Peleș Castle in Sinaia is a perfect escape from the urban bustle of Bucharest. Situated amidst the Transylvanian mountains, with a backdrop of a forest in autumnal colours, this fairytale castle might not be enchanted, but it’s certainly one of the most enchanting castles in Europe! Built by King Carol I in the Belle Epoque era as a summer home, because he had fallen in love with the magnificent mountain scenery, the castle is a perfect match to its majestic surroundings.
Join us on a daytrip from Bucharest, that offers fairy-tale castles, Art Nouveau mansions and excellent hiking.
Sinaia – an Art Nouveau resort
Only 1,5 hours train ride from the North Railway Station in Bucharest, you reach the mountain train station of Sinaia, a wonderful Art Nouveau resort in the Transylvanian mountains, made popular in the end of the 19th century, when King Carol I built his wonderful Peleș Castle here. As you walk from the train station upwards through the park, you walk past imposing, old-world hotels and a casino in Art Nouveau style. Everything is impeccably renovated and stands crisp and sharp against the Transylvanian autumn forest.
Sinaia is a vertical village, and you will have to climb to get from the station to the castle. Upside is, that the view improves with every step you take. When you reach the 17th century monastery, you are already walking in the forest and can take in the fresh mountain air.
Walking past the souvenir frontier of tree-houses, selling everything from mulled wine to wool-waded waistcoats, the little lane spills out into a larger road and the trees make way for a green park, where Peleș castle sits enthroned and enjoys magnificent views of the countryside. On your way to the castle you pass by a café with outside terrasse, perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee and taking in the view before venturing inside the castle.
Peleș – A popular castle
The front of the castle is a popular place amongst couples to take romantic selfies with the castle as backdrop. The Italian Renaissance-style terraces, with fountains and views of the castle, just beckon to find a bench and enjoy the vista. Expect to encounter a lot of visitors, as the castle is one of the most popular attractions in Romania. Many people join the all-day bus-trips that visit more castles not accessible by public transport, and if you want to visit Dracula’s castle as well, that might be an option to consider.
It’s very important to check whether Peleș Castle is at all open, as winter opening times might differ from the scheduled. We arrived a Tuesday, as their web page said they were open, only to find a sign saying that during winter (September to May) it was closed on Tuesdays(!), only to find out that they were open anyway. Phew, that was an emotional rollercoaster ride! As of October 2019 the entry was 30 Lei / 6,5€ and an additional 35 Lei / 7,5€ if you want to take pictures. And believe me: you do!
A clash of classic, European styles
Peleș Castle is a grand palatial alpine castle combining different features of classic European styles and so, more than 14 nationalities were employed in constructing the castle between 1872 and 1914, based on the plans of German architect Johannes Schultz.
The craftsmanship is extraordinary. Every room you visit, with its unique style and character, is a testament to the dexterity of all the workers involved. We can only recommend that you take the time necessary to stroll through the castle and enjoy all the precious details. It has a 3.200 m2 floor plan with over 170 rooms, many with dedicated themes from world cultures. Themes vary by function (offices, libraries, armouries, art galleries) or by style (Florentine, Turkish, Moorish, French, Imperial).
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When you enter the castle, you are first met by the monumental, dark wooden staircase of The Hall of Honour where exquisitely carved woodwork makes your head tilt upwards, admiring the three-storey high hall. The Imperial Suite is a study in Baroque opulence, and is believed to be a tribute to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. The Grand Armory or The Arsenal is an eclectic and creatively displayed collection of 1.600 pieces of armoury including a complete Maximilian armor for horse and rider and a 15th-century German “nobles only” decapitation broadsword, worthy of Game of Thrones.
Louis XIV style is evident in the Theatre room, with its yellow colours and mural paintings signed by Gustav Klimt. The Florentine Room is a study in Italian Renaissance with an impressive, marble fireplace adorned with Michelangelo motifs, and guarded behind huge bronze doors that are worthy of the famous Gates of Paradise of the Baptistry of Florence. The Moorish Salon transports you spiritually to the former Arab courts of Andalucia with its inlaid furniture and Persian carpets. As does The Turkish Parlour, covered in hand-made textiles and used as a smoking room for the gentlemen.
While Peleș Castle is the undisputed King of Castles in the neighbourhood, it’s worth mentioning its (somewhat more) petite neighbour Pelișor Castle, that can also be visited (except Mondays and Tuesdays) and is another 20 Lei / 4,2€.
Hiking the mountains
If you have the whole day at your disposal, we’d recommend traversing the countryside. It’s really not that much of a hassle IF the Gondola is working. If not, well – exercise is good for you!
It’s a 2km walk from Peleș Castle to the Gondola Sinaia Cota 1000-1400 station, that saves you 400 vertical metres of hiking. It will set you back 20 Lei / 4,2€, but if you’d rather save the money (or if, for some reason like in our case, the Gondolas are out of service) you can walk to the left of the Gondola station and follow a (somewhat steep) ski run to the Gondola 1400 Station.
When arrived at the top, pause to enjoy the view. Luckily there are a few establishments serving both food and beverages. From here, we recommend roughly following the “Old School” MTB trail of Bike Resort Sinaia downhill to Sinaia. It was a beautiful, serene downhill stroll (after a tough uphill hike) through autumnal forest and serene nature. We ended right between Peleș and Pelișor castle, thanks to our trusty ViewRanger App.
The area is also perfect for avid Mountain Bikers, with Gondolas that will take you and your iron (or carbon, if you’re can afford it) steed to the top. Bike Resort Sinaia offers 4 different MTB trails, that will bring you back down to Sinaia.
Getting back to Bucharest
The trains depart regularly from Sinaia Train Station. You can either opt for the InterRegional 1,5 hour train rides (run by CFR Calatori) or the one hour slower (but twice as cheap) Regional train ride operated by Regio Calatori. Tickets for the latter can only be bought on the train.
Be sure to stock up on snacks and beverages for the train ride, either at the Bar Regal at Peleș Castle or at the Royal Cafe in the train station. You end up back at Bucharest North Train Station, where a suitable Metro probably will bring you the last leg back to your hotel or apartment.