Unsurprising confession time: I’m slightly obsessed with castles. Peleș Castle is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia, in Prahova County, Romania, on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, built between 1873 and 1914.
I blame Hollywood, Walt Disney and a raging childhood addiction to turning pages that transported a young Kiwi girl from a humble New Zealand backyard to galloping around the world astride a noble steed, tresses streaming in the air.
While castles built from the 14th to the 18th centuries throughout Romania and Europe are strong and austere fortresses built mainly for defence against invaders, those erected beginning in the late 1800s like the beautiful Pelese Castle are imposing and luxurious.
Relatively new compared to many, Peles Castle isn’t a medieval stone concoction that royal generations shaped to fit their needs, but an elegant series of 160 rooms filled with priceless art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls. Nestled at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains in the picturesque town of Sinaia, Peles Castle is a masterpiece of German new-Renaissance architecture, considered by many to be one of the most stunning castles in Europe.
The craftmanship, the attention to detail, the central heating/air conditioning system – this is a castle I could happily move into. In fact, we got so ensconced that Mr Kiwi and I discussed freighting the cat over from London. True story.
From chambers housing wickedly sharp weapons…
….and the occasional suit of armour…
…to rooms decorated in a style unique to Romanian society – and made from local materials.
I’ve often been accused of Princess and the Pea-like behaviour (especially when it comes to pillow selection and making sure that bedrooms are properly dark at night – no random LEDs allowed), but I just think it shows my royal bloodline – in fact my Mum’s family has a genuine heraldic crest that features ermine on it.
The funniest fact we found out on our walking tour? That the King would often have 10-minute standing meetings, and for the lowest caste of visitors, wouldn’t extend a full hand to shake, only his pinky finger. The higher in standing you were considered, the more of his hand you would be designed to shake.
My favourite room? The old music room featuring stained glass windows depicting traditional Romanian fairy tales, and canvases by Dora Hitz, the German-born court painter of the Romanian royal family, depicting fairytales put into lyrics by Queen Elisabeth, who wrote poetry and painted under the pen name Carmen Sylva.
Just beautiful – and especially so in the light dusting of snow on the surrounding terraces and gardens.
Not such a bad Monday coffee & cake view, huh?
Top Tips for visiting Peles Castle:
- Check the opening times BEFORE you go. There are often days where Peles Castle isn’t open including during the whole month of November, every year, Peles castle is closed for cleaning and it can be seen from outside only, from the Royal Gardens. For this month, tourists can visit his smaller replica, Pelisor castle, located around 200 m from Peles castle.
- Avoid visiting during weekends in the warm season as it is very crowded and you can wait too long to enter. It’s also better to visit the castle in the afternoon – in the morning there are many tour buses that are stopping here with large groups and the pleasure of visiting the castle will be gone for good.
- The roads leading to Peles are incredibly windy and narrow.
- A day trip from Bucharest is definitely workable – just make sure not to visit on a weekend when the weather is good and there is snow on the nearby hills – the traffic snarlups can be horrific (we skipped that by staying in Brasov for a couple of days.
- As an individual, you will not have the option to book tour guide or hop on a tour as the castle does not offer this facility for individual tourists. Each room has info panels but for this castle particularly, the panels cannot tell you so many stories about the royal family of Romania who lived there in the summer months.
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