Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city—officially named Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg—is one of the country's 16 "bundesländer," or federal states. Hamburg is situated between Continental Europe to the south and Scandinavia to the north. It lies in close proximity to the North Sea's coast in the western direction of the city and the Baltic Sea to the east. The main river flowing through the town is the Elbe, which divides into the north and south branches in the central part of Hamburg, and later connects again. Besides the Elbe, Alster and Bille flow through the city and into the Elbe, creating several smaller waterways and lakes on the way. Hamburg lies on the boundary of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony federal states. Geopolitically, three islands are part of its territory, Neuwerk, Scharhörn, and Nigehörn, located in the North Sea. The islands are part of the city's national park, the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park, protecting the maritime and tidal flat nature. For most of its history, Hamburg has been an authentic city within Germany, partly defining its own laws. Due to its position, the town became an important trade center and later developed into one of Germany's most significant industry and business hubs. Within Hamburg's borders, several cultural and historical landmarks can be found. Among them belongs the Warehouse District, protected by UNESCO.
Hamburg is a city where history meets future advances and modern architecture. Since Hamburg has been an important trade center and one of Germany's economic hubs for centuries, the city is filled with cultural and historical landmarks. Two rivers—Alster and Bille— cross the town, flowing into the Elbe, one of Europe's most significant water flows. The Elbe divides into two branches as it reaches the historical old town. Thus, a substantial number of waterways cross the city, acting as one attraction for tourists. Reportedly, Hamburg holds Europe's record for the number of bridges in the town. Numerous canals and lakes open up opportunities for water recreation, such as sailing, canoeing, wakeboarding, and more. Among the popular water destinations are Alster Lakes, reportedly a "central part of Hamburg city life." Apart from the aforementioned water recreation available on the lake, the adjacent territory serves as a natural attraction itself. The lakes are surrounded by trees, parks, and several historical landmarks, such as Winterhude and St. Georg.
Among world rarities within Hamburg's borders is the Warehouse District, or Speicherstadt, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the world's largest warehouse complex. Historically, Hamburg has always been one of Germany's most developed cities, contributing to the country's industry, trade, and business. The warehouse complex was built on the river Elbe at a break between the 19th and 20th centuries to enhance the city's industry even further. Designed in neo-gothic brick architecture, the Warehouse District represents one of Hamburg's popular touristic destinations. Hamburg Dungeon, Deutsches Zollmuseum, and Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg are some of the most visited attractions the Warehouse District offers.
Despite the Second World War taking a significant toll in the case of Hamburg's historical town, several cultural landmarks can be seen scattered throughout the city. The "church of the poor" or The Michel - St. Michaelis Church, Hamburg City Hall, Landungsbrücken water station (where various water cruises can be taken), and Jungfernstieg are reportedly some of the most popular touristic destinations in the city. On the other hand, among the modern architectural sites of the town belongs Elbphilharmonie, one of the largest concert halls in the world.
Hamburg also bears a connection to hamburgers, presumed to evolve from Hamburg's traditional dish, Frikadeller. The dish was prepared from a mixture of ground beef, soaked stale bread, egg, chopped onion, salt, and pepper, and usually not served in a bun. However, the so-called Hamburger-steak came to America, and the hamburger eventually entered all English-speaking countries.
Hamburg is a natural harbor on the Elbe, close to the North Sea's coast. The city forms a self-governing unit in German called Bundesland—a federal state located between the Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony federal states. Approximately 100 km from the city, in the North Sea, can be found three islands, Neuwerk, Scharhörn, and Nigehörn, which are also part of the Hamburg federal state. The city is located on the shores of the river Elbe, which divides itself into two branches (north and south), the Norderelbe and the Süderelbe. The division of the river is located in the central part of the area, in Hamburg's historic old town. The two branches connect again to the west of the ancient city, forming Unterelbe. Unterelbe then flows to the North Sea. Besides the Elbe, the rivers Alster from the north and Bille from the east flow through Hamburg as well.
Within Germany's borders, three Wadden Sea National Parks are located. One of them, the smallest, is part of the city of Hamburg. Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992. The national park protects tidal creeks, tidal flats, plateaus, and islands, formed by the sea drifting the sand toward the continent combined with sedimentation and erosion. Three islands, Neuwerk, Scharhörn, and Nigehern, are also part of the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park. Habitats such as mudflats, tidal creeks, marine areas, sandbanks, islands, salt marshes, dunes, grassland, and dikes are protected by the national park, creating a home and refuge for approximately 1,000 plant species, over 300 bird species, and several marine mammals such as harbor seals, gray seals, and porpoises. The permanent population of the national park is approximately 30 people, creating favorable conditions for nature protection.
Regarding the local climate, Hamburg is situated in an oceanic area with mild winters and cool summers. The warmest month in Hamburg is August, with an average daily temperature of 22°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 4°C. April tends to be the driest month in Hamburg, with an average of 42 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 82 mm.
Hamburg territory was first settled by hunting and gathering society during the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. However, the first permanent settlements are dated back to approximately 4000 BC. In 808 AD, a defensive castle against Slavs and Vikings was built in the territory, laying the first foundations of the city. Vikings, and later Slavic and Danish tribes, partly destroyed Hamburg in the 9th century. Yet, the town survived, and in the 11th century, four castles were built in its territory. During that time, several attempts to overrule the city came from the Danes until the final defeat in 1227. Nations fought for the city primarily because of its location. As a result of the access to the lower River Elbe, Hamburg became an essential trading power in Europe. The city grew in size and importance during a significant part of the Middle Ages, despite a great fire destroying a part of the city in the 13th century and later plague epidemic taking many casualties.
Hamburg, as well as Bremen, Frankfurt, and Lübeck, bears the status of a free city and is one of the most progressive settlements in Germany. In the 19th century, Hamburg adopted a democratic constitution, separating the church from the state. However, by the end of the 19th century, the city became part of the German Empire. Despite that, Hamburg was partly able to retain its authenticity. A cholera epidemic struck the town during that time, halting Hamburg's development and growth. First World War meant another blow for the town, as the commerce, on which Hamburg was highly reliant, was impaired, and thousands of people were killed. Before the Second World War, Hamburg had the largest Jewish community in Germany, which was almost entirely deported and murdered during the war. Nowadays, tributes of memorials can be found across the city, commemorating the dangers and losses of war and the value of peace. To stop the Nazi regime, a sizeable part of Hamburg was destroyed by bombings. Approximately 42,000 German civilians were killed, and over 50% of domestic property, 40% of industrial areas, and 80% of the port area were destroyed.
Nowadays, more than half of the city's population is of the Protestant church. Hamburg is one of Germany's most important industrial cities, treating most of the country's copper supplies. However, its "lifeblood" is trade. Hamburg has been the site of Germany's first-class trade fairs since the 17th century, and it continues to be to this day, with its harbor being the "gateway to the world."
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