Malbork – Europe’s Largest Gothic Castle

Malbork Castle sits on the east bank of the Nogat River, a tributary of the mighty Vistula River.

Malbork Castle sits on the east bank of the Nogat River, a tributary of the mighty Vistula River.

My first general awareness of Malbork Castle came from a Lufthansa flight magazine on a trip to Europe. Immediately I though “this is a place I need to visit” and in August 2013 I was able to do so with my family. Malbork is about 30 km (18 miles) southeast of Gdansk, Poland and can be visited by car or train from Gdansk.

Places we visited in Poland in 2013.

Places we visited in Poland in 2013.

This huge castle is one of Poland’s greatest tourist attractions. We were astounded at its size. We were “running” and it took us close to three hours to visit.

The massive gate entrance to the Middle Castle - Malbork.

The massive gate entrance to the Middle Castle – Malbork.

Malbork was built by the Teutonic Knights (a German religious order of monk-warriors founded during the Third Crusade to Jerusalem) and Malbork was their headquarters and seat of the Grand Masters for 150 years starting in 1309 (construction on the castle started in the 1370’s). World War II inflicted significant damage to parts of the castle, but it is largely intact and restored.

A view taken from the Main Tower of the High Castle, overlooking the Palace of the Grand Masters, Middle Castle and the Nogat River.

A view taken from the Main Tower of the High Castle, overlooking the Palace of the Grand Masters, Middle Castle and the Nogat River.

A view of the eastern side of the Middle Castle at Malbork.

A view of the eastern side of the Middle Castle at Malbork.

The primary structures include the High Castle (the stronghold), the Middle Castle (kitchens, rooms for entertaining guests and the Palace of the Grand Masters), and outer walls and buildings. Main sights include the Grand Master’s Palace, the Great Refectory, the High Castle Courtyard and St. Mary’s Church, including St. Anne’s Chapel underneath the church.

Exterior of the Grand Master's Palace.

Exterior of the Grand Master’s Palace.

The Great Refectory, Middle Castle - Malbork. Largest Gothic interior of its kind in Central Europe. Used for banquets and entertaining.

The Great Refectory, Middle Castle – Malbork. Largest Gothic interior of its kind in Central Europe. Used for banquets and entertaining.

The Chapter Room (where business would be conducted) in the High Castle - Malbork.

The Chapter Room (where business would be conducted) in the High Castle – Malbork.

St. Mary's Church, not completely restored from WW II damage.

St. Mary’s Church, not completely restored from WW II damage.

The Last Supper frescoe in St. Mary's Church.

The Last Supper frescoe in St. Mary’s Church.

Tombs of the Grand Masters in St. Anne's Chapel.

Tombs of the Grand Masters in St. Anne’s Chapel.

Courtyard and well in the High Castle - Malbork.

Courtyard and well in the High Castle – Malbork.

Be sure to visit the walls on the south side of the castle. There are interesting displays of medieval machinery and excellent views of the castle buildings and towers from here.

The Latrine Tower on the southwestern corner of the castle grounds. Used for exactly what it sounds like! There was originally water below the tower for "flushing."

The Latrine Tower on the southwestern corner of the castle grounds. Used for exactly what it sounds like! There was originally water below the tower for “flushing.”

There are other Teutonic castles in northern Poland and in another post I will share images of two more, but Malbork is the grandest by far.

Sources: Plaques at Malbork Castle, Top Spot Guide: Malbork Castle –  The World of the Teutonic Order, by Marek Stokowski.