The discovery of Nefertiti is represented in Berlin's Little Big City children's attraction.

Little Big City Berlin – Berlin With Kids

Little Big City Berlin is a history experience anyone can walk into. Here all aspects of Berlin’s sometimes troubled past are presented in miniature, and with great sensitivity to visitors of all ages. This is nothing like your average miniature model. You will discover buildings and events, recognise famous people and learn about many more in a number of interactive displays, that do not compromise safety.

Little Big City Berlin blew me away. Waiting in the queue I expected to spend about half an hour inside the attraction and take a dozen or so photographs. More than two hours later and over 250 photographs – I am still agonising over which ones to include. Genuinely, I could have stayed longer and taken more photographs. So my upfront apologies to medieval Berlin’s very own Robin Hood, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and David Hasselhof. These are all individuals who have played a part, real and mythical, in the story of Berlin; from its Slavic origins to the recent divided past. Each one, along with many other individuals and events, makes an appearance in LBCB’s miniature representation of that history.

Although the use of miniature scale models to tell historical stories is not new, what I did not expect was the attention to detail – both the specifics of the history being told and the way in which that history is presented for visitors to explore. I was very impressed by the measures that have been set in place to keep this particular attraction safe.

Anhalter Bahnhof Little Big City Berlin
The façade of Anhalter station, no longer standing today. Inaugurated in 1841, by the early 1900s it was one of the most important stations in Berlin.
Anhalter Bahnhof Rear
Anhalter Station suffered considerable damage during World War II, and most of it was torn down afterwards. This small section is all that remains today.
In the interests of transparency I should mention up front that I was given two complimentary tickets and a tour by LBCB’s Technical Manager in return for a write-up on Archaeology Travel in our History With Kids section. As usual, however, we were not paid for this review and all views expressed here are mine – you can read about our Code of Ethics on the About page. The only difference between my experience and that of paying guests is that on my tour I got to go inside the room where the miniatures are printed. Visitors can look into this room through a window off the passage that leads to the displays. Do stop for a minute and have a look.

Scale Matters

As an archaeologist I was delighted to see Ludwig Borchardt’s discovery of the bust of Nefertiti included in the story of Berlin. Controversy aside, this bust, now in the Neues Museum on Museumsinsel, is as iconic for the study of ancient Egypt as it is for Berlin’s history.
The discovery of Nefertiti is represented in Berlin's Little Big City children's attraction.
Ludwig Borchardt carrying the now famous bust of Nefertiti, thought to have been made by Thutmose in 1345 BC.

Whether or not you know what Borchardt looked like, the iconic bust is instantly recognisable. And wonderfully accurate for its size. This is because of the scale used for Little Big City’s miniature Berlin.

The standard size for model landscapes that we are used to, such as indoor model railways, is 1 to 87. That is 1 unit of measurement on the model represents 87 units in real life. To show off my new-found knowledge, this is called the HO Scale. This scale was adopted world wide to make model-making an affordable hobby. If you have ever seen one of these models, you will remember that the human figures are quite small, and as a result somewhat indistinguishable. Sometimes it is difficult to know if you are looking at a man or a woman.

The scale used by LBCB, 1:24, means the human figures can be significantly bigger. To get an idea of the size, look at the photograph above of the technical manager holding a newly printed female figure. Bigger figures allows them to have individual features to the point where they are in fact recognisable. The larger scale together with the quality that can be achieved using 3D printing technology is such that the figures are fairly accurate representations. Anyone who knows what Winston Churchill looked like will immediately recognise his likeness.

Having recognisable figures is important because the creators of miniature Berlin believe, understandably so, that it is individuals as much as events who have shaped the story of Berlin. So in conveying these people’s stories, it is more than useful that they are recognisable, either physically or through their actions.

My low expectations were blown away precisely because of the scale used. I was expecting a standard model showing different periods of Berlin’s history, the kind we see in model railways, with small unidentifiable people. By having bigger human figures and even recognisable characters, the creators are able to do so much more.

An interesting outcome of using this particular scale is that Berlin’s iconic TV Tower, the Fernsehturm, can not be included at its full height. The ceiling is simply not high enough. To get around this, the creators included the tower in the process of being built.

Dealing With Berlin’s Troubled Past

Any attempt to represent Berlin’s history raises difficult challenges. More so when the audience is primarily young children. Although miniature Berlin does not shy away from some of the horrific aspects of Berlin’s past, certain events have not been included, but not without considerable thought.

Take for example the Anhalter Railway Station, pictured above. Opened on 1 July 1841, this station was a significant aspect of industrialised Berlin. The station linked Berlin to cities such as Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Vienna and Prague. By the start of 20th century trains from here went as far as Rome, Naples and Athens. There is, however, a darker side to this station’s history. Anhalter Station was one of three deportation stations in Berlin; between 1942 and 1945 over 9,600 Jews were sent from Berlin to Theresienstadt (in what was then Czechoslovakia) via this station.

The creators chose to exclude the deportation of Jews and others from Anhalter Station, or any of the other deportation stations in Berlin. And they have done so accepting not everyone will agree with their reasons. First, they are mindful of the age profile of their visitors. Secondly, there were no concentration camps in Berlin. And this attraction is focuses on buildings and events in Berlin. To include a deportation station would then tell only part of that horrific history – and that would, by omission, be a misrepresentation.

In no way, however, are the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust omitted from Berlin’s story here. Above is a representation of the ‘Nazi Book Burnings’ that took place on 10 May 1933 in what was then called Opernplatz. Visitors to Berlin will know this square as Bebelplatz, where there is a thought-provoking memorial to the burning of books by Nazi youth – The Empty Library.

The burning of books by students was just a prelude. Five years later Berliners experienced Kristallnacht – a national pogrom against Jews. The name comes from the shards of glass that covered the streets after paramilitary forces and civilians smashed the windows of Jewish owned shops and businesses. This heinous nationwide event is included in Little Big City Berlin.

Presenting Berlin’s Past

Trabant Ride ‘n Fly

Visiting Little Big City

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 11h00 – 17h00
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 11h00 – 18h00

Ticket Prices

Adults (15 and over): €10.00 if booked online, in advance (€18 on the day)
Children (3 to 14): €10.00 if booked online, in advance (€12 on the day)

Buying Tickets

Facilities

There is a gift shop that you pass through to exit the attraction. Water and Soft drinks can be purchased at the entrance. From the entrance and the ticket counter, visitors are required to climb a short flight of stairs to the models. An elevator is available for people with mobility impairments.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

Recently Published on Archaeology Travel

Read More
Read More
Read More

Community Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments