In the grand scheme of things, Transylvania’s supernatural reputation is relatively new. It wasn’t until 1897 with the publication of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula, that it adopted its notoriety as a land of mystery. Since then, the region’s vampire lore has worked its way into popular culture through countless (no pun intended) stories, movies, television shows, and more. Want to explore this ghostly region of Transylvania? Here are a few sites to visit to test your mettle.
Nestled in the hills of central Romania, this UNESCO-recognized city exudes medieval charm and rustic beauty. But scratch the surface and you’ll find a chilling history—the infamous Vlad Tepes or as history knows him, “Vlad the Impaler,” was born here in the early 1400s. So called for the gruesome way in which he preferred to dispatch his enemies, this voivode (prince) of Wallachia’s penchant for unnatural cruelty inspired Dracula’s titular character.
This medieval fortress, though popularly touted as “Dracula’s Castle,” is actually only loosely linked to the famous vampire story (it’s thought that Tepes, the real-life Dracula, only stayed here once or twice in passing). But that doesn’t make it any less spooky. Even though Bram Stoker was never a visitor to Transylvania or the castle itself, Bran bears a striking resemblance to the eerie residence described in his book. Perched high on a rocky outcrop located in the Carpathian Mountains, it’s not difficult to imagine the count traversing its imposing turrets.
If you believe local folklore, “Scholomance”—a mythical school dedicated to black magic—is located right outside this scenic city. According to the novel, this is where Stoker’s infamous antagonist is said to have learned the dark arts. In real life however, Sibiu has a far less sinister reputation. A hub of Romanian culture, it was named the European Capital of Culture for 2007, sharing the honor with Luxembourg. And in 2008, its old city placed 8th on Forbes’ list of Europe’s most idyllic places to live.