Of all of the country’s castles, the one Romanian’s gush about is Peleș Castle. And if you’ve been there or seen a picture, you know why. Its neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival architecture, crossed with timber and topped with turrets, is reminiscent of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale as it sits perfectly nested in the Carpathian Mountains. I could easily imagine Rapunzel, Cinderella, or Little Briar-Rose all living their happily ever after within these walls.
Peleș Castle, with little Pelișor next door, makes for a fun day trip from either Bucharest or Brașov. Read on for a few tips to make the most of your day.
A Bit of History
Compared to some of the ancient castles around the world, Peleș is relatively new. King Carol I of Romania set out to build a grand palace, befitting of the majestic setting of the surrounding Carpathian Mountains (and they’re seriously gorgeous. If you do one thing in Romania, take a hike). Multiple architects and craftsmen from almost every country in Europe constructed what is known as the “cradle of the dynasty, cradle of the nation.” The palace was used by the royal family from 1883 until 1947, when the Communist regime forced the abdication of King Michael I. In 2006, the palace was returned to its original owner, former monarch Michael I, who is the last surviving monarch or head of state from before WWII. The Romania state currently leases the palace from the monarch.
Getting to Peleș Castle from Bucharest
By Train: The journey takes roughly 2 hours to Sinaia, leaving from Gara de Nord in Bucharest. It’s a pleasant 30 minute walk from the Sinaia train station to Peleș Castle.
We rented a car, but I almost wish we hadn’t as we passed by a vintage blue train with careful gold lettering arriving at the station. It looked magical enough to belong on a Harry Potter movie set.
By Car: It takes the same amount of time by car, about 2 hours. The roads are in good condition and the driving is fairly easy.
Getting to Peleș Castle from Brașov
By Train: You’re closer in Brașov, so the train only takes about an hour, plus a half hour walk from the station to the castle.
By Car: The drive is also about an hour. This route is the main road from Brașov into Bucharest, so there can be some heavy traffic. The drive took us an extra half hour over the expected time.
As this is a fairly popular tourist stop and you can’t book tickets ahead of time, expect to queue at the castle for your tickets. It’s cash only, but there is an ATM at the grounds entrance, about a 5 minute walk from the ticket office.
Compared to other activities in Romania, it’s pretty pricey. And while it’s even more expensive to do the extended tour of the First and Second floor, we thought it was worth the money.
First Floor Tour
The first floor tour was similar to other tours we’ve done of beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe: expensive, short, and very fact-based. The beauty of the interior completely makes up for it. Prepare for your jaw to literally drop as you arrive into the first floor of the Honor Hall. It’s three stories tall, meaning three levels of intricate woodwork and alabaster sculptures to gawk at. My favorite parts of the main hall are the retractable stained glass ceiling, wood spiral staircase, and surrounding relief that showcases other castles owned by the royal family (quite the real estate portfolio). After flying through the armory, rushing past the elaborately decorated Moorish and Turkish rooms, and momentarily stopping in the library with a secret door, the first floor tour was over too quickly.
Optional Second Floor Tour
About ¾ of our group had only purchased the first floor tour, so it was a much smaller group that headed up the stairs to the second floor. The pace slowed down, you had more time to peer into each room and fancy bathroom, and you could even catch up to the guide to ask a few questions. Though the second floor isn’t as stunning as the first, we enjoyed the opportunity to have a few more moments to enjoy the exquisite setting, and especially to see the Honor Hall from above.
If you are just making a quick stop in Sinaia and are tight on time, walking around the grounds is free. We enjoyed breathing in the forest air, exploring the small gardens and courtyard, and just soaking in the view of this beautiful castle and its grand backdrop.
Peleș Castle Ticket Prices
These ticket prices for Peles Castle are up-to-date as of January 2018. See here for most up-to-date hours and ticket prices.
First Floor: 30 RON, 45 minutes
First + Second Floor: 60 RON, 1 hr 15 minutes
Shooting Fee: 35 RON
*** We opted not to pay this somewhat exorbitant shooting fee as we figured most of our pictures would be a blurry mess, running from room to room and shooting in low light without flash (okay, maybe I did take 1 :/) If you want to see shots of the interior, google images will get you excited, or just keep it as a surprise.
While Pelișor is beautiful, it looks more appropriate for Hansel and Gretel than a princess if we’re staying in our fairy tale world. The castle was completed in 1902 as part of the Peleș Castle complex for King Carol I’s nephew and heir, King Ferdinand and his consort Queen Marie. The residence is tastefully decorated in the Art Nouveau style, with much of the design personally decided by the Queen.
First + Second Floor: 20 RON, 60 minutes
Shooting Fee: 32 RON
See here for most up-to-date hours and ticket prices.
What castles are on your bucket list?