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Hamburg is Germany's second largest city (after Berlin) and its principal port. The official name Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg recalls its membership in the mediæval Hanseatic League and the fact that Hamburg is a city state and one of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer.

The state and administrative city cover 750 km; with 1.8 million inhabitants, while another 750,000 live in neighbouring urban areas. The Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region (Metropolregion Hamburg) including nearby districts of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony covers 18,100 km; with a population of 4 million.

The city of Hamburg is situated at three rivers, the Alster, the Bille and the Elbe.



The Bürgerschaft (city assembly) elects the first mayor of the city (Erster Bürgermeister) as head of the senate (which forms the executive branch) and is thus head of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (official name, German: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg).


German and a regional dialect called Plattdüütsch (Niederdeutsch, meaning Low German), which is rarely spoken now though.


The largest economic factor for Hamburg in the past centuries has been (and still is) its harbour [1] , which ranks at #2 in Europe and #9 worldwide with transshipments of 7 million standard container units (TEU) and 115 million tons of goods in 2004. Major trading partners are Asia and East Europe. International trade is also the reason for the large number of consulates in the city: 97 countries have representatives there, only New York City with the United Nations headquarters can list more.

Other important industries are the aerospace company Airbus, which has one of its two assembly plants located there, and media businesses, most notably three of Germany's largest publishing companies, Axel Springer Verlag [2] , Gruner + Jahr [3] and Heinrich Bauer Verlag [4] . About one half of Germany's nation-wide newspapers and magazines are produced in Hamburg. There are also a number of music companies (the largest being Warner Music Germany) and Internet businesses (e.g. AOL and Google Germany). Heavy industry includes a steel, an aluminium and Europe's largest copper plant [5] , and a number of shipyards like Blohm + Voss [6] .


Founded in the first decade of the 9th century as Hamma Burg ("fortified town"), it was designated the seat of a bishopric (834) whose first bishop Ansgar became known as the Apostle of the North. In 845 a fleet said to number 600 Viking ships came up the River Elbe and destroyed Hamburg, at that time a place of around 500 inhabitants. Two years after that Hamburg was united with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. In 1030 the city was burned down by King Mieszko II of Poland. The see was finally moved to Bremen after further raids in 1066 and 1072, this time by Slavs from the east.

Frederick I "Barbarossa" is said to have granted free access up the Lower Elbe to Hamburg in a charter of 1189. Hamburg's proximity to the main trade routes of the North and Baltic Seas quickly made it a major port of Northern Europe, and its alliance (1241) with Lübeck on the Baltic is considered the origin of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities. However, Frederick's document, still at display at the town museum, is known to be a fake from around 1265. Therefore Hamburg does not hold city rights.

In the 1520s the city authorities embraced Lutheranism, and Hamburg subsequently received Protestant refugees from the Netherlands and France. At times under Danish sovereignty while a part of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1768 it gained full Danish recognition as an Imperial Free City.

Annexed briefly by France (1810 -14), Hamburg suffered severely during Napoleon I's last campaign in Germany, but experienced its fastest growth during the second half of the 19th century, when its population more than quadrupled to 800,000 as the growth of the city's Atlantic trade helped make it Europe's third-largest port.

Hamburg was destroyed by fire several times, notably in 1284 and 1842. The last and worst destruction took place in World War II, when the city suffered a series of devastating air raids (24 July-2 August 1943). Today's inner city therefore hosts almost no buildings from before 1842 and even few from before 1945. In February 1962 the city's low-lying areas were affected by severe flooding.

The city boundaries were extended in 1937 with the Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz (Greater Hamburg Act) to incorporate neighbouring Wandsbek, Harburg-Wilhelmsburg and Altona.

During World War II and in response to Germany levelling Coventry two days before, the Royal Air Force began to bomb Hamburg on November 16, 1940. Later, in Operation Gomorrah the British bombed Hamburg on July 28, 1943 which caused a firestorm that killed 42,000 German civilians. By the end of the war at least 50,000 Hamburg residents died from Allied attacks.

The population of the city proper peaked in the mid-1960s at 1.85 million, but has recovered from a mid-1980s low of under 1.6m. Growth is now concentrated in the suburban areas.

The city is beautifully situated around two artificial lakes, which are formed by the river Alster.


Hamburg is connected by four Autobahnen (freeways) and is the most important railway junction on the route to Northern Europe. Hamburg's international airport is Hamburg Airport, which is the oldest airport in Germany still being in operation.

As written earlier under Economics, Hamburg's harbour is one of the largest in Europe and worldwide.

Though large cities in Germany normally only have a one letter prefix (e.g. B for Berlin) Hamburg's vehicle registration prefix "HH" (Hansestadt Hamburg) underlines Hamburgs historic roots.

A subway (Hamburger Hochbahn ) system of 3 lines makes for a good internal transportation system. A fourth line is to be opened in 2011 to connect the Harbour City (HafenCity) with the main train station (Hauptbahnhof). There are plans to later extend the forth line (called U4) even south of the river Elbe.

In addition to the subways there are 3 so-called S-Bahn lines. This suburban railway system connects the far ends of Hamburg, going faster, mostly supernally, while still crossing the inner city stations. All U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines run all night on weekends. As the S-Bahn in Berlin, the U-Bahn and S-Bahn in Hamburg uses a third rail (DC 1200 Volt).

Additionally there is an excellent day and night bus network with frequencies varying from 2 minutes at important places to 30 minutes in suburban areas.

Another rather unique means of transportation are 5 boat lines by-passing the Elbe river. While mainly needed by Hamburg citizens and dock workers they can also be used for sightseeing tours at low fees.



  • Old Elbe Tunnel
  • New Elbe Tunnel


  • Koehlbrandbrücke

Towers and Masts


Football (Soccer in AE)

Hamburg is home of Hamburger SV and FC St. Pauli. Hamburger SV (HSV) is the only football club to have played in the First Bundesliga in every season since the league's formation in 1963. In 1983, HSV won the European Cup by beating Juventus Turin 1:0 in Athens. The best known players to have played for HSV are Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer and Kevin Keegan.



  • Literaturhaus

Actors and Actresses

Poets and Writers




  • Fritz Schumacher


  • Hauptkirche St. Michaelis ('Michel')
  • St. Nikolai Kirche (memorial)
  • St. Petri-Kirche (11th century)
  • St. Jakobi-Kirche (13th century)
  • St. Katharinen-Kirche (14th century)


  • Schauspielhaus
  • Ernst-Deutsch-Theater
  • St. Pauli Theater
  • Hamburger Kammerspiele
  • Thalia Theater





Hamburg is known for giving the Beatles a start in their musical career in the early 1960s. They played at the Star Club, which was located in the district St. Pauli near the perhaps most famous street of Hamburg, the Reeperbahn.

More recently it is known for some of the most popular German hip-hop acts, such as 5 Sterne Deluxe , Samy Deluxe, Beginner and Fettes Brot. There is also a quite big alternative and punk scene which gathers around the Rote Flora, an occupied villa once owned by Salomon Heine located in the district of Sternschanze. Some of the musicians of the famous electronic band Kraftwerk also came from Hamburg.

Hamburg was one of the major centers of the heavy metal music world in the 1980's. Many bands such as Helloween, Frau Bechtal, Running Wild and Grave Digger got their start in Hamburg. The influences of these bands and other bands from the area were critical to establishing the subgenre of Power metal.


Museums in Hamburg include:

  • Altona Museum and North German State Museum
  • Art Gallery (Kunsthalle)
  • Brahmsmuseum
  • Bucerius Kunst Forum
  • Hamburg Museum for Archaeology and the History of Harburg
  • Neuengamme concentration camp memorial
  • Speicherstadt Museum
  • Museum of Labour
  • Museum für Völkerkunde

Regional Dishes

Although Hamburg is jokingly said to be the birthplace of the hamburger, this is just a myth. The hamburger was named after Hamburg. Original Hamburg dishes are "Birnen, Bohnen und Speck" (green runner beans cooked with pears and bacon), "Aalsuppe" (German for "eel soup" though there is no eel in this soup), "Bratkartoffeln" (fried potatoes), "Finkenwerder Scholle" (fried plaice), Pannfisch (fried fish), Rote Grütze (something similar to summer pudding consisting mainly of red berries) and "Labskaus" (a rather strange combination of corned beef and beet root).


Regular Events

For the interested visitor, some events held every year:

  • Sports (Note that a registration, usually months in advance, is needed for public races.)
    • Hamburg Marathon [7] - marathon, open to the public: April
    • Tennis Masters Series: May
    • Dragon boat race, open to the public (if you have a dragon boat..): August
    • HEW Cyclassics [8] - bike race, open to the public: August
    • Holsten City Man Triathlon [9] - triathlon, open to the public: August
  • Film festivals
    • Filmfest Hamburg [10] : September
    • Fantasy Filmfest [11] : April
    • Kurzfilmfestival - International Short Film Festival [12] : June
    • Lateinamerika-Filmtage - Latin-America Days [13] : December
    • Spanische Filmtage - Spanish Days [14] : July
  • Arts & Exhibitions
    • International Fireworks Festival: August
    • Kirschblütenfest - Grand fireworks and Japanese culture: May
    • Lange Nacht der Museen - one ticket, 40+ of Hamburg's museums open until midnight: May
    • Theme nights (jungle, romantic, Asian) at Hagenbeck's zoo [15] : Saturdays in summer
  • Music
    • Fleetinselfest - Music and international artists open air [16] : July
    • G-Move - Techno parade: June
    • Schlagermove - German 1970's music parade [17] : July
  • Fun / Street Festivals
    • Alstervergnügen [18] - Alster fair: August
    • Christopher Street Day [19] : July
    • Hafengeburtstag [20] - Hamburg's harbour birthday: May
    • Motorradgottesdienst - Biker's divine service in Hamburg's largest church St. Michaelis: June

External links

  • Hamburg City Panoramas - Panoramic Views and Virtual Tours
  • Hamburg Weather Forecast

Last updated: 02-04-2005 22:33:10
Last updated: 02-17-2005 08:58:29