In one of our previous articles, we told you about some of the most beautiful castles Romania has to offer. But because Romania is a country with a rich medieval history, here’s another list of 5 Romanian castles that you should definitely visit.
1. Fagaras Citadel
The Fagaras Citadel’s construction started in 1310 on the grounds of an older fortification made of wood and dirt. It was built in order to provide a strategic advantage in defending the South-East of Transylvania from the invasion of Tatars and Ottomans. In 1526 it was reinforced in order to become even stronger, doubling the walls in thickness. In 1541 it was attacked and its ruler was captured, but Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul) captured it back in 1599 and offered it to his wife as a gift.
Legend has it that in this citadel was located, for several years, a gruesome torturing mechanism. Similar to the iron maiden, the captive had to kiss a holy icon of Mary, the mother of Jesus which was located on the chest of a statue. But once he did so, he would have triggered a mechanism and several daggers would puncture his whole body. The daggers would then pull back and the dead body would fall through a trap door in the Olt river.
Under the communist regime, between 1946 and 1960 the citadel was used as a prison for the enemies of the communist system and it was reconditioned between 1965 and 1977.
Today the citadel is home to the Fagaras Museum and to the main library.
2. Banffy Castle
In the past, it was known as Transylvania’s Versailles Castle. In the 18th century, a famous Viennese architect left his mark on the beautiful castle by building a park, alleys, statues and artesian wells, bringing a baroque look to the construction. The gate was also decorated with splendid stone statues.
The castle was constructed from a manor house which can be traced as far back as the 15th century. In 1944 the castle served as a field hospital but was plundered and devastated by German troops as retaliation against its owner. During the communist regime, it served as a driving school, farm, and a children’s hospital.
In 1999 it was included in the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites at the request of Transylvania Trust. In 2001 the renovations began under the Built Heritage Conservation Training Program. The program functions to this day and it teaches traditional building crafts skills for restoration, repair, and maintenance of historic buildings.
3. Cantacuzino Castle
The third one on our list of Romanian castles that you should visit is the Cantacuzino Castle. The castle was built in 1911 in a Neo-Romanian style and belonged to the Cantacuzino family until it was nationalized in 1948.
During the communist era, the castle’s original furniture was removed and a part of its interior walls was painted over. After the fall of the communist regime in 1989, the castle was returned to the Cantacuzino family who sold it in 2004.
Today it serves as a museum, and the great hall of the castle holds the heraldries of the families united with the Cantacuzino family as well as various portraits of the family members.
4. Jidvei Castle
The Jidvei Castle was built between 1570 and 1580 and was renovated between 1615 and 1624 by Count Stefan Bethlen. Just like most of the Romanian castles, under the communist regime, most of the furniture, silverware, and silks were lost.
The castle was claimed in 1989 by the Haller family which sold it in 2003. Today it is being renovated but it occasionally holds wine tasting events and the „Golden Grape” Festival which mark the coming of the autumn and the perfect time to make wine.
During its reconstruction, there have been several findings on the site such as old gates that were built before the castle or a small bridge. In the main hall, there is an impressive collection of 45 watches, with a beautiful story behind it. When the owner turned 45, the people inhabiting the castle bought him 45 watches, representing the years of his life.
There are also several myths and legends surrounding the location, one of which claims that beneath the castle there is an underground passage that ties the Castle to Bethlen Castle.
Today the castle is famous for being the image of Jidvei wine.
5. Rasnov Citadel
Another one of the Romanian castles that were built as part of the Transylvanian defense system against the Ottomans and Tatars is the Rasnov Citadel. Built between 1211 and 1225, it was used as a refuge by many over the years, including Michael the Brave in 1600 and the Wallachian refugees of the resurgent movement led by Tudor Vladimirescu in 1821. The citadel was partially destroyed over the years, in 1718 by a fire and in 1802 by an earthquake, but it was restored between 1955 and 1966, under the communist regime.
Due to the absence of water inside the citadel, it is said that during a siege, the inhabitants of the citadel forced two Turkish prisoners to dig the well for 17 years. To this day visitors can observe verses from the Quran written on the walls of the well. As for the fate of the two prisoners, no one really knows what happened. Some say that they were released after the well was completed while others say that they were killed. Another legend, told by elders, says that at the bottom of the well lies a 300-year-old treasure.
6. Bonus: Neamt Citadel
Another notable fortress is the Neamt Citadel. A medieval fortress located in the north-eastern part of Romania, the Neamt Citadel was built in the 14th century and expanded in the 15th century. It was part of the successful defense line of Stephen the Great, together with Suceava, The White Citadel, and many others.