Outside Malbork

If you've been bitten by the Gothic bug, there are a number of fortresses either built, or captured, by the Teutonic Knights in the vicinity of Malbork. The entire series is listed on www.zamkigotyckie.org.pl. However, in comparison with Malbork Castle, the other properties may come across as dwarfs. The castles in Kwidzyn and Gniew, both about 40km (25 miles) southwest of Malbork, can be bundled in as a side trip. Both can be reached by public buses from Gdansk or Malbork.

Formerly known as Marienwerder, Kwidzyn is unique for the side-by-side construction of a 14th-century castle and cathedral. Another interesting feature is the gdanisko, roughly translated as a sewage tower used for depositing waste into the river below (which has since changed course). The gdanisko is connected to the main castle via a bridge, and it's the longest of its kind in Europe. The complex, featuring original interiors, now houses the Kwidzyn Museum (Katedralna 1; tel. 55/646-37-80; www.zamek.kwidzyn.pl). The museum has a quirky habit of deviating from the stipulated opening hours, so call before you visit.

Visiting the castle in Gniew (Zamkowa 3; tel. 58/535-35-33; www.zamek-gniew.pl) only makes sense if it coincides with a festival. Gniew is known for its world-class reenactments of historical battles. The European Festival of History (last weekend of July) covers power struggles from the medieval period to World War II, while Vivat Vasa (second weekend in Aug) focuses on a 17th-century tussle between the Polish and Swedish royals. At both events, you can expect meticulous attention to armory and retro hairdos, plus displays of horsemanship.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.