Malbork – The Largest Castle in The World (History & Travel Tips)

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The stunning Malbork Castle dates back to Poland’s medieval history, and hearkens back to the time when it served as the fortress for one of Poland’s largest armies and magasties. With absolutely stunning and breathtaking architecture, the castle amazes visitors and historians with its spectacular medieval features and structure.

Its long and storied history includes sheltering Christian pilgrimages, serving as the residence of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order and the Polish subprefecture, and as one of the many royalty places of Polish kings. Its legacy continued as a protectorate barracks, becoming the birthplace of conservation in Prussia. Today, it is one of the most exciting tourist attractions in Poland.

Malbork is the largest castle in the world, almost double the size of the second largest fortification called Mehrangarh Fort.

Malbork's Teutonic castle from the other side of the frozen Nogat river
Malbork Castle in Winter from the other side of frozen Nogat river.

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

The Teutonic Order in Prussia

The construction of the castle’s massive size (at about 600 m long) dates from between 1280 and the second half of the 15th century. Some sources say that discussions actually took place for the Malbork castle to be demolished at the end of the 18th century, and its building materials were intended to be used to construct new army barracks.

The castle is perched on the east bank of the Nogat River (the right-hand part of the Vistula estuary) and consists of three parts: the Upper Castle, the Middle Castle and the Lower Castle. 

Metal Entrance heavy Duty Gate of Malbork Castle from below
Entrance gate of the castle.

In 1190, the German merchants established the Teutonic Order in Palestine during the Third Crusade as a hospital order. In 1198, its knights protected Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land and in the fight against pagan nations. The seat of the Grand Master was placed there as long as the Teutonic Order possessed territories in the Holy Land. . However, when the Christians finally lost Palestine, the order moved the seat to Venice initially, and then to Malbork in 1309 (in what was then Prussia). The knights, recruited from the Order’s German properties, took part in many battles and led the Teutonic army. Also, they managed administrative functions in commandery while brother priests served God and ran the chancellery.

Malbork serving as the residence of the Grand Master (1309-1457)

By 1309, Malbork was one of the monastery castles in the Teutonic state. The number of brother knights and brother priests suddenly increased, resulting in new and more prominent buildings for the convent in the Upper Castle. However, there was no room for the Grand Master and his court. North of Upper Castle was chosen as the new place of residence for the head of the Teutonic Order and its state. The Upper Castle’s large-scale reconstruction work began during the era of the Grand Master Luther of Braunschweig (1331-1335). In 1341, Dietrich von Altenburg, the first Grand Master, was buried underneath the church in St Anne’s Chapel, and was completed in 1344.

Courtyard of Malbork Castle with multiple metal sculptures of the knights of Teutonic Order
Sculptures of Teutonic Order knights in castle’s courtyard. Leon petrosyan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After the Thirteen Years’ War began in 1454, Malbork was seized by the Polish army and the troops of Gdansk. Unfortunately, the Grand Masters were not able to pay the ransom, and therefore the Grand Master had to leave Malbork and move his seat to Königsberg. On June 8th 1457, Polish king Kazimierz the Jagiellonian entered Malbork and seized power of the castle. Two days later, he earned homage in the Great Refectory. All later struggles of the Teutonic Knights to reconquer Malbork failed.

Three gravestones in St. Anne's Chapel located inside Malbork' castle.
St. Anne’s Chapel located inside the castle. Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Malbork Under the Rule of Poland (1457-1772)

In 1466, according to the Second Treaty of Torun, Malbork was irrevocably incorporated into Poland and hence became a subprefecture. By 1772, Malbork was a temporary royal residence, and the king occupied the chambers in the Palace of the Grand Master during his visits.

Inside Malbork Castle The Grand Refectory with beautiful gothic rib vault ceiling, located in Poland
The Grand Refectory of Malbork Castle. The biggest hall in Malbork Castle with a beautiful gothic rib vault ceiling.

The inhabitants of the Lower Castle began to grapple with the guilds from the town on the economic market. A romantic image of the castle was created by the contrast of the massive Gothic brick walls and the small craftsmen’s houses that abutted them, which permeated in people’s minds at this time. In the aftermath of conservation, works that were carried out in the 19th century, as well as small buildings surrounding the castle, were demolished.

Current Times

Ferdinand von Quast, the first Prussian conservator, governed the restoration works from 1851 to 1874. The second significant stage of the restoration occurred between 1882 and 1922, and consisted of a heavy reconstruction of the main castle’s medieval style. Conrad Steinbrecht supervised these restorations, and his successor Bernard Schmidt completed the task in 1945.

aerial shot of malbork castle from a side view
Aerial View of The Largest Castle in The World

Destruction in 1945 and Rebuilding

National socialists viewed Malbork and the Teutonic Order Knights as the pioneers of Germans in the East, overturning the idea as a tool of propaganda. The castle was declared a fortress when the Red Army was approaching in 1945. The German soldiers defeated it over the course of three months. The eastern parts of the court suffered the most damage during the attacks. Poland then took over Malbork Castle, which by 1945 was in almost complete ruin. Only the western part of the Upper and Middle Castles survived the attacks without significant damage. Temporary repairs were done immediately after the war, but proper reconstruction hadn’t yet begun.

The display shows how highly the castle was damaged after the second world war in 1945.
The display shows how the castle looked like after the second world war back in 1945.

Unfortunately, a tragic event would soon interfere. In 1959, the roof over the Middle Castle’s western wing caught fire and burned down irreparably. However, this incident ignited the idea to begin the reconstruction of the entire building. The Castle Museum opened in 1961 and the general restoration of the castle began.

Reconstruction works of the courtyard of Malbork Castle
Regular reconstruction works take place in so called Marienburg castle.

In the present day, only the castle church and the Lower Castle’s western wing show evidence of brutal damage caused by the war. The costly rebuilding of Malbork Castle would ultimately end up being advantageous from an economic standpoint, as today it is one of Poland’s most frequently visited sights.

Interesting Malbork Castle Facts

  • The earliest documented mentions of the castle refer to it as a chateau, and list it as being founded in the year 1278.
  • Malbork is the largest castle in the world, almost double the size of the second largest castle called Mehrangarh Fort.
  • The Middle Castle consists of The Grand Master’s Palace, known as his living quarters. Also featured there are The Great Refectory, where large events occurred, as well as The Hospital and The Grand Commandery. It also, hospitably, provided a Guest Wing.
  • The Lower Castle had what were known as External Defence Walls. 
  • Very close to where a railway stands today, there remains the nearly 30-meter and very well-preserved Buttermilk Keep, built between 1335 and 1340, that used to be the north-eastern corner of the Lower Castle.
  • Have you heard of the Game of Thrones TV show? Well, the settings you see in there were part-inspired by the Malbork castle!

Visiting Malbork Castle – Tips and Tricks

Planning to visit the castle? We have you covered! Read the information below to ensure you are ready for the trip without unnecessary surprises that might worsen your experience.

Two Malbork castle towers appear infront of each other separate by the bridge with tourists walking
Two towers and the bridge.

How to get to Malbork Castle?

The easiest way to visit Malbork Castle via Gdansk is by train. The main station is called Gdańsk Główny, and from there it takes approximately 30 minutes to an hour to reach the castle, depending on which of three trains you choose. Regio trains are typically the slowest but also the cheapest; they can take up to an hour to reach the castle, and the cost is 13.50 PLN ($3 USD). TLK trains are slightly faster, taking about 35 minutes, and a ticket is 17 PLN ($4 USD).  EIC trains are the best option —  they offer a direct route and take just under a half hour for 55 PLN ($13 USD). All of these prices are quoted for a one-way ticket.

When you reach the Malbork train station, you can hire a taxi for the short trip to the castle, which will cost around 15 PLN ($5 USD). A pleasant walk to the castle from the station is also a great possibility, which takes about 20 minutes.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Tickets are priced according to season and they include an audio guide. During the summer season (May 1 to September 30), the cost is 47 PLN ($12 USD) and in the winter months (October 1 to April 30) a ticket costs 30 PLN ($8 USD).

Summer season hours of operation are from 9am to 8pm, and in the winter the hours are from 9am to 4pm. Keep in mind that there will be long lines for tickets at the train station as well at the castle entrance, especially in the summer. It can help to book your tickets online ahead of time.

Typically, you should allow at least 3.5 hours to roam around the castle to get the full, beautiful, and immersive experience. The audio guide is a key feature of the tour, as it gives you important information not to be missed, and also acts as your GPS throughout the tour. 

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Wear appropriate shoes, as there is a lot of walking to do and many steep staircases to climb and descend. 
  • Don’t forget to visit the Grand Masters’ Palace. As the name suggests, it is one of the grandest and special sections of the castle. 
  • When you leave the castle itself, stroll over the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the Nogat River for an awe inspiring view of the entire fortress.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Castle Areas

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