Travel guide to visiting Malbork Castle in Poland

A red brick fortress of the Teutonic Order


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Starościńska 1, 82-200 Malbork, Poland

GPS: 54.041393156316, 19.03138438079

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Also known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, Malbork Castle is a former medieval fortress which has been converted into a museum. Located in the Polish region of Pomerania, about 40 kilometres from the Baltic Sea, the castle is considered to be the largest brick building in Europe. It was built at the end of the Third Crusade, an event during which the Teutonic Order was founded in the Holy Land by Medieval German knights. During this great campaign of military expeditions, these fighters fought relentlessly against the Arab influence of the Moors on the European continent. They invaded new territories and Christianized the pagan peoples of Eastern Europe to establish their domination.

The transfer of the capital of the Teutonic Order from Venice to Malbork in 1309 marked a turning point in the history of Malbork Castle. The medieval complex was built along the Nogat River from the end of the 13th century. It rapidly expanded to form the largest Gothic fortress in Europe. Completed in 1406, the red brick structure gained a reputation for being impenetrable. At that time, it consisted of a unified and admirable ensemble of three fortified and interconnected enclosures: the High Castle (the oldest part), the Middle Castle and the Lower Castle, covering a total area of more than 20 hectares. Malbork Castle became the stronghold of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and his 3,000 or so knights who ruled over a vast territory.

In the years that followed, several military conflicts broke out within the monastic state. They pitted the Teutonic Order, aided by numerous mercenaries, against the armies of the Kingdom of Poland, the Prussian Confederation and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Thirteen Years’ War (1454-1466) put a strain on the finances of the Teutonic Order. The Grand Master, Ludwig von Erlichshausen, was forced to hand over ownership of Malbork Castle to mercenaries whom he could no longer pay. The latter immediately sold the fortress to the Kingdom of Poland in 1457. Far from being slaughtered, the Teutonic Knights led new offensives against the Prussian and Polish armies, but were finally defeated in 1466. The site was then used as the residence of the Polish royal family until 1772, when it passed into the hands of the Kingdom of Prussia. Despite the destruction of half of Malbork Castle by Russian bombardments (the site had become a German stronghold during the Second World War), it was the subject of remarkable restoration work. The conservation techniques and methods used are a success, so much so that the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork has once again become the architectural masterpiece it was in the Middle Ages.

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  • A marvel of red brick construction (largest medieval fortress in Europe)
  • The architectural style of the fortress, characteristic of the Teutonic Order
  • The design of the Gothic vaults, gables and portals; the impressive ramparts; the cloister of the High Castle
  • The sculptures and ornaments with elaborate techniques; the interior of the chapel; the refectory and the kitchen
  • The moats and towers offering a breathtaking view of the castle’s park
  • The rich and fascinating history of Malbork Castle which is recounted in the library archives and in the museum’s art collections
  • The ingenious central heating system rather unusual in medieval times; the hygienic latrines fed with cabbage leaves
  • Chivalry tournaments, medieval fairs, night visits, concerts, workshops and sound and light events regularly organized in high season
  • The annual and historical spectacle of The Siege of Malbork (last weekend in July)
  • The Order of the Teutonic Knights was founded during the period of the Crusades between the 11th and 12th centuries. Born in Jerusalem at the instigation of Germanic pilgrims, it was both a Christian religious order and a Sovereign Order (its full and original name is the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem). Its original aim was to help the faithful during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to build field hospitals to care for sick pilgrims. The Teutonic Order later became militarised in order to evangelise the pagan population of neighbouring Prussia and the territories bordering the Baltic coast.
  • Legend has it that the first knights of the Teutonic Order to settle in Malbork from the Holy Land brought bricks from the Cenacle (the place where Jesus used to eat his meal with his disciples) with them. These would have been used to build the foundations of Malbork Castle (also called Marienburg or St Mary’s Castle).
  • On 15 July 1410, one of the greatest battles of medieval Europe (known as the Battle of Grunwald or the First Battle of Tannenberg) took place near Malbork Castle. It pitted the Teutonic Knights and their mercenaries against the unified forces of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who won the war. On leaving the battlefield, the Polish and Lithuanian armies attacked the castle, which withstood the siege. Nevertheless, this bloody event marked the beginning of the decline of the Teutonic Order in favour of the Polish–Lithuanian Union, which led to the formation of the Republic of the Two Nations in 1569.
  • The brotherhood of the Teutonic Order is still active but retains a purely religious function. Its members are priests and reside in Vienna (Austria). As in medieval times, they continue to be led by a great master.
  • Deepen your knowledge of the region by taking one of the two hiking trails, each lasting one to three days. These routes run through the picturesque regions of Kashubia, Pomerania (Powiśle), Warmia and Masuria. You will travel back to the time of the knights, discovering many medieval and gothic relics of northern Poland (castles, monasteries, ruins, museums…).
  • A broader programme aims to bring together various cross-border regions in Lithuania, Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad District) for the joint development of the cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea. Supported by the European Union, this project aims to design a major tourist itinerary bringing together the most beautiful Gothic castles built or occupied by the Teutonic Order.

Where to eat

  • Bar Bis
    (fast and tasty)
  • Hot Paper Restauracja
    (exquisite and original)
  • Po Lodzie?
    (sweet address)

Where to go

  • Stutthof concentration camp
    (tragic place of memory)
  • Museum of Archeology and...
    (instructive museum)
  • Elbląg Upland Landscape...
    (huge vegetation)

Where to stay

  • Camping 197 Kat.1
    (riverside location)
  • Hotelik Groblanka
    (ideal to visit the castle)
  • Hotel Centrum Malbork
    (spacious and comfortable)