Poland may not be as famous for its castles as European countries like Germany or France, but it’s nevertheless home to one of the most impressive castles you’ll ever see. Malbork Castle, found in the country’s north, is remarkable for many reasons, perhaps most famously for being the world’s largest castle. But there’s much more to this attraction than just its size, as those who decide to travel to Malbork Castle in Poland will no doubt find out.
To learn more about this essential inclusion in your Poland itinerary, be sure to give this guide to Malbork Castle a thorough read. We’ve made sure to include everything you need to know about visiting the castle, from the best ways to get there to the parts you absolutely won’t want to miss.
Brief History of Malbork Castle
For a castle of its size, it’s no surprise that Malbork Castle took some time to construct. Knights from the Teutonic Order began construction on this immense stronghold in the 13th century, but it would take centuries and several expansions for it to be completed.
By 1406 the castle of Malbork was the largest brick castle and largest fortified Gothic building in the world. Today it is also recognized as the world’s largest castle by land area, firmly placing this Polish prize in the history books.
Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen of the Teutonic Knights chose Malbork Castle as the Order’s headquarters in 1309. It was this move that led to much of the castle’s expansion and improved fortifications, with the castle soon covering nearly 21 hectares (52 acres).
In 1457, during the Thirteen Years’ War, the castle fell to the Kingdom of Poland and soon became one of the Polish royal residences. Over the next few centuries, the castle switched hands with each new political upheaval before falling into disrepair in the mid-to-late 1700s.
Public interest in Malbork Castle was the only thing that saved it, with centuries of restoration resulting in the impressive landmark it is today. In 1997, Malbork Castle was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due in no small part to these vital restoration works but also to its storied past.
How to Get to Malbork Castle From Gdansk
Since it is such an important tourist destination in Poland, there are a few useful options for how to get to Malbork Castle from Gdansk. Which approach you take depends on how you like to travel, how much money you’re willing to spend, and what else you have planned while you’re in Poland.
- On a Tour: The easiest way to visit Malbork Castle is with a tour as it means you don’t need to worry about trying to find your way there. Tours to Malbork handle the transport of getting to and from the castle, allowing you to focus on sightseeing. Naturally, there are different types of tours available, the two main options being a simple audio tour that just includes transport and an audio guide or a proper guided tour with an English-speaking guide.
- By Train: The quickest way to get to Malbork from Gdansk independently is to travel by train. Although it is the more expensive train option, the intercity train takes just 25 minutes. Budget travelers may want to instead opt for the regional train as it is considerably cheaper but takes twice as long. From the Malbork train station the castle is a 20-minute walk through the town center.
- By Car: Travelers who plan on exploring more of Poland may want to consider renting a car for their trip. Driving from Gdansk to Malbork Castle takes just under an hour. A visit to the castle makes for a nice day activity as you drive from Gdansk to Warsaw and only adds a minor detour to the trip.
How Long to Visit Malbork Castle
A key part of planning a trip to Malbork Castle from Gdansk is working out how much time you need to allow for your visit. It will generally depend on how you plan on getting there, but it is best to set aside a full day when visiting from Gdansk as this will allow you plenty of time to see everything and not feel rushed.
The tour of the castle and its extensive interior alone takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours, with that difference based on your level of interest in the castle’s history and museum collections. Then there is the matter of how much time you spend outside the castle taking in the scenery and also whether you stop for lunch at the castle.
How Much Is the Entrance Fee to Malbork Castle
Tickets to Malbork Castle can either be bought online or in person at the castle’s information center. Visitors have several different options for tickets, depending on which tour route they choose and whether they visit with an audio guide or a tour guide. There is no difference in price between buying tickets online or in person.
The most common visit is the standard Castle Tour that costs 60 PLN for adults. Joining a guided tour in a language other than Polish costs an extra 250 PLN. There are also family tickets and reduced tickets for students and seniors, while children under seven years old enter free.
Other tours, such as the Night Tour and the Green Route, are cheaper options but cover less of the castle in a shorter time frame. Those on a budget may want to look at the Green Route on a Monday, as it costs just 10 PLN to explore the castle exterior with an audio guide.
Best Time to Visit Malbork Castle
Both crowds and the time of year can affect what it’s like at Malbork Castle, meaning there are some times that are better than others to visit.
The castle, like the rest of Poland, is at its busiest during the summer months of June through August. If you want to avoid lines for tickets and crowds of other tourists, then maybe skip a summer visit. The one downside, though, is that each July Malbork Castle hosts a memorable battle reenactment of the historic Siege of Malbork.
For regular visits, the best time to visit Malbork Castle is during spring or autumn. The blooming flowers from March to May and the autumn colors of October and November add to the impressive scenery of the castle. These times of year also aren’t as hot or as busy, allowing for a much more pleasant time sightseeing.
That said, there is something to say about seeing Malbork Castle decked out in snow from across a frozen river. Expect a winter visit between December and March to be genuinely cold but likely very quiet as well.
Where to Stay for Malbork Castle
While there are a few options for where to start your trip to Malbork Castle from, the main two are the town of Malbork and the city of Gdansk. A day trip to Malbork from Gdansk is quite popular with tourists, but travelers who prefer to take their time may want to stay in town close by.
The town of Malbork is quite small, but thanks to the castle it has a surprising number of places to stay for tourists. Those who choose to spend the night will have more time to explore the castle and its riverfront scenery, as well as explore the humble town.
There isn’t much in the way of luxury accommodation in Malbork, but Hotel Centrum Malbork is one of the town’s more stylish establishments. Situated in the town center, this three-star hotel features modern rooms, a free breakfast, and an airport shuttle service.
For a comfortable place to stay with plenty of space, consider renting out the stylish Apartament Scandic. Situated not far from the train station, this one-bedroom apartment offers home conveniences like a kitchen and laundry.
There are plenty of budget options in Malbork as it’s an affordable area, with B&B vis a vis Zamku a popular choice. It offers simple but cozy rooms and a communal kitchen, and is just a short walk to the castle.
Staying in Gdansk is also popular among travelers, as you can easily get from this coastal city to the castle on a day trip. What’s more, Gdansk is a major tourist destination in its own right and is packed with restaurants, bars, nightlife, and, most importantly, accommodation. You’ll find the full range of places to stay in Gdansk, from basic hostels right up to high-end luxury hotels.
To really treat yourself, choose the excellent Hotel Gdańsk Boutique on the city’s waterfront. This five-star hotel is set within a restored 18th-century granary and offers spacious rooms with traditional décor.
A midrange option that provides comfort and great value for money is the Stay Inn Hotel in the Old Town. This three-star hotel benefits from modern rooms and fantastic city views.
Budget accommodation is easy to find in Gdansk, but Hostel 22 Stare Miasto is hard to beat. Not only is it located near the city’s main attractions, its rooms are bright and modern.
Extra Tips for Visiting Malbork Castle
To help you make the most of your time there, here are a few bonus tips for visiting Malbork Castle from Gdansk:
1. Arrive Early or Late
Like so many tourist attractions, if you can get to the castle in the early or midmorning, you’ll have a better time of beating the crowds. Malbork Castle is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. and tends to get busiest just before lunch and through the early afternoon when tour groups visit. Alternatively, you could also try arriving in the late afternoon or early evening, but later visits work best at times of the year when there is more daylight.
2. Night Tours
An interesting option for seeing Malbork Castle is to take advantage of the special night tours the castle runs during summer. Guided around by a person dressed as a Teutonic Knight, you’ll get to see its courtyards, terraces, and select castle interiors specially illuminated.
While there have been improvements made around the castle grounds to enhance accessibility, individuals with disabilities may encounter difficulties during their visit. Around the castle there is a lot of uneven cobbled ground, while inside the castle there are stairways and passages that may restrict the movement of visitors in wheelchairs or with mobility impairments.
As seeing Malbork Castle can take over three hours, visitors may find themselves getting hungry while here. Fortunately, there are several options for food at the castle and more back in the town of Malbork. In the castle there is the Piwniczka Restaurant, and outside the castle exit there are several food stalls selling snacks and drinks.
Best Things to Do in Malbork Castle
With all the essential details provided for planning a trip to Malbork, it’s time to look at what to do once you arrive. Even though you’ll be following a tour guide or audio guide for much of your visit, it’s still worth covering the best parts of Malbork Castle so that you know what to expect.
Because there is just so much to see inside and outside the castle, we won’t go into every room and stop along the castle tour. Instead, the following are the highlights and most important things to see in Malbork Castle during your visit.
1. Middle Castle
Upon entering the castle walls from the outer defenses, you’ll arrive in a large courtyard in the heart of Malbork’s Middle Castle. This area once sat outside the castle walls but was incorporated into the castle to accommodate knights and castle guests.
The Middle Castle features a range of halls, passages, and chapels for visitors to see, but the Grand Refectory is its most impressive room. The refectory is the largest hall in the castle and its ceiling features an elaborate vaulted design that you’ll see throughout the castle.
But what separates the Middle Castle from other parts of the tour is its museum exhibitions. The Amber Collection is perhaps its most famous, offering a grand collection of luxury items and works of art that incorporate this precious stone that is found right along the Baltic coast. Another museum display in the Middle Castle is the Historical Weapon Exhibition, which is full of weapons and armor from the crusades of the Teutonic Knights onwards.
2. Grand Master’s Palace
On the Western Wing of the Middle Castle, you’ll find a particularly special section – the Grand Master’s Palace. Built during the height of the Order’s power, the palace features a rich collection of architectural designs intended to rival royal residences found across Europe.
While the painted vaulted ceiling of the Low Vestibule is quite pretty, the uncontested highlight of this section and maybe the entire castle is the vast white Summer Refectory. The cavernous and ornately designed hall is supported by a single column, making its architecture even more impressive.
Other gorgeous halls in the palace worth mentioning include the Królewiec Hall and the High Vestibule.
3. High Castle
The remaining indoor sections of Malbork Castle are found within the heavily fortified High Castle in the deepest part of the castle defenses. In the High Castle, you’ll see many more halls with elegant vaulted ceilings, such as in the Chapter House, where the Order decided on state and foreign policy and elected their Grand Masters.
At the heart of the High Castle lies Malbork’s most iconic courtyard, which is lined with brick arcades and features a well topped with a symbol of the Order. Around the courtyard you’ll find rooms such as the Convent Kitchen, the Witold Cell, and the Corner Room, which hosts an exhibition of stained-glass windows.
One of the most important stops in this part of the castle is the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, the main castle chapel that has been around since the end of the 13th century. The church has elements in various stages of restoration, making it a stark contrast to rooms like the Convent Refectory which have been fully restored.
4. Castle Tower
Those wanting to get an aerial view of Malbork Castle won’t want to miss the Wiezna Glowna tower. Climbing this tower in the High Castle lets you see all of the castle and its grounds in one go. However, you will need to buy a special ticket at the bottom of its stairs to climb the tower, as entrance to the tower is not included in the general admission.
5. Castle Grounds
Throughout your visit to Malbork Castle you’ll walk through different parts of the castle grounds. After getting your tickets, you’ll pass along the castle moat and through areas that include the various remains of the Lower Castle or Outer Castle. While the castle’s exterior isn’t always on the tour, that doesn’t make it any less interesting to explore.
You will often move through the castle grounds to get from one part of the castle to the next, passing by the castle cemetery or the old mill as you do. Most visitors will quickly walk through these sections, but these areas actually deserve a few moments of your time. Beyond the castle walls, you’ll also find interesting buildings and sights like the Karwan Armory, which is why it’s worth doing a lap of the castle’s exterior at the end of your tour.
6. Riverside Viewpoint
Even if you’ve climbed the castle tower for its wonderful views and feel like you’ve explored every square inch of the castle grounds, there’s still one more place you need to visit. The Nogat River flows behind the castle, and if you take the pedestrian bridge to its far bank, you’ll be rewarded with easily the best view of Malbork Castle. It’s from this riverside viewpoint that you really see the scale and beauty of Malbork Castle.
You now have everything you need to know before you visit this breathtaking castle in Poland. Clearly, this is a place not to miss during your next trip to this part of Europe.