Any trip to Hamburg would not be complete without a visit to the world’s largest model railway. As you may know, we’re travelling (driving) to Latvia for a wedding, and the truth is I planned our entire journey there via Hamburg! And it’s all because of Miniatur Wunderland. I came across a 5 minute video of it on Facebook some months ago, and from that moment I knew I had to take the children (and husband of course!) Now I know many of you will say “I grew out of ‘that’ years ago” and dismiss it out of hand. But listen – it is brilliant and even those who are not railway model geeks or anoraks will be impressed (and I’ll put money on you mentally planning to build your own layout before you reach the exit!) Just a word of warning – it can get very busy during peak hours and it definitely pays to book in advance. If you turn up on spec (like we did) you may have a wait of about 90 minutes or more before you can go in and you must wait in their waiting room to be called. The best thing to do is to book tickets online and they give you a time to turn up – sort of a fast pass – it costs no more and you can go straight in.
There are three floors of model railways to look over along with the modelling workshops and the ubiquitous exhibition shop. All the great European rail countries are represented including Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and even the US. I believe the whole of Hamburg has been miniaturised too! The modelling and attention to detail are exceptional even down to naked swimmers, bike races, a prison, a purple Milka cow, a crashed car being lifted out a river, a building fire and a key attraction – a fully-fledged airport with planes that take off and land. Another warning – the airport set up is very popular so expect to queue to get up close to the runways.
Everywhere you look there’s something new to take in. There are ferry and cruise terminals and models of some of the largest rail terminals in Germany. Stadiums, fairgrounds, ski resorts with cable cars, industrial scenes, and even Las Vegas! There is so much to see and the whole exhibit actually goes through day and night phases (every 15 minutes). You can easily take about two hours looking around – and you’ll take hundreds, if not thousands, of photos (yes, really).
Be prepared for a little bit of pushing and shoving … there are some enthusiasts who will gaze at the railway for hours and not be moved (and seem oblivious to the blockage of people behind them). It can get quite busy but if you work around each section methodically, you won’t miss anything.
There are a couple of humorous touches to look out for i.e., Mount Rushmore has Stalin’s face as one of the US presidents; there is a Superman saving a car from going over a cliff; a man having a wee in an outside toilet shed; a dinosaur skeleton in a garden, and also a group of imaginary rabbits can be found fishing at a riverside lodge.
All-in-all a great attraction for both kids and adults and we’re so pleased we have finally managed to visit. We were told by the lovely lady on the ticket desk that dogs are allowed in too, but I think ours would have been a bit of a hindrance so they went to doggy daycare for the day.
A really nice final touch – the restaurant, at the end of the exhibition, has comfy train seats to sit in and is very reasonably priced (I can recommend their bean-to-cup coffee with milk). It was a nice rest at the end of two hours of walking/standing … though the book we found on our table, all about plane crash investigations, didn’t seem wholly appropriate! The shop is also very good as it is a well-stocked model shop with a few tasteful souvenirs.
It felt like a teeny bit of a busman’s holiday when I came across an amazing model of the AIDAblu cruise ship! Having seen the ‘real thing’ I can vouch that the detail is spot on. I did love the whole water exhibition, with the moving cargo vessel and the cruise ship.
Would I go again? Absolutely. They are currently working on a new ‘Italy’ exhibit, and it looks like it’s going to be awesome! After Italy they are going to build France/Monaco, and after that, Great Britain … so we’ve got to go back to see London miniaturised haven’t we!
Some geeky stats for you. There are:
- 274 moving cars
- 930 locomotives
- More than 40 airplanes
- 215,000 figurines
- 335,000 lights
- 13,000m track
- It has taken 580,000 man hours – so far!
- It is all controlled by 46 computers
- They have had over 14 million visitors, to date
For more information, please visit Miniatur Wunderland Homepage