People scramble out of their cars to give chase after dozens of cheese wheels that have fallen out of a delivery truck and are bouncing down the highway. In the distance, trumpet sounds play to signal the beginning of a knight’s tournament. In an underground tunnel, a robber tries to drill through a bank’s vault. Still, the two lovers in a faraway sunny sunflower field are oblivious to everything around them. In just a few moments, you can view all of these scenes from a bird’s eye view inside Miniatur Wunderland, one of the best places to explore in Germany.
World’s Largest Model Railway
Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway. You can find it in the historic warehouse district of Hamburg, Germany. It has 930 trains and over eight miles of tracks. It is indeed the largest miniature world on earth, with eight themed sections, including an airport and 215,000 figurines!
This world belongs to twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun. After 500,000 hours and millions of dollars, they were able to open the attraction in 2000. Today, it attracts over a million visitors each year and is the most successful exhibit in the city.
Walking into this place for the first time, I found it difficult to suppress a huge grin. Of course, as an adult, with no children, I am not what you would consider a typical visitor of this type of attraction. But, nevertheless, I quickly forgot about all of my adult life stress and problems and began to feel like a kid again.
The miniature amusement park was the first reason for my smile. I saw an incredible amount of detail in each little person, from their clothes to facial expressions. If they were not moving on a ride, they were staged in some action, creating a realistic feel to the little world beneath me.
The giant Ferris wheel was hard not to miss, but it looked even more impressive at night with its neon pink and yellow lights. Miniatur Wunderland simulates a day-night cycle that lasts 15 minutes. As a result, many areas drastically change their look and feel during “night”. I was unaware, for example, of the Alien spaceship until it hovered past me during the night sequence. Apparently, they were trying to communicate with a fellow alien behind on miniature earth?
I also couldn’t stop smiling because I was beating my husband with our little scavenger hunt game. We received a “Travel Guide” pamphlet with our tickets which provided a little map, some facts about the place, and twenty popular details to find. We bet that I would find more than him. We are both competitive people, but when we compete against each other…no mercy is ever spared! Suddenly, finding these pieces became the most important thing. I won in the end, but he still tries to take credit for some of my findings.
It’s also interactive!
Miniatur Wunderland has over 150 push-button actions that are programmed to generate different scenarios. My favourite push-buttons were at the knight’s tournament. I induced a jousting competition and a one-to-one combat match. I was even more amazed at the tiny camera flashes from the small audience.
The most exciting night scenario was the fire brigade’s attempt to fire in a vast red brick building. Fire trucks raced to the scene with their sirens all arriving at once as the flames continue to grow.
By far, the Airport was the most impressive section. Like an actual airport, planes taxi, take off and fly, and land again. It even has its own air traffic controller tower. Other vehicles are busy, too; taxis and buses move around to transport luggage, cargo, and passengers.
How do they operate Miniatur Wunderland?
I was amazed to see that the miniature world had better drivers too. All the cars followed traffic signs and other rules of the road. They even remembered to turn on their headlights at night and use the emergency lights when there was a traffic incident.
This blue tourist bus waited patiently at a red traffic light until it turned green.
But how do they manage all this? As I understand it, everything is operated from a control console with the help of 40 computers. The Brauns use a technology based on the Faller Car System. Each vehicle is programmed to assess its situation 20 times a second. The computers also calculate the best route for how each car should reach its destination. Each car can then detect virtual street signs, merge into traffic, or find alternative routes if emergencies get in their way, like the fire brigade. I wish a computer would drive my car to sit back and relax on the autobahn!
As of 2014, they had completed eight sections:
1. Central Germany or the Harz
2. The fictional town of Knuffingen
5. America, featuring the Grand Canyon, Area 51, Las Vegas, and Miami
7. Switzerland presents beautiful mountain landscapes over two stories high and about 2,691 square feet.
Projects started in 2015 and after in Miniatur Wunderland
The Braun brothers started working on a section for Italy and France in 2015 and Great Britain in 2017. However, the area I am most excited about is Africa, especially the pyramids. The imagination of these brothers is limitless, and I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next!
Miniatur Wunderland is definitely worth the visit, no matter your age. Although, like me, you might end up just acting like a big kid again.
Since Miniatur Wunderland is open 365 days a year, I highly recommend going on a Monday because most of the other museums are closed on that day.
Address: Kehrwieder 2-4,
Tuesdays: 9:30 am – 9:00 pm
Saturdays: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sunday and Public Holidays: 8:30 am – 8:00 pm
The website suggests booking tickets in advance to avoid a long wait time. You can either do this online or purchase the tickets there beforehand.
Adults: 12 €
Children under 16 years: 6 €
Getting There: Take the U3 to the Baumwall station