The spectacular fortress of Malbork (Tues–Sun: mid-April to mid-Sept 9am–7pm, rest of year 10am–3pm; high season 47zł, low season 37zł; w www.zamek.malbork.pl) was built as the headquarters of the Teutonic Order in the fourteenth century and still casts a threatening shadow over an otherwise sleepy town. As the Teutonic Knights sank into deep financial crises, they were eventually forced to sell the castle in the mid-fifteenth century. The castle was then employed as a royal residence and a stopover for Polish monarchs en route between Warsaw and Gdańsk.

You enter over a moat and through the daunting main gate, before reaching an open courtyard. Brooding above is the High Castle, which harbours the centrepiece of the Knights’ austere monasticism – the vast Castle Church with its faded chivalric paintings. You’ll be given an English audioguide for the 3-hour self-guided tour, or, in July and August, you can opt for a live tour instead (both are included in the ticket price). Also during the summer months (June or July), the so-called Siege Days (w www.oblezenie.malbork.pl) take place, involving locals dressing up in period costume to re-enact the siege of the fortress; there are jousting tournaments, craft fairs and music concerts.

The train station is about ten minutes’ walk south of the castle; there are trains every thirty minutes from Gdańsk (50min).

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