In the heart of Bucharest, often overlooked by tourists exploring all the wonders of Old Town, is all that remains of Curtea Veche, the Old Princely Court. Today, not much remains of this princely palace and its grounds other than ruins. But amidst the broken masonry and old stone arches, like a sentinel, the bust of Romania’s most notorious ruler, Vlad III Dracula, keeps watch over the medieval court.
Almost 500 years before Irish novelist Bram Stoker immortalized his name, Vlad III Dracula ruled Wallachia, a province of now modern-day Romania.
A bulwark against Ottoman Turkish aggression, Vlad, like his father and namesake, was sworn into the Order of the Dragon, an alliance of Christian rulers who fought against the Ottoman invaders. Known for his brutality on and off the battlefield, Vlad earned the name Tepes or “The Impaler” from the Turks for his preferred method of executing his enemies.
Recognizing the city’s strategic location along the Dimbovita River near Wallachia’s southern border, Vlad III Dracula set up his summer residence in what was then known as “the Citadel of Bucharest,” and the city soon became the economic nucleus of Wallachia. Bucharest became the preferred residence of subsequent rulers and eventually the capital of Romania. The princely palace and court, too, gained prominence as the commercial and religious hub of the city.
In 1559, Mircea Ciobanul, then ruler and descendant of Vlad III Dracula, built the palace as well as the nearby Annunciation Church of Saint Anthony. Over the centuries, the palace and the site have undergone additional construction, damage by the Ottomans, and renovation throughout its history. The site is now operated by Muzuel Municipiului Bucuresti and is currently closed for restoration.
Update as of August 2023: There’s an active construction site here, with information that looks like a museum is being built to better showcase the ruins.
November 2023 update: You can see into the construction site, but the bust itself is either covered or has been removed; there is tarpaulin all around the plinth.
Know Before You Go
Within walking distance of Old Town and most museums in Central Bucharest.