Built in the 19th century according to the specifications of Carol I, Romania’s first King, the Peleș Castle is an image of the monarch’s aesthetic mindset, combining the German and Italian neo-Renaissance.
Peles is located near the town of Sinaia, in the Prahova County, and it is one of the most famous castles in Romania, maybe even more than Corvin Castle, Bran Castle, or the Rasnov Fortress. The blood ties between the members of the Romanian and the British royal families, the Russian dynasty and the royal families of Germany and Greece, as well the Romanian Queen’s tireless patronage of arts, have attracted to the castle the most resonant names of the 19th and early 20th century.
History of Peles Castle
When King Carol I of Romania visited the location on which the beautiful castle now stands, he was amazed by the stunning scenery of the Carpathian Mountains that surround it.
The construction of Peles Castle was commissioned by King Carol, and on August 22, 1873, the foundations were laid in the form of a hunting house and a summer retreat for the Romanian royal family. The castle was designed by the German architect Johannes Schultz in a Neorenaissance style that combined numerous features of classic European styles.
Besides the castle, other constructions were erected, such as a power plant, the Economat Building, the royal stables, the guards’ chambers, and the Foisor hunting lodge. Later additions were also built between 1893 and 1914 by the Czech architect Karel Liman.
Peles became the first castle in Europe fully powered by locally produced energy, with the electric system being completed in 1884 and the central heating system in 1897. The castle was completed in 1914, and it remained a royal residence until 1947.
After the forced abdication of King Michael I, Peleș was seized by the Communist regime in 1947, together with all the properties of the royal family. In 1948 the whole estate was closed, and numerous pieces of art were moved to the Art Museum in Bucharest. Peles Castle was then opened as a museum in 1953 by the communist regime, and it remained so until 1975 when it was closed again due to its advanced state of deterioration. Between 1975 and 1989, the castle was constantly renovated and was also used by the communist regime as a retreat for the heads of state that visited Romania. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the castle was once again opened to the public, and in 2007 it became the property of King Michael.
Inside and around Peles Castle
The inner courtyard, with its medieval air, carries the tourists back in time. The Sovereigns’ Gate opens the journey into the castle, and a monumental marble staircase leads up to the Hall of Honor, the official reception space that witnessed the presence of royal guests, from Emperor Franz Joseph to the Crown Prince of Japan. Peles Castle also hosted numerous artists such as George Enescu or Jacques Thibaud, that were the guests of Queen Elizabeth of Romania, the wife of King Carol I.
The impressive castle spreads over an area of 3,200 square meters, housing 160 rooms that impress through their beauty and sophistication.
The best known is the Great Armory Room, hosting some of the finest collections of arms and armor, with over 4,000 pieces of weaponry that were collected or received as a gift, mainly from Western and Eastern Europe, but also from other regions of the world.
Great Armory Room
The interior of the castle, especially the main hall, is beautifully decorated with sculpted wood and the stained glass windows make it a true symbol of elegance and royalty.
Another outstanding part of the castle, the Royal Library, is home to unique manuscripts decorated in gold. Many of the rooms of the castle are decorated so that they resemble the styles of various cultures from throughout the world. Due to its remarkable architecture and to the artistic value of the exhibits it houses, the castle is one of the elite monuments in Europe and in the world.
The Moorish room decorated in red and golden
The music Room
Throughout the year, the Peles Museum hosts several permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Peles Castle is hosting the ceramics exhibition, with over 5,000 pieces of faience, floor tiles, and porcelain gathered from the greatest European authors and ceramic centers of the 19th century.
It was established by Queen Marie between 1914 and 1927, with later pieces being purchased by the Peles Museum throughout 1970, from both private owners as well as antique stores.
Among the pieces of art, the exhibition includes Chinese vases from the 18th and 19th centuries, Japanese pottery from the great workshops of Atari and Satsuma, Persian ceramics from the 17th and 18th centuries, and European art from throughout Paris, London, or Vienna.
Ceramics at the Peles Museum
Throughout his life, King Carol was widely appreciated for his punctuality.
The horology exhibition in Peles displays over 50 clocks of various styles and typology, from the private royal collection. It includes grandfather clocks, pendulum table clocks, fireplace clocks, alarm clocks, pocket watches, and more.
Most of them belonged to King Carol I, but the collection also includes pieces that belonged to Queen Marie, Carol II, and King Michael. Most of the clocks date back to the 19th century, but the collection also includes clocks from the 18th and 20th centuries.
King’s Carol I pocket watch
Hidden underground passages and stairs that melt into the steep slopes of the mountain complete the majestic ensemble. Just as in fairy tales, lockers open up not into wardrobes, but into splendid suites. Exploring Peles Castle becomes as much an adventure as an aesthetic experience.
A Saxon influence can be observed in the interior courtyard facades that have rich and ornate the face work similar to northern Europe alpine architecture and allegorical hand-painted murals. King Carol insisted that Peleș Castle should be welcoming to anyone who wanted to admire it closely and enjoy its royal atmosphere and lovely views of the mountains. Therefore, the castle’s park and terraces surround it, with flowerbeds and fountains, turrets, pavilions, galleries and balconies concealed by ivy.
Thus, it is no wonder that many of those who visited Peles claim that it is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Peles Castle in popular culture
The fairy-tale features of Peles Castle and its historical authenticity also designate it as a one of a kind setting for professional photo sessions and film productions. In fact, Peles Castle was chosen to represent the home of the eccentric billionaire Penelope played by Rachel Weisz in the film “The Brothers Bloom”, released in 2009, also starring Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo.
The 2017 American Christmas romantic comedy film “A Christmas Prince” released on Netflix used Peles Castle as place for filming. A sequel, titled “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding”, was released in 2018 and another one in 2019, “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby”.
The younger brother of Peles Castle and part of the same complex is Pelisor Castle.
The construction was commissioned by King Carol I, and it was built between 1899 and 1902. It was meant to be the residence of the Romanian royals, King Ferdinand and Queen Marie. It was designed by a Czech architect in the Art Nouveau style, and it has several chambers, a chapel, and a golden room. Many of the artistic decisions regarding the design were made by Queen Marie, and she even helped decorate and paint it.