Castles and mansions have always captivated the attention of many due to their importance to several disciplines, like history, culture, and architecture. That is why tourists usually flock to major castles in different cities around the world, some of which have long histories and some more recent, but are equally important nonetheless. Some of the biggest castles on earth are visited by thousands every year to experience or get a glimpse of life in a different era.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is over 385,000 ft2 and located on Castle Rock, an extinct volcano. It dates back to the 2nd century AD, specifically the Iron Age. It was used as a royal residence until 1633 and afterward was transformed into a military barracks. Considered one of the most important strongholds in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has seen many turbulent events, such as the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite rising in 1745. As a result, it was dubbed “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world” in 2014 since research revealed that it witnessed 26 sieges throughout its history.

Most of the castle’s buildings nowadays go back to the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when its defences were destroyed by artillery bombardment. 

Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, as over 2.1 million visitors and over 70 percent of leisure visitors made their way to Edinburgh castle in 2018. Some of its outstanding attractions are the statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Edinburgh Castle also has a famous legend attached to it, which involves the mysterious disappearance of a young boy a few centuries ago, when he was sent down a secret tunnel inside the castle to see where it leads while playing his bagpipes so that the people above would know where he was through the sound of the music. However, halfway through, the music suddenly stopped. They searched everywhere for him, but to no avail and he was never seen again.

To this day, the memory of the young boy is commemorated during ‘The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’, an annual concert performed by the British Armed Forces, along with Commonwealth and international military bands at Edinburgh Castle. At the very end of the event every year, one piper stands alone on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle playing a mournful tune on his pipes in commemoration of the young boy who was never found again.

Biggest Castles Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle towers over the city skyline. Image credit:
Jörg Angeli via Unsplash

But that is not all. Like all legends, there’s a scary aspect to it.

Some people reported hearing sounds of music coming from inside the Castle. Many believe that it is the crying song of a lost soul that has been left, eternally wandering the tunnels in search of a way out.

One of the other legends tied to the Edinburgh Castle has to do with the Arthurian legends, specifically to the medieval Welsh epic poem by Gododdin about a fortress called “The Castle of the Maidens” which housed the “Nine Maidens”, including King Arthur’s protector, Morgan le Fay.

The castle certainly has a long history. In 1070 AD, Malcolm III, King of Scotland, married an English princess named Margaret who was said to be beautiful and generous, so much so that she was given the honorary title of Saint Margaret of Scotland or “The Pearl of Scotland”.

After her husband died in battle, she became so grief-stricken that she passed away a few days later and her son David I constructed the castle on Castle Rock with its own chapel in her memory.

Amidst the continuous conflicts between England and Scotland at the end of the 12th century, Edinburgh Castle and the entire city became the focus of invaders as it became apparent that whoever held the castle, controlled the city and consequently Scotland. Therefore, the castle was given the title of “the defender of the nation”.

When Robert the Bruce sieged Edinburgh Castle in 1314, the castle was almost completely destroyed in the process, except for Margaret’s Chapel, which is now considered the oldest surviving building in Scotland.

England continued to try to siege the castle until 1650, when Oliver Cromwell succeeded, killing Charles I, the last monarch to rule Scotland from Edinburgh.

Afterward, Edinburgh Castle was turned into a prison where thousands of military and political prisoners were held over the years; from the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most haunted castles in the city, which adds to its mysterious aura and attracts visitors looking to explore it, year-round, and maybe find the lost boy who has been missing for so long.

 The castle is open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm in the summer and from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm in the winter.

Tickets are £19.50 for adults and £11.50 for children.

Himeji Castle, Japan

Himeji Castle is the largest castle in Japan. It is located in the city of Himeji and is considered the best example of Japanese castle architecture, with its advanced defensive systems dating back to the feudal period. The castle is also known as White Egret Castle or White Heron Castle because of its brilliant white exterior and the belief that it resembles a bird taking flight.

The Himeji Castle complex is located on top of the Himeyama hill which is 45.6 m above sea level and comprises 83 buildings, including storehouses, gates, corridors, and turrets. The highest walls in the castle complex reach up to 26 meters high. The castle complex also has an adjoining garden created in 1992 to commemorate Himeji city’s 100th anniversary.

The Himeji Castle complex has a length of 950 to 1,600 meters from east to west, and 900 to 1,700 meters from north to south, over an area of 233 hectares.

The main keep at the center of the complex is 46.4 m high. The keep has six floors and a basement with an area of 385 m2 and its interior contains special facilities that are not seen in other castles, including lavatories, a drainboard, and a kitchen corridor.

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is the biggest in Japan. Image credit:
Vladimir Haltakov via Unsplash

The first floor of the main keep has an area of 554 m2 and is often referred to as the “thousand-mat room” because it contains more than 330 Tatami mats. The walls of the first floor have weapon racks for holding matchlocks and spears, and at one point, the castle contained as many as 280 guns and 90 spears. The second floor has an area of roughly 550 m2, while the third floor has an area of 440 m2 and the fourth floor has an area of 240 m2. Both the third and fourth floors have platforms by the north and south windows called “stone-throwing platforms” to throw objects at attackers. They also have small enclosed rooms called “warrior hiding places”, where defenders could hide and kill attackers by surprise as they entered the keep. The sixth floor has an area of only 115 m2 and its windows now have iron bars but in the feudal period, the panoramic view was unobstructed.

Himeji Castle was built in 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura, a samurai from the Akamatsu clan and governor of Harima Province, built a fort on top of Himeyama hill. It was rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346 and then transformed into Himeji Castle in the 16th century. Himeji Castle was remodeled once again in 1581 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1600, the castle was awarded to Ikeda Terumasa for his role in the Battle of Sekigahara, and he expanded it into a large castle complex. Himeji Castle has remained intact for almost 700 years, even throughout World War II and several natural disasters including the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake.

Visitors usually enter the castle through the Otemon Gate into the third bailey (Sannomaru), which contains a cherry tree-lined lawn, and is a popular spot for taking photos of the castle. This area can be entered free-of-charge, before heading on to the ticket booth at the end of the bailey to continue with your tour.

Through the Hishi Gate, you’ll find walled paths and multiple gates and baileys before you can find the main gate, which was done on purpose to slow down any attackers attempting to siege the castle. Then, you’ll find the main keep, a six-story wooden structure that you enter through the lower floor of the building and climb upwards via a series of steep, narrow staircases. Each level gets progressively smaller as you ascend. The floors are generally unfurnished and display just a few multilingual signs explaining architectural features as well as renovation efforts made over the years. From the top floor, you can look out in all directions, and view the labyrinth-like entrance below.

You can also explore the west bailey (Nishinomaru) which was the residence of a princess and provides views of the main keep, consisting of a long building with an enclosed corridor and multiple unfurnished rooms that survive along the bailey’s walls.

Himeji Castle has several legends associated with it as well. The story of Banshū Sarayashiki revolves around Okiku who was falsely accused of losing dishes that were considered valuable family treasures. As punishment, she was killed and thrown into a well. It is said that her ghost still haunts the well at night, and can be heard counting dishes in a despairing tone.

Another legend or ghost story related to Himeji Castle revolves around yōkai Osakabehime, who lives in the castle tower and avoids any interactions with humans and takes the form of an old woman wearing a ceremonial kimono. Not only that, but she also has powers, like reading human minds.

A third legend of the “Old Widow’s Stone” tells the tale of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who ran out of stones while building the original keep, and an old woman gave him her hand millstone even though she needed it for her trade. It was said that people who heard the story were inspired and also offered stones to Hideyoshi, speeding up the construction of the castle. To this day, the stone can be seen covered with a wire net in the middle of one of the stone walls in the castle complex.

Another story associated with the castle is that of Sakurai Genbei, who was the feudal lord Ikeda Terumasa’s master carpenter during the construction of the keep. It is said that Sakurai was dissatisfied with his construction, so much so that he became distraught and climbed to the top before jumping to his death with a chisel in his mouth.

All in all, Himeji Castle has seen so many historical events, both real and fictional, due to its long history and the many rulers who either lived there or governed their estates from this magnificent castle.

Himeji Castle is about one kilometer from Himeji Station on Otemae-dori Street, so it’s a 15-20 minute walk or a five-minute ride by bus or taxi.

It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, while opening hours extend by one hour in the summer.

The tickets to the castle only cost 1000 yen, but if you also want to explore the nearby Kokoen Garden, the combined ticket costs 1050 yen.

Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary 

Buda Castle is the castle complex of the kings of Hungary. It was built in 1265, but the current Baroque palace was built between 1749 and 1769. 

Buda Castle is located on Castle Hill, surrounded by Castle Quarter, a famous touristic area featuring many medieval, Baroque, and Neoclassical-style houses, churches, and monuments. The original Royal Palace was destroyed during WWII and was rebuilt in the Baroque style during the Kádár era.

The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by the Duke of Slavonia at the time, also the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary.

King Sigismund expanded the palace and strengthened its fortifications, because, as a Holy Roman Emperor, he needed a magnificent royal residence to express his prominence among the rulers of Europe. During his reign, Buda Castle became the largest Gothic palace of the late Middle Ages. 

Biggest Castles Budapest
Buda Castle is a well-loved landmark in Budapest. Image credit:
Peter Gombos

The most important part of the palace was the northern wing. On the top floor was a large hall called the Roman Hall with a carved wooden ceiling, as well as large windows and balconies facing the city of Buda. The façade of the palace was decorated with statues, and a coat-of-arms, and a bronze equestrian statue of Sigismund.

On the southern part of the royal residency, two parallel walls run down from the palace to the River Danube. On the western side of the courtyard is the Broken Tower which remained unfinished. The basement of the tower was used as a dungeon and the top floors were probably the treasury of the royal jewels.

You can visit Buda Castle’s gardens for free, but the museums have a separate entrance. The museums open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday-Sunday

You can tour the castle itself for € 12.

Spiš Castle, Slovakia

Spiš Castle is one of the largest castles (41,426 m²) in central Europe. It overlooks the town of Spišské Podhradie and the village of Žehra, in the region of Spiš. 

Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century and was owned by the kings of Hungary until 1528 when its ownership moved to the Zápolya family, then the Thurzó family, followed by Csáky family (1638–1945), and in 1945, it became the property of the state of Czechoslovakia, and finally Slovakia.

The Romanesque-style two-story castle with a Romanesque-Gothic basilica. The castle expanded in the area when a second external settlement was built in the 14th century. The castle was completely rebuilt in the 15th century as the castle walls were heightened and a third extramural settlement was constructed. 

The castle was destroyed by a fire in the year 1780 and it is said that the Csáky family did it to reduce taxes. It is also said that the cause of the first was that it was struck by lightning or some soldiers in the castle were making moonshine and accidentally started the fire. 

In the 12th century, the castle consisted of a large tower. It underwent renovations in the 13th century due to the collapse of the earlier keep, and a three-story Romanesque palace was built. The top floor was surrounded by a wooden porch, accessible by semicircular portals on each side of the building.

The castle was surrounded by defensive walls. The cylindrical tower also protected the palace and was the last place of refuge.

Between 1370 and 1380, the castle was extended with an outer bailey surrounded by walls and protected by a ditch and fortifications. 

In the 15th century, the castle was surrounded by a 500-meter defensive wall with arrow slits for hand-held firearms. In 1443, a cylindrical tower (Jiskra’s Tower) was erected. In the second half of the 15th century, the palace was rebuilt and a new Gothic chapel was built. 

The castle was partly reconstructed in the 20th century, and it now includes displays of the Spiš Museum as well as artifacts, such as torture devices formerly used in the castle.

The castle is open to visitors from May to September, every day from 9:00 am to 06:00 pm, and until 4:00 pm from April to October, while it opens from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm during November, and it closes down in March and December.

Tickets are €8 for adults, €6 for students, and €4 for children.

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria

Hohensalzburg is a large medieval fortress in Salzburg, Austria. It can be found at an altitude of 506 meters and was built in 1077 by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. The fortress is 250 meters long and 150 meters wide, making it one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.

The fortress was originally made up of a basic bailey with a wooden wall. The fortress was renovated and expanded during the following centuries and the towers were added in 1462.

The current external strongholds were added in the 16th and 17th centuries as a precaution against a possible Turkish Invasion.

The fortress only came under siege once when a group of miners, farmers, and townspeople tried to oust Prince-Archbishop Matthäus Lang during the German Peasants’ War in 1525, but they failed to take the fortress. In the 17th century, various sections were added to the fortress to strengthen its defenses, specifically during the Thirty Years’ War, such as gunpowder stores and gatehouses. 

Hohensalzburg Fortress became a major tourist attraction with its Festungsbahn funicular railway leading up from the town to the Hasengrabenbastei opened in 1892. 

The fortress consists of several wings and a courtyard. The Prince-Bishop’s apartments are on the high floor.

Of course, Austria is one of the of the top weekend break destinations in Europe.

The Krautturm houses a large aerophone, built in 1502 by Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach, with over 200 pipes named the Salzburg Bull. 

Another interesting place within the castle or fortress is the Golden Hall or state apartments on the third floor. They were used for representative purposes and festivities and are lavishly decorated.

Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519) had a chapel built on the premises. Its door is covered with stucco and the ceiling has an ornamented star vault. 

The Golden Chamber is one of the best places to step into the castle. It has benches that are richly decorated with vines, grapes, foliage, and animals that used to be covered with cloth or leather. At one point, the walls were covered in golden leather tapestry.

The bedchamber is now decked with more modern furniture. Their room also includes a bathroom or toilet, which is basically a hole in the floor with a wooden frame.

Hohensalzburg Fortress is open from October to April daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. From May to September, it is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The tickets are €15.50 for adults and €8.80 for children between 6 and 15 years old. These tickets include a return ticket to ride the funicular, the Prince’s Chambers, the Magic Theatre, the Castle Museum, Rainer Regiment Museum, Puppet Museum, and the Alm passage exhibition as well as an audio guide. 

There are also basic tickets that exclude the Prince’s Chambers or the Magic Theatre and cost €12.20 for adults and €7 for children. 

The castle is certainly worth a day trip from Salzburg.

Windsor Castle, England

Windsor Castle is the royal residence of the Queen of England and is located in the county of Berkshire. Its grounds cover 52,609 square meters.  The earlier castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and since the time of Henry I, it has been the residence of the reigning monarch. Inside the castle is the 15th-century St George’s Chapel, where many royal events were held throughout its history.

Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the mid-13th century, and Edward III transformed the palace into something even grander. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were known to use the castle as a centre for their royal court and entertaining diplomats.

The fortifications added to the castle over the centuries since it was built helped it withstand many sieges and turbulent historical events, including the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters and a prison for Charles I. 

In the 17th century, Charles II rebuilt Windsor Castle in the Baroque style, and his successors continued to add their own touches to the castle in the following century, including the State Apartments, which became full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. 

The modern-day castle was created after a fire in 1992, resulting in a Georgian and Victorian design mixed with the preceding medieval structure, with Gothic and modern elements. 

Windsor Castle is surrounded by extensive parks and gardens, including the Home Park which has two working farms and several estate cottages such as the Frogmore estate as well as the private school, St George’s, with Eton College half a mile from the castle. There is also the Long Walk, a double-lined avenue of trees that stretches for 4.26 km long and is 75 meters wide that was established during the reign of Charles II. Finally, the Windsor Great Park stretches over 5,000 acres.

Windsor Castle is now a popular tourist attraction and the preferred weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II.

Windsor Castle is considered the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest-occupied palace in Europe with 500 inhabitants living and working in the castle. 

In recent years, Windsor Castle has hosted visits from many foreign dignitaries, including kings, queens, and presidents, in addition to many ceremonial events, such as the Waterloo ceremony, the annual ceremony of the Order of the Garter, and the Guard Mounting ceremony which takes place every day when the queen is in residence.

Aside from the weekends, Queen Elizabeth II also spends a month at Windsor Castle over Easter (March-April), known as Easter Court. The Queen also remains in residence for a week every June to attend the service of the Order of the Garter and the Royal Ascot race. During that time, a traditional State Banquet is also held in St George’s Hall.

St George’s Chapel remains an active center for worship, with daily services open to all. 

Many Royal weddings have been celebrated in St George’s Chapel, including Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999, and that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2019, Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank in 2018, as well as royal funerals such as those of Princess Margaret and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Ten British monarchs now lie buried in the chapel: Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V, George VI, and when Charles I was executed in 1648, his body was brought back and buried in St. George’s Chapel as well.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert also spent a great deal of time at Windsor Castle, and it was during Queen Victoria’s reign that the State Apartments were opened to the public. When Prince Albert died in 1861, he was buried in a spectacular mausoleum that Queen Victoria constructed at Frogmore.

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, lies buried in the Chapel as well beside her husband, King George VI, and her younger daughter, Princess Margaret.

Many parts of the Castle are open to the public, including the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dollhouse, St George’s Chapel, and the Albert Memorial Chapel. Changing the Guard takes place regularly in the Castle grounds as well, which gathers quite a large crowd. 

Tickets to tour Windsor Castle are £23.50 for adults, £13.50 for children and £21.20 for seniors and students. The tour typically includes St George’s Chapel, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which is the largest and most famous dollhouse in the world featuring miniature replicas made by leading artists and craftsmen as well as electric lighting and flushing toilets. You can also enter the State Apartments that are decked with some of the finest pieces from the Royal Collection, including paintings by acclaimed artists such as Rembrandt and Canaletto, and the Semi-State Rooms that are used by the Queen for official events and ceremonies, furnished lavishly by George IV who was known for his love of opulence.

You can also watch the Changing of the Guard, a 30-minute ceremony usually held at 11:00 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

The castle is open every day, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 10:00 am to 5:15 pm.

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle in the Czech Republic was built in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid dynasty. Throughout its history, the castle was occupied by the kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia and it is now the official office of the president.

The Guinness Book of Records has designated Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world as it occupies almost 70,000 square meters. It is also one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city, with over 1.8 million visitors every year.

The oldest part of the castle complex is the Church of the Virgin Mary which was built in 870, while the Basilica of St. Vitus and the Basilica of Saint George was established in the first half of the 10th century. The Romanesque palace was erected during the 12th century.

In the 14th century, Charles IV rebuilt the royal palace in the Gothic style, replacing the rotunda and basilica of St. Vitus with a Gothic church.

In 1485, King Vladislaus II Jagiellon added the Vladislav Hall to the Royal Palace, as well as new defense towers on the north side of the castle.

In the 16th century, the Habsburgs also added new Renaissance-style buildings. Ferdinand I built a summer palace for his wife. 

The castle complex underwent many renovations over the years mixing many architectural styles over the ages. 

Most of the castle is open to tourists, including several museums, such as the National Gallery collection of Bohemian baroque and mannerism art, an exhibition dedicated to Czech history, the Toy Museum, and the picture gallery of Prague Castle from the collection of Rudolph II, the Royal Garden, Ballgame Hall, the south gardens. 

The palace is open every day from April to October, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and the gardens, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. From November to March, the castle opens from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, but the gardens are closed during those months. 

There are different types of tickets to enter the castle and its gardens depending on the buildings you want to visit.

Ticket A allows you entry into St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the Great South Tower, the collection The Story of Prague Castle, St George’s Basilica, the Powder Tower, Golden Lane, and the Daliborka Tower. Ticket B grants access to St Vitus Cathedral, the Great South Tower, Old Royal Palace, Golden Lane, and Daliborka Tower. Ticket C allows you to enter Golden Lane and Daliborka Tower only. Ticket D allows you to visit St George’s Basilica. Ticket E allows you to visit the Powder Tower, and finally, Ticket F allows you to visit St George’s Convent.

On the other hand, admission to the castle’s courtyards and gardens and the nave of St Vitus Cathedral is free of charge.

Mehrangarh Fort, India

Mehrangarh Fort is the biggest fort in India with an area of 1,200 acres and its walls are 36 meters high and 21 meters wide. It is located on a hilltop in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, and was constructed in the 15th century by Rajput ruler Rao Jodha. Within the fort, there are several palaces with large courtyards, as well as a museum displaying many unique artifacts. 

Some of the well-known festivals that take pace in the fort here are the World Sacred Spirit Festival and Rajasthan International Folk Festival.

Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur as the capital of Marwar.  He built the fort in 1459 9 kilometers to the south of Mandore. The fort was established on a hill known as the mountain of birds. 

A popular legend related to the building of the fort says that he had to establish the building, he had to evacuate the only human living on the hill, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the lord of birds. The man refused to leave, so Rao Jodha asked for help from a powerful saint, the female warrior sage of Charan caste Shri Karni Mata of Deshnok. She asked Cheeria Nathji to leave, which he eventually did due to her immense power, but not before cursing Rao Jodha, “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!” To appease him, Rao Jodha built a house and a temple for Cheeria Nathji in the fort. Rao Jodha, impressed with Karni Mata Rao, invited her to lay down the foundation stone of the Mehrangarh Fort. 

You can enter the fort through seven gates, including Jai Pol (Gate of Victory), built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 to celebrate his victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner; Fateh Pol, built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals in 1707; Dedh Kamgra Pol, which still bears the signs of bombardment by cannonballs; and Loha Pol, which leads into the main area of the complex. 

The fort contains several beautiful palaces, such as the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, and Daulat Khana. The museum within the fort also displays a collection of costumes, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, and furniture. The ramparts of the fort provide a breathtaking view of the city.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is attached to the Mehrangarh Fort, spreading over 72 hectares. The park opened to the public in February 2011. 

At the entrance of the fort, there are musicians performing folk music, and the fort houses museums, restaurants, exhibitions, and craft bazaars. 

The fort was also used as a filming location, such as for Disney’s 1994 live-action film The Jungle Book, and the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. 

The fort is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and tickets are 600 Rs. with audio, with an extra ticket required for photography, 100 Rs. for still photos, and 200 Rs. for videos.

Malbork Castle, Poland

Malbork Castle is a 13th-century Teutonic castle and fortress located near the town of Malbork in Poland. It is considered the largest castle in the world based on its land area and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was built by the Teutonic Knights, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders, to strengthen their own control of the area. The castle was built over the course of 1300 years and overlooks the river Nogat which allowed easy access by barges and trading ships arriving from the Vistula and the Baltic Sea. It was expanded several times to house the growing number of Knights until it became the largest fortified Gothic building in Europe, on a nearly 21-hectare site.

In 1457, it was sold to King Casimir IV of Poland and it has since become one of the Polish royal residences.

Malbork castle consists of three different castles which are: the High Castle, the Middle Castle, and the Lower Castle. The outermost castle is 21 hectares which is four times the area of Windsor Castle. 

The entrance to the complex is from the northern side, and from the main gate, you walk over the drawbridge, then go through five iron-barred doors leading to the courtyard of the Middle Castle.

To your right is the Grand Masters’ Palace, whose largest chamber is 450 square meters. On the other side of the courtyard, there’s a collection of period weapons and armor on display along with an Amber Museum as amber was an important source of revenue for the Teutonic Knights at the time. Then, you can move on to St Anne’s Chapel where 12 Grand Masters were buried, followed by the High Castle.

Malbork Castle Museum is open from Monday to Sunday; from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm. Tickets are 29.50zł.

Take a look at our must-see destinations around the world, for inspiration on your next adventure.

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