One of the best things to do in Hamburg is to visit Miniatur Wunderland. It doesn’t matter if you are a child or an adult (big child) it is fun to see a large part of the world in miniature. This city is very walkable, that’s why I decided to go on foot from my hotel in Hamburg which was next to the central train station. The walk took me more than 20 minutes. I stopped at a cafe next to the bridge of Barbarossa. There are several bridges that you can cross to reach Speicherstadt (the historic warehouse district) but this is the closest to Miniatur Wunderland.
From the Barbarossa bridge you can see the Kibbelsteg bridge which has a curious art installation called “Public Face“. It was made in November 2018 and consists of a face made of steel and neon tubes. It reflects the mood of the people who are captured on CCTV cameras in HafenCity. This happens in real time and you can see how it changes from happy to sad. At night it lights up, being an icon of the city.
When I was in the cafe a drizzle fell, when leaving there were two complete rainbows, one on top of the other. The tourists who passed by did not understand what I was doing taking pictures, until they watched the spectacle in the panorama.
I went to Miniatur Wunderland thinking that I could buy a ticket and access right away. This is not the case, not even in the low season. They told me I had to wait at least an hour. I decided to buy a ticket to return at night. This tourist attraction in Hamburg is open every day, at least from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It can open as early as 7:00 a.m. or close as late as 1 a.m. It is advisable to check the schedule of the day and purchase tickets in advance on their website.
Tickets are not cheap, which they justify on their website saying that only building the airport cost 4 million euros. I took the opportunity to see other things while there was light (fall problems) and returned at 6 p.m. ready to explore a miniature world. Before accessing, they make you go through a shop full of souvenirs. Upon entering you can sign up for a digital visitor count by country. Of course, there were few from Panama, but there were some and from other exotic countries.
History of Miniatur Wunderland
Miniatur Wunderland was Frederik Braun’s idea during his visit to Zurich, Switzerland in 2000. He went through a railroad model shop and had an epiphany. Why not build the largest railroad model in the world?
He called his twin brother, Gerrit, and told him the idea. Together with Stephan Hertz, they set up a business plan. Since all three were from Hamburg, they decided it would be the ideal place to do it. But they had to find a space that was comfortable for locals and tourists. Also, it had to be large, at least 2,000 square meters.
The Hamburg Economy Board introduced them to the HHLA company that was enthusiastic about the idea and proposed a building in Kehrwieder. But they needed money to build everything. They went to the bank to ask for 2 million German marks. Luckily, the bank also thought it was a good idea and they got the money. But it turned out to be much less than they needed, fortunately they received many more customers than they expected. So it can be said that the idea of a big boy turned out to be a success.
They hired Gerhard Dauscher, a well-known German model maker, and a team of model makers. They opened with 1,500 square meters in 2001. In 2019 they already had 7,000 square meters of miniatures. The expansion is calculated until 2028.
When you enter you will see some destinations under construction and a workshop behind a glass. If you want to know more, you can book a guided behind the scenes tour that explains how the models are built and how they work.
Of course, the city of Hamburg is very well represented in Miniatur Wunderland. With a space of 200 square meters, this miniature city has 50,000 ‘Wunderländers’ or residents. It includes the main attractions of the city, such as St. Michael’s Church, the Tierpark Hagenbeck Zoo and the Elbe Philharmonic. There is also Knuffingen Airport (based on Hamburg’s airport) and Hamburg Hauptbahnhof train station.
Miniatur Wunderland works night and day, every fifteen minutes a day happens. The lights change from sun to sunset, darkness and sunrise. It is tremendously real. You see the life of the places in each one of the models, including how trains, cars, planes and people move.
The rest of the destinations are mainly European, including my other homeland, Switzerland. I had memories from my childhood, just like the creator.
On a glacier you can see the environmentalist Greta Thunberg with a yellow sign while a car is heading to the sea as a result of melting. In Scandinavia everything is covered in snow.
For now, they only have United States of all places in America. It was a challenge to portrait that country in 100 square meters. Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon are represented, as is Area 51 (where aliens are located) in Nevada. Other places you can see are Mount Rushmore and Ocean Drive in Miami. A transcontinental train takes you from the model of the United States to Hamburg, Germany.
At the end of 2021 they will open South America, including Antarctica. 190,000 hours of work will be necessary to recreate this continent. Unlike what they have done before, South America has many sparsely populated areas such as the Amazon and the Andes. Cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are going to be included, as well as other countries like Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
In 2023, Central America and the Caribbean will open with an investment of 10 million Euros and 90,000 hours of work. No doubt, they will include the Panama Canal, one of the main attractions of the region.
Have you visited Miniatur Wunderland? Leave me your comments about this miniature world in Hamburg.