It’s a rare but awesome occurrence when you discover something as an adult that pulls you back into a childlike state of awe, curiosity and wonder. If you’re alone, you wish you had another set of eyes to share the experience with, pointing out this and dragging over to that—someone else to bear witness to this magical display before you.
Although the giant container ships of the city’s free harbor may offer some competition, there is still one clear winner in this category in Hamburg: Miniatur Wunderland. If you’re visiting the city, plan to dedicate at least an afternoon to the experience. If possible, take a friend (school-age or otherwise) along with you.
Conceived and run by twin brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun, Miniatur Wunderland is the model railway display to end all model railway displays. The admission price (12€/9€ reduced, children 6€) is worth every cent. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a train geek or have never dug miniature trains—you’ll be excited about them after your visit. If you don’t believe me, check them out in action:
Hundreds of thousands of hours and a keen sense of humor have gone into creating the extensive model railway exhibition, which is housed over two floors of a converted warehouse in Hamburg’s central Speicherstadt district. Your journey will take you through Switzerland, Austria, Scandinavia, the United States and Germany. Currently there are over eight miles of miniature rail, but the ever-expanding Wunderland is aiming for a total of 12.5 miles with its Italian, French and British models now under construction.
Over the last decade, the Wunderland has experimented with many technologies. Scandinavia, true to form, is surrounded by water and is serviced by remote-controlled ferries. America and Germany feature roadways with moving cars and trucks. The exhibit’s newest section, Knuffingen Airport, features a runway where planes taxi, take off, and land.
In order to keep the trains from colliding on the tracks and more quickly fix derailments, the miniature railway (and all other elements) is controlled by an extensive computer system that mimics the one used by actual rail traffic controllers.
Great for kids or for the kid in all of us, Miniatur Wunderland is a stand-out experience you won’t ever forget.
It’s open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and in summer these hours are often extended both earlier and later (check the website for exact times).