What makes Hamburg so special is its elegant mix of cosmopolitan flair with high cultural standards and its extremely positive attitude towards prestige consumption.
In terms of culture, Hamburg – the second largest city in Germany after Berlin – has more in common with its trading partners and neighbors in the Benelux countries, with Denmark and even with England than with southern Germany. Hamburg’s residents, who are famous for their modesty, are considered cosmopolitan and helpful.
Hamburg has a compact center and an excellent public transport system. There are only a few major sights in the center; The red light district of St. Pauli with the Reeperbahn is a cult object, however, where the sailors of Hamburg traditionally enjoyed themselves. This was a double-edged affair for the city, but it mastered it very well – on the one hand, it created a new, more chic nightlife, and on the other, the originally disreputable character of the district was preserved. It is sometimes forgotten that music (and not just sex) played a major role in this area: among other great stars in the music world, the Beatles gave their first musical guest performance here.
HafenCity, which includes the Hamburg Cruise Center, is new to the city center. A harbor tour is one of the first places to explore Hamburg.
A visit to Lake Alster, which starts right in the city center and is the largest open square in the city, is a must for all visitors. On a warm summer day you should keep it like the locals and take a boat tour from the Inner Alster to the Outer Alster and through the fringes of the river system. In just a few minutes you can swap the hectic and urban backdrop of the metropolis for a soothing world of green and blue.
Area code: 40
Population: 1,789,954 (2020)
City History of Hamburg
Hammaburg was the name for a fortified earthen wall with a moat, which the Saxons had built between the Elbe and the Alster in 825 AD. The Vikings plundered the fortress several times in the following century and set it on fire. However, when the nearby city of Lübeck blossomed and developed into a major regional power, Hamburg, which is only 100 km from the mouth of the Elbe, became the port of the North Sea and a trading post.
Commercial traffic became and continues to be Hamburg’s main source of income. By the end of the Middle Ages, Hamburg had become an important economic power in Northern Europe, with an independent infrastructure including its own stock exchange and bank.
As a fortified and protected city, Hamburg always took care to adopt a politically neutral stance. While wars and conflicts weakened many other parts of Europe, Hamburg continued to grow. Hamburg’s position as a trading metropolis was further strengthened when numerous Dutch seafaring merchants fled to the Elbe region during the Eighty Years’ War, which devastated the Netherlands in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
This thriving city-state was unable to escape Napoleon’s catch and Hamburg was annexed to the French Empire in 1810. However, this was only short-lived because the emperor was overthrown five years later and from 1819 Hamburg was able to continue its business as usual with the new title “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”.
From then on, Hamburg focused on expanding and developing its trade links around the world, including Africa, South America and the Far East. The port city has been comprehensively expanded to meet the growing trade. Many small villages on the southern bank of the Elbe fell victim to the expansion of the port.
The recent history of blooming Hamburg has been less rosy. A fire destroyed a quarter of the city in 1842, and during the Second World War the eastern half of the city was completely destroyed by the Allied bombing raids – it took over 20 years to rebuild.
However, Hamburg seems to thrive like a city that is destined to do so. Today, the city with the second largest port on the continent continues to enjoy the centuries-old tradition of economic growth thanks to new trade links to Eastern Europe.