Malbork Castle in the north of Poland is the largest castle in the world measured by land area and was designated a World Heritage Site in December 1997 by UNESCO. Located on the east bank of the River Nogat, this Gothic brick-built fortress once belonged to the Teutonic Order and it served as their headquarters for almost 150 years.
Originally a fortress named Marienburg, the Teutonic Knights began this incredible construction in the 13th century and the structure took shape in various stages. Initially, the construction consisted of a formidable central bastion called the High Castle. The Middle Castle and Lower Castle followed and finally, the complex was encircled by three rings of defensive walls strengthened with towers and dungeons.
The Teutonic Knights were a German Catholic religious order of crusaders with considerable military power; however Malbork was seized by the Polish Army in 1457 during the Thirteen Years’ War at a time when the strength and influence of the Order had started to diminish.
Over the years, Malbork Castle has been home to many different occupiers including the Prussians who turned the castle into a barracks and in the process, dismantled parts of the complex with no military significance and also caused major damage to the interior decoration. The castle sustained further damage during WWII.
Despite all of this and thanks largely to intervention and restoration, the castle today looks like it did 600 years ago and almost the entire complex has been preserved. Restoration and conservation work was carried out in the 19th and early 20th centuries and also at the end of WWII with many forgotten medieval art and craft techniques being rediscovered.
Visitors to Malbork Castle can take advantage of an audio guide that utilises GPS with a set route; which if followed ensures that everything that is worth seeing is seen. There is also amenities at the ticket office such as toilets, refreshments and lockers.
During your visit, you’ll see the Middle Castle courtyard, the Grand Masters’ Palace with its 450 m2 Great Refectory, the Amber Museum, St Anne’s Chapel (where 12 Grand Masters were buried), High Castle, the gdaniska (the Knights’ loo), St Mary’s Church and a multitude of other delights such as drawbridges & Gothic doorways.
The best way to explore the castle is with a tour guide. The Malbork Castle regular tour from Gdansk is highly recommended.