they were quickly expelled by the Hungarian Kings.

A century later, in 1377, the King of Hungary, Louis I of Anjou, granted the city of Brasov the privilege of building a stone castle at Bran.

The castle was to be built just above the ruins of the wooden Teutonic fortress.

This time the role of the castle would be both commercial and defensive.

Being a checkpoint, Bran castle had the right to collect 3% of the value of all merchandise that passed through.

Vlad the Impaler, in charge of the principles of Transylvania with the anti-Ottoman resistance at the border, is initially allied with Bran and Brașov during his first reign (1448) and in the period up to the second reign(1459-1662)

At the beginning of Vlad the Impaler’s second reign in Wallachia, his relations with the Saxons from Brasov would dramatically change.

The Saxon merchants from Brasov demanded higher commercial privileges and also done the terrible mistake of supporting the claim of an enemy of Vlad the Impaler, to the throne of Wallachia.

Exactly for these 2 mistakes, Vlad marched with his army and lay siege to Bran castle, and also looted the city of Brasov.

The merchants and local leaders of Brasov, angered by this action, started to forge terrible stories about Vlad the Impaler’s personality, portraying him as a bloody tyrant.

This is the moment that would later contribute to the creation of many legends, which would bring, in years to come, remarkable fame to Bran Castle.

In 1920, the Brasov City Council donated the castle to Queen Marie of Romania, in gratitude for her contribution to the achievement of the Great Union.

As a result, the castle becomes an official Royal residence.

After the death of Queen Marie in 1938, the castle was inherited by her favorite daughter, Princess Ileana, who was married to a member of the former imperial Habsburg family. Keep in mind this moment.

After 1948, Bran Castle was nationalized and became the property of the Romanian state. The castle has been open to the public since 1956 and is a museum of feudal history and art.

In 1987, the castle underwent extensive restoration work, completed only in 1993, when it was reopened as a museum and thus re-entered the tourist circuit.

In the year 2000, Archduke Dominic of Habsburg and his sisters, Maria Magdalena Holzhausen and Elisabeth Sandhofer, the rightful successors of Princess Ileana started a long judicial battle against the Romanian state with the purpose of reclaiming back the castle.

On 18 May 2006, after a period of legal proceedings, the castle was legally returned to the heirs of the Habsburg family.

However, the Romanian state, through the Ministry of Culture, temporarily administered the castle until 2009. Prior to the restitution, the Ministry of Culture ordered the relocation of the Romanian state’s collections from Bran Castle to Medieval Customs.

June 1, 2009, is the date of the official reopening of Bran Castle, which is fully owned by the heirs of Princess Ileana.

The Habsburg family restored and renovated Bran Castle with items from their personal collection and reopened it to the public.

III. Corvins’ Castle

Corvins’ Castle is without a doubt the most important castle in Hunedoara County.

The exact first historical mention of the Corvin Castle is still disputed, some historians agree that the first fortified settlement was built in the XIV century, while others think that the castle is from the first half of the XV century.

The castle was originally built in Gothic style.

The first important construction phase of the castle began during the rule of John Hunyadi, voivode of Transylvania and later Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The first construction phase only lasted for 6 years(1440-1446).

Over time, many rulers of Transylvania made important changes to the Castle( additional towers, rooms, halls), the most important change worth to be mentioned is the one introduced after 1605 when the castle was taken by the Bethlen family.

Gabriel Bethlen, changes in the spirit of the time, parts of the castle, changes dictated by both civil and military needs. It is built on the east side, over older foundations, a building, called the Grand Palace from the city, consisting of two levels, and a living room.

The members of the Bethlen family introduced elements of renascence style to the castle.

In the 19th century, the most important restoration works of the Corvin Castle took place.

As impressive as it looks today, it is also important to note that Corvin castle throughout its history survived many sieges, fires, and natural disasters.

In its long history, Corvin Castle was burned five times, but its stone structures have withstood devastating fires. According to historians, in 1534, the medieval fortress was set on fire at the orders of the Transylvanian prince Ioan Zapolya.

In 1601, Hunedoara was besieged by the armies of Michael the Brave, who ordered the burning of the castle, as punishment for the loss of 180 of his mercenaries.

In the winter of 1659 – 1660, the castle was besieged and looted by the troops of Prince Gheorghe Rakoczi II, who had then become the new owner of the castle in Hunedoara.

In 1817 a general repair of the building was made, but the works financed by Emperor Francis were not completed either, as lightning struck the roof of the chapel which burned down.

One of the best explanations for how this mighty Romanian castle withstood the test of time is the quality of the construction materials. All materials used for building Corvin Castle were produced locally.

In the present day, the castle is being restored and turned into a museum, and it could also be visited.

There are many legends surrounding this amazing Romanian Castle.

According to one of them, Vlad the Impaler was one of the many prisoners locked up in the dungeons of this Castle. There are no historical sources to confirm this claim, which is why it is mostly considered a legend.

The castle fountain, dug between two enclosures, has a depth of almost 30 meters. Legend has it that it was dug by three Turkish prisoners, to whom Ioan (Iancu de Hunedoara) promised freedom if they reached the water, a great need in the castle. But after 15 years of hard work, when they finished digging in the rock and reached the water, Iancu de Hunedoara died, and his wife Elisabeta Szilagyi did not keep the promise made by her husband.

IV. Banffy Castle

Also known as Transilvania’s Versailles Palace, Banffy Castle is located in the village of Bontida, close to the Romanian town of Cluj-Napoca.

The castle represents one of the most important architectural monuments of Transylvania, having a unique combination of architectural styles: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Neo-gothic.

The construction of the castle was started by Dionisie Banffy II, governor of Dăbâca and Cluj. The building was designed to have the shape of the letter “L”, fortified with enclosure walls arranged in a rectangular shape with high gate towers at the entrance.

The castle works were started by Bánffy Dénes in 1650 from the stones of Dăbâca castle. His son, Bánffy György, will continue the castle works at the end of the 17th century.

 Between the years 1748-1750, at the initiative of Bánffy Dénes the castle was renovated in the Austrian Baroque style.

Bonțida Castle suffered a lot during the 20th century. In 1944 it was transformed into a military campaign hospital. German troops looted and burned the castle as revenge for the political attitude of the owner at that time, Count Miklos Banffy, who had initiated negotiation talks between Romania and Hungary for switching sides and starting the fight together against the Axis.

During the looting, the library, the furniture, and numerous painting were either destroyed or disappeared.

After its nationalization in 1948, by the new Communist Regime, the castle was converted into a driving school, then a cooperative farm, and finally into a hospital for children.

Prince Charles who is impressed by the beauty and amazing architecture of this Romanian castle thinks that once this castle is fully restored, it will become a major tourist attraction in the area.

In present times, Bannfy castle annually hosts the famous European Music festival known as Electric Castle.

V. Bethlen-Haller Castle/ Jidvei Castle

The first construction phase of the castle began during the years 1615-1624, under the rule of the Chancellor of Transylvania, Gabriel Bethlen. Renaissance architectural style was first used during the initial construction phase.

The architecture of the castle was inspired by another Renaissance castle located in the Loire Valley, Chateau de Chambord.

The castle has 4 major towers, and a pond initially surrounded it, the only way to access it back then was only via a drawbridge.

It is important to note that unlike, many castles on this list, Bethlen-Haller Castle was not built for defensive purposes. It had more of a hunting and residential purpose.

However, over time the castle will undergo numerous transformations.

The first important transformation, was between 1769-1773 when the castle was renovated in the Baroque style.

The castle remained under the rule of the Bethlen family until according to rumors and gossip, Markus Bethlen lost the castle during a card game to a member of the Haller family.

Until 1948, the castle would remain under the control of the Haller family.

After 1948, the Castle was nationalized and converted into a wine production unit.

During the communist era(1948-1989) much of the initial furniture and decorations of the castle either disappeared or were destroyed.

After the fall of communism in 1989, the Haller family successfully reclaimed the castle, but then sold it to the Necsulescu family, the present owners of the castle.

 The castle will become the symbol of the Jidvei wine production company, and the Nesculescu family worked hard to restore the glory of the castle.

Their efforts pay off and the castle was reopened to the public in 2020.

By visiting the Jidvei Castle you have also the special occasion of trying one of the best locally produced wines.

Jidvei area has 2500 ha of wineries, with a production of 25 million tons of grapes annually.

VI. Fagaras Citadel

The construction of the Fagaras Citadel began in 1310, above the site of an old wooden fortification from the 12th century.

It was built for strategic purposes, namely to defend southeastern Transylvania from the invasions of the Tartars and the Ottomans.

In 1526, Stefan Mailat, who had become voivode of Transylvania and master of the fortress and the domains around Făgăraș, later transformed the building into a real fortress.

It was Stefan Mailat who insisted and successfully manages to double the size of the surrounding walls of the citadel.

The moat which surrounds the fortress was built under the orders of Gaspar Bekes, owner of the citadel during the years 1567-1573.

In 1599, following the campaign in Transylvania, Michael the Brave came into effective possession of Făgăraș, and at the end of the same year, the fortress and the domain were given to his wife, Doamna Stanca, thus becoming a shelter for the lord’s fortunes and family.

Michael the Brave paid special attention to Făgăraș due to its strategic position: in April 1600 the fortress became the gathering place of the troops before his military campaign in Moldavia, and in the autumn of 1600, after the defeat at Mirăslău, the regrouping of Michael’s forces took place inside the walls of this citadel.

Făgăraș became a true capital of Transylvania during the 17th century, and the fortress was the residence of the princes of this area. In 1630, the defense ditch was widened, which surrounds the fortress and was connected by a secret canal to the Olt River, and a folding bridge was installed at the entrance. Sometime later, the cellars were rearranged, becoming dungeons for the closure of the revolting serfs.

Assaulted and attacked countless times throughout its history, Fagaras citadel managed with a well-cohesive defensive system, to stay unconquered, from 1500 until the middle of the 19th century, 15 sieges of the fortress were identified.

In 1696, the control of Fagaras Citadel passed to the Austrians, who decided to convert it into a barracks and starting with the year 1699, a military prison.

In 1721, it became the seat of the Romanian Diocese United with Rome.

Between 1948 and 1960 the fortress was used as a prison for the enemies of the Romanian communist regime.

A wing of the fortress is currently dedicated to this period, which brings to attention the anti-communist resistance, with shocking stories from this time, which also represent important pages from our memory as a people.

 Disused after 1960 and almost unknown until a few years ago, the fortress benefited from significant investments that brought it back to life. Supported by adequate promotion, it has become an important tourist attraction for both Romanians and interested foreigners visiting the region.

VII. Cantacuzino Castle

Cantacuzino Castle in Busteni has impressive architectural, historical, documentary, and artistic value for both the region and Romania.

 The castle was built in 1911 at the request of Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino (Nicknamed “Nababul”, the Romanian word for Millionaire), former Romanian Prime-Minister between the years 1899-1900, 1904-1907.

The castle, built in neo-Romanian style, is surrounded by a park where its alleys take you to waterfalls, artesian wells, and a cave. The building was made of stone and brick according to the plans of the architect Grigore Cerchez and covers an area of ​​3148 square meters.

With over 150,000 visitors in 2016, Cantacuzino Castle from Busteni County has become, over time, a point of attraction for both Romanian and foreign tourists.

The domain, which includes 970 ha of forest, offers an incredible view of the Bucegi Mountains, from the Castle terrace can be admired the entire mountain resort of Busteni.

According to a legend, Grigore Cantacuzino was able to cover the roof of the castle in Busteni with gold, to bring his fame abroad. Nababul, as he was called at the time, was the heir to a colossal fortune, amassed over the centuries by the descendants of a large royal family.

The boyar could easily compete with the king at any time in terms of wealth, but also political and social status.

He was a great lover of art and had the ambition to leave to posterity the buildings and monuments that bear his name. The amazing palaces of Paris and Vienna inspired him to build country buildings worthy of the coat of arms of his family, in the spirit of tradition and modernity.

VIII. Rasnov Citadel

Located on the road Brasov – Rucar – Campulung, Rasnov Citadel is one of the best-preserved peasant fortresses in Transylvania. The first mention of the Rasnov Citadel dates from 1335, on the occasion of a new invasion of the Tartars when the country of Barsa was looted again, apart from the fortress on Tampa and the Rasnov Fortress which could not be conquered.

In 1421 the first Ottoman siege is attested. But the fortress resists heroically and the Turks lift the siege, but instead advanced on Brasov and sacked it.

The Turks also unsuccessfully besieged the fortress of Rasnov in the campaigns of 1436 and 1441.
Both during natural disasters and military invasions, the chance of survival of the settlement at the foot of Mount Postavaru was the refuge of its inhabitants in the fortress.

In 1612, the fortress was occupied by Gabriel Bathory, Prince of Transylvania, being the only time when the defenders of Rasnov fortress surrendered. Gabriel Bathory drove the inhabitants of the fortress and installed a garrison of his soldiers. Râșnov managed to take over the city a year later.

Being a peasant fortress, the architecture of Rasnov Fortress is very simplistic. The stone was used for building defensive walls with a height of 5 meters. Inside the citadel, there are many brick construction with different purposes.

There are two layers of walls, which create an outer courtyard and an inner courtyard. The total surface of ​​the fortress is around 3500 square meters.

Inside the Rasnov Fortress, tourists can visit the museum of feudal art which exhibited armor, weapons, galleries, period furniture, and ports specific to the century but also some objects more unusual for our time, but common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. such as a torture mask and a yoke for transporting prisoners. You can also try your skill in archery or on one of the paper targets.

IX. Viscri Fortified Church

Built-in 1225 on the top of the hills of Viscri, it is today one of the seven Transylvanian fortified churches that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

200 years later, the church was fortified with defensive walls, bastions, and towers, at a time when the Ottomans were trying to conquer territories in this part of Europe. The Fortified Church was built in Gothic style and is very famous for the 300-year-old organ, housed inside.

The construction was documented for the first time as Alba Ecclesia (White Church) in 1400; it is dedicated to St. Andrew and is Gothic.

The history of the construction of the church is not very clear. The German settlers who settled in Viscri found on the top of a hill a small chapel, which would have belonged to the Szekler settlers, built of white-green limestone, without ornaments, and with a flat ceiling.

Along with the social evolution of the settlers and depending on the historical conditions, the chapel was adapted, in stages, to the needs of the community. A tribune was built for him and later the family of the leader of the community built a residential tower, for personal use. After the tower passed into the possession of the community, in the 15th century, the building also acquired a choir.

Annually, over 15,000 tourists from Romania and around the world arrive in this village with only 1,000 inhabitants.

They are all greeted with boarding houses in traditional houses, with local dishes made from organic products and the most varied activities. However, the main attraction of the village remains the fortified evangelical church.

Abandoned, it was initially restored in 1970-1971 and later, in 2003, renovated with the support of the foundation set up by Prince Charles.

X. Neamt Citadel

Neamt Citadel is a medieval fortress in Moldova located near the city of Targu Neamt and about 46 km from the city of Piatra Neamt.

Neamt Citadel like Suceava Fortress was a critical part of the ring of Moldavian medieval fortification systems, which defended the country against Ottoman invasions.

The strategic position it benefited from and its presence in the landmark events that this part of the country experienced demonstrates the fact that the Neamț Citadel was one of the best fortifications of the medieval Moldovan state.

The Neamt Citadel was built during the rule of Petru Mușat (1375-1391), which at that time marked the consolidation era of the medieval state of Moldavia.

The first documentary attestation dates from 1395, the year in which the king of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxembourg, before being defeated by the armies of Stephen I Mușat in Hindău, issues a chancellery act “Ante Castrum Nempch”.

The glory period of the medieval fortress of Neamț corresponds with the reign of the clever Stephen the Great (1457-1504), the organizer and exceptional military leader, who well understood the role of fortifications to increase the country’s defense capabilities, strengthened the inherited fortresses from his predecessors and built new ones, the whole of Moldova being guarded by a strong defensive system.

The works undertaken in his time consisted in raising the old walls of the fortress, erecting the four bastions of the outer courtyard, and building the arch-shaped bridge, supported on 11 stone pillars. Thus consolidated, in 1476 the Neamț Citadel faced the siege imposed by Sultan Mehmed II, after the battle of Valea Alba-Războieni.

As Ottoman domination hardens and progress was made in the fighting technique, the role of the Moldavian fortresses/citadels will decrease starting with the second half of the 16th century.

After the partial destruction of some interior constructions in the time of Alexandru Lăpușneanu (1564) and the restorations ordered by Ieremia Movila. In 1600, Neamț Citadel will open its gates in front of the armies of the one who achieved the first political union of all Romanians: Michael the Brave.

Transformed into a monastery by Vasile Lupu (1646) and then partially destroyed by Dumitrașcu Cantacuzino in 1675.

Neamt Citadel will have the strength to write a new chapter of heroism in 1691, when, defended by a small group of peasants, it will repulse the siege of the Polish army led by King John Sobieski.

After the destruction ordered by Mihai Racoviță in 1717, Neamț Fortress totally loses its military importance.

In 1866 it was declared a historical monument and only between 1968-1972, under the leadership of the architect Ștefan Bals, did the works to reconsolidate the walls begin.

Due to the lack of precise information, only some terraces necessary for the visit in good conditions of this historical objective were executed, aiming only at the conservation and maintenance of the monument without the reconstruction of the missing parts.

The restoration of the fortress continued after 1992 within the UNESCO program of restoration and renovation of historical monuments which the restoration of the fortress and walls continued. Between 2007-2009, Neamț Citadel was closed, being subjected to rehabilitation and renovation works carried out with European funds.

After two years of hard work, the old fortress has been reborn from its own ashes so that visitors can admire the various Halls of the fortress, the old chapel, the kitchen, the mint, and the bedrooms.

XI. Suceava Citadel

The construction of the Citadel of Suceava started at the end of the 14th century near the medieval city of Suceava. For almost 200 years this fortress represented the most important residence of the Moldavian lords.

The medieval architectural ensemble, consisting of a castle and defensive walls, was consolidated and completed in a vast project funded in 2011-2015, giving it its imposing appearance.

The Citadel of Suceava was part of the large system of fortifications built in Moldova at the end of the 14th century, at the time of Ottoman danger.

The system of fortifications included royal courtyards, monasteries with high walls, as well as fortresses of strategic importance – for defense, reinforced with stone walls, earth waves, and deep ditches.

The most serious and important modifications and consolidation of the Citadel, including works in the inner courtyard, were done during the reign of Stephen the Great, in the 15th century, about 100 years after its construction by Peter I Musat.

Emil Constantin Ursu, Romanian archeologist, and director of the Bucovina Museum in Suceava thinks that the Citadel of Suceava had a strictly military role.

Being very well fortified and benefiting from a very good defensive position, it never had a very large garrison.

The strictly military role of the fortress, according to Emil Constantin Ursu, also lies in the fact that the Throne Room was not here, but at the Royal Court.

Stephen the Great was the leader who best understood the need to build and consolidate the fortification systems of his country in order to protect Moldova from attacks by Turks, Tatars, Hungarians, or Poles.

Considering that the Suceava Fortress is not strong enough to withstand the attacks of Moldova’s enemies, he built an enclosure wall that surrounded the Musatine fort, like a ring.

The enclosure wall was 15 meters high from the bottom of the defense ditch, being provided with battlements placed at the bottom.

A wall connected the southwest bastion of the old fort with the bastion in the southwest corner of the enclosure wall built by Stephen the Great. In order to avoid the collapse of the wall of the defense ditch on the east side, a stone wall was built, with a supporting role (a counter-escarpment).

After the summer of 1476, when the Citadel of Suceava, besieged by Turkish armies led by Sultan Mohammed II, was damaged, the vulnerability of the enclosure walls and square towers to artillery fire with iron cannonballs proved. As a result, the second stage of construction of the fortress from the time of Stephen the Great begins.

 In order to further strengthen the fortress, the ruler ordered the addition of the first enclosure wall to a second one, two meters thick, which joined on the north side with the wall of Petru Mușat’s fortification.

The new enclosure wall, with a thickness of at least 3.5 meters, was provided with seven semicircular bastions, one on each side of the northwest, southwest, south, southeast, and northeast, and two on the side Of the east. The three square bastions from the first stage were maintained and doubled with semicircular walls.

The fortress was besieged again in 1485 by the Ottoman armies, then in 1497 by Polish armies led by King John Albert, but was never conquered.

During the reign of Stephen the Great, the Citadel of Suceava was defended by a garrison led by his elite guards( the Moldavian word is “parcalabi”).

 During the Polish siege of 1476, the gatekeeper of Suceava was Șendrea, brother-in-law of Stephen the Great, followed by Luca Arbore.

The successors of Stephen the Great, Bogdan III (1504-1517) and Ștefăniță Vodă (1517-1527) carried out some small works to restore the fortress, at the enclosure wall and inside the fort.

In 1538, the Ottoman army, with 150,000-200,000 soldiers, according to historical sources of the time, led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent invaded Moldova with the intention of occupying it.

 At the same time, the Crimean Tatars were attacking the eastern border, while the armies of Wallachia and Hungary were attacking from the west.

On their way to Suceava, the Ottomans obtained the support of some Moldavian boyars, dissatisfied with the authoritarian policy of their ruler Petru Rareș (1527-1538, 1541-1546) and decided to hand over the Suceava Fortress to the sultan.

Petru Rareș fled to Transylvania, to the Ciceu Fortress, and on September 14, 1538, Suleiman the Magnificent entered the fortress without encountering resistance. The Sultan then appoints Ștefan Lăcustă (1538-1540), a nephew of Stephen the Great, the new ruler of Moldavia.

Afterward, for a few days, the Turks and Tartars plundered Moldova.

For over two centuries, the Suceava Fortress suffered from gradual degradation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Austrian architect Karl A. Romstorfer carried out restoration work on the Seat Citadel. He carried out the first archaeological excavations (1895-1904), cleared the ruins, and consolidated the parts threatened by collapse (1897-1903).

The Austrian architect is also the author of the first monograph of the Suceava Fortress, entitled “Suceava Fortress described on the basis of his own research made between 1895—1904” (“Carol I” Institute of Graphic Arts, Bucharest, 1913).

In 1951, at the initiative of the Romanian Academy, the first site school of medieval archeology in Romania was organized, under the leadership of Professor Ion Nestor from the University of History in Bucharest, which led to the establishment of the building stages of the Citadel.

During 1961-1970, extensive works were undertaken to protect, consolidate and partially restore the fortress. The chapel rebuilt by Stephen the Great has been preserved and consolidated, and some walls of the Musatine fort have been raised by a few meters, as well as the enclosure walls.

 However, the fortress remains without the walls on the north side, which collapsed after the earthquake of 1684. In order to preserve the walls of the fortress and prevent their collapse, they were raised a few meters. To delimit the walls of the old ruins from those erected by the restorers, a white stripe was drawn, which meanders outside the walls.

In 2004, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Stephen the Great, some partial restoration works of the fortress were financed from the state budget, being applied on the wall of the fort, near the entrance, a marble memorial plaque. The works carried out aimed at covering the cellar with a concrete slab, consolidating the interior arches, restoring the access bridge in

XII. Poenari Citadel – “Vlad Dracula’s real home”

If you were disappointed that Bran Castle was not Dracula’s home; we now present to you the real castle of Dracula, Poenari Citadel was the real residence of the famous Vlad the Impaler, the iconic and controversial medieval ruler of Wallachia, the source of inspiration for Dracula.

Access to this impressive fortress can only be done via concrete 1480-step stairways, if you truly want to know more about the last refuge of Vlad the Impaler, walking on all those stairs is worth the effort.

Poenari Fortress is a charming medieval fortress, is located on a mountain peak in Argeș County, 27 kilometers from the town of Curtea de Argeș. This citadel has been a historical monument since the 14th century, being an important tourist attraction for those who want to visit the Transfăgărășan mountain road.

The mountain road, the landscape, and the beauty of the fortress are worth the effort made to climb the 1480 steps at the crossroads to the ruins of the Poenari Citadel. This was the source of inspiration for the writer Jules Verne in composing the novel “The Carpathian Castle”.

The citadel represents the second residence of Vlad the Impaler, rebuilt to serve as a fortress against the Turks who attacked it. The Poenari Fortress was the last refuge of the ruler before he left Transylvania.

Initially, the fortress was built in the time of Negru Vodă in the 13th century, with only one tower. In the 14 century, Poenari Citadel was a royal residence for the Wallachian ruler, for unknown reasons it was then abandoned and became a ruin.

 However, the situation would dramatically change in the 15 century when Vlad the Impaler realized the true defensive potential of the Poenari Fortress.

The Wallachian voivode started an important consolidation program of the citadel.

During his reign, more towers, and walls were added, while other elements of the fortress were reinforced.

Ștefan Dumitrache, a Romanian historian, affirms what was said in the historical work, adding that not only the boyars worked at the fortress, but also the merchants from Târgoviște. This represents a punishment that the voivode imposed on his rivals from the Dănești party. Those who survived to completion of the construction were released.

In “Cantacuzino Chronicle”, a medieval manuscript, which describes the history of the times between 1290 and 1690 says that the boyars from Târgoviște planned to execute the ruler because of his habit of impaling robbers, lazy people, and traitors.

The voivode found out about the boyars’ plan and ordered them to be brought to the fortress to expand and consolidate it: “(…) he brought them all to Poenari and they worked at the fortress until their clothes were broken after them

After Vlad the Impaler’s reign the castle was used for many years until it was again abandoned in the 16 century.

Poenari Fortress has an elongated shape with a total of 5 towers, 4 rounded and one prismatic.

Its walls are about 3 meters thick, the constructions being raised directly from the rock, using oak beams for leveling and cohesion. Thus, due to the steep slope on the outside, their height is much higher.

After being abandoned, the fortress suffered gradual decline and destruction from 3 natural disasters in 1913, 1940, and 1977.

After this time, it was partially repaired and restored. At present-day it is administered by the Arges Country Museum.

XIII. Deva Fortress

The first historical mention of the Deva Fortress (Castrum Deve) dates from the year 1269 A.D and is represented by the letter of the Hungarian King, Stephen V, “the young king” (1270–1272), in which he rewarded one of his faithful followers for his acts of bravery.

Most probably, the initial fortress had been founded by King Béla IV of Hungary (1235–1270), the father of Stephen V, as a response to the destructions caused by the Mongolian invaders in 1241.

The fortress’s purpose was to prevent other similar attacks.

According to recent archeological research, under the existing medieval fortress, there are elements of ancient Dacian fortifications, and over these remains of the Dacian fortress, there are also ruins of a Roman military outpost, which in turn was destroyed by the building of the feudal fortress, a succession of buildings supported by the discovery of objects of ceramics and bricks and the existence of an observation tower with a Roman fortification.

In 1285, the Deva Fortress confirms its defensive role during the battle between King Ladislaus IV and the Cumans, who attacked Transylvania, and after this moment, the fortification becomes a real noble court/residence.

Since 1307, the fortress was a voievodal residence, and in the 14th and 15th centuries a Wallachian military district, having jurisdiction over four Romanian districts.

In 1444, the gold mines in the Apuseni Mountains belonged to the fortress, along with the 56 surrounding villages, but due to internal battles and the imminent danger of the Ottoman invasion, after this period, the fortress underwent important transformations.

Hungarian King Vladislav I (1440–1444) donated the fortress to John Hunyadi and it remained in the possession of the Corvinists until the beginning of the 16th century.

In 1453, John Hunyadi transformed it into a noble castle, Deva thus becoming one of the strongest fortresses inTransylvania.

The fortress was besieged several times by the Ottomans in 1550, 1552, and 1557.

After the siege of 1557, the fortress was captured by the Ottoman armies led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who handed it over to Queen Isabella of Hungary and her son John Sigismund.

Later, the fortress also functioned as a prison, where humanist David Ferencz, the founder of the Unitarian church, and Moise Secuiul, the leader of the Transylvanian nobility hostile to the imperial power, were imprisoned – in the cell where he was imprisoned, a commemorative plaque was placed in 1948.

In 1511, during the reign of the Transylvanian voivode Ioan Zápolya (1510–1526), ​​the Deva Fortress underwent extensive restoration work, but soon, a new invasion of the Turkish armies followed, the city was destroyed and the fortress besieged.

At this moment, the fortress became a border fortification, in the time of the general – mercenary Castaldo, who at his installation here, in 1551, found it in ruins and without sufficient armament.

This was followed in 1782 by an uprising in which the fortress was temporarily occupied by the peasants of Dobra, and in 1786 the fortification was besieged by revolted peasants led by Horea, Cloșca, and Crișan.

After the rebellion was crushed, Deva fortress was abandoned, and in 1800, at the suggestion of Count Mitrowsky, the military commander of Transylvania, the fortress, which no longer met the modern military requirements, lost its military purpose.

As a result, the carpentry of the fortress – the gates, the doors, the window frames – were dismantled and put up for auction.

The fate of the fortress would change In 1817, when Austrian Emperor Francis I, who visited Deva, decided to restore the fortress, so until 1830 the fortress was repaired and the renovation is recorded by an inscribed plaque placed above one of the gates (1829).

In 1848 it became the headquarters of the imperial troops, and on August 12, 1849, there was a strong explosion at the ammunition depot that completely oblitareted important sections of the citadel.

XIV. Alba Carolina Citadel

Alba Carolina Citadel is the biggest fortress/citadel in modern-day Romania.

The star-shaped citadel, after the famous Vauban fortification style, has a surface of 110 ha.

The history of this citadel is impressive as is its architectural style and size.

After the famous siege of Vienna(1683) the Ottomans were in continuing retreat and after the peace treaties of Karlowitz(1699) and Passarowitz(1718), they were forced to abandon large territories to the Austrians, including Transilvania.

In an effort to consolidate their influence and domination, the Austrians started the construction of the Alba Carolina citadel in November 1715.

The newly Austrian citadel was to be built on top of other 2 older fortifications( an ancient Roman castrum of the XIII Gemina Legion and the former Medieval city of Alba Iulia).

The initial plans of the Citadel were drawn by the Italian architect, Giovanni Morando Visconti, who also led the first construction phase of the fortress.

Unfortunately for Visconti, he didn’t live enough to finish his work. The next construction phases of the Alba Caroline Citadel would be continued by the military engineers Iosif de Quadri and Konrad von Weiss.

Most historians agree that the construction of the mighty citadel ended in the year 1738.

Access inside the Citadel can be done via its 7 impressive gates, each decorated in baroque style with the status of either ancient heroes or important moments from the Austro-Turkish wars.

Gate I is located on the east side of the fortress, with bas-reliefs on both sides with scenes from Greek mythology. At the top is the statue of the god Mars and the goddess Venus, which are flanked by bombers.

The second gate, partially demolished in 1937 for the construction of the obelisk, was later reconstructed based on vintage images.

The Third Gate is the largest and most imposing from an architectural point of view, above is the equestrian statue of the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI, during which the fortress was built.

The Fourth gate decorated with baroque sculptural elements is located on the west side of the fortress. It closed the enclosure of the fortress, being provided in the part from the ditch with a wooden swing bridge.

The 5th Gate is located on the west side of the fortification, preceded by a wooden bridge, with simple architecture, without sculptural elements.

The 6th Gate, located next to the 5th Gate, is a simple gate with two pillars, above which are sculpted cannonballs at the time of the explosion. Through this gate, King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie entered during their first visit to Alba Iulia.

In all its history, the citadel was attacked only once during the revolutions of 1848-1849, by a considerable force of 8000 Hungarian revolutionaries led by General Bem. The citadel proved its value because it successfully repelled the attackers.

In the next century, the Alba Carolina fortress would be at the center of the most iconic historical event for all Romanians, the Great Union of 1918, when the historical provinces of Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania united with the Kingdom of Romania, forming the Greater Romania.

XV. Sturdza palace, Iasi

Sturdza Castle from Miclăuşeni, also known as Sturdza Palace, is a neo-Gothic castle built between 1880-1904 by Gheorghe Sturza and his wife Maria, in the village of Miclăuşeni, at a distance of 65 km from Iaşi. It is currently owned by the Metropolitan Church of Moldova and Bukovina.

The modern-day castle was built above the site of an older Palace, which was consolidated, modernized, and integrated into the actual castle.

The source of inspiration for the architecture of the castle is represented by Western European medieval castles and palaces.

The architectural styles of the castle are: Neo-Gothic and Baroque. The Palace was built between the years 1880-1904.

The 19th-century modern Palace is located on the site of an older aristocratic mansion from the 15th century.

In the 15th century, part of the old building is integrated into the current building, which is located in the eastern wing of the modern castle.

Neo-Gothic influences are found in decorations such as Gothic turrets, medieval armor, a riding hall, Latin sayings inscribed on the walls, entrance tower with a bridge over the water ditch.

Before WWII, the castle housed a valuable collection of books and documents, medieval costumes, weapons, jewelry, paintings, sculptures made of Cararra marble, and silverware, but also valuable archaeological, numismatic, and epigraphic pieces. The book collection alone numbered 60,000 exemplars, many of them being first editions or very rare.

Unfortunately during World War II, the castle was devastated by Soviet soldiers who used many valuable books as fuel for the fire, selling other volumes to shops in Târgu Frumos, where they were used for packing goods. In addition to books, pieces of furniture and most of the Sturdza family’s collections have disappeared from the castle.

Only a small part of the original book collection was saved.

After WWII, the last owner of the castle, Ecaterina Cantacuzino, an heiress, decided to donate the castle to the church.

After the communists took power in Romania in 1948, they confiscated the castle from the Church.

During the communist era in Romania, the castle serves as a military explosive depot, and then it was transferred to the Ministry of Metallurgy or to the local authorities.

It is said that sometimes, communist officials used the castle for parties.

Under the communists, Sturdza Palace gradually suffered from degradation, being severely affected by a massive fire in 1985.

After the fall of communism, in 2001 the Castle was reclaimed by the Church.

With financing from the World Bank and their own finances, the Church began the restoration works of the castle in 2004.

The restoration works were partially successful and parts of the glorious Sturdza Palace are back and ready to be admired by tourists.

XVI. Conclusion

As you can observe, Romania has a long and rich history, full of wars and battles.

These Romanian Castles in the list are just a fragment of this vast history and the great Romanian heritage; this is why it is important to visit them at least once in a lifetime, and not least to preserve them for future generations.

We hope that this list of 15 Romanian castles and palaces has convinced you to visit Romania. If not, at least you have learned some interesting facts about Romanian medieval history.

Of course, this list is not definitive, there are more Romanian Castles, Palaces, and fortified churches which are also worth to be visited.

If you are a beginner and never visited Romania or you are interested in learning more about its history, there 15 Romanian Castles should be a good start.

If you do plan to visit Romania, make sure to include one of these Romanian Castles in your journey!

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