Review: Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg

(NB. This post was originally written in Feb 2016. It has been updated)

It is totally no surprise that Miniatur Wunderland (MW) is THE number 1 tourist attraction in Hamburg. It works at every level, for everyone in the family; mums, dads & kids.

That’s because, not only is it endlessly fascinating, but it’s huge (the largest model railway system in the world), it’s a reflection in which we can see ourselves, and it’s fun!

Model station
MW is not just a huge model railway… but that’s the focus!

Spoiler alert: I’m sorry but this review is going to be ‘gushing’ because everything about Miniatur Wunderland is amazing and I think it is easily one of the best, if not THE best, attraction of its kind in the world.

I am a huge fan, and I’m not alone – not only does it have a max 5-star rating from Tripadvisor based on over 21,400 reviews, but last year (2018) over 14 million people visited it!

And you can tell there are plenty of people worldwide who would like to visit. Since it was published on Youtube back in Nov 2011, Miniatur Wunderland’s official English language video,  has been watched for an average 2:56 mins by over 26 million people! 

Never mind their official video (actually there are squillions of videos. Just do a Youtube search) here’s mine. Google Photos took it upon itself to auto-create a video from my clips & photos. Not sure I would have picked the same music though!

So, why is Miniatur Wunderland so cool?

Well, there are a number of reasons, starting with its sense of fun.

I grew up near a model village in Devon. It’s still there, decades later and still drawing in the crowds because it’s full of playful fun, with plenty of recognisable references, some of them tongue-in-cheek, to the local area and contemporary cultural events and people. Miniatur Wunderland does the same…

Exhibit A: The armed police laying in wait in the underground bank vault for the hapless burglars who’ve tunnelled their way to the vault and are about to break through.

Miniatur Wunderland tunneling bank robber
Cops ready & waiting for the breakthrough!

Exhibit B: The dangling monk, trying to climb down to his bees and needing to be rescued.

Miniatur Wunderland dangling monk
The dangling monk

It’s also the extreme detail: MW is a series of complete miniature worlds. Not just railways, though railways dominate, but cars, boats, planes, landscapes, buildings, street furniture, and people – a cast of thousands – all living in, for example, the fictitious city of Knuffingen, which not only has some detail…

“It’s a city of 10,000 inhabitants, idyllically situated between the Harz and the Alps, and one of the largest cities in Miniatur Wunderland. Knuffingen is known for its innovations and has a worldwide reputation for its automobile industry. The groundbreaking Carsystem of Miniatur Wunderland was initially installed in Knuffingen, and still is the largest in Wunderland with more than 90 cars. The police in Knuffingen are also well equipped. A radar trap regularly catches truck drivers who are putting the pedal to the metal. The fire department Knuffingen is working at full capacity, and the central computer system is afflicted by the work of an arsonist who sets fires on different houses in the city. We haven’t been able to catch the arsonist yet, much to the annoyance of the fire department and the joy of our guests. So, the siren will be heard as a characteristic sound in Knuffingen for a long time to come.”

…it also has its own website!

It’s the clever technology: planes landing, taking off & taxiing (to a schedule posted on an airport style departure board – everybody waits to see Concorde take off!) while airside support vehicles run around them at Knuffingen Airport, ships manoeuvering through rocky coastlines in Scandinavia, cable-cars in the mountains, cranes moving stuff around. And all this in a 15-minute “day” which transits into a pink sunset, night, and then morning again.

 

It’s the interaction: There are over 150 push buttons around the displays that activate animated scenes and effects, EG. two guys having a race on pallet trucks in one of the cargo areas at the airport, or the tractor pulling competition in Bavaria or the DJ Bobo performance at a huge music festival in Switzerland.

Miniatur Wunderland, DJ Bobo concert
DJ Bobo and his adoring public

It’s the way MW shows us what we want to see and let’s us soak it all up: I love the way we are allowed to see ‘behind the scenes’. The control room, with all the techies watching the computers running the systems, and the CCTV screens displaying not only parts of the ‘worlds’ but also the perspective from some of the trains (they’re fitted with cameras), is also part of the ‘display’. And (this one is one of my pet issues) MW’s policy on photography. When I asked about it on my way in the reply was: “Of course! Photograph or film everything you want. We encourage you to!”

Miniatur Wunderland control room
A peek behind the scenes – even the control room is on display

What’s there exactly?

Miniatur Wunderland, which in 2020 will be celebrating its 19th anniversary, is spread over three floors in a huge former warehouse in the docks area of central Hamburg. It comprises ten zones, with more in the pipeline.

Zone/Size Opened
Harz/Central Germany
120 m²
August 2001
Knuffingen
120 m²
August 2001
Austria
60 m²
August 2001
Hamburg
200 m²
November 2002
America
100 m²
December 2003
Scandinavia
300 m²
July 2005
Switzerland
250 m²
November 2007
Knuffingen Airport
150 m²
May 2011
Italy
190 m²
September 2016
Venice
(addition to Italy)
10 m²
February 2018
Fun Fair
9 m²
November 2019 (Under construction)
Monaco
36 m²
November 2020 (Under construction)
Provence
27 m²
November 2020 (Under construction)

Table source: Wikipedia

In March 2019, Miniatur Wunderland acquired the lease on another warehouse on the opposite side of the canal with 3,000m² of space. The original plan was to build England for launch in 2022, followed by France, Benelux and then Africa, Asia, India by 2028. Now though the plan has been revised.

England has been dumped.

“You could say we have already accomplished our Brexit”, says MW’s Fredrik Braun with a smirk, adding: “By now 25% of our visitors come from abroad. To many of them, Europe looks alike – old houses, small towns, meadows, fields, forests and the occasional mountain. Therefore we decided to create completely new worlds. We are starting by building South America.”

For the first phase of construction 200 m² have been planned, covering the Amazon and the Andes, Rio and the Antarctic.

Miniatur Wunderland, Italy zone under construction
Italy under construction

Is there a downside to Miniatur Wunderland?

No.

Well, maybe just one. It is hugely popular, so there will be times (eg. school hols, weekends) when you have to endure long entry queues and packed viewing galleries.

If you go early morning, mid-week during the winter as I did, you can chill out & enjoy yourself for hours. Most importantly, if you pre-order your ticket with a booked entry time, you can walk past the entrance queues and straight in. I did, but when I went there weren’t any queues to walk past!

 

 

Factbox (Updated Nov 2019)

Getting there:

Miniatur Wunderland Modelleisenbahn Hamburg
Kehrwieder 4 20457
Hamburg

Miniatur Wunderland is located alongside the River Elbe in the Speicherstadt area, which is a historical warehouse district in the heart of Hamburg. The Rathaus (Town Hall) and the Mönckebergstraße (one of the most well-known shopping streets in Europe) are just 800 m away.

The closest train/bus main station is called the Hauptbahnhof, and the nearest subway (U-Bahn) station is Baumwall. To get to Baumwall station from the Hauptbahnhof, take the U-Bahn line U3 (the yellow line) in the direction of Rathaus/Barmbek.

To be honest, if you can afford it, the simplest way is to get a taxi there – every taxi driver in town knows where it is!

Tickets: Order these online. Mine turned up in the post in the UK 48 hrs later.

  • Adult: €15.00
  • Child (up to 15yrs): €7.50
  • Child under 1m tall: Free
  • Students: €11.00
  • Senior (over 65 yrs): €13.00

Prices include tax, but not postage.

Opening Hours:

There used to be a regular schedule, but now it is variable… to say the least! And it would be easier to ask “when are they not open”!

Basically they are open 365 days a year (Yes, even on Christmas day). At a minimum, they are open from 0930 to 1800, but on weekends, public holidays, Tuesdays and special days they can be open from early in the morning (as early as 0700) to late at night… 2200, 2300, midnight, even 0100!

There’s only one way to find the opening hours for the day you want to visit: check their diary.

 

Model Heaven!
It's the world's largest model railway and seemingly its most popular too. Full points!
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