Hamburg comes with the typical kind of weather you can expect from any city that lies close to the sea. Lots of wind, rain and grey skies. No problem though, as there are tons of indoor activities to discover in Germany´s main port city. Like the world´s largest model railway that will make every model builder´s heart go jumping!
It was just the type of weather mentioned above when I had an afternoon to spare during a recent European tour. Perfect to spend it inside, away from the cold, the rain and the wind. But I was not in the mood for some serious cultural entertainment, so instead of heading to one of Hamburg´s museums, I decided to check out the Miniature Wonderland model railway.
Located close to the Elbe River and the cruise port in the historic Speicherstadt, it is easy to reach by public transportation or even by foot from the main square Rathausplatz.
Being a model builder myself (when I have time I love to build and paint classic ocean liners), there is a general interest in model railways from my side since I have been a young boy. But speaking about a model railway, “Miniatur Wunderland” is far beyond what you could imagine it to be.
The entire installation spreads over 1,490 square meters (that is two levels in a historic warehouse!) and features world-famous scenarios from Austria, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the United States.
It is simply massive and the attention to detail was just breathtaking. Every 15 minutes, the entire setting would go through a day and night simulation, illuminating all 385,000 LEDs to a beautiful landscape of glittering lights.
Another popular highlight within the model railway is the fully operating miniature airport with real-life complex flight simulations and ground handling! You can watch airplanes such as the A380, A350 and the B747 take off and land while other planes are moving over the aprons. Amazing!
The installation has seen already over 16 million visitors and is one of Hamburg´s most popular sightseeing hotspots around, not only for families with children. Its latest addition, Italy, opened just in September 2016 and features as highlights such as an erupting volcano, the Amalfi Coast and downtown Rome.
An extension to the Italian scenery is almost completed (it will be Venice, set to open later in 2018) and there are already plans to add Monaco and France, as well as Great Britain from 2019 on.
Another nice touch are small interactive features in each section that can be activated by pushing a button allocated close to the hand rails. These might be a flying saucer, a high speed train or a thunderstorm in the mountains. I promise you, every adult will turn eight again here.
Constructions have started in 2000 and include over 760,000 hours of work until today! There are momentarily nine themes to discover which eventually will be expanded to 13. Over 17,000 railway cars are constantly moving over 15,400 meters of railway tracks. The entire model has cost already over 20 Million Euros!
Admission is 15 € for adults and 7,50€ for children. For those particularly interested, they also offer a “Behind the Scenes” tour where you literally walk through the model worlds. Detailed information and prices can be found on the website.
Personally, I found this place truly spectacular! While the admission fee seemed to be a bit high at first, in the end it was more than worth it and in my opinion also a form of respect to the model builders and their terrific work.
A good time to visit is during late lunch hours, particularly during the week. You will also find a souvenir shop and a cafeteria for some fast food snacks inside the premise. Definitely not to be missed when visiting Hamburg!