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It’s hard to describe Miniatur Wunderland without visiting it. While it’s a giant train exhibition, it really is so much more than that! It’s officially the largest model railway in the world – and it’s still expanding! On my first trip to Miniatur Wunderland, I budgeted 2 hours and ended up not leaving until closing time (close to 4 hours later). Even after 4 hours, I could have continued exploring the entire model railway.
If you’re worried that Miniatur Wunderland is too childish, fear not – I was shocked at how excited I got about seeing all the different worlds and pushing the various buttons (spoiler: in Switzerland, there’s a button for a chocolate factory that actually delivers a piece of Lindt chocolate!). As Miniatur Wunderland is quite large, it is a bit overwhelming on your first visit. Here are some tips for visiting Miniatur Wunderland and the best way to plan your visit there!
- Coming to visit Hamburg for the weekend? Check out these things to know before visiting Hamburg!
Table of Contents
- What is Miniatur Wunderland?
- History Behind Miniatur Wunderland
- Facts Regarding Miniatur Wunderland
- Best Themed World at Miniatur Wunderland
- Buttons and Switches at Miniatur Wunderland
- Tips for Visiting Miniatur Wunderland
- Public Transportation to Miniatur Wunderland
- Where to Stay in Hamburg
What is Miniatur Wunderland?
As described above, Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway. Located in Hamburg’s old warehouse district, the Speicherstadt, the museum now spans several floors of an old, brick building (with an expansion planned to a second building). With a total of 9 themed worlds and several more on the way, the museum still has so much more growing to do!
Here are the themed worlds currently created:
- Central Germany (Harz Mountains) – as one of the first themed worlds created, this region is distinct for its quaint German villages and mountainous areas. There is an old castle, an open-air theater, a funfair, and a high-speed ICE train running straight through the world!
- Knuffingen – a made-up town somewhere between Central Germany and the Alps, the themed world is well-known for its car industry as well as extensive public service entities including a robust police and fire department. Their limits are put to the test every 15 minutes as they deal with a fire somewhere in Knuffingen. Make sure to watch the fire trucks and sirens in action!
- Austria – this themed world is a skiers delight! With a focus on the Austrian Alps, snow, and skiing, there’s a bit of something for anyone who’s a huge fan of the outdoors. Don’t miss out on these panoramic views.
- Hamburg – a perfect replica of the city I’ve come to absolutely love and adore. The attention to detail in this themed world is absolutely impeccable. With the main train station one of the featured attractions, there’s always an adventure to be found in Hamburg!
- USA – trying to replicate the United States in one themed world is a challenge, but this is a great representation of the country. From the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and from Mount Rushmore and Yosemite National Park to the Keys and Cape Canaveral, the expansive USA is covered!
- Scandinavia – Depicting the countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, Scandinavia is the largest themed world. Along with the snow and light theatrics, there are over 30,000 liters of water incorporated into this themed world in order to depict the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
- Switzerland – This two-story themed world is one of the most diverse and expansive worlds. It’s even possible to walk through the mining tunnel of the Matterhorn! Due to being on multiple floors, this themed world offers the most diverse views and angles of a single world. Bonus – there’s a Lindt chocolate factory that delivers real, sample-sized chocolate! Try to find the hidden button :)
- Knuffingen Airport – Knuffingen’s own airport! Come watch the planes take off and land. Along with the regular commercial and cargo flights, you might even see the Millennium Falcom make a surprise appearance. Based on Hamburg Airport, Knuffingen Airport is one of the coolest themed worlds at Miniatur Wunderland!
- Italy (including the new Venice section) – As the newest themed world to Miniatur Wunderland, Italy offers it all – Southern Italy with the Amalfi Coast, South Tyrol, Rome, Tuscany, Liguria, and Venice.
But don’t worry, several additional themed worlds are under construction or planned out already. The newest themed world to open will be Funfair, hopefully in April 2020, followed by Monaco (and a Formula One circuit) and Provence at the end of 2020. These themed worlds are also planned for future years:
- South America (2021)
- Central America & Carribean (2023)
- Asia (2026)
There are also rumors of themed worlds for England, France, and Benelux in the upcoming years. The best part about Miniatur Wunderland is that it is constantly expanding and adding new themed worlds – there are plans to keep developing it for at least the next 6 years, if not longer!
History Behind Miniatur Wunderland
What started as a hobby for twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun has now morphed into one of Hamburg’s coolest museums! Miniatur Wunderland was dreamed up in July 2000 and officially opened in August 2001 with three worlds – Central Germany, Knuffingen, and Austria. In terms of size, the model railway started out as 1,500 m² – it now covers 7,000 m² with expansion plans through at least 2026!
Less than 20 years after it first opened its doors, Miniatur Wunderland was voted Germany’s most popular tourist attraction (in both 2016 and 2017) – coming ahead of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (or the “Disney Castle”). It continues to be one of the most popular places in Hamburg and has around 1 million visitors per year.
We are confident that even in adulthood, Miniatur Wunderland will continue to have the heart of a child and make people from around the world happy with its miniature world.Frederik & gerrit braun
Facts Regarding Miniatur Wunderland
It’s hard to even begin to imagine the amount of work and dedication that has gone into creating Miniatur Wunderland! Here’s just a few facts and numbers to get an idea of the attention to detail regarding the various themed worlds:
- 15,715 meters of track or 15.7 km of track (51,558 feet of track or 9.8 miles of track)
- 1,040 trains and more than 10,000 rail cars
- 1,380 signals and 3,454 switches
- 50+ computers controlling the themed worlds
- 389,000 LED lights
- 4,340 buildings
- 130,000 trees
- 923,000 working hours (building the themed worlds) with over 300 employees
- 35 million Euros worth of construction costs
Because Miniatur Wunderland is constantly expanding, these numbers are continuously increasing!
Best Themed World at Miniatur Wunderland
What an extremely subjective question! Each themed world offers something completely different for each visitor. By far, the coolest themed world is Knuffingen Airport! Not only can you watch all the planes take-off and land but also the whole process of airplanes taxiing, going to their gate, etc. It completely replicates a real airport.
The attention to detail is so precise and quite mesmerizing. Living in Hamburg, I fully appreciate how perfectly designed the Hamburg themed world matches the actual city of Hamburg. Between the buildings, bodies of water, boats, and the different city quarters, it felt like I was actually in the city. Plus, they recently added the Elbphilharmonie – and it even opens up to show a concert happening inside the venue.
Both the United States and Italy themed worlds are quite incredible because they accurately portray so many aspects of the two countries. For the United States, it covers everything from the American West and some of the National Parks to Las Vegas and Florida. I’m curious whether they’ll continue expanding the United States to properly showcase other aspects of the country. Additionally, Italy is quite well covered in terms of regions – there’s Rome, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, South Tyrol, and Tuscany. I’m excited to see how Monaco and southern France will fit with Italy!
Buttons and Switches at Miniatur Wunderland
Don’t forget – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of buttons and switches for the various themed worlds! Besides the themed worlds automatically switching from daytime to nighttime every 15 to 20 minutes, the hundreds of buttons throughout the model railway make all the themed worlds interactive.
From causing “fires”, turning on lights, activating sounds, and even being delivered a piece of Lindt chocolate, these buttons and switches are just waiting to be pushed or flipped for a fully interactive experience. Make sure not to just look at eye level – search high and low because you never know where one might be hidden!
Tips for Visiting Miniatur Wunderland
After visiting Miniatur Wunderland and talking to other locals, there are quite a few tips to know beforehand! Here are some of my best pieces of advice:
Whatever you decide to do, book your tickets ahead of time!!! The waiting time can easily be a few hours long and it isn’t uncommon for there to be no tickets left for the day. By booking your tickets ahead of time, you’re able to guarantee a spot in the museum at the time of your choice. Additionally, you won’t have to wait in line for potentially several hours. It’s super easy to book the tickets ahead of time:
You will be able to select a 60-minute time slot in which you’re able to enter the exhibition. However, once you’re inside the model railway, you’re able to stay as long as you’d like! This works perfectly when you get too engrossed in the themed worlds and end up staying 4 hours, instead of your estimated 2 hours! :)
Miniatur Wunderland Opening Hours
The opening and closing times are always changing for Miniatur Wunderland, so make sure to double-check the times before visiting! In general, the model railway is open 365 days a year from at least 9:30 am – 6:00 pm. On weekends and public holidays as well as during school holidays and Tuesdays, the hours are usually extended. Make sure to check the website beforehand for the most up-to-date hours.
Best Times & Worst Times to Visit Miniatur Wunderland
If you haven’t booked a ticket ahead time, make sure to check out this page to view the wait time:
Best Times to Visit Miniatur Wunderland: When I visited Miniatur Wunderland, we went on a Sunday evening (school night) around 6:00 pm. We were surprised at how empty it was with barely any crowds. However, we weren’t complaining!
In general, it’s best to visit when school’s in session, either early in the morning (right when it opens) or late in the evening when kids will be home eating dinner or getting ready for bed. Additionally, the better the weather outside, the less packed Miniatur Wunderland will be (excluding the summer months though).
Worst Times to Visit Miniatur Wunderland: The number one piece of advice I’ve been told is to not visit Miniatur Wunderland when it’s raining if you’re trying to avoiding waiting around or large crowds. It’s one of the best indoor activities in Hamburg so many families flock to Miniatur Wunderland during poor weather. Additionally, the high-season tourist months also bring an increasing number of visitors.
Special Tours for Miniatur Wunderland
There are several special projects and events held throughout the year for specific guests. Here are some of the highlights:
- Wheelchair Mondays: While Miniatur Wunderland is barrier-free, it is hard for wheelchair-bound individuals to be able to fully experience Miniatur Wunderland with larger crowds. Every 4-8 weeks, a Monday evening (6:00 pm – 8:00 pm) will be reserved only for those in wheelchairs. Here’s more information about the specific dates.
- Wunderland at Night: Taking place every couple of weeks, Wunderland at Night has extended hours for a small number of visitors. While the tickets are slightly more expensive, it’s a great way to experience Miniatur Wunderland in a smaller setting. There’s also an opportunity for more of a behind-the-scenes tour. Most of the tours are in German but some guides also speak English. Here’s more information about the specific dates.
- Culinary Trip Around the World: Get ready to fully immerse yourself in the themed worlds by simultaneously enjoying a culinary delight! Offered once or twice a month from 8:00 pm – 11:30 pm, enjoy the regional foods from some of the themed worlds while enjoying a more behind-the-scenes tour. While the tours are conducted in German, some of the guides do speak English! Here’s more information about specific dates.
- Big Tubs & Small Trains: Combine a 1-hour harbor boat tour – a Hamburg tourist must-do – with a visit to Miniatur Wunderland. Start with the harbor tour before exploring the model railway. There are several dates every single month. Unfortunately, this special offer is not barrier-free. Here’s more information about specific dates.
- Guided Backstage Tours: Offered multiple times a day, these behind-the-scenes tours only allow a maximum of 6 participants, making it an intimate experience! You can sign up for the tour online but there’s no additional cost besides the ticket price. If you’re wanting a tour in English but don’t see one offered or available, just write to them – they can usually put a group together! Because the behind-the-scenes tour is only 60 minutes, there are plenty of opportunities to explore Miniatur Wunderland before and/or after the tour. Unfortunately, the backstage tours are not barrier-free. Here’s more information about specific dates and languages.
Other Important Information for Visiting Miniatur Wunderland
- Bring your camera! Picture taking is not only allowed, but highly encouraged!
- There is a cloakroom to store coats and bags (I saw luggage being stored there but would remind you to also be courteous about the number of items you bring).
- If you’re hungry, no worries! There is a small cafe serving meals and drinks (including alcohol) to visitors.
- Reminder to buy your tickets in advance for Miniatur Wunderland!
Public Transportation to Miniatur Wunderland
There are several different ways to reach Miniatur Wunderland by public transportation. The easiest way is by using the U-Bahn. The closest U-Bahn station is Baumwall. From Baumwall, it’s less than a 5-minute walk to Miniatur Wunderland.
- From the Main Train Station: Hop on the U3 line and take it 4 stops to Baumwall.
- From the S1, S2, or S3: Take any of these three S-Bahns to Landungsbrücken and then switch to the U3 (Baumwall is one station away) or walk about 10 minutes from Landungsbrücken directly to Miniatur Wunderland.
- From Ferry 72: If you’re looking for a fun and unique experience (and not on a time crunch), take Ferry 72 from Landungsbrücken only one stop to Elbphilharmonie. You can then walk about 5 minutes from the Elbphilharmonie to Miniatur Wunderland.
Where to Stay in Hamburg
Hamburg is one of the more expensive cities in Germany, especially when it comes to finding affordable hotels! However, there are still accommodation options in Hamburg for all budgets. Prices can vary depending on the time of year.
Budget: Under 100 Euros a night (cheaper if you have a shared dorm)
Mid-Range: 100 Euros – 300 Euros a night
Luxury: More than 300 Euros a night
Generator Hostels is consistently my favorite hostel chain in Europe. I’ve stayed at their locations all over Europe because they’re clean, affordable, and well-located. The Generator Hostel in Hamburg is situated close to the main train station, making it easy to explore Hamburg and the surrounding region.
One of the coolest hostels ever, Pyjama Park has two locations – in the Schanzenviertel and St. Pauli. With a mix of both shared dorms and private rooms, this hostel is like a green oasis in the center of an urban jungle.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability in Schanzenviertel here.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability in St. Pauli here.
25hours Hotel, located in both Altes Hafenamt and HafenCity, is the hippiest new hotel chain in Europe. As part of AccorHotels, they cater to a younger audience looking for a more boutique feel and personalized experience. Most 25hours hotels have a hip bar and classy restaurant within it.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability for Altes Hafenamt here.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability for HafenCity here.
Motel One hotels are deceiving in the name – they are far from a motel! This fast-growing hotel chain in Europe is hip, cool, and always at an affordable rate (sometimes under 100 Euros). Both locations in Hamburg, am Michel or at the Alster, are in excellent locations.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability for am Michel here.
- Check rates, reviews, and availability for the Alster here.
Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten is Hamburg’s premier hotel. Located overlooking the Alster in central Hamburg, this 5-star hotel has routinely been ranked as one of the best hotels in the world. Indulge in yourself and book at a state at this luxurious hotel.
Hotel Atlantic Kempinski is located on the opposite of the Alster from the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and just as opulent as the other hotel. A historical building in Hamburg, this hotel used to be the hotel of 1st-class passengers emigrating to the United States before their journey started. It’s now a favorite hotel of celebrities.
The Westin is Hamburg’s newest luxury hotel. Located in the Elbphilharmonie, it offers superior views of the entire Port of Hamburg. Additionally, being situated inside of the Elbphilharmonie, it’s just a few steps away from one of the premier musical institutions in all of Europe! Definitely take advantage of one of Hamburg’s most prestigious hotels and locations.