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This article is about the city in Germany. For other articles named Hamburg, see Hamburg (disambiguation).

Coat of arms of Hamburg Location of Hamburg in Germany
Federal state Hamburg
Administrative region
District none
Population 1,736,752 (2005)
Area 755.16 km²
Population density 2,300/km²
Elevation 3 m
Coordinates 53°33′ N 10°0′ E
Postal code 20001–20999,
Area code 040
Licence plate code HH
Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU)
Hamburg's central promenade Jungfernstieg on the Alster lake, between 1900 and 1914
Hamburg's central promenade Jungfernstieg on the Alster lake, between 1900 and 1914

Hamburg is Germany's second largest city (after Berlin) and, with the Hamburg Harbour, its principal port. The official name Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (Free and Hanseatic City of 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 km²; 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 km² with a population of 4 million.

The city of Hamburg is situated at three rivers, the Alster, the Bille and the Elbe, at 53°33′ N 10°0′ E. The city centre is beautifully situated around two artificial lakes, the Außenalster and the Binnenalster, which are formed by the river Alster.

100 km to the North-West, three islands in the North Sea also belong to the city-state of Hamburg: Neuwerk, Scharhörn and Nigehörn.

The burg part of the city's name is cognate to the English word borough as well as words and place names in virtually every Indo-European and Semitic language along with others. For a fuller explanation, see under borough.



The Bürgerschaft (city assembly) is the parliament of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (official name, German: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg), which is voted for by the citizens of Hamburg every four years.

The first mayor of the city (Erster Bürgermeister) as head of the senate (which forms the executive branch) is elected by the Bürgerschaft (city assembly) and is thus head of the city state. Currently, this is Ole von Beust.


German and a regional dialect called Missingsch which is influenced by the Plattdüütsch (Niederdeutsch, meaning Low German), which is rarely spoken now but can be still heard from harbour labourers.


Landungsbrücken ("the jetties"), in St. Pauli district, on river Elbe, facing the harbour
Landungsbrücken ("the jetties"), in St. Pauli district, on river Elbe, facing the harbour

The most significant economic basis for Hamburg in the past centuries has been (and still is) its harbour (see: Hamburg Harbour), 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. International trade is also the reason for the large number of consulates in the city.

Hamburg near the dock
Hamburg near the dock

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 [1], Gruner + Jahr [2] and Heinrich Bauer Verlag [3]. 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 [4], and a number of shipyards like Blohm + Voss [5].


The city takes its name from the first permanent building on the site, a fort that Charlemagne ordered built as a defence against Slavic incursion. The fort went up in 808 on some rocky ground in a marsh between the Alster and the Elbe. It was named Hamma Burg, where the "burg" means "fort."

The "Hamma" element remains uncertain. Old High German includes both a hamma, "angle" and a hamme, "pastureland." The angle might refer to a spit of land or to the curvature of a river. However, the language spoken might not have been Old High German, as Low German was spoken there later. Other theories are that the fort was named for a surrounding Hamma forest, or for the village of Hamm, later incorporated into the city. Hamm as a place name occurs a number of times in Germany, but its meaning is equally uncertain. It could be related to heim and Hamburg could have been placed in the territory of the ancient Chamavi. However, a derivation of "home city" is perhaps too direct, as the city was named after the castle.

Hamburg 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.

Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall)
Hamburg Rathaus (Town Hall)

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, Operation Gomorrah (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, in which more than 300 people died and thousands became homeless.

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 had died in 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 Hamburg Harbour remains the prize asset of the city and is one of the largest deep-sea ports for container shipping in the world.

Bombing of Hamburg (info)
Video footage of the bombing of Hamburg.
Problems seeing the videos? Media help.

Sister Cities

Binnenalster at dusk
Binnenalster at dusk


Hamburg is connected by four Autobahnen (motorways) 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 in operation.

Though large cities in Germany normally only have a one letter prefix (e.g. B for Berlin), Hamburg's vehicle licence plate prefix is "HH" (Hansestadt Hamburg, English: Hanseatic City Hamburg), which underlines Hamburg's historic roots.

Like in most larger German cities, the local public transport is organised by a Verkehrsverbund, basically a joint venture of all public transport companies servicing the area. In and around Hamburg, it's the HVV (Hamburger Verkehrsverbund). Tickets sold by one HVV company are accepted by all other HVV companies.

Seven, during rush hours nine, local railway lines carry the major part of public transport in and around Hamburg. Three lines belong to the so-called U-Bahn system, the rest to the S-Bahn. Even though U-Bahn is short for Untergrundbahn (underground, subway) and S-Bahn for Schnellbahn (fast railways), the difference in naming is mostly historical; today, both systems run electric trains on tracks partly over- as well as underground. Elderly citizens actually still call the underground Hochbahn ("elevated railway"), since parts of the U-Bahn system run elevated on iron viaducts over the streets.

In addition to the U- and S-Bahn a third company operates three lines in the outskirts of Hamburg. Finally, regional trains of Germany's major railway company Deutsche Bahn AG may be used with a HVV public transport ticket, too. The regional trains only stop at three main stations in Hamburg's centre and at stations on the far ends of the HVV area, outside Hamburg. Recently a fast train service connected Hamburg to the capital city of Germany, Berlin.

Additionally there is a day and night bus network that operates as frequently as 2 minutes at important places to 30 minutes in suburban areas. Another rather unique means of transportation are 5 ferry lines along the river Elbe. While mainly needed by Hamburg citizens and dock workers they can also be used for sightseeing tours at the (relatively) low fees of a HVV public transport ticket.


Hamburg is organized in seven boroughs (Bezirke) comprising 104 quarters (Stadtteile):

The neighbouring districts of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein belong to the Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region, including:

The neighbouring towns in Schleswig-Holstein are substantial suburbs of Hamburg, including:




The countless beautiful canals in Hamburg are crossed by over 2300 bridges - that's more than Amsterdam (1200) and Venice (400) have together.

Towers and masts


Football (soccer)

Hamburg is home of Hamburger SV and FC St. Pauli. Hamburger SV (HSV) is the only football club to have played in the 1. Bundesliga (premier league) 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.

Hamburg also has several American Football teams, amongst others the Hamburg Blue Devils (four time champion of the semi-pro German Football League) and - since 2005 - the NFL-Europe team Hamburg Sea Devils.

World Cups

Among other events, Hamburg regularly hosts a marathon, a triathlon and a bike race, all of them world cup events attended by professional athletes and at the same time open to amateurs.

Several matches of the FIFA Football World Cup 2006 will be held in Hamburg.

The ITU Triathlon World Championship 2007 will be held in Hamburg.



  • DESY - Deutsches Elektronen SYnchrotron, the German Electron Synchrotron
  • Literaturhaus

Actors and actresses

Poets and writers





The skyline of Hamburg features the high spires of the five main churches ('Hauptkirchen') covered with green copper plates.


Dance clubs

  • Angie's Nightclub (Soul/Jazz/Livebands) website
  • Change (Gay)(Electronica) website
  • China Lounge (House) website
  • Docks (Trance/Latin/RnB/Mixed) website
  • Cult Club (70s, 80s, Classics) website
  • Echochamber (Reggae/Dancehall/Electro) website
  • Funky Pussy Club (HipHop/R&B) Info
  • Große Freiheit 36 (Mixed) website
  • Grünspan (Mixed/Livebands) website
  • Kaiserkeller (in the basement of Große Freiheit 36)
  • Kir (Alternative/Mixed/Wednesday=Gay) website
  • Lounge (House/Soul/Latin/Lounge) Info
  • Molotow (Livemusic/Clubnights/Rock) website
  • Pit (Gay)(Electronica)(Bondar) website
  • Pacha (House) website
  • Rutsche (Dancehall/Techno/Pop/Rock)
  • Superfly (House/HipHop/Mixed) website
  • Thomas Read (House/Pop/R&B) website
  • Waagenbau (Electronica/Techno/HipHop) website
  • Weltbühne (DJs/Liveacts) website





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, 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:

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" (Often mistaken to be German for "eel soup" (aal = eel), however the name probably comes from the Low Saxon "aalens", meaning "all" - anything could be in it, but not necessarily eel. Today eel is often included to meet the expectations of unsuspecting diners.), "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 strange looking combination of corned beef, mashed potatoes and beet root – with a name oddly similar to Liverpool's lobscouse).


Hamburg is best visited in spring or summer. A typical Hamburg visit includes a tour of the city hall and the grand church St. Michaelis (called the Michel), and visiting the old warehouse district (Speicherstadt) and the harbour promenade (Landungsbrücken). Sightseeing busses connect these points of interest. Of course, a visit in one of the world's largest harbours would definitely be incomplete without having taken one of the harbour and/or canal boat tours (Große Hafenrundfahrt, Fleetfahrt) which start from the Landungsbrücken. Many visitors take a walk in the evening around the area of Reeperbahn, considered Europe's second largest red light district and home of many theatres, bars and night clubs.

However, as already indicated, most people visit Hamburg because of a specific interest, notably one of the musicals, a sports event or an exhibition.


The described type of tourism leaves clear tracks in the statistics: In 2004, each visitor spent an average of two nights. The majority of visitors comes from Germany (80%), most foreigners are European, especially from the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and the largest group from outside Europe comes from the USA.

Medical tourism became an issue in 2004 because of the number of rich Arabic patients seeking medical treatment in one of Hamburg's hospitals; accordingly, the number of visitors from the Persian Gulf states grew by nearly 30% compared to 2003. A lot more visitors also came from East Asia (Taiwan, China) and especially the Baltic states.

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 [13] - 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 [14] - bike race, open to the public: August
    • Holsten City Man Triathlon [15] - triathlon, open to the public: August
  • Film festivals
    • Filmfest Hamburg [16]: September
    • Fantasy Filmfest [17]: April
    • Kurzfilmfestival - International Short Film Festival [18]: June
    • Lateinamerika-Filmtage - Latin-America Days [19]: December
    • Spanische Filmtage - Spanish Days [20]: July
    • Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Hamburg [21]: October
  • 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 [22]: Saturdays in summer
  • Music
    • Fleetinselfest - Music and international artists open air [23]: July
    • G-Move - Techno parade: June
    • Schlagermove - German 1970's music parade [24]: July
  • Fun / Street Festivals
    • Alstervergnügen [25] - Alster fair: August
    • Christopher Street Day (Gay Pride Parade) [26]: June
    • Hafengeburtstag [27]- Hamburg's harbour birthday: May
    • Motorradgottesdienst - Biker's divine service in Hamburg's largest church St. Michaelis: June

External links

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