Gulliver in Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, the world’s largest model railway

by May 17, 2022Hamburg

Gerrit Braun Hamburg Construction Site Minatur Wunderland 1

Travel around the world in under a day at Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg – the world’s largest model railway. Stride like Gulliver through an ever-expanding miniature world that includes Europe, the United States, and soon South America.


Travel Clothes We WearAdvertisement

Kuhl Banner Ad


As a child, one of my favorite books was Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver was an 18th-century traveler who found himself living as a giant on the island of Lilliput, where his fellow humans were only six inches tall. Little did I ever imagine that I would one day become a real-life Gulliver, able to wander through miniature worlds as easily as Gulliver waded between islands. Fortunately for me, I did not have to endure being captured by Lilliputians or have tiny arrows shot at me by Blefuscans (you’ll just have to read the book). Instead, I simply had to purchase a ticket to enter as a real-life giant into Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, an intricate, fantastical tiny world, inhabited by Wunderlandians, where surprises await at every turn.

Scandanavia Village Wind Surfing Water Minatur Wunderland 1

Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model railway

After seeing a model railroad store in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2000, Frederik Braun is said to have called his twin brother, Gerrit, and told him “We’re going to build the world’s largest model railway.” The two, along with their business partner, Stephan Hertz, had been running a successful nightclub in Hamburg, but all wanted a change. The idea seemed crazy – even an online survey they conducted asking about places people might want to visit in Hamburg put the idea of a “Miniatur Wunderland” in last place among female respondents and just third on the list for men. According to the company’s history on the website, the three decided the idea was still a good one. “Our idea,” Gerrit is quoted on the website, “was to build a world that equally inspires men, women, and children to dream and (to) be.”

With two pieces of paper that roughly outlined their idea, Gerrit, Frederik and Stephan approached their bank to ask for a loan of 2 million Deutsch Marks. They were sure the bank would laugh, but in short order the loan (over the years jumping a lot higher) was secured. And just like that, the dream of the Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg model railway became reality.

Scandanavia Lkab Kiruna Mine Minatur Wunderland 1

Lab Kiruna mine in the Scandinavia region of the Wunderland.

The construction of the first miniature railway world, Central Germany, began in December 2000, and the model builders and technicians have been going non-stop since. Currently there are 11 distinct mini regions that include:

  • Central Germany (essentially the Harz Mountains),
  • Knuffingen (a fictional place situated between the Harz Mountains and the Austrian Alps),
  • Knuffingen Airport (planes taxi, fly, and you might even see Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon),
  • Austria (a marvelous world in the Alps where green meadows and snow-covered ski resorts coexist),
  • Hamburg (the home in Germany’s northern port city of Miniatur Wunderland),
  • United States (from Las Vegas and Florida to the Grand Canyon and the Area 51 secret military area),
  • Scandinavia (with more than 30,000 liters/7,925 gallons of water representing the North and Baltic seas),
  • Switzerland (yes, including the Matterhorn and the DJ Bobo Open Air theater where you can hear the Wunderlandians screaming for their stars),
  • Italy (Pompeii, the Colosseum, and even an erupting Mount Vesuvius),
  • Venice (with gondolas, a carnival, and St. Mark’s Basilica), and
  • Rio de Janeiro – just opened in December 2021

When I visited in late 2021, work was currently underway on South America as well as Monaco and France’s Provence region.

Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg Monaco Under Construction

Monaco under construction.

According to the company website at the time of this writing, the many worlds inside the exhibit take up 1,490 square meters (16,000 square feet). There are 15,400 meters (50,545 feet) of track upon which 1,040 trains are running at various intervals. In addition, there are 260,000 Wunderlandians (tiny human figures), 9,250 cars, 4,110 buildings and 130,000 trees. Trains move, planes fly, ships sail on real water, and cars and trucks drive stopping as they should at red lights, all controlled by a network of 50 computers.

Man In Model Workshop Minatur Wunderland 1

One of the modelers, working on a ship that will soon be transporting Wunderlandians I suspect.

Everything is sized to 1:87 scale which meant my 5-foot six-inch frame would be little more than 3/4 of an inch if I were to size down and try living in the Wunderland.

Therese Iknoian Playing Gulliver Miniatur Wunderland

Therese Iknoian, acting like a modern-day Gulliver, peers over Hamburg as she works to get a photo. Wunderlandians are very used to being stared at, and also do not mind their photos taken.

Ready to travel with me through an entirely new world of wonder and amazement? We’ll even be peeking into windows at Wunderlandians, but don’t worry. Being a voyeur is allowed in the Miniatur Wunderland. As a visiting “Gulliver,” we all have full permission to stare, point, and even giggle. (Be sure to watch our video at the bottom of this post to give you a deeper appreciation for the magic and wonder this tiny world evokes.)

The United States

Built in 2003, this section crams in a lot, including Las Vegas, where nearly a third of all the LED lights that exist in Wunderland are (it is also known as the “city of lights” after all). The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Yosemite National Park are separated only by a very busy highway where everyone seems to be on a perpetual road trip. And who knew that Miami Beach and Cape Canaveral were so close to Las Vegas?

Grand Canyon Bryce Canyon Usa Minatur Wunderland 1

A train passing through the Grand Canyon / Bryce Canyon section in the United States.

Cape Canaveral Las Vegas Usa Minatur Wunderland 1

Cape Canaveral in the foreground and Las Vegas in the background.

Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland

This region in the Wunderland opened in 2005 and features the Baltic Sea and North seas, filled with 30,000 liters (7,925 gallons) of water. Watch long enough, and you’ll see the seas also have an actual tide that ebbs and flows every 25 minutes. Model ships sail across the water, for now controlled manually if you can believe it. But the Wunderland’s “Goliath” engineers are working on an automated model ship navigation system. I especially enjoyed looking at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso having been inside once while on a Hurtigruten cruise up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes.

Scandanavia Winter Scene Minatur Wunderland 1

A miniature winter wonderland in Scandinavia.

Scandanavia Storebaelt Bridge Water Minatur Wunderland 1

Scandinavia Storebaelt Bridge and a ship sailing on the water.

Hamburg – the home of Miniatur Wunderland

This miniature city opened in 2002 and is home to 50,000 Wunderlandians. For me, being able to peer into Hamburg was especially meaningful as it is a place I have grown to love having been here several times both to visit family (who live nearby) and to explore with my business partner and wife, Therese, who once lived here. Trains from nearby Wunderland regions of Scandinavia, Knuffingen and Switzerland arrive in the Hamburg Central Station every day. There is St. Michael’s Church, the famous red light district called the Reeperbahn with Herbertstrasse (look for naughty Santa without pants in one window), the historic Speicherstadt district (where Miniatur Wunderland is located), and of course the amazing Elbphilharmonie, an architectural wonder. Push a button (one of 200 throughout the Wunderland) and the Elbphilharmonie opens to reveal all the people and performers inside.

Hamburg Elbphilharmonie Open Minatur Wunderland 1

Looking inside the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie. The model opens and closes with the push of a button.

Hamburg Kohlbrand Bridge Minatur Wunderland 1

Hamburg Kohlbrand Bridge

Cafe Haug Santa No Pants Minatur Wunderland 1

Naughty Santa without pants in the Reeperbahn … yes, he is with a prostitute.


Travel Deals & SavingsAdvertisement


Central Germany

The green hills, mountains, and quaint villages make up a region that encompasses the Harz mountains and parts of the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Germany. Completed in 2001 with a major update to the amusement park in 2020, this Wunderland region is where you will discover an ICE high-speed train racing through the mountain tunnels. Look closely and you may see a UFO which is hovering over a field in the Harz.

Miniatur Wunderland Harz Mountains

A quaint village in the Harz mountains of Germany.

Knuffingen

A fictional place that exists only in Miniatur Wunderland, Knuffingen opened in 2001. Tucked in between the Harz Mountains and the Alps, Knuffingen is a busy place – at least it seems so with 400 vehicles in motion, including 60 model trains. The system used to control all the vehicles was considered groundbreaking model railway technology at the time. Unfortunately, a lot of fires continue to plague Knuffingen, and the fire department must send out its trucks and firefighters every 15 minutes to douse the flames.

Fire Knuffingen Minatur Wunderland 1

Smoke pours out of an apartment as the Knuffingen fire department arrives to put out the flames. The fire engines get called out of the station every 15 minutes to put out fires.

The Alps of Austria

In the Wunderland’s version of the Austrian Alps (opened in 2001), seasons mingle seamlessly. Which means you will see slalom skiers, climbers, hikers, snow-covered mountains, and lovely green pastures right next to each other. Like I said earlier, this is a magical place.

Miniatur Wunderland Austrian Alps

The Austrian Alps in the Wunderland. The only place where green meadows and snow-covered ski slopes coexist side-by-side.

Switzerland

The Alps in Switzerland and tall, and in the Wunderland, the depiction of the country requires two stories to fit – and yes, you can view it from below and above. Completed in 2007, there is so much to take in visually, and in typical Wunderlandian fashion, often presented with a cheeky sense of humor. There are wheels of cheese cascading down a mountain road after a truck door opens, a toilet paper fight outside of outhouses, and even a worker spilling melted chocolate on the floor at the Lindt chocolate factory. I fully enjoyed the open-air concert with 20,000 Wunderlandians (I tried to count them, really I did) all screaming and cheering for their favorite performers at the DJ Bobo concert.

Switzerland Alps Minatur Wunderland 1

The Swiss Alps are two-stories tall, and yes, you can view them from below, in the middle and above.

Miniatur Wunderland Switzerland DJ Bobo Concert

DJ Bobo concert.

Knuffingen Airport

This was one of my favorite areas simply because of the detail and exactness in creating this very realistic airport scene. First opening in 2011, the airport took six years and 4 million euro to build. There are 45 different airplanes, from an Airbus 380 to a Cessna (does the Millennium Falcon count because I swear I saw it landing and taxiing to a gate?) that operate independently – landing, taking off, taxiing to gates, and being pushed back from gates by vehicles. Even the sound system is remarkable because as each plane powered up for takeoff, I could hear the engine turbines roaring as if I were standing right next to the runway. And a departures / arrivals board lists each plane as it departs and arrives.

Knuffingen Airport Minatur Wunderland 1

A Lufthansa plane is taking off from Knuffingen Airport

Millennium Falcon Minatur Wunderland 1

Is that the Millennium Falcon at an airport gate? Wonder who is getting on board?

Bavaria

Tucked in next to the very busy Knuffingen Airport is a tiny region that is still full of fascinating things to peek at from the huge beer garden to a replica of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (fortunately its tall towers are not in the flight path of the airport) to the amazing ship elevator (Schiffshebewerk), which is in reality in Niederfinow in Brandenburg.

Miniatur Wunderland Bavaria Beer Garden

The Wunderland is famous for its beer garden with Wunderlandians coming from near and far.

Italy

Opened in 2016, the Italian region of Wunderland includes five distinct regions: South Italy with the Amalfi coast, South Tyrol, Rome, Tuscany, and Liguria. As always, the detail is remarkable, and the sense of humor pervades – nude sunbathers tucked in among the livestock in an idyllic Tyrolean meadow for example. I certainly got a chuckle over the Popemobile with its tires off being worked on by a team of friars at the Vatican.

Italy Minatur Wunderland 1

And just like that, my travels as Gulliver through the miniature world of Wunderlandians was over. Therese and I had spent a magical four hours and could have stayed longer if we didn’t have another place to go. I’d recommend you plan at least four hours (or more) for your own visit to this magical model railway world.

There are more worlds being created in Miniatur Wunderland that include Monaco and South America. I can’t wait to go back and visit again … maybe this time I’ll apply for an extended stay visa. Think they’d let a giant move in?

Our Most Recent Travel Stories

Iconic Berlin TV Tower promises best views in Berlin

The Berlin TV Tower’s distinctive needle and giant sphere is visible throughout Berlin, and it is still the tallest building in Germany. From the panoramic floor or restaurant inside the sphere high above Berlin, visitors enjoy some of the best views in Berlin.

Iconic Berlin TV Tower promises best views in Berlin

Iconic Berlin TV Tower promises best views in Berlin

The Berlin TV Tower’s distinctive needle and giant sphere is visible throughout Berlin, and it is still the tallest building in Germany. From the panoramic floor or restaurant inside the sphere high above Berlin, visitors enjoy some of the best views in Berlin.

Don't Let The Sun Set On You!

Join our subscriber club today and never miss an award-winning story or photograph. Plus you'll receive our monthly newsletter and get full access to FREE downloads of e-books, recipes and more -- no spam, ever, promise. 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove
Advertisement

Are you protected IF a travel emergency happens?

Global Rescue Travel Insurance Rescue Banner

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.