Bran Castle (German: Törzburg; Hungarian: Törcsvár), situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania. The fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, on DN73. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle), it is marketed as the home of the titular character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has only tangential associations with Vlad III, voivod of Wallachia, the putative inspiration for Dracula.
The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Tourists can see the interior individually or by a guided tour. At the bottom of the hill is a small open air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, etc.) from across the country.
In 1212, Teutonic Knights built the wooden castle of Dietrichstein as a fortified position in the Burzenland at the entrance to a mountain valley through which traders had travelled for more than a millennium, although it was destroyed in 1242 by the Mongols. The first documented mentioning of Bran Castle is the act issued by Louis I of Hungary on November 19, 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Braşov) the privilege to build the stone citadel on their own expense and labor force; the settlement of Bran began to develop nearby. The castle was first used in 1378 in defence against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. The castle briefly belonged to Mircea the Elder of Wallachia. Vlad III besieged Bran on at least one occasion, taking the castle briefly in 1459 during a punitive incursion into the Burzenland.
From 1920 the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania. It was the principal home of Queen Marie, and is decorated largely with artifacts from her time, including traditional furniture and tapestries that she collected to highlight Romanian crafts and skills. The castle was inherited by her daughter, Princess Ileana, and was later seized by the communist regime after the expulsion of the royal family in 1948.
In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties such as Bran, which was seized by the Communist government of Romania in 1948. In 2006, the Romanian government awarded ownership to Archduke Dominic of Austria-Tuscany, known professionally as Dominic von Habsburg, an architect in New York State and the son and heir of Princess Ileana.
In 2007, Archduke Dominic put the castle up for sale for a price of £40 million ($78 million). On July 2, 2007, Michael Gardner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Baytree Capital, the New York investment firm which has been retained to create a plan for the castle and to sell it, predicted it would sell for more than $135 million, but added that Archduke Dominic will only sell it to a buyer “who will treat the property and its history with appropriate respect.”
In September 2007 an investigation committee of the Romanian Parliament stated that the retrocession of the castle to Archduke Dominic was illegal, as it broke the Romanian law on property and succession. However, in October 2007 the Constitutional Court of Romania rejected the parliament’s petition on the matter. In addition, an investigation commission of the Romanian government issued a decision in December 2007 reaffirming the validity and legality of the restitution procedures used and confirming that the restitution was made in full compliance with the law.
On January 26, 2009, it was revealed that the family had decided not to sell the castle, but instead turn it into a museum dedicated to the history of the surrounding area and the history and memory of Queen Marie and her family. There is acknowledgment in the castle of the tangential association with Vlad III upon whom the fictional character, Dracula is loosely based.