Hamburg, famous for its hats and ground meat products, does not immediately make one think of model trains. However, the German city is home to the largest model train installation in the world, the Miniatur Wunderland.
Miniatur Wunderland’s website claims that their miniature railway is one of the epicenters of tourism within Germany. While this may be a slightly exaggerated statement – it’s hard to see a model train set competing in popularity with the famous Neuschwanstein Castle or the Brandenburg Gate – the Wunderland’s incredibly intricate models of not only trains, but entire towns and villages, make it a place well worth visiting.
Encompassing over 1,100 square meters, all housed within a large complex centrally located in Hamburg, the Wunderland is an impressive display of engineering and detail. The model trains travel through the replicated landscapes of Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and, although geographically implausible, the United States (there is even a miniature rendering of Mount Rushmore!).
The most impressive aspect of the Wunderland is the detail. There are thousands upon thousands of highly accurate miniature models. Container ships midway through unloading their contents, working cable cars that climb the snowy mountains of miniature Switzerland, and a fairly accurate rendering of the Las Vegas strip, complete with garish lighting and small models of women in short skirts standing on corners. There are over 170 computer-controlled cars that move throughout the entire diorama.
As their website explains, because there is a limited amount of space within the Miniatur Wunderland there can be, at times, a bit of a line to get in. However, in true German fashion you can access “Waiting Time Forecasts” through the website or alternatively book your tickets in advance through their reservation system.
There is also the option of special behind-the-scenes tours, which show participants the complex inner workings that make the Wunderland, such a large and intricate model, tick.
In the spirit of favoring all things small, all children “smaller than 1 meter” are allowed free admission into the Wunderland. Be warned though, if you are over 120kg (265lbs) you will not be allowed to participate, due to “space restrictions.”