Miniature Cities for Mini People

What’s a family to do when you don’t have enough time to explore an entire country in one trip? Cut down on the scale, of course, and visit miniature cities and countries. Here’s where you can see more than you bargained for in one fell swoop.

Madurodam, the Netherlands

Check out all of Holland’s history, highlights and heritage at Madurodam, an easily accessible park just a 45-minute train ride from Amsterdam. Windmills, tulip fields, Gouda cheese markets, canals, the airport, the train you likely rode in on and Amsterdam’s waterfront are all represented in incredible accuracy and color. The exhibits are also interactive, so grab a remote to control tiny figures or ships, or get hands-on with a DJ deck and make mini people groove to your beats. U.S. families will appreciate a newer exhibit on New York’s Dutch roots (Haarlem and Harlem will make a lot more sense afterwards!).

Catalunya en Miniatura

It’d take you at least an hour in line just to get into Sagra Familia cathedral in Barcelona. At Catalon’s Catalunya en Miniatura, everything is within an hour and a half walk. Check out Gaudi’s masterpiece, trek from the beaches of Costa Brava to the mountain resorts of the Pyrenees, to the monastery of Montserrat, plus enjoy the opportunity to add on to your adventure with an adventure park on-site. Sixty-six activities await in the trees, whether it’s climbing a giant pine, taking to the ropes to get from one top to another, or zip-lining.

Fragment of national museum Grand Maket Rossiya. City, maquette.

© Alexandr Blinov |

Grand Maket Rossiya, Russia

It’s one-two punch at Grand Maket Rossiya in St. Petersburg, where life in miniature is punctuated by several varieties of model trains painstakingly assembled and maintained on site through a glass-wall open to all who come in to admire the handiwork (and patience!) of engineers. Daily slices of life throughout the massive country come alive at sites as iconic as Red Square and as little-known (to most Americans, anyway) as Kizhi Island, whose UNESCO-listed, onion-domed towering church was built entirely without nails. Watch playful polar bears slipping and sliding in Siberia, shopping in Moscow and how goods are shipped to and fro across the steppes. Don’t miss out on checking out the staff in jumpsuits, who sit in front of more than a dozen TV screens monitoring each of the cars and its cargo on the snaking tracks.

Rovinj, Croatia

The country’s historic cathedral in capital Zagreb may have taken centuries to build but the owner of Miniature Croatia only spent a month handcrafting a knee-high-tall representation of this famous landmark. In the countryside of Rovinj, the ancient Roman amphitheater of Pula comes to life, the red on the clay roofs pops and the soothing bubble of the Plitvice Lakes flows for a gentle background ambiance. Trek inland to Istria in the span of just an hour!