If you’re staying in the North of Poland you simply cannot miss Malbork Castle. It’s the largest castle by surface area in the world and the biggest brick building in Europe. Sadly, the castle was destroyed in WW2, but the restoration project has certainly done it justice. Visiting Malbork castle from Gdansk is a straight forward day trip and can be done easily by train.
How to get to Malbork Castle from Gdansk
You can easily get to Malbork castle by train as it’s a short walk from the train station (10-15 minutes). From Gdansk, take the train from Gdansk GLOWNY (main station) to Malbork. From Malbork train station you can walk. Turn left out of the main train station and cross the main road directly in front of you. Then you will walk down the main pedestrianised high street of Malbork and see the castle straight ahead.
Practicalities – Visiting Malbork Castle
You need to allow at least 3 hours to look around Malbork Castle to appreciate all of the sections including the inner Bailey, the rooms off the main courtyard and the high castle and Church. The ticket costs 45 Zloty which is around £9. With the entrance ticket you will receive a fabulous audio guide that has inbuilt GPS. So you can head to the first flag and start from there.
History of Malbork Castle
Malbork castle is a 13th Century castle and fortress that was originally used by the Teutonic Knights. It was under siege many times but never surrendered. In fact, the castle was sold to the Polish King (Casimir IV of Poland). Between 1457 and 1772 the castle was one of Poland’s royal residences. During WW2 it was used by the Nazis a destination for pilgrimages of the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. It was then destroyed during the war with over half of the castle needing to be completely rebuilt.
Exploring Malbork Castle
When you first enter the castle you cross over a bridge and enter the castle and see the moat area (it is now a dry moat!).
You then cross into the Old Bailey through a gate with a portcullis (a metal gate that can lower quickly to protect the castle). In the old Bailey you will see the Church of St Lawrence on the right and beautiful Castle towers. Within the old Bailey used to be the armoury stables and markets.
The Middle Castle
Through the next gate you will enter the inner Bailey of the middle castle. To your right hand side you will enter the castle and walk through the teutonic knight infirmary, several reception rooms and dining halls.
Summer and Winter Palace
The summer and winter palaces were the reception rooms for important visitors to the castle. The summer palace is a beautiful large with high ceilings and art-deco stained glass windows. What’s interesting about the summer palace is that if you look above the fireplace you will see a cannonball lodged in the wall. Legend has it that this canon ball was fired across a river, over at least one set of defensive walls, through a window and into the wall. The winter palace has a contrasting lower roof and plenty of vents for the Roman style heating system to warm the winter palace.
Grand Masters Dressing Room and Sleeping Chambers
You will also see the grand masters dressing room and sleeping quarters. There is also a small chapel in this section of the Castle which was for the Grand Master and his closest associates.
The Grand Refectory
The Grand Refectory is one of the most impressive rooms of the castle. Note how the refectories have serving hatches, because servants were not allowed in the rooms while the Grand Master, Knights and guests were eating. Also, look at the detail in the carvings on the pillars and the keystones in the roof.
The High Castle
Across another gated drawbridge you will enter the High Castle – the most important part of Malbork Castle. It is possible to explore the tower and many of the rooms in the high castle, which was the monastic area that was once home to around 50-60 knights.
In the courtyard of the high castle is well. Look closely at the decoration on the top of the well – a pelican, which resembles the sacrifice of Christ. In medieval Europe, legend had it that the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available. The pelican became a symbol for the Passion of Christ from around the 12th Century onwards.
Around the castle you will see the cloisters (walkways leading out onto the quad) and you can explore several rooms here including the kitchen area and a stained glass window exhibition.
St Mary’s Church in Malbork Castle
Heading upstairs, you will pass through a beautiful doorway which leads to the pinnacle of the Castle – St Mary’s Church. The archway above the door to the Church is possibly the best preserved in the entire castle complex. The carvings of women depict the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Five wise virgins bought oil for their lamps and were rewarded, but the other 5 were foolish and came empty handed and were discarded. It has a clear eschatological theme – be prepared for the day of judgement.
Inside St Mary’s Church you will see clear evidence of where it was destroyed in WW2. There has been partial reconstruction and you will see bombed out brickwork. Spend time admiring the vaulted apse (ceiling) and the icons and statues. Look closely for the keystones, many of which serve their purpose in dedication to the virgin Mary, mother of God.
Have you ever Visited Malbork Castle?
Have you ever visited Malbork castle from Gdansk? If you have, please leave me a comment on my blog – I would love to hear from you!
What to pack for Visiting Malbork Castle
What to pack for Malbork Castle completely depends on the time of year that you go. Jeans, T-shirts/jumpers with a comfortable pair of trainers of walking boots is perfect. Take a water bottle with you. It is important to hydrate as it can get quite hot in Poland – particularly in July and August. If you are visiting Malbork Castle in the winter months (November to February) it can get very cold and so a hat, scarf and gloves is recommended.
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Pack a decent camera and your smartphone for backup (I used my iPhone XS for all photography and filming for this blog). Take Polish money of course, as the entry fee to Malbork castle is in Zloty.
Where to Stay when Visiting Malbork Castle
I stayed at the Ibis Gdansk Stare Measto which was an excellent option. Being a short 10 minute walk to GLOWNY (Gdansk main station) and walking distance makes it the ideal location for exploring both Gdansk and Malbork castle – I did this in just 3 days. The rooms at the Ibis Gdansk have WIFI, en suite and heat control thermostats in the rooms. The hotel also provides an excellent breakfast.
Further Reading on Travel in Poland
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