A Most Wonderful Wunderland
For the past few years I have had the privilege of travelling to Hamburg Germany.
Hamburg is a harbor town situated on the River Elbe in northern Germany. The city was built upon the shipping industry and while it remains one of Europe’s largest shipping ports it has evolved to a charming and humble destination. In addition to its famous river, the city hosts a beautiful inland lake which is divided into two parts: Inner Alster and Outer Alster. These lakes, rivers and canals connect Hamburg to the North Sea and to the world.
“From August 1960 to December 1962 the Beatles performed in Hamburg where they honed their live performances and sound”
Miniature Wunderland is touted as Hamburg’s number one tourist attraction. I had seen brochures and heard the locals talk about this Wunderland, but nothing prepared me for the adventure I would have.
Miniature Wunderland is located in Speicherstadt district. Speicherstadt translates to city of warehouses. The Speicherstadt is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 1880’s. So my visit to this area also provided the opportunity to see the famous brick warehouses and beautiful bridges firsthand.
I went to Miniature Wunderland knowing that this is the largest train set in the world, but I was completely unprepared for the scale of the exhibit! This really isn’t only a train set, it’s a working diaorama made up of nine worlds, as they call them, covering over 75,000 square feet of floor space. In fact, Miniature Wunderland holds several records in the Guinness Book of Worlds including:
- Over 5 miles of railroad track make it the largest train set in the world
- Longest HO train made up of 8 locomotives and 2,212 carriages
- Longest model train consisting of 3 locomotives and 887 carriages
Miniature Wunderland was the vision of two twin brothers and it opened in 2000. The worlds are spread over three floors of the warehouse which seem to be about the size of a football field. The dioramas consist of ten cities (regional) dioramas with another five already under construction or being planned. Adding to the experience, is that every 15 minutes the worlds cycle through a 24 hour day which is amazing as the sun goes down and 100,000 little lights sparkle.
The attention to detail is both amazing and amusing. It is impossible to pick a favorite world but a few of my favorites include the Alps and Scandinavia exhibits. The Alps area really stands out, rising nearly three stories from the mountain base and is complete with mountains and working gondolas. The Scandinavia exhibit is unique in that it features ships sailing in real water. The exhibits are amusing because every so often hidden with the displays you will find little gags. The crowd favorite seemed to be the UFO which would appear in the sky every once in a while.
The most popular and unique world is a working model of the Hamburg Knuffingen Airport. The detail and automation of this scene includes planes that depart from the airport gates, taxi to the runway, accelerate down the runway, and take-off. Planes also land and taxi back to the gates.
Miniature Wunderland is a treat for children of all ages. Don’t be put off by the terms “diorama” and “train set.” There really is something for everyone to be found here. When you visit Hamburg, Germany, be sure to include this jewel in your plans.
Watch this video Wunderland in Five Minutes for a full tour of this Wonderful World.
Miniature Wunderland TipsMiniature Wunderland is a popular destination so reservations are strongly recommended. I secured reservations for the earliest timeslot available and was treated to at least one hour before the crowd began to grow.
I recommend allowing a minimum of three hours to simply get through all of the exhibits but you can easily spend more time touring the displays.
Tips for Touring the Town
Hamburg offers Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours which are a good way to see the city in about two hours.
I also recommend a boat tour to understand the impact of the shipping industry and to see the massive container ships being loaded and unloaded. The largest of these ships can carry upwards of 20,000 containers.
If you only have time to do one tour, I would recommend the boat tour as this is also a great way to see the “speicherstadt” warehouse district and the city’s newest jewel the “Elbphilharmonie” concert hall.
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