From 1881 to 1947 Romania was a constitutional monarchy. The country was ruled by the Romanian Royal Family for only 66 short years. This period held an important significance and sparked so many stories that it’s still alive in the Romanian consciousness even today.
The legacy of the monarchy is still visible in the beautiful castles and palaces that were built like Peleș Castle, Bran Castle, Cotroceni Palace and Curtea de Argeș just to name a few. It’s almost impossible not to discover something about the Romanian Royal Family if you take a Dracula Tour or an Extended Bucharest Walking Tour.
But before we jump into the top 4 places to visit, a little bit about the people that held the crown of Romania.
The Romanian Royal Family
The Romanian Royal Family tree has its roots in the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty from Germany, and spans for the reign of only four kings in Romania: Carol I, Ferdinand I, Carol II and King Michael.
Carol I was the first elected Ruling Prince of the Romanian United Principalities. He took the lead in a difficult moment for the country. Under his reign, Romania achieved internationally recognized independence.
Not being able to produce a male heir to the throne, Carol I was followed by his nephew, Ferdinand (1914).
Ferdinand swore to reign as a good Romanian and in WWI he allied Triple Entente powers against the Central Powers, thus betraying his German roots but managing the union of Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918.
Ferdinand married his distant cousin, future Queen Marie with whom had three sons and three daughters. His heir, Carol, was going to be the first Romanian born king, speaking the language as a mother tongue and being raised as Orthodox.
He is also the most controversial Romanian King. Married against his family’s wish and fathered a son from that union, later married Queen Helen of Greece who divorced him, he was obliged to renounce his succession rights in 1925.
The reign was given to Michael I (age six at the time), son of Carol. But after 3 years his father returned to claim the throne, thus becoming Carol II. He partnered with Nazi Germany, adopted anti-semitic laws and was later on obliged again to renounce the title and go into exile.
Michael I followed to the throne becoming the last king of Romania. During WWII, King Michel opposed and took down the German-allied dictator Ion Antonescu and aligned the country with the Allies. He was greatly loved by the Romanian people in spite of the short reign.
In 1947 the Communists took over and Romania was proclaimed the Romanian People’s Republic forcing following Michael I to abdicate.
Here are the top places one should visit in order to find out more about the Romanian Royal Family:
Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest
Located on Cotroceni Hill în the neighborhood bearing the same name, Cotroceni Palace was built in 1895 by King Carol I as a permanent residence for the Royal Family. Next in line, Ferdinand I brought further improvements and in 1915 the construction had central heating.
Unfortunately, with the rise of the communist regime the palace suffered some alterations and most of its original art collections and priced values were distributed among different ministries.
Now the site is the headquarters of the Romanian Presidency and the old wing, containing some rooms and art collections of Marie, wife of Ferdinand, became The Cotroceni National Museum which is opened to the public.
Peleș Castle in Sinaia
Known for its Disney like image, Peleș Castle is one of the most popular sites in Romania. Nested in the Carpathian Mountains, on the old medieval road connecting Transylvania to Wallachia, it’s both an architectural gem and a place filled with history.
Carol I fell in love with the mountain scenery of Sinaia area and decided to construct a hunting estate and summer retreat for the Romanian Royal Family. Thus a Neo-Renaissance castle with lavishly decorated rooms and amazing art was erected. But Peleș Castle isn’t only beautiful, it is also the world’s first castle fully powered by locally produced electricity.
The royal domain in Sinaia includes three monuments: Peleș Castle, Pelișor Castle, future residence of King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie, and the Foișor Hunting Lodge.
Peleș Castle is also the birthplace of Carol II in 1893 (third king of Romania). He also lived in the nearby Foișor Villa for different periods during his reign. Today the villa is a presidential residence and the other buildings surrounding the castle have become hotels and restaurants.
Peleș Castle is now a museum where guided tours take the visitors through The Grand Armory or The Arsenal, The Imperial Suite, The Florentine Room, The Moorish Salon etc.
Bran Castle in Transylvania
Mostly known as Dracula Castle, Bran Castle is also greatly linked to the Romanian Royal Family, in particular, Queen Marie, Romania’s last queen.
The castle on the hill resembles more of a fortress. It was built by the Saxons from Kronstadt (nowadays Brașov) în around 1400. The castle played mostly a military strategic role being situated right at the border between Transylvania and Wallachia.
In 1920 it became a royal residence and the favorite retreat of Queen Maria, wife of Ferdinand I. Later on, Bran was inherited by her daughter Princess Ileana who ran a hospital here during WWII. Now the palace belongs to Princess Ileana’s son, Dominic von Habsburg, and is a museum opened 365 days a year.
Curtea de Arges Monastery
Curtea de Argeș Cathedral was built in around 1500 and impresses by its unusual appearance (more like a mausoleum than a church) and legends surrounding its construction.
Carol I renovated the site and designated it as the place of burial for the Romanian Royal Family. He also inaugurated a railway linking Curtea de Arges town to Bucharest. Carol I, Ferdinand I, Queen Marie, King Michael and Queen Anne are buried here.