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

Country Germany
Population 1,746,893 source (2006)
Area 755.16 km²
Population density 2,310 /km²
Elevation 3-90 m
Coordinates 53°33′ N 9°59′ E
Postal code 20001–20999,
Area code 040
Licence plate code HH
Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU)
Hamburg's motto: May the posterity endeavour with dignity to conserve the freedom, which the forefathers acquired.
Hamburg's motto: May the posterity endeavour with dignity to conserve the freedom, which the forefathers acquired.

Hamburg (German pronunciation: [ˈhambʊʁk]; Low Saxon: Hamborg, ['haˑmbɔːχ]) is the second largest city in Germany and with Hamburg Harbour, its principal port, Hamburg is also the second largest port city in Europe, no. 9 in the world-ranking of ports and the largest city in the European Union which is not a national capital. A large part of the port is a fenced-in duty-free area.

The official name Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (German: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg; Low Saxon: Free un Hansestadt Hamborg) refers to Hamburg's membership in the medieval Hanseatic League and the fact that Hamburg is a City State and one of the sixteen Federal States of Germany.

Hamburg is situated on the southern tip of Jutland Peninsula, geographically centred (a) between Continental Europe and Scandinavia and (b) between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The city of Hamburg lies at the junction of the river Elbe with the rivers Alster and Bille and the city centre is beautifully set around two lakes, the Binnenalster ("Inner Alster") and the Aussenalster ("Outer Alster").

Hamburg is an international trade city and the commercial and cultural centre of Northern Germany.



Politics and Administration

The Bürgerschaft (City Assembly) is the parliament of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, which is elected by the citizens of Hamburg every four years.

The Erster Bürgermeister (First Mayor with first in the sense of primus inter pares, first among equals) is head of the senate (which forms the executive branch of government) and gets elected by the city assembly and is thus head of the city state. The current mayor is Ole von Beust (see also List of mayors of Hamburg). He is, after Klaus Wowereit in Berlin, the second openly homosexual mayor of a city in Germany.

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

The state and administrative city cover 750 km² with 1.8 million inhabitants, while another 0.8 million live in neighboring urban areas. The Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region (Metropolregion Hamburg) includes some districts in the adjacent federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony and covers an area of 18,100 km² with a population of just over 4 million.

Hamburg is organised into seven districts (Bezirke) comprising 104 neighbourhoods (Stadtteile):

Three small islands in the North Sea also belong to the City State of Hamburg: Neuwerk, Scharhörn and Nigehörn.


February 29, 2004 state election

See also: Hamburg state election, 2004

Ole von Beust was able to form a majority CDU government without the support of partners. His former coalition partners FDP, Offensive and Ronald Schill, who split with several friends from the Offensive, failed to return to the Bürgerschaft.

Party Party List votes Vote percentage Total Seats Seat percentage
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 389,170 47.2% (+21.0) 63 (+30) 52.1%
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 251,441 30.5% (-6.0) 41 (-5) 33.9%
Green-Alternative List (GAL) 101,227 12.3% (+3.7) 17 (+6) 14.0%
Pro Deutsche Mitte (Pro DM/Schill) 25,763 3.1% (+2.9) 0 (+0) 0.0%
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 23,373 2.8% (-2.2) 0 (-6) 0.0%
Rainbow - For a new Left (Regenbogen) 9,221 1.1% (-0.6) 0 (+0) 0.0%
Grey Panthers Party of Germany (GRAUE) 8,862 1.1% (+0.8) 0 (+0) 0.0%
Law and Order Offensive Party (Offensive) 3,041 0.4% (-19.1) 0 (-25) 0.0%
All Others 12,030 1.5% (-0.5) 0 0.0%
Totals 824,128 100.0% 121 100.0%



Hamburg 1800
Hamburg 1800

The city takes its name from the first permanent building on the site, a castle ordered to be built by Emperor Charlemagne in 808 AD. The castle was built on some rocky ground in a marsh between the Alster and the Elbe as a defence against Slavic incursion. The castle was named Hammaburg, where "burg" means "castle".

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 Saxon was spoken there later. Other theories are that the castle 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. Another theory is that Hamburg comes from ham which is Old Saxon for shore.

In 834 Hamburg was designated the seat of a bishopric, whose first bishop, Ansgar, became known as the Apostle of the North. In 845 a fleet of 600 Viking ships came up the River Elbe and destroyed Hamburg, at that time a town of around 500 inhabitants. Two years later, Hamburg was united with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen.

In 1030, the city was burned down by King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland. After further raids in 1066 and 1072 the bishop permanently moved to Bremen. Hamburg had several great fires, notably in 1284 and 1842.

The charter in 1189 by Frederick I "Barbarossa" granted Hamburg the status of an Imperial Free City and tax free access up the Lower Elbe into the North Sea. This and Hamburg's proximity to the main trade routes of the North Sea and Baltic Sea quickly made it a major port in Northern Europe. Its trade alliance with Lübeck in 1241 marks the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities.

In 1529 the city embraced Lutheranism, and Hamburg subsequently received Protestant refugees from the Netherlands and France. Hamburg was at times under Danish sovereignty while remaining part of the Holy Roman Empire as an Imperial Free City.

Briefly annexed by Napoleon I (1810-14), Hamburg suffered severely during his last campaign in Germany. The city was besieged for over a year by Allied forces (mostly Russian, Swedish and German). Russian forces under General Bennigsen finally freed the city in 1814. During the first half of the 19th century a patron goddess with Hamburg's Latin name Hammonia emerged, mostly in romantic and poetic references, and although she has no mythology to call her own, Hammonia became the symbol of the city's spirit during this time.

Hamburg 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's central promenade Jungfernstieg on River Alster in 1900
Hamburg's central promenade Jungfernstieg on River Alster in 1900

With Albert Ballin as its director the Hamburg-America Line became the world's largest transatlantic shipping company at the turn of the century, and Hamburg was also home to shipping companies to South America, Africa, India and East Asia. Hamburg became a cosmopolitan metropolis based on worldwide trade. Hamburg was the port for most Germans and Eastern Europeans to leave for the New World and became home to trading communities from all over the world (like a small Chinatown in Altona, Hamburg).

After World War I Germany lost her colonies and Hamburg lost many of its trade routes. In 1938 the city boundaries were extended with the Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz (Greater Hamburg Act) to incorporate Wandsbek, Harburg, Wilhelmsburg and Altona. The city counts 1.7 million inhabitants.

During World War II Hamburg suffered a series of devastating air raids which killed 42,000 German civilians (Bombing of Hamburg in World War II). Through this, and the new zoning guidelines of the 1960s, the inner city lost much of its architectural past.

The Iron Curtain—only 50 kilometres east of Hamburg—separated the city from most of its hinterland and further reduced Hamburg's global trade. On February 16, 1962 a severe storm caused the Elbe to rise to an all-time high, inundating one fifth of Hamburg and killing more than 300 people.

After German reunification in 1990, and the accession of some Eastern European and Baltic States into the EU in 2004, Hamburg Harbour and Hamburg have ambitions for regaining their positions as the region's largest deep-sea port for container shipping and its major commercial and trading centre. Hamburg 2020



Landungsbrücken (“Jetties”), in St. Pauli district
Landungsbrücken (“Jetties”), in St. Pauli district

The most significant economic basis for Hamburg is the harbour, which ranks 2nd in Europe and 9th worldwide with transshipments of 9 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. Although situated 90 kilometres up the Elbe, due to its ability to handle sea ships it is considered a sea harbour.

Hamburg follows third after Seattle and Toulouse in the list of the most important locations of the civil aerospace industry worldwide. Airbus, which has one of its two assembly plants in Hamburg, and related companies employ over 30,000 people in or near the city.

Other important industries are media businesses, most notably three of Germany's largest publishing companies, Axel Springer AG, Gruner + Jahr and Heinrich Bauer Verlag. About half of Germany's national 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, Adobe Systems and Google Germany).

Heavy industry includes the making of steel, aluminium and Europe's largest copper plant [1], and a number of shipyards like Blohm + Voss [2].



Hamburg is connected by four Autobahnen (motorways) and is the most important railway junction on the route to Northern Europe.Hamburg Airport is the oldest airport in Germany still in operation. There is also the smaller Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport.

Hamburg's licence plate prefix is "HH" (Hansestadt Hamburg, English: Hanseatic City of Hamburg), rather than just the single-letter normally used for large cities. The prefix "H" is used in Hanover instead.

As in most larger German cities, public transport is organised by a fare-collection joint venture between transportation companies. Tickets sold by one member company in this Hamburger Verkehrsverbund (HVV) are valid on all other HVV companies' services.

Nine mass transit routes across the city are the backbone of Hamburg public transport. Three lines comprise the U-Bahn and six the S-Bahn system. U-Bahn is short for Untergrundbahn (underground railway). Approximately 41km of 101 km of the U-Bahn is underground; most of the U-Bahn tracks are on embankments or viaducts or at ground level. Older residents still speak of the system as the Hochbahn ("elevated railway"). The Hamburg S-Bahn has a total length of 115.2km (8km single-track, 10km underground) with 59 stations, of which 10 are underground. A light rail system, the AKN, connects to satellite towns in Schleswig-Holstein. Gaps in the mass-transit network are filled by bus routes, plied by single-deck, two-, three- and four-axle diesel buses. Hamburg has no trams or trolley-buses, but has hydrogen fuelled buses operating pilot services.

Finally, regional trains of Germany's major railway company Deutsche Bahn AG and the regional Metronom trains may be used with a HVV public transport ticket, too. Except at the three bigger stations in the centre of Hamburg, the regional trains hardly stop again inside the area of the city.

A 24-hour bus network operates as frequently as every 2 minutes on busy routes (30 minutes in suburban areas). There are six ferry lines along the river Elbe, operated by the HADAG company. 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 harbour on the river Elbe
Hamburg harbour on the river Elbe


View of Hamburg
View of Hamburg

Bridges and Tunnels

Hamburg has a number of prominent buildings from the past and present. Speicherstadt,

The many canals in Hamburg are crossed by over 2300 bridges — more than Amsterdam (1200) and Venice (400) combined.



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

Other churches are also visible in the inner city:


Towers and masts



The smaller Alster lake at dusk
The smaller Alster lake at dusk





Famous Composers:

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

Sascha Konietzko the frontman and founder of KMFDM is from Hamburg and visits reguarly.

More recently it is known for some of the most popular German hip hop acts, such as Fünf 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 former theatre located in the district of Sternschanze. Some of the musicians of the famous electronic band Kraftwerk also came from Hamburg.

Hamburg is also famous for an original kind of German alternative music called Hamburger Schule ("Hamburg School"), a term used for bands like Die Sterne, Tocotronic, Blumfeld and Tomte.

Hamburg was one of the major centres 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.

Hamburg is also one of the most important global centres for psychedelic trance music. It is home to many record labels such as Spirit Zone, Mushroom Magazine, the world's best known and longest running psy-trance magazine, as well as many parties, club nights. During the summer people from all over the world flock to the countryside surrounding Hamburg to attend massive festivals such as Voov Experience,Shiva Moon,Tshitraka and Fusion Festival.

The Lion King theatre in Hamburg’s harbour
The Lion King theatre in Hamburg’s harbour

Since the German premiere of Cats in 1985 there are always a number of musicals being played in the city. Among them have been Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King or Dirty Dancing ( before there was Dance of the Vampires). This density, which is the highest in Germany, is partly due to Germany's major musical production company Stage Entertainment being located in Hamburg. One of the musical theatres is a large tent in the harbour, guests either arrive by boat or through the historic Old Elbe Tunnel.

Hamburg was one city to take part in the Complaints Choir project.



Currently Hamburg has 79 Museums. Famous and popular ones include:



Although Hamburg is jokingly said to be the birthplace of the Hamburger, this might just be a myth. But the beef patties, a German immigrant from Hamburg sold in the 1850s in New York allegedly were named after that Hamburgian butcher and then became a generic term, so the myth goes.

Original Hamburg dishes are Bohnen, Birnen und Speck (Low Saxon Bohn, Peern un Speck, green runner beans cooked with pears and bacon), Aalsuppe (Low Saxon Oolsupp, often mistaken to be German for "eel soup" (Aal/Ool ‘eel’), however the name probably comes from the Low Saxon allns [ʔaˑlns], meaning “all”, “everything and the kitchen sink”, not necessarily eel. Today eel is often included to meet the expectations of unsuspecting diners.), Bratkartoffeln (Low Saxon Brootkartüffeln, pan-fried potato slices), Finkenwerder Scholle (Low Saxon Finkwarder Scholl, pan-fried plaice), Pannfisch (pan-fried fish), Rote Grütze (Low Saxon Rode Grütt, related to Danish rødgrød, a type of summer pudding made mostly from berries and usually served with cream, like Danish rødgrød med fløde) and Labskaus (a mixture of corned beef, mashed potatoes and beet root, a cousin of the Norwegian lapskaus and Liverpool's lobscouse, all offshoots off an old-time one-pot meal that used to be the main component of the common sailor’s humdrum diet on the high seas).

Hamburg is the birthplace of Alsterwasser (a reference to the city’s river Alster with two lake-like bodies in the city centre thanks to damming), a type of shandy, a concoction of equal parts of beer and carbonated lemonade (Zitronenlimonade), the lemonade being added to the beer. Hamburg is also home to a curious regional pastry called Franzbrötchen. Looking rather like a flattened croissant, the Franzbrötchen is somewhat similar in preparation but includes a cinnamon and sugar filling, often with raisins or brown sugar streusel. The name may also reflect to the roll's croissant-like appearance -- franz appears to be a shortening of französisch, meaning "French," which would make a Franzbrötchen a “french roll.” Being a Hamburg regional food, the Franzbrötchen becomes quite scarce outside the borders of the city; as near as Lunenburg (Lüneburg) it can only be found as a Hamburger and is not to be had in Bremen at all.

Ordinary bread rolls—without which a leisurely weekend breakfast in Hamburg is unimaginable—tend to be oval-shaped and of the French bread variety. The local name is Rundstück (“round piece” rather than mainstream German Brötchen, diminutive form of Brot “bread”), a relative of Denmark’s rundstykke. In fact, while by no means identical, the cuisines of Hamburg and Denmark, especially of Copenhagen have a lot in common. This also includes a predilection for open-faced sandwiches of all sorts, especially topped with cold-smoked or pickled fish. The American hamburger seems to have developed from Hamburg’s Frikadelle (or Frikandelle): a pan-fried patty (usually larger and thicker than the American counterpart) made from a mixture of ground beef, soaked stale bread, egg, chopped onion, salt and pepper, usually served with potatoes and vegetables like any other piece of meat, not usually on a bun. (Many Hamburgers consider their Frikadelle and the American hamburger different, virtually unrelated “creatures.”)



The most popular sports team in Hamburg is Hamburger SV (which has played in the group stages of the Champions League twice in season 2000/2001 and just recently in the current season of 2006/2007), a football team in the Bundesliga. They play at the AOL Arena, as do the Hamburg Sea Devils, an American football team of NFL Europe. The Hamburg Blue Devils are another American football team in Hamburg, which plays in the domestic German Football League. The Hamburg Freezers represent Hamburg in the DEL, the highest ice hockey league in Germany. The HSV Handball represents Hamburg in the German handball league. Both teams play in the ultra-modern Color Line Arena. Additionally FC St. Pauli is a highly regarded third division (formlerly Bundesliga) football club with a large fan base. They play at the Millerntor-Stadion. Hamburg is the nation's hockey capital and dominates the men's as well as the women's Bundesliga with teams like Der Club an der Alster, Großflottbeker THGC, Harvestehuder THC, Klipper THC or Uhlenhorster HC.



80 % German, 20 % Other (mostly Turkish, Russian and Polish)



38 % Protestant, 10 % Catholic, 8 % Muslim, 40 % none



As elsewhere in Northern Germany, the original language of Hamburg is Low Saxon, usually referred to as Hamborger Platt (German Hamburger Platt) or Hamborgsch. It is still in use, albeit by a minority and rarely in public, probably due to a hostile climate between World War II and the early 1980s. Since large-scale Germanisation beginning in earnest with in the 18th century, various Low German-coloured dialects have developed (contact-varieties of German on Low Saxon substrates). Originally, there was a range of such Missingsch varieties, best known being the low-prestige ones of the working classes and the somewhat more “posh” bourgeois Hanseatendeutsch. All of these are now moribund due to the influences of “proper” German propagated by education and media, perhaps also because of gradual erosion of the erstwhile independent spirit and local pride of Hamburg’s population.

In addition, immigration brought numerous dialects from all over the German-speaking world used to Hamburg, also a large number of foreign language communities. Hamburg has a sizeable population of Sinti and Roma (“Gypsy”) people, some of them sedentary (mostly Sinti) and some of them nomadic or semi-nomadic (mostly Roma), camp grounds being set aside by the state and municipal governments. Hamburg is thus one of the few locations in the world in which both Sinti and Romany are spoken, and it is also one of the major headquarters of international Roma organisations.





Currently, up to 27 institutions of tertiary education are located in Hamburg:



Hamburg was generally not considered to be a tourist magnet, not even by locals. Nevertheless, tourism plays a significant role in the city's economy, and according to the magazine Travelhouse Media even two of the most visited sites in Germany are located here: the harbour (8 million visitors per year) and the Reeperbahn (4 million), compared to famous sites like the Cathedral in Cologne (6 million) or the castle Neuschwanstein (200,000) unexpected high numbers to most people. Hamburg has the fastest growing tourism industry in Germany (2005 and 2006 approx. 15%) and will most probably reach rank 10 of Europe's most visited tourist destinations by 2008.

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 buses connect these points of interest. Of course, a visit in one of the world's largest harbours would 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. It was in the Reeperbahn that The Beatles began their career with a three month residency in 1960. Others prefer the laidback Schanze district with its street cafés or a barbecue on one of the beaches along the river Elbe. And not to forget: Hamburg's famous Hagenbeck's Tierpark (Zoo) with the great artificial rock and the first moated, barless enclosures ever to be built (1907). A friend of Hagenbeck's, the illustrator Heinrich Leutemann made some illustrations here.

Quite common is a tour through Northern Germany with Hamburg as a starting point or stop-over.

However, most people visit Hamburg because of a specific interest, notably one of the musicals, a sports event, a congress or fair. Therefore, in 2005, the average visitor spent two nights in Hamburg. The majority of visitors come from Germany (80%); most foreigners are European, especially from the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and the largest group from outside Europe comes from the U.S. An interesting footnote is the high number of rich guests from the Arabian peninsula, who seek treatment in one of Hamburg's hospitals.


Regular events

For the interested visitor, some events held every year:


Twin cities

More information: Hamburg Twin Cities (in German only)


Notable Hamburgians

Further information: Category:People from Hamburg

Actors like Hans Albers, the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld composers including Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, writers and publishers Rudolf Augstein, Marion Dönhoff, Chancellors of Germany Angela Merkel and Helmut Schmidt, scientists Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, Sportsmen Max Schmeling and Uwe Seeler as well as some important business people like Paul Carl Beiersdorf, Kurt A. Körber,


External links

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