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The world’s largest model railway – the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg – is Germany’s top tourist attraction and welcomes more than one million visitors every year. In the creation of breathtaking miniature worlds, this unique museum combines an artistic touch with innovative technology. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world.
The museum is split into nine sections: Hamburg, Middle Germany, the fictive German town of Knuffingen, Knuffingen airport, the USA, Scandinavia, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
Several features make Miniatur Wunderland a truly extraordinary place to visit. There are driving trains and cars, ships that sail in real water, and planes that take off and land. The self-developed light control system allows the museum’s visitors to experience both daylight and nighttime in the miniature worlds. And there are over 200 push-buttons scattered across the exhibition space, allowing visitors to interact with the scenes.
The miniatures may be small, but everything else about this museum is not. The nine theme worlds are the result of 760,000 hours of construction and €16 million of investment. The total length of the train tracks is 15,400 meters (50,525 feet). The exhibition comprises 1,040 trains with more than 10,000 wagons. There are over 34,000 buildings and bridges, over 9,000 cars and 55 planes. Plus the miniature worlds are inhabited by more than 260,000 figurines.
The brand new Italy section, opened in 2016, is the most elaborate construction in the Miniatur Wunderland to date. The section includes Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, South Tyrol, the Amalfi coast and Pompeii – complete with a Mount Vesuvius that erupts every night. The St. Peter’s Basilica alone is composed of 22,000 individual parts and took almost two years to build.
The Italy section perfectly represents what the creators of the miniature worlds do best. On one hand, there are grand buildings and impressive landscapes. On the other, every little detail has been crafted with lots of attention and love. Look closely and you’ll discover little stories and funny moments hidden in plain sight for those who stop and take a moment to observe.
The expansion of Miniatur Wunderland has almost reached the limits of its current premises. The Venice section of Italy will be completed in 2017, and Monaco with a fully functioning Formula One racetrack will follow in 2018. If everything proceeds as planned, the museum will get another 3,000 square meters (32,292 square feet) of space on the other side of the canal. Both buildings will be connected by a visitors’ bridge, and the construction of new miniature worlds will continue. Great Britain is tentatively scheduled to open in 2021 or 2022, and that will be followed by France and the Benelux countries.
If you’re visiting Hamburg and decide to stop by the Miniatur Wunderland (you should!), resist the temptation to start your visit with the new Italy section. Instead, go to the top level and start where the museum once began: with the Hamburg, USA and Scandinavia sections. Only then can you truly appreciate the growing skill and technological innovation that this unique museum has developed over the years.