How to Visit Malbork Castle: the Biggest Castle in the World
One of my favourite things about travel is how you can end up loving places you may have never even heard of before and that was exactly what happened during our visit to Malbork Castle. We didn't expect our travels in Poland to take us to so many beautiful cities and we were even more surprised to hear that we would have the chance to visit the largest (by surface area) castle in the world. Our day was inexpensive, uncomplicated and a lot of fun so we'd definitely recommend this as a day trip from Gdansk and have gathered everything you need to know about how to visit Malbork Castle on a budget.
My last visit to a castle in Europe was Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The castle grounds and exterior where really beautiful (like fairy tale beautiful!) but our group tour of the interior felt rushed, was very crowded and wasn't cheap. After that experience, I was slightly hesitant about visiting another castle especially since Wes and I aren't exactly crazy about castles to begin with. But as our travels in Poland brought us closer to Gdansk, we were hearing more and more about Malbork Castle. The photos intrigued us as did the fact that it is the largest castle in the world. I'm glad we went because we had a really enjoyable time and learned more about the history of Poland throughout our castle tour. In total, we each spent under$20 CAD for this day trip (2016) which included our train tickets and the castle admission and, since sharing is caring, we're sharing our budget tips on how to visit Malbork Castle without a tour.
History of Malbork Castle, Poland
We made a YouTube video about our visit to Malbork Castle and it's safe to say that Wes and I knew nothing about the Teutonic Order or the history of the castle before arriving. In case you're planning to visit, let me give you a really brief summary of the importance of this castle:
When measured by land area, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is the largest in the world and is also the largest brick castle in the world. The medieval castle was built in the 13th century as a fortress by the Teutonic Knights, a Catholic religious order of Germany. Since its construction, the castle has been used as a fortress by the Teutonic Order, a Polish royal residence, a poorhouse by the the Prussian army, was heavily destroyed during WWII and has since been entirely restored. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction in Poland.
How to get to Malbork Castle
If you're looking up how to visit Malbork Castle, you're most likely already in Gdansk, Poland. We spent about a week in Gdansk and found that it was a great base to explore the Tricity and surroundings. Despite the 60km distance, Malbork is very easy to get to from here and there's no need to spend extra money on an organized tour when you can save your pretty pennies and plan the day yourself.
There are various trains operating this route (some are intercity and some are local trains) so your travel time and ticket price will vary accordingly. We bought our train tickets at Gdansk Glowny station. At the time, there was a really long line up at the ticket booths so we tried our luck at the iCCC ticket office in the left corner of the train station and there was no line :) We paid about 12 PLN each (roughly $4 CAD) for a one-way ticket on a local train and the ride took somewhere between 45-55 minutes.
Once your train starts arriving to Malbork, you actually get to see such a great view of the castle. The castle looked so close that I got a little too excited and convinced Wes to get off one stop too soon. My bad! But the mistake was worthwhile and I would actually recommend it. The stop before Malbork's main train station is called Malbork Kałdowo. I'd suggest getting off here if you're on a local train (express trains won't stop here) so that you can appreciate a really great view of the castle from the other side of the Nogat River. It's about a 15 minute walk to the castle from Malbork Kałdowo and about the same distance from the main train station to the castle.
When to visit Malbork Castle
The castle interior is closed Mondays and also on some holidays as listed on their website. A complete tour of the castle grounds will take about 3 hours and I would suggest going either early in the morning or a few hours prior to closing to avoid the crowds. It's also important to note that the castle has different opening times for the summer and winter seasons and the ticket office opens/closes 30 minutes before these times:
Summer Season: April 15 to September 30 from 9:00am to 7:00pm
Winter Season: October 1 to April 14 from 10:00am to 3:00pm.
Discount tickets for Malbork Castle
While some may recommend buying tickets online, we didn't feel a need to since we were visiting the castle mid-week and it was not high season. Tickets can be purchased at the new museum building off of Piastowska where credit cards are accepted and washrooms are available. This is also the starting point for your audio tour. Tickets range in price from 7 PLN (exterior only) to 39.50 PLN. During the summer months there are also special light and sound shows as well as night tours. The prices below are as of October 2016:
Summer Season: Regular 39.50 PLN, Discount 29.50 PLN (between 5:15pm and 6:15pm)
Winter Season: Regular 29.50 PLN, Discount 19 PLN (between 1:15pm and 2:00pm)
We visited mid-September and arrived right at 5:15pm to get the discounted tickets. The castle was closing at 7pm so we had under 2 hours to explore but it was the perfect amount of time for us even if we didn't get to see the whole castle. If you have time and are interested in seeing all the interior rooms, the discounted ticket option might not be worthwhile.
Malbork Castle Audio Guide
If you've been following our budget travels, you'll notice we're not used to guided tours and weren't sure about the audio guide at first. I would definitely recommend opting for the audio guide especially since it is included in the cost of admission. They have guides available in English and the impressive part for me was that the guide has built in GPS that tracks your route and literally guides you into the next location on the map. The voice will say things like, "You must have made a mistake. Please turn right to visit the next location." I don't know why but I found this pretty amusing! Also, if you're not a fan of the old airline-style headphones, you can bring your own to use with the audio guide.
Malbork Castle Grounds
The castle is divided into 3 main sections: A, B and C. Because we were pressed for time (and were easily sidetracked) we only visited parts A (45 minutes) and B (20 minutes). We would have needed another 75 minutes to complete Part C of the tour but the doors were closing and we were getting hangry. I really enjoyed the guided tour and within 10 minutes of walking in I knew this experience would trump my visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. The interiors were beautiful but a highlight for me was the picturesque rose garden. In addition to the castle itself, there is a restaurant on the castle grounds, a souvenir shop and restrooms located throughout.