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

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

The state and administrative city cover 750 km² with 1.7 million inhabitants, while another 750,000 live in neighbouring urban areas. The wider Hamburg metropolitan region including nearby districts of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony covers 18,100 km² with a population of 4 million.


Founded in the first decade of the 9th century as Hamma Burg ("fortified town"), it was designated the seat of an 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 Elbe river and destroyed Hamburg, at that time a place of around 500 inhabitants. Hamburg was two years later combined with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. In 1030 the city was burned down by Polish 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. Frederick's document, still at display at the town museum, is proven to be a fake of around 1265, however. 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 latter 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 post.

Jungfernstieg in Hamburg, looking across Alster with fountain (May 2003)
Hamburg was destroyed by fire several times, notably in 1284 and 1842. The last and greatest destruction came 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 leveling 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 war's end 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.


Hamburg is home of the Hamburger Sport Verein (HSV) and the FC St. Pauli. The HSV is the only football club never to get relegated from the Bundesliga. In 1983 the HSV won the European club competition by beating Juventus Turin 1:0 in Athens. The most well-known players to have played for the HSV are Uwe Seeler and Kevin Keegan.

Hamburg is also 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.

Though Hamburg is supposed to be the birth place of the hamburger, in fact the idea of grilled beef in a bun cannot be said to come from any one place.

See also: Afghan Museum

External links

States of Germany:
Baden-Württemberg | Bavaria | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bremen | Hamburg | Hesse | Mecklenburg-Vorpommern | Lower Saxony | North Rhine-Westphalia | Rhineland-Palatinate | Saarland | Saxony | Saxony-Anhalt | Schleswig-Holstein | Thuringia