What to expect when you visit the iconic Bran Castle after hours with Insight

by | 27 Oct 2022

I want you to believe…to believe in things that you cannot.

― Bram Stoker, Dracula

Hidden in a Transylvanian forest, perched atop a 200-foot-high crag at the base of the Carpathian mountains, stands the imposing Bran Castle. This national landmark is a picture portrait of Gothic mystery with soaring towers, looming turrets and a haunting presence. Cemented in the cultural zeitgeist by Stoker’s infamous novel, the castle is now an immensely popular landmark known throughout the world.

Yet with popularity, comes crowds. With this special Insight experience, you can bypass the regular tourists with an exclusive after-hours tour around the mysterious castle.

After exploring eerie passageways and ominous chambers, celebrate escaping Dracula’s lair with a wonderful and private Transylvanian dinner in Queen Mary’s tea house. All of this and more, as part of Insight’s 18-day Treasures of the Balkans tour.

Read more: Five incredible castles to discover in the Balkans


The medieval fortress that inspired Stoker’s novel is one of Romania’s most popular tourist destinations. While an incredible and unique experience, the mystery and intimacy of the 14th century citadel is somewhat lost when surrounded by crowds of tourists.

Smugly enjoy the privacy and exclusivity of seeing Bran Castle after hours, when regular tourists are ushered out. You’ll rendezvous with a Local Expert who will take you on a private tour through the interior of Bran Castle’s gloomy walls. Expect winding stairways and underground passages, finding eerie oddities like a secret stairway leading to an aged wood-paneled library. Take a visit to the sinister torture rooms, an especially spooky affair if you visit Bran Castle on Halloween.

Listen carefully as your Local Expert spins tales and legends around Count Dracula and Queen Marie of Romania, the last inhabitant of the castle (1920-1938). You’ll learn about the real 15th-century nobleman whom Stoker used as inspiration for his novel, Vlad Dracula. Rather than a menacing villain, he is considered a Romanian national hero for fearlessly fighting against invaders, earning him the name ‘Vlad the Impaler’.

Read more: Exploring the Balkans with Insight Vacations Tour Director Hugh Mcmillan


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Celebrate your adventurous foray into the eerie citadel with a wonderful dining experience in Queen Marie’s tea house. Queen Marie, given ownership of the castle in 1920, turned an old barn located at the foot of the castle hill into a quaint tea house. It was then recently renovated under the patronage of Dominik von Hapsburg, Marie’s grandson who now owns the estate.

Expect an indulgent and private 3-course dinner including wine from Transylvania’s local regions. A few samples from the tea house’s 2022 menu include:

– Homemade duck pâté with duck lark, wild berries chutney and crostini,

– Butter with salt crystals and truffles

– Zacusca – local vegetarian spread dish with vegetables and truffles

– Smoked fish tartar (trout and salmon), capers and lime

– Roasted beef with potatoes, puree with truffles, asparagus cream and salted butter with truffle

– Risotto with saffron, artichokes, dried tomatoes, green vegetables and parmesan

– Coliva – the traditional funeral dessert & Count dessert – a traditional Romanian dessert made with boiled wheat, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and rum.


When on the Treasures of the Balkans tour, your Gothic escapade inside Bran Castle is but a small stop on an 18-day adventure.

You’ll see the gorgeous Dalmatian coast and the beautiful cities of Dubrovnik and Kotor, soaking up sun and the pearly blue waters of the Adriatic. Then, take a journey through European history with a visit to the former Communist headquarters of Romania in Bucharest, Bosnia’s Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo and Roman ruins in Sofia.

Connect with the local community as you sit down with a Sarajevan family for a feast of local cuisine and traditional Bosnian coffee, sharing stories of local life. Then, travel to Budapest, where your tour eventually ends. As you return home from your Balkan adventure, the memory of Bran Castle’s mysterious energy will remain stark for years to come.

Read more: A guide to the Croatian coastline

I'm Jay – born in Italy, raised in South London. Having French sisters and Hungarian ancestors, I've always been fascinated with the world and its cultures, and I carry this curiosity into my writing for Insightful. My favourite destinations I've traveled to so far have been Italy, Peru, France and Brazil.