The Real Dracula Castle in Transylvania Throws the Best Halloween Party

No garlic allowed.

It’s fair to say that Dracula’s Castle—practically teetering atop a steep cliff in Transylvania—is dramatic. It's true name is Bran Castle, but the fortress gained its nickname and legendary status when writer Bram Stoker based his famous vampire novel in this location. And though the Irish author had never been to Romania, he chose the home of Dracula simply by looking at a photo—it’s that good. Which means the castle’s underground passages, narrow winding stairways, and secret tunnels are the perfect location for one of Europe’s biggest Halloween bashes.

Before you get into the revelry and wander the estate’s dark shadows, you might be wondering if the area has any actual ties to the father of all vampires. After all, at first glance, though the castle is convincingly imposing enough, the surrounding town seems downright pleasant. Idyllic Bran Village sits in the valley backdropped by the Carpathian Mountains, looking like a town from a medieval age.

castle in forest
Castelul Bran

But it turns out more than just a photo drew the author of Dracula to Bran Castle. The building itself started as a fortress, and though it underwent several makeovers (like when it was the royal residence of Queen Maria of Romania), it was once a defense battleground against the Ottoman Empire. And one of the most legendary warriors in the battles with the Ottomans was Vlad the Impaler, who lived in this area and was famous for impaling his enemies on stakes. Most notably, because his father was in the Order of the Dragon (who were tasked with slaying the opposing army), he was also known as the son of the dragon, or Drăculea.

spooky dark passage
Castelul Bran

Vlad was quite the terrifying killer, to be sure—but where does the whole blood-sucking thing come in? That part was actually pulled from local Romanian myths. People here once spoke of strigoi, creatures that can rise from the dead, become invisible or transform into an animal, and feed on people’s blood.

Drawn by these legends, Stoker combined the local lore with the formidable figure of Vlad III Drăculea, and the foreboding battleground castle in the middle of it all. Though there’s also no evidence that Vlad ever stepped foot on the castle grounds—or was, you know, undead—that hasn’t stopped the locals from embracing the association. After all, myth always supersedes reality. It didn’t take long for visitors to start flocking to Transylvania, hoping to experience some spooky thrills.

scary chef
Castelul Bran

And the grandchildren of Queen Maria, owners of the castle, knew what the people wanted. The proprietors opened up the castle to the public in 2009 with a Halloween event. “The first edition had only a night tour,” says Alexandru Priscu, Marketing Manager of Bran Castle, “between 6 pm and midnight. And, as far as I remember, there were little over 400 guests attending.”

But the night tours started getting so popular—exceeding 1,800 visitors—that the organizers saw the potential for more. “We realized the year before that the people attending on Halloween were very much willing to continue the night tour—with a party,” says Priscu. So in 2012, they decided to go all out. “Ever since then, except in 2020 and 2021, the party grew and became quite famous across the world.”

person drinking wine
Castelul Bran

Now one of Romania’s best-known, lore-filled landmarks is home to the ultimate soiree on the spookiest night of the year. Though you could go on a day tour, eat at the castle restaurant, see 14th century rooms and armor, or visit an exhibit dedicated to local folklore (including werewolves and the Grim Reaper), after dark is when all the adult-only fun begins.

spooky passage
Castelul Bran

To kick things off, visitors can start with a night tour, where guides lead guests through the castle while revealing stories of ghosts and strigoi in Bran Village. Afterwards, there’s the option to walk through the secret passageway of the Magic Time Tunnel for an interactive experience below the castle. The journey begins with an elevator ride 100 feet down an old well shaft to an abandoned gallery. The space has been outfitted with light and audio effects, fog machines, and even facial expression detection, so be prepared to have your senses messed with.

The next event for the night is the feast. Before the party begins, guests dine on a holiday-themed menu of traditional Romanian foods at the castle’s restaurants. You could say the meal helps build up their stamina for the evening ahead.

people playing limbo
Castelul Bran

During the party, guests can explore the passages and dungeons in their best dress or dance the night away. Prizes go to those with winning costumes. The party, feast, Magic Time Tunnel, and tour altogether cost about $120. The party runs all night from 9 pm till 5 am with an open bar till 2 am, so you can build some liquid courage should you come across any open coffins.

And it might not be a bad idea to bring a cross or bit of garlic with you.

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Yolanda Evans is a contributor for Thrillist.