In the 1870s, when King Carol I of Romania traveled outside Sinaia and saw the rolling and rugged hills of the magnificent Carpathian Mountains, he knew this was the place to build his castle. His Majesty certainly had a good eye for settings; his remarkable home is nestled quietly on a gentle slope, yet it also strikes a commanding pose, seeming to lord over the sweeping cradle in which it is swaddled.
With its Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival beauty, Romania’s Peleş Castle is often compared to Germany’s famous Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairytale wonder that inspired Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World. The first thing you notice are its fanciful towers, one conical, another a sloping hexagon and another triangular. Wood frames outline windows, balconies, and sculpted flourishes. Timber changes color from one wing to the next and it’s all topped with a curvilinear roof. Amid this stunning asymmetry, the eye really isn’t really sure where to look. Yet somehow, it is grand and playful and perfect.
The diverse styles of Peleş Castle were surely influenced by its builders. Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians wrote of the many nationalities who contributed their craftsmanship: “… you could see hundreds of national costumes and [hear] fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled ….” The castle was inaugurated in 1883, though construction continued through 1914.
Within its 34,000 square feet, more than 170 rooms and 30 bathrooms are graced with sculpted wood and stained-glass windows, many adorned with a theme from a different historical period. Lavish furnishings bring luster to the residence and some of the finest art and historical collections in Eastern and Central Europe are here: statuary, paintings, arms and armor, tapestries, and more. This is inarguably one of the world’s finest national monuments.
Today, Peleş Castle hosts a museum, but is also used for some functions organized by the Royal Family. Rooms open for viewing include the Imperial Suite, created in Austrian Baroque style for Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and featuring a pristinely preserved 500-year-old Cordoban tooled leather wall cover. In the Grand Armory, 1,600 of the museum’s 4,000 pieces of weaponry are on display, including some used in Romania’s War of Independence. The Theater is adorned in lavish Louis XIV style and boasts a mural signed by Gustav Klimt. In the Florentine Room, Italian Renaissance is the theme, accented with Michelangelo touches. The Moorish Salon exudes the decorative feel of North Africa and Spain and even has a marble fountain. And in the Turkish Parlor, izmir rugs, copperware, and silk-brocade wall coverings evoke a vibrant bazaar.
Peleş Castle is a true treasure from Romania’s past. We hope you will see it for yourself during our new Majestic Balkans itinerary!