My husband has had an affection toward model trains since his boyhood. He owns a small collection of Lionel trains, and while he appreciates having them, he hasn’t developed a desire for creating displays. Wunderland, in Hamburg Germany might have provided just the inspiration he needs to get started. We sandwiched the stop between Cologne and Berlin as we traveled by rail throughout Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Whether you are into miniature trains or not, Hamburg is worth a visit. It is a bustling port city, with a dynamic juxtaposition of old and new architecture throughout. We chose to stay out of the city center, but within walking distance of a train station. From there, we rode a few stops to the Harbor and everything we wished to see.
The Movenpick Hotel, is an architectural marvel in its own right and was perfect for our two night stay. The Hotel sits in a city park, and was once a water tower. A couple of Swiss architects designed the 12-floor hotel into the center of the tower. The restaurant, at ground level, which is fully enclosed by glass, is surrounded by lush greenery and is a wonderful place to relax after a full day of sight-seeing.
Departing the train in the port area of the city, we walked across one of the many bridges that will take you to one of Hamburg’s most visited sites – the warehouse district. The buildings were originally built between 1883 and 1927, for the purpose of providing “free trade.” Most of the buildings, which are built upon timber-pile foundations and accessible from both land and water, were destroyed during the bombings of WWII. Rebuilding was completed in 1967 and today, the area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The port is the center of tourist activity, with boat rides, restaurants, quaint alleys to explore and shopping. Notice the mix of glass and concrete alongside red brick buildings.
Now, imagine this Gothic structure in the same setting. The Church of St. Nicholas, constructed in 1195 and severely damaged in the war. All that remains is the tower and a small portion of the base.
Nearing the time of our reservation for Wunderland, we headed back over the bridge to the warehouse district and our destination.
We had purchased tickets on-line, from the Miniature Wunderland website, months in advance, since this is a very popular attraction. We arrived about thirty minutes ahead of our 10:00 a.m. reservation and were allowed inside. All of the displays were easily accessible and the rooms were comfortable to navigate at that time. It did begin to get quite crowded about 2 1/2 hours later when we were ready to exit.
The miniature train exhibit is distributed among several rooms and includes a few cities in the US, notably, Las Vegas, Miami Beach and Keystone, SD, home to Mt. Rushmore. The Amalfi Coast in Italy, a cityscape of Hamburg, Germany, an airport, complete with planes taking off and landing, Austria, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Venice were all included in the grand display. Some of the exhibits include “fantasy” buildings, but most of the later displays are scale reproductions of actual scenes. Each display is a marvel of innovation, technology and creativity that will delight your inner-child. “How’d they do that,” along with “how amazing,” are a frequently overheard comments throughout the facility.
Tickets range in price, depending on discount available, but are generally about 15 Euro per adult. You may also purchase special event and behind the scenes tickets for an additional fee. There is a full service cafeteria within the building which serves delicious food in a train car setting for a modest price.
A Sampling of what you will see:
All of the exhibits are interactive and in constant motion. With the push of a button, you can launch a rocket from Kennedy Space Center, or open the doors of the city’s newest and most modern building, the renowned Elbphilharmonie to reveal the 2100 seat auditorium.
Photographs make it hard to tell real from imaginary, as in these side by side photos of the Concert Hall.
Hamburg is a lively city, and while our purpose was to visit Miniature Wunderland, we discovered so much more. Old town, New town, green spaces, a busy Harbor, an active nightlife and foodie scene coupled with a variety of choices for accommodations and convenient transportation options make this a great place to spend a couple of days.
Add a beautiful spring day into the equation and Hamburg scored a hit with us.