Have a wickedly good time as you take a bite off your bucket list, visiting the castle that inspired the story of Dracula in legendary Transylvania.

Dracula may only exist in the imagination – of both Bram Stoker and his readers (not to mention its numerous film and television adaptations). But it’ll still be ghoulishly fun to find yourself a part of the myth, history and macabre legend.

Of course, as is true of all good castles – the fortress was also the setting of a number of other myths, legends and famous residents. Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III or Vlad Drăculea (sound familiar?), was reportedly held captive and locked up in the dungeon in the 15th century. Not that Vlad might not have deserved it – he earned his nickname as he killed an estimated 20-80,000 people by impaling them with spikes. In other words, this Medieval warlord also had a taste for blood. Vlad’s father, Vlad II, was given the surname Dracul (the old Romanian word for dragon) after being inducted into a knightly order (the Order of the Dragon) to defeat the encroaching Turkish Ottoman Empire. As his son, Vlad III was hence known as the ‘son of Dracul’ or, in old Romanian: Drăculea. Stories on Vlad’s gruesome habits are chilling: he is rumored to have invited hundreds to a banquet only to have them stabbed and impaled on spikes, still twitching, as he himself continued his feast. Stories of him dipping his bread in their blood were rampant. When a group of Ottomans refused to doff their turbans out of religious respect, he nailed them to their skulls. And there’s many, many more. While some may have been exaggerated, many stories repeated certain details so at least a good amount must have been historically accurate.

In the Middle Ages, notoriously known for its brutal violence – Vlad managed to stand out from the rest. Yet he was praised by many for being a just ruler in Transylvania and keeping invaders at bay. An 1820 book by the British consul to Wallachia, William Wilkinson, mentioned the sadistic ruler bringing him to the attention of more modern audiences.

Bram Stoker would have been aware of this book and the tales of the bloodthirsty Vlad III – even though the Irish author never visited either Transylvania or Bran Castle when he wrote his iconic 1897 novel. The dark stories of the Carpathian Mountains, rich with European folklore and vampires were well-known around Europe then. And Bram Stoker was likely aware of the castle itself. At roughly 200 feet tall, located atop a cliff in central Romania, with secret tunnels and mysterious rooms, it was the perfect setting for Bram Stoker’s bloodthirsty villain, Dracula.

Now it’s the perfect setting for travel. Over 560,000 people visit the national monument annually and it is Romania’s most popular destination. Along with being the rumored inspiration for Dracula’s castle, the fortified castle was the residence of Kings and Queens. Art and furniture from these previous owners are on display.

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