Tips for Visiting Miniatur Wunderland, the Greatest Model Railroad in the World
Why do I consider Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany, the greatest model railroad in the world? Just check out some of the numbers:
Over 1,500 square meters in size, making it the largest model railway in the world
Over 260,000+ figures
Over 1,040 trains
Over 4,110 buildings
Over 9,250 cars
All these figures come together in an imaginative HO-scale (1/87th) display that is highly detailed, functions flawlessly, and showcases the creativity and humor of its staff. If you’re lucky enough to plan a visit to this wonder, then check out these tips to make your trip more enjoyable. They’re gleaned from my recent visit there.
It’s Not Just for Model Railroaders or Kids
Miniatur Wunderland impresses as a must-visit attraction for model railroaders or kids. But you don’t have to be a member of either group to enjoy it. While being a hobbyist originally attracted me to the site, I’m embarrassed to say that I remember almost nothing about the trains. I was more enthralled by the complete world that had been created than the locomotives. My husband is not a model railroader and he enjoyed his visit just as much. And we didn’t have any kids.
Plan Your Visit
Your first stop should be the official website, which contains photos, videos, text descriptions, events, tours, and other information about the attraction. It will help you plan your visit, buy tickets, and shop for souvenirs even before you leave home.
The website also contains a Waiting Time Prediction, which details the crowds every half-hour on a day that you specify. Queues can range from non-existent to taking over two hours, often on the same day.
Miniatur Wunderland is open every day of the year. But you want to avoid the weekends, holidays, and school vacation times. If you must go on the weekends, Saturday is generally more crowded than Sunday.
Tuesdays through Thursdays are less crowded.
On nearly any day, coming in when the attraction opens or the two hours before closing lets you walk right in without waiting in line.
If you can, visit at the end of your trip to Hamburg and Germany. You’ll then be more delighted to see the major tourist attractions you visited duplicated in miniature, such as Neuschwanstein Castle, the Hamburg waterfront, and the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Eliminate the Wait
You can eliminate any wait time by reserving or buying an e-ticket online.
Reservations can be canceled but when you enter the attraction, you’ll have to wait about five minutes to buy your ticket at a special cash desk.
The e-ticket avoids any wait but can only be exchanged and not canceled.
Expect to spend the day or longer, especially if you have kids or model railroaders with you. We easily spent seven hours there, although that included two one-hour tours, a lunch, and some time in the gift shop.
Visit Your Favorite Parts First
Browsing the website and looking at the map will give you a good idea of what to see and their location in the attraction building. Most people start at the first exhibit and slowly move on to the next. That puts a bottleneck of crowds at the start, even if you get there when it opens.
To avoid the masses, first decide which parts of the layout are most important to you. Perhaps its the USA or the History of Civilization. You can rank them if you like. Then visit the exhibit that’s at the top of your list first and then move on to the next one in your list, no matter where it is located on the map.
Unless your top exhibits are near the entrance, you’ll enjoy them in peace and quiet. You can then proceed through the other exhibits sequentially to ensure you don’t miss anything.
When we visited, we made a beeline for the Knuffingen Airport first and then headed for Italy. We spent about an hour or so total at both areas before we saw another person.
Unlike most tourist attractions that charge you an arm and a leg for food and drink because you have no place else to go, Miniatur Wunderland serves reasonably priced dishes. You can save time and money by eating at the bistro Choices appeal to both kids and adults and include Currywurst, french fries, a pasta station, salads, and meat entrees.
For atmospheric fun, grab a seat in the train compartment. The bistro is open during same hours as the attraction but meals are served at specific times. We had our lunch right when they started serving it at 11 am to avoid the crowds.
Shop More Conveniently
If you’re a shop-a-holic, you could easily spend a half-hour or more browsing the gift shops for all the goodies, which range from model railroading supplies to souvenir cups. Ideally, you’d take whatever you buy with you after you leave for the day. But if don’t have any room in your luggage, you can have your purchases shipped to your home abroad for a fee. If you’ve forgotten any souvenirs, you can usually find them at the online shop.
Take the Backstage Tours
The Backstage Tours reveal how the staff and technology perform the magic to keep the attraction running everyday. Each tour lasts an hour and is limited to only six people, so that the entire group can fit in some of the tight spaces.
We booked both the Behind the Scenes Tour and the Tour of the Carsystem, Airport, Switzerland, and Italy back to back. My husband and I were the only two people in our group, so the personable guide varied the tours according to our interests. Among our more memorable sights were the following:
Automated stations that the moving cars reached at the end of their battery charges to recharge
Machinery that handled the landing and take-offs of the airplanes at the airport
And the scale boats that cruised the waterways. Each of us was able to drive a modern freighter by remote control.
Want to know more about what you’ll see at Miniatur Wunderland? Then visit it using Google Street View, which reveals 360-degree vistas of the more popular areas.
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© 2020 Aurelio Locsin