Located just a short 50-minute drive south-east of Gdansk, Poland, or a short 30 min train ride is the beautiful red-brick Castle of Malbork.
Not only the largest Castle in Europe, but Malbork Castle is also the largest Castle in the world.
Two other castles worth visiting in Europe are the Karlštejn Castle in the Czech Republic and Trakai Castle in Lithuania.
Nestled on the edge of the Nogat River, surrounded by lush meadows and forests, Malbork Castle is Gothic in design with turrets and spires.
The Castle was constructed by order of German crusaders, known as the Teutonic Knights, to strengthen their control of the region in the 13th century.
The knights named the castle ‘Marienburg,’ and from 1309, it was chosen by Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen to become the headquarters of the Order in the Baltic region.
From the early 1400s, the Castle was known as the largest brick castle in the world by area, and it’s still one of the largest today.
In the mid-1400, it was taken by the Kingdom of Poland and from there was transformed into royal residences.
The Castle was damaged badly during WWII (close to 50%); however, it has since been rebuilt and restored to its former glory and, in 1997, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Malbork Castle is one of the best and most interesting day trips from Gdansk.
Things to See at Malbork Castle
Malbork Castle is divided into three sections, the Lower, Middle, and Upper Castle areas.
You should allow around 3.5 hours or longer to visit the Castle, especially if you are a keen historian interested in medieval history or a photographer.
As an added bonus, if you are traveling independently and want to learn about the history of the Castle, an audio tour is included in the ticket price.
The Lower Castle
This is where you enter the Castle, walking over the drawbridge, beneath the portcullis, and through the entrance into the castle grounds.
The Middle Castle
The Middle Castle is a labyrinth of passageways, halls, museums, and chapels. Spend time exploring the Grand Refectory – an impressive room, the largest hall of the Castle with a vaulted fan-like ceiling.
The Grand Master’s Palace is undoubtedly one of the most interesting areas of Malbork’s Middle Castle, with bronze sculpted statues outside and medieval rooms which were once places to make key decisions, dine and meet to discuss the Order of the day. In later years the palace was also utilized as a residence for royalty.
The light and airy Summer Refectory is decorated in white and filled with impressive architecture and window designs. It’s an ornate hall which is held in place by just one solitary column.
In this area of the Castle, there’s also an interesting Amber Museum dedicated to the precious stone found in Poland more than anywhere else in the world.
The museum was a much later addition to the Castle, built-in 1961, but since then, it has accumulated over 700 amber specimens, curating a collection of varying designs, sizes, and colors.
If you’re interested in any kind of military history, the Historic Weapon Collection in the Middle Castle is worth a visit.
It’s brimming with ancient armor and weapons dating from the era of the Teutonic Knights to more recent years.
To reach one area of the Castle to another, you’ll be walking through the castle grounds. On these walks, you will likely pass the cemetery of the Castle and an old mill.
The High Castle
As you enter the High Castle area of Malbork Castle, you instantly notice the striking red-brick architecture as you step into the courtyard.
The surroundings are punctuated by ornate arcades, and on the second tier, there are several windows that look like they should be filled with stained glass.
In the center, a covered well hides were the Teutonic Knights kept a source of the water safely inside the castle walls. This was because, if they were ever attacked or under siege, they always had accessible water.
Stepping inside High Castle is Chapter House, where Grand Masters of the Order were elected, and new policies were decided in days of old.
Highlights to see in the High Castle include the Corner Room, which has an interesting stained-glass window collection. Check out the cells and the Convent Kitchen before popping into St. Mary’s Church.
This is the main castle chapel which dates to the 13th century. Although mostly destroyed during the Second World War, it’s still steeped in history and has plenty of stories to share.
Wiezna Glowna Tower
Get your bearings by heading to the Wiezna Glowna Tower. You can purchase a ticket separately to climb the steps to the top, and although it’s extra, it gives you incredible views of the entire castle complex and surrounding areas, so don’t forget your camera!
Nogat River Viewpoint
If you made it to the top of Wiezna Glowna Tower but feel there are still great Insta-moments to capture of the castle exterior, head to the riverside.
There’s a bridge to transport you across to the other side of the water, from where you’ll gain the most spectacular vistas of Malbork Castle and really begin to appreciate the size and scale of this Gothic masterpiece.
Best Times to Visit Malbork Castle
The busiest times of year to visit Malbork Castle are the summer months when the fields are green, the rivers blue, and the evenings are long.
If you are traveling to Malbork between June and late August, arrive early to avoid the tourist crowds as the Castle gets busy, especially around lunchtime.
Some of the best times to visit are during spring and autumn when flowers are beginning to bloom, or leaves are getting ready to turn a burnished shade of bronze.
You can gain incredible scenic aspects of the Castle during these seasons, and the weather makes it much more pleasant for sightseeing.
You can still visit Malbork Castle during the winter months. The UNESCO World Heritage Site looks completely different when surrounded by snow and a frozen river. It will be much quieter and marginally cheaper but also very cold.
Tips for Visiting Malbork Castle
If you’re only spending a day or one night in Malbork, here are a few tips to help your trip go smoothly.
Some Castle Areas have Limited Accessibility.
The castle grounds are cobbled and, in places, very uneven, making it more difficult for those with limited mobility.
Also, passageways inside the building can be narrow, and stairways are not easily accessible. This could restrict visitors with mobility issues and in wheelchairs.
Arrive Early or Come Late
The Castle is open from 9 am until 8 pm (depending on the time of year) and gets busier, just as the tourist trips arrive from Gdansk before lunch and in the early afternoon.
If you prefer to wander around the rooms of the Castle in relative peace so you can soak up centuries of history undisturbed, arrive early when it opens or after around 4 pm when it begins to quieten down.
I did arrive at 9 and had more or less the whole castle for myself until 11, when it became crazy crowded.
Take a Night Tour Instead
Most visitors to Malbork Castle are on a day trip from Gdansk or other Polish cities, so at night, they will have to return back to their cosy hotels. However, there’s no better time to visit the Castle than after-hours.
Night Tours run throughout the summer months, and your guide will be dressed as one of the Teutonic Knights! The castle interiors are illuminated after hours; you can see courtyards, and stately rooms and gain views of the river and town, imagining days of old.
Things to do Near Malbork Castle
If you have some extra time following your tour around Malbork Castle, here are a few more things to do in the area.
Take a Stroll Through Malbork Park
Located right next to the Gothic Castle, is this pretty shaded woodland area with leafy trees and winding paths to meander along. It’s a great place to visit with a picnic and the seasons bring lots of dramatic color changes.
Visit Dinosaur Park
If you are traveling with your kids and If you want to travel even further back in time than the 13th century, spend a few hours at Dinosaur Park in Malbork.
The park is educational, with an interactive exhibit park, a mini zoo with alpacas and kangaroos, and a rope park. In addition, there are some rides, including a car race and roller coaster, so it’s a good option if you’re traveling with kids, or if you are a big kid yourself!
See the Architecture of Malbork Town
Malbork’s Old Town is home to a number of architectural marvels, including the Neo-Gothic railway station, the Town Hall, and several interesting medieval buildings.
Where to Eat Near Malbork Castle
Malbork, although a small town, has several restaurants which serve Polish, Italian, European, vegetarian, vegan, and fast food options.
Bar Bis and Karolinka are great for Polish cuisine and light snacks (think dumplings, schnitzel, and red cabbage).
There are also Italian restaurants such as Rotatoria Pizza Bar & Restaurant, where you can take away and sit by the river, and there’s a familiar American fast food outlet near the castle walls if you want a quick snack.
If you find yourself hungry while touring the Castle, there are restaurant options and stalls with drinks and snacks within the grounds.
If you do have some spare time, so do Spiżarnia Malborska, close to the railway station, have a great selection of local craft beer.
Where to Stay Near Malbork Castle
There are quite a few places to stay in Malbork which are a short distance from the Castle, including Hotel Malbork – Centrum Konferencyjne, which has good reviews and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices.
A more characterful option is Hotel Piast Przy Zamku, a 2-star hotel in a great location just 350 years from Malbork Castle.
It offers free parking if you’re driving or if you’re arriving by train it’s just 15 minutes walk from the train station.
There are also a number of competitively priced Airbnb in Malbork, and if you’re traveling on a budget, several Bed & Breakfast accommodations, guest houses, and apartments.
How to Visit Malbork Castle from Gdansk
There are several ways to visit Malbork Castle from Gdansk. The quickest is by car, and this is a great option if you’re stopping off on the way to other Polish cities further south.
You can travel independently by rail from Gdansk to Malbork too. There are three trains, which take between 30 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes in total.
The cost of the slow train is around 13 PLN one-way, less than €3 per person.
The fast train with a couple of stops on the route takes around 40 minutes, and prices are just a little more at PLN 18, that’s €4 one-way per person for a standard carriage seat. It’s a few euros more to travel First Class.
There is also a direct fast train which costs around triple the previous fare, but the journey time only differs from the previous train by 10 minutes.
Save the extra money for beer and snacks during your stay in Malbork!
From the train station in Malbork, it takes around 10-15 minutes to walk to the Castle, or a taxi costs approximately €5.
Another option is to book an organized tour from Gdansk to Malbork Castle. This takes away all the hassle of waiting for public transport or driving, and you get to ask the tour guide lots of questions. However, it does limit your time in the area.
The tour price advertised by Gdansk Tours for a 6-hour trip from Gdansk to Malbork Castle, including a tour of the Castle with an expert guide, lunch and beer, entrance fees, hotel collection, and drop off, is around €100 per adult.
Gdansk Adventure offers a similar 6-hour tour, but with an audio guide and no lunch for just under €50 per adult.
Malbork Castle Tour Prices
Most tickets for Malbork Castle can be purchased online or when you arrive. There are several different ticket options, which include whether you want to visit with a tour guide or make your own way with an audio guide.
A entrance ticket to Malbork Castle is 70 PLN (around €15 adult price) in the summer months which includes a audio guide, and it’s quite a bit more expensive if you wish to hire a physical tour guide.
Entry ticket prices to Malbork Castle are cheaper in winter at around €9-10 per adult for the standard audio tour.
Family tickets and reduced-price tickets are available for seniors, and students and younger children can visit the Castle for free.