Hamburg, Germany: Miniatur Wunderland – train spotting

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Model trains? What have they to do with fitness and wellness? Quite a lot. Even if you know nothing about model trains, you will be in high spirits at the Miniatur Wunderland: Germany’s most popular attraction ahead of Neuschwanstein castle!

I have been in Hamburg countless times, but until this year I had never heard about MiWuLa. On a recent trip to Hamburg, though, my husband and I went to Kehrwieder 2, Block D, in the port area.

Times and prices

It was a late afternoon out of season, but the place was busy: Visitors came and went. At the reception we were upon arrival immediately asked if we had booked. “No”. So we had to go in and reserve a slot for our visit; 1½ hour later, in the meantime we went for a walk.

Although it is the world’s largest model train layout, it is situated in a quite limited area, 6,800 sqm. over two floors, so there is no free access, you have to reserve an entry time. Visitors enter in slots every half hour. Tip: Book in advance via the website.

MiWuLa is open 365 days a year (check times). From pm. 9:30 or 8:00 pm to 18:00 or 21:00. Entry fee is 14 Euro. Cheap for such a special attraction.
You can see the sight in about 1½ hour, if you walk briskly through it. But I would recommend, that you devote 2-4 hours so you have time to see all the details and ‘push all the buttons’.

A model world for kids and adults

When I was little, I was sometimes with my parents or grandmother at Aarhus Central Station and saw the model railway in the waiting room, and I’ve always liked to go by train. On the other hand, I have never played with model trains and know no enthusiasts.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to visit an attraction with the title “world’s largest” of something, but had no particular expectations (of course, then you won’t be disappointed).

You enter by going through the souvenir shop, ‘packed’ and popular. From here you walk into some old, rather ordinary white-painted warehouse-like facilities with harsh neon lights in the ceiling. But then the bleakness stops.

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Whether you are interested in model trains or not, you have to be impressed by the enormous work that lies behind the design and building of the beautiful model-landscapes, mountains, forests, cities, roads and especially lots of railroad tracks, locomotives, trains, train stations and thousands of cars and trucks and even more miniature citizens, criminals, law enforcers etcetera.

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Push the buttons

Everywhere trains run.Trains continuously start or stop or run. And as a unique attraction – you should take time to try it:

In almost all areas there is a button. When the button is pushed, a certain activity starts: e.g. the elevator to a ski lift starts, a prison escape breaks out or the doors of the music hall Elphi open, so that one can see into the concert hall. Brilliantly conceived and built.

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The most active button pushers are probably the model train enthusiasts from all around the world. The sight is one of the best things of the place: Model train builders of all ages are mesmerized by the scenes and spend a long, long time in every area.

(Almost) every train and situation are photographed, filmed and discussed with an infectious enthusiasm. Your spirits are lifted by the special atmosphere.

The temperature all day and year is around 21 degrees. The day lasts 15 minutes in MiWuLA. Suddenly, the lights are dimmed and it’s night. A stunning detail. The landscapes glitters with the light from signal and traffic lights, houses, cars, trains and planes!

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The airport. With aircrafts landing and taking off (with a little help). Impressive!

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And what is that? A control room! Like a ‘real life’ traffic center. Four men are busy watching the screens and ensuring, that the trains run on time. Ordnung muss sein.

Miniatur Wunderland Facts

  • Opened in August 2001. The brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun got the idea in 2000 in Zurich.
  • Guinness Book of Records 2016. Two sides. The world’s largest model railway.
  • 15.4 km funicular railway: half is visible, the rest in tunnels or railway stations.
  • 1,040 trains (locomotives)
  • 10,000+ waggons (waggons / freight)
  • Longest train: 14.51 meters
  • 1380 signal lights
  • 130,000 trees
  • 260.000 inhabitants
  • 385,000 lights / lamps
  • 9,250 cars (of which 280 are running)
  • Model Area: 1,490 sqm.
  • Highest peak: Matterhorn, 6 m
  • Largest sea: Nord Ostsee: 30,000 liters
  • Largest Area: Scandinavia: 300 sqm.
  • Most expensive area: Italy > 4 million. euro
  • 50 computers in the control area!
  • > 40 model makers and technicians keep MiWuLa going
  • 760,000 construction hours
  • 16 million Euro building costs
  • 15,273,549 visitors since opening (until end 2016):
  • Visitors come from all over the world. In 2016, 23.2% came from abroad. In first place comes Denmark with almost 45,662 visitors alone in 2016, closely followed by Switzerland, Austria, England, the US and China.

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Year and territories

2001 Kuffingen (airport), Austria and Mid-Germany
2002 Hamburg
2003 America (metropolitan and West)
2005 Scandinavia
2007 Switzerland
2008 Special Exhibition; the divided city
2011 Airport
2012 Special Exhibition; Our civilization’s history
2013 and HafenCity Elbphilharmonie
2016 Italy

Venice opens in spring 2018 and you can already see parts of it and Monaco.

Read / see more:

Miniatur Wunderland

Streetview Miniatur Wunderland

#miniaturwunderland

Largest Model Train of the World