A Handy Guide to Rasnov Fortress, Romania
The country of Romania is split into three provinces, the most famous of which is Transylvania. While Transylvania is not home to Romania’s capital city, it is instead a wide and expansive landscape of flat valleys and rising mountains. And all of this expansive landscape is peppered with medieval Saxon towns, gothic castles, and untouched hilltop fortresses.
One such hilltop fortress is Rasnov Fortress (sometimes known as Rasnov Castle or Rasnov Citadel). Rasnov Fortress has sat overlooking the wide open valley below it for hundreds of years, and remains almost entirely untouched by human hands since it was first built (though not completely untouched, and that’s a funny story we’ll get to shortly). Rasnov Fortress is a beautiful building that any visitor to Transylvania should explore. So here’s everything you need to know about, as well as how to get to Rasnov Fortress.
A Handy Guide to Rasnov Fortress, Romania
History of Rasnov Fortress
Rasnov Fortress, much like its neighbour Bran Castle (which is only a short drive away) has stood on an imposing and powerful hill overlooking the town of Rasnov since the 13th century, with the citadel having been finished by around 1225. Since then, that same stonework has remained intact and what you see when you visit is almost exactly what was seen and touched by the medieval Romanians of the 13th century.
Transylvania might be a mountainous region, but the central area where the city of Brasov can be found is a wide open flat valley where you can see for miles and miles. Areas like this were once prime targets for attack and invasion, and so any hilltop that provided views and protection needed a fortress. Rasnov Fortress was one of these. It provided a lookout to spot invading outsiders, as well as fortified and defensive hilltop retreat where locals from the area could go to be protected.
Seeing Rasnov Fortress from both the ground and from inside gives a real dynamic idea of how the people of the 13th and 14th centuries lived in this area. It’s especially clear because of how well preserved Rasnov Citadel is.
The citadel is not entirely preserved, however, which brings us to our funny story. The tale goes that, more than a hundred years ago, an Italian man purchased the fortress and, since they were ruins and no tourists visited at the time, he decided to fix it up himself and turn it into a hilltop hotel. And so he managed to use red brick to rebuild several of the smaller houses within the fortress before the government realised what he was doing, stopped him, and shut down his plans.
When you visit Rasnov Fortress, you’ll find today a few houses that have been partly renovated in red brick, which might spoil the aesthetic a little bit but adds a delightful story to the citadel’s history.
What to See at Rasnov Fortress
Since it was built as a place to protect the people of the area, Rasnov fortress is mostly made up of two things: the surrounding fortified walls and the buildings inside that served as homes for the people who lived there.
The first thing to do upon entering Rasnov Citadel is to climb up onto the very walls you just entered under, and get a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and flat plains. The wall itself has a wooden tower which you can climb to get an even higher view if you want to. It’s perfectly safe and secure, so don’t worry about that.
Within the heart of Rasnov Fortress are homes that are now used by locals as little shops to sell souvenirs. Most of them aren’t tacky, either, but rather hand-made local crafts. You’ll find a lot of hand-woven clothing and blankets for sale, as well as soaps and perfumes. All of it is locally made and reasonably priced, so actually worth browsing and considering.
Rasnov Castle naturally encourages visitors to delve deeper as you go, and when you get to the furthest point from the entrance, you’ll find yourself stood on a heap of ruined stone overlooking the rest of the fortress and the landscape beyond. This is an incredible photo opportunity, and one of the best for miles and miles around.
The citadel is situated atop a fairly prominent hill, and the best way up and down is via a large trailer pulled by a tractor, though you can walk if you want. But whether you walk or ride with the tractor, you can also choose to stop halfway up for a unique surprise. Recently, a dinosaur park has opened in the thick forestry halfway up the hill.
It’s a small area, perfect for children to explore, which is populated by enormous, lifelike recreations of dinosaurs of all kinds. It’s not a museum but it is a lovely place for children to walk around, especially if they find the fortress itself a little underwhelming. So, if you’re a family, make sure to stop by the Dino Park.
How to get to Rasnov
The best and simplest way to get to Rasnov Fortress is by car. Renting a car in Romania is a very popular activity since Transylvania is such a wide-open place with little towns and villages separated by mountains and endless miles of hills and open roads.
It is worth mentioning that renting a car in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, can be a little intimidating. The average driver in Bucharest can be aggressive, and for tourists, it isn’t a fun experience. But Rasnov Fortress is nowhere near Bucharest. It’s in Transylvania and in Transylvania people drive calmly and safely. It’s a pleasure to drive around Transylvania, which is why when you’re looking at how to get to Rasnov Fortress, renting a car is your best and most entertaining choice.
You can rent your car from the nearby city of Brasov after getting a train from Bucharest to Brasov, then enjoy a nice and easy drive to Rasnov, which is only a half-hour drive from Brasov. From there you can also easily drive to Bran Castle.
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