I am a big fan of castles and similar structures. For most of my adult life, the Versailles Palace outside Paris has been my favorite. I will never forget walking along the streets of the town of Versailles in search of the famed structure. I came to an intersection in the road and looked in both directions to determine which way to go. As soon as I saw the Sun King’s former home, the vision swept my breath away. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful places since then, but nothing has had the same effect on me. Until Romania’s Peles Castle.
The former summer palace of the Romanian royalty perches upon an idyllic hill overlooking stunning woods and mountain views. It is located in the small, enchanting Transylvanian mountain town of Sinaia. This lovely town is easily reached by the CFR train from Bucharest in about 1-1/2 hours or from Brasov in about an hour.
We opted to walk to the castle from the train station since Google Maps showed it as only being a few kilometers. It’s a fairly simple walk, although since you’re in a mountainous town, you do have some elevation gains. In other words, you’re going to be walking uphill for most of the time. It’s a good workout.
You can take a taxi or the minivan that does occasional loops around the town’s few main attractions, but the walk isn’t that bad. Either way you will have to walk uphill, though. Either transportation option drops you at the bottom of the road.
The walk up is absolutely beautiful. A creek flows in the valley to your left, and you are surrounded by woods until you finally reach the meadow where the stunning Bavarian-style castle rests.
It is free to walk around the castle grounds. To tour the inside, you have 2 options (although the website lists 3 options, only 2 were available when we visited in October 2013). I would encourage anyone visiting to go ahead and pay the extra amount for the optional tour(s). While the ground floor was impressive, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the parts of the castle that are included in the optional tour.
As we walked through the home that King Carol I had built, it seemed obvious to me that he absolutely adored this place. Almost every surface is ornate and unique. Some of the doors had the most fanciful decorations I’ve seen, and carvings seemed to adorn almost every pillar, column, fireplace, etc.
The home was also a bit advanced for the day. It utilized radiators to heat the various rooms. Some of the radiator vents blend in remarkably well with the surroundings, while others are works of art in their own right.
The decor is a great blend of Bavarian style as well as an eager adaptation of the art nouveau that had not quite come into full popularity. The bathrooms even had bidets which were not common at all at the time.
I ended up taking 358 photos during our visit, most of which were of the interior. I’ll share some here. If you’d like to see more, check out the album on our Facebook page.
This is the Turkish Room. After dinner, the men would withdraw to this room to drink, play cards, etc.
The queen loved music and had weekly concerts at the castle. This organ actually has 2 keyboards (one on each side of the wall) and about 1400 pipes.
This set of teak furniture was made in India. It is said that 3 generations of carvers worked on this furniture, and it took them 100 years to complete the set.
Tips for visiting Peles Castle
- If you choose to walk to the castle, follow the wooden signs leading to Muzeul Peles. That’s its official name, although on maps you’ll also see it listed as Castelul Peles. Note the name is pronounced as “peh-lesh”
- Check the site for current visiting hours as they do change according to the season.
- Because of the various tour options, including a visit to Pelisor Castle next door, it’s best to check the site for the various pricing options.
- Tours are offered in English as well as other languages. I can’t say the tour is overly informative, but you can’t enter the castle unless you’re on a tour, so you don’t really have an option. Our guide mostly gave information about what types of wood and furnishings were in a room, although when asked questions about other things she did seem fairly knowledgeable.
- You can take photographs of the grounds for free; however, if you wish to take photos inside the castle, you have to pay a “tax” of 32 RON (about $9.80 USD). They are very strict about it, and security guards will be looking to see if you are wearing the badge showing you paid the tax. I felt it was worth paying the fee, but it’s obviously a personal decision. You pay the “tax” inside the castle where you begin the tour.
- I would say to plan on 4-5 hours for the tour, the walk to the castle, getting some lunch, and walking around the town. There are some other attractions in the town, but we didn’t visit them so I can’t personally recommend any, although I was interested in visiting the Sinaia Monastery.
When you come to Romania, I hope you add a visit to Peles Castle to your itinerary. It is really worth a visit.