There’s something pleasing about seeing large things made small or small things made large, so K and I have been to quite a few model villages, none of which I seem to have blogged about. Our latest fix put all the others to shame. I will be honest, I don’t think we’re ever going to see another model quite this good.
Miniatur Wunderland is based in a warehouse in Hamburg, in northern Germany. It’s a very good stopping point if you’re travelling between Copenhagen and Berlin by car, which we were.
This is the model of the warehouse where the models are. Not shown is the Hamburg Dungeon, which has moved in next door.
We’d first heard about the place a few years ago, when they built a working model of Hamburg airport, complete with 30 planes that take off and land. That seemed pretty cool, so we thought we’d stop in. I didn’t expect to be that impressed, but I can’t really describe it. K suggests “overwhelmingly vast”. It’s an amazing combination of human effort and ingenuity, in miniature.
First, it’s huge. It’s the largest model railway in the world and there are over 1,300 square meters of models. That’s the size of a small department store, and they’re planning on almost doubling it by 2020.
The level of detail and the care and attention put into making the models is astonishing. We visited a model village in Sweden where the houses, the size of playhouses, were entirely hollow inside, so looking through the window you could see dirt and rubble. Miniatur Wunderland is the exact opposite. Here’s a music festival, with 20,000 model spectators.
And here’s a close up, of a caravan naturally.
Isn’t it astonishing? The whole thing has this level of detail.
The areas are broadly themed, so you can go see things you’ve seen in real life. It’s not 100% accurate – this is the bridge from Malmo to Copenhagen, I believe.
And I can say it doesn’t look like that in real life. And this is Switzerland:
Again, not quite like that in real life, anywhere. I mean, count the bridges for a start. But that said, I could recognise the different between the Swiss German, Swiss French and Swiss Italian areas, by the style of architecture of the apartment blocks, which is absolutely astonishing. I mean, the differences really aren’t huge. I should have taken more photos, to try to explain, but I was too busy peering in windows.
K and I both enjoyed the airport. He liked watching the planes take off, land, taxi, be visited by refueling trucks and so on. I liked looking in the nooks and crannies.
The airport is Hamburg airport. I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I imagine so. It’s certainly vast, with planes constantly taking off and landing, taxiing and being refueled. It’s absolutely astonishing.
The fire, with all the rescue vehicles attending, is the big draw for the airport but my favourite bit was the hotel. So far as I could tell, every audience facing window in the Hamburg Airport Hotel showed an occupied room, and no two were alike. Honestly, there was more variety than in a real hotel. And the whole thing was at low waist height, with an impressive airplane display happening behind it – I can’t imagine that most people crouched down to peep in, but it was well worth it. In each room, something different and typical was happening – people making beds, arguing, having sex, working on a laptop, getting dressed up, kids playing… all in figures about half a centimeter tall.
Miniatur Wunderland was one of the most impressive things we’ve seen and well worth the detour. K chose it, but I loved it too. I think most people would find something to interest them, whether it’s the dioramas of German history (in tiny model form), the Grand Canyon and the space shuttle, the torch lit skiing, Santa, or the miles of train tracks.
Tips for visiting
It does get really busy if you go at peak times on a Saturday in the summer. If you don’t like crowds or have kids who could get lost in the throng, go early or late. It’s open from 08:00-23:00 some days. You can also book a time slot ahead, to save any queuing.
- Give yourself at least a three hours to go around this.
- Look out for tiny dioramas in odd places, like the toilets.
- Check out the special exhibitions – they were one of the best bits, when we went
- Check out the model making workshop and the in-progress section. They’re building Italy at the moment.
- Crouch down and look in windows – a lot of buildings are occupied.
- Look out for underground railway stations and mines, roughly at knee height on adults
- Watch out for model fires, with attendant rescue vehicles
- See if you can spot the vehicles indicating as they turn
- Ignore the ‘can you find…’ section in the guide leaflet. There are a million tiny figures here, trying to spot a certain one through a crowd 4 deep is just painful.
- Press buttons – particularly at the chocolate factory in Switzerland. If you like chocolate, that is!
- Stop for lunch – the food’s not bad, the restaurant is recycled train seats, very neatly done, and you’ll probably need a break at the end.
- Go back another time – they’re constantly expanding, and you’ll definitely see something you missed the first time, too.