I’d read about Malbork Castle and was eager to visit whilst staying in Gdansk. It is the largest brick built castle in the world and was constructed in the thirteenth century.
Malbork lies 69km from Gdansk and is easily accessible by train with numerous services daily. It’s on the main line to Warsaw, so tickets vary in price depending on the type of train selected. We opted for the inter-city (TLK) service, tickets costing 17 PLN each for a single journey. I suggest arriving at Gdansk railway station early as there was a lengthy queue at the ticket counter to purchase tickets.
Taking the 10.07 a.m. train, we were able to reserve seats even though we were only buying the tickets a few minutes in advance. Finding our seats, we were pleased to note that they were in one of those old fashioned small compartments, seating only 8 passengers which we shared with just two others.
Malbork is the first stop and the medieval castle can be seen from the train window on the left hand side shortly before arriving at the station. It was then an easy 15 minute walk to the castle, passing through the centre of the small town on the way.
Entrance tickets can be purchased in the visitor centre and these are priced at 39.50 PLN in the summer and 29.50 PLN during the winter months. Tickets include free audio guides which are available in English and I would definitely recommend using one as it has built in navigation, tracking your route and guiding visitors to the next location on the map. If you do not wish to listen to something, we found we could just move on and the device would then re-calibrate to our new position. Do remember to hold on to your tickets as these need to be scanned before entering the High Castle. We had to sit down on a bench for a few minutes to search for ours, but eventually found them in a coat pocket!
We learnt that Malbork Castle was originally built as a fortress by the Teutonic Knights who were a religious order in Germany. Since then, the castle has been used as a Polish royal residence and a poorhouse by the Prussian army. The castle was badly damaged during the Second World War and has since been completely restored and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction.
The castle is divided into three sections, the High Castle, the Middle Castle and the Outer Bailey which are separated by a series of dry moats and towers. The castle overlooks the river Nogat which allowed easy access by barges and trading ships arriving from the Vistula river and the Baltic Sea.
Malbork was expanded several times to host a growing number of knights as at one time there were more than 3,000 residing in the castle which became the largest fortified building in Europe.
We spent over two hours touring the castle and found our way around with the assistance of our audio guides. There didn’t appear to be any signs indicating which way to go round so I think we would have found it confusing without our tracking devices. Information boards were only in Polish too, so we were able to benefit from the English translations. Museum staff were to be found in some of the rooms but few of them seemed to speak English. At one point we thought a large oak door was locked as we were unable to open it, but a female member of staff came to our rescue, indicating that the handle was very stiff and hard to turn.
Before leaving the castle we visited the stained glass exhibition which was located just off the main courtyard. Here we saw some fine examples of pre-war designs that had decorated the castle church.
We returned our audio guides to a desk in the gift shop and then walked around the perimeter of the castle until we came to a bridge across the Nogat River. Looking back from the bridge, we had some excellent views of Malbork.
We then strolled through the town centre and enjoyed a late lunch in a pub on the high street. Our return train time of 3.19 p.m. we had pre-arranged was just about right providing us with ample time to explore the castle and have a meal.
We really enjoyed visiting the castle and I would recommend adding Malbork to a weekend city break in Gdansk as it is both easy and inexpensive to visit by train.
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