It is the city that gave The Beatles a head start in their career and the city to supposedly give the world hamburgers…more than enough reasons for anyone to appreciate this German city. Its official name is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and it lies at the junction of the river Elbe with the rivers Alster and Bille.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and the Hamburg Harbor is its principal port. Hamburg is the second busiest seaport in Europe and a major commercial, industrial, and cultural center. Hamburg is situated on the tip of the Jutland Peninsula, centered between Continental Europe and Scandinavia and also between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The city center is set around two lakes, the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) and the Aussenalster (Outer Alster).
The old section of the city on the eastern side of the Alster River contains the heart of the commercial district, and is crossed by numerous canals. Among the outstanding features of the city are the many bridges spanning the canals—Hamburg has 2,302 bridges, which is more than the bridges of Venice and Amsterdam combined!
The city gets its name from the castle ordered to be built by Emperor Charlemagne in 808 AD, on some rocky ground in a marsh between the Alster and the Elbe as a defense against Slavic incursion. It was the first permanent structure at the site. The castle was named Hammaburg, ‘burg’ meaning ‘castle’.
Extending his campaign to gain converts to Christianity, Charlemagne established a church in the vicinity of the fortress which soon became a center of Christian civilization in Northern Europe and was subject to frequent attacks.
Despite destructive raids over the years by the Danes and Slavs, Hamburg thrived and, in 1189, received a charter from the Holy Roman Empire, granting the city some commercial privileges.
Defensive alliances with Lubeck and Bremen led to the formation of the Hanseatic League. Hamburg became one of the league's most influential and wealthy cities. In 1529 Hamburg accepted the Reformation, and the city became a haven for Lutheran, Calvinist, and Jewish refugees of Europe.
The Thirty Years' War during 1618 to 1648 saw the commercial prosperity of the city decline drastically. After the downfall of Napoleon, Hamburg was reestablished as a free city and became a member of the German Confederation in 1815. The city recovered swiftly from the effects of the French occupation and continued to prosper.
A fire that lasted four days in 1842 and a cholera epidemic that resulted in many deaths in 1892 left the city scarred but it did rise from the ashes and built itself again. During the first half of the 19th century a patron goddess Hammonia surfaced, mostly in poetic references, and she became the symbol of the city's spirit during this time of anguish.
After the First World War, Germany lost her territories and subsequently, Hamburg lost many of its important trade routes. As a submarine base and a center of the German war effort during World War II, Hamburg was severely damaged by Allied air raids, and many of its inhabitants were killed. The city was rebuilt after the war and by the 1950s became an elegant, thriving metropolis that continues to grow today.
Because of zoning guidelines of the 1960s, the inner city lost much of its architectural past. The Iron Curtain, only 50 km away, separated the city from most of its surroundings further reducing global trade. In 1962m the city’s mettle was tested once again after a severe storm caused the Elbe to rise to an all-time high, inundating one fifth of Hamburg and killing many.
After the reunification of Germany in 1990, Hamburg hopes to regain its position as the region's largest deep-sea port and as a major commercial and trading centre.
The city has a little bit of everything for everyone. For the shopaholics, there are shopping areas such as the Spitaler Strabe and Monckebergstrabe near the town hall. For the more spiritually-inclined, here they could also visit the St. Jacobi and St. Petri churches, two of the city’s main churches. And right next to the St. Petri church there is a magnificent building named Hubelhaus, for those architectural buffs.
Right next to it are the remains of the Bishop’s tower, from the 11th century, opposite to which excavation works are in progress, seeking the remains of the Hammaburg, which was erected in the 9th century and is the namesake of the city. If you are in the city, do not miss going to the ruin of the church St. Nikolai. The city’s five main churches were damaged during World War II. But unlike the other four, St. Nikolai has not been re-erected and now stands as a memorial against the atrocities of war. The steeple still stands and visitors can take an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The St. Michaelis church, Hamburg's well-known landmark offers great views of the city from its towers.
At the of the Monckebergstrabe street, you will find the impressive city hall, Rathaus, built 1897 out of sandstone in the neo-Renaissance style. It has a tower 112 m high. Rathaus is the seat of the city senate and the municipality of Hamburg and has an impressive 647 rooms!
After Hamburg’s Town Hall burnt to the ground in 1842, the town council moved into temporary quarters. The current building was inaugurated in 1897 and stands on over 4000 oak posts. Contrary to the hanseatic style, the Town Hall has an elaborate and ornate façade, graced by 20 statues of the Kaiser. The three chandeliers inside have 278 bulbs each and weigh in at a astounding 1500 kg apiece! Here you will also see five enormous paintings that depict the history of the city during the period from 800 to 1900. 62 coats of arms of the cities of the ancient Hanseatic League adorn the walls.
The building behind the city hall is Hamburg's House of Commerce, Borse and nearby is an oasis called Rathaushof which has a fountain named Hygieia-Brunnen. The square in front of the city hall, Rathausmarkt, hosts many events especially during the summer months.
A short distance from the Rathausmarkt, you come across the white arches at the Alsterarkaden canal behind which is an area bursting with indoor shopping arcades where you can shop to your heart’s content. And if you would rather prefer the more traditional shopping stores, then follow the canal to Jungfernstieg road where you can shop some more.
From here you can get to the artificial lake Binnenalster, or the Inner Alster. Take a leisurely boat cruise here and then to the bigger artificial lake Aubenalster, or the Outer Alster. In this lake you will come across numerous sailing boats especially in the summers when the townspeople take to the waters to beat the heat.
In this city of bridges, visit the Trostbrucke Bridge that has statues of Graf Adolf III and Bishop Ansgar adorning it on both sides. Then follow the water to left where you will find Hamburg's oldest remaining bridge Zollenbrucke from the 17th century.
Near the Zollkanal, you could visit the district of warehouses, Speicherstadt that has been around since the 1900s. Some of the structures are still in use, while others have been converted to apartments. It also houses attractions such as the Hamburg Dungeon and the Miniatur Wunderland—the world largest model railway layout.
At the river Elbe, go atop the orange observation tower called HafenCity View Point that provides splendid views of the harbor and the river. At the harbor, you could visit the permanently docked museum ship Cap San Diego, which is said to be last classic cargo ship. You could also opt for a nice boat ride down the river.
Take a walk through the Alter Elbtunnel 24 m below ground with12 m of water over your head. Walk through one of its two 427 m long pipes having. The tunnel is decorated with ceramic arts of maritime motifs.
Alster Lake, the 160 ha lake in the heart of the city is a paradise for sailors, rowers and canoeists. It is surprisingly only 2.5 m at its deepest. This artificial lake was created in the 13th century out of the Alster rivulet and today provides a superb stretch of water for rowers and paddlers. The most convenient way to explore the Alster is to take an Alster tour by Alster steamer.
The beef patties that were sold by a German immigrant from Hamburg in New York in the 1980s are said to have been the origins of the modern hamburger. Hamburg’s Frikadelle a pan-fried patty is larger and thicker than the American counterpart and is made from a mixture of ground beef, soaked stale bread, egg, chopped onions and is served with potatoes and vegetables, not usually on a bun. It is a meat-lover’s delight.
Traditional Hamburg dishes include Birnen und Speck (green runner beans cooked with pears and bacon), Aalsuppe (eel soup), Bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potato slices), Finkenwerder Scholle (pan-fried plaice), Pannfisch (pan-fried fish), Rote Grütze (summer pudding made from berries) and Labskaus (a mixture of corned beef, mashed potatoes and beetroot).
Hamburg is also said to have been the birthplace of Alsterwasser, a type of shandy. For those with a sweet tooth, try the regional pastry called Franzbrotchen, a flattened croissant somewhat similar in preparation with a cinnamon and sugar filling.
Many famous contemporary classical composers originate from Hamburg, or have at least made the city their home—Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Schnittke, Manfred Stahnke, Peter Ruzicka, Peter Michael Hamel and Babette Koblenz, just to name a few.
Hamburg is also known for giving The Beatles a start in their musical career in the early 1960s and more recently it is known for some of the most popular German hip hop acts, and was one of the major centers of the heavy metal music world in the 1980's. Hamburg is also famous for an original kind of German alternative music called Hamburger Schule.
During the summers, the city hosts festivals such as the Voov Experience, Shiva Moon, Tshitraka and Fusion Festival.
The city’s Hamburg-Fuhlsbuttel international airport is the fourth-largest international airport in Germany. However, it is closed at nighttime.
Other airports in the city include the Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport (accessible only to Airbus with flights to and from Toulouse), and Hamburg-Uetersen Airport (with flights from several German islands).
Hamburg has five major stations: Hauptbahnhof (central station), Altona, Dammtor, Harburg, and Bergedorf with connections to many European cities.
By bus: Buses arrive at or depart from Hamburg's central bus station located near the central railway station (Hauptbahnhof).
Hamburg has a well developed public transportation system. Buses operate around the clock and special Nachtbus (night bus) service connects the outlying districts and the city centre.
Six ferry services operate in the harbor and along the River. On the Alster lakes, a ferry operates from Jungfernstieg to Winterhuder Fahrhaus offering splendid views of some of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Hamburg.
These are easily available throughout the day.
Hamburg has six suburban lines and three subway lines connecting major areas of the city.
It can be chilly the year round and the constant drizzle in the city has been termed as schmuddelwetter, 'foul weather'. Winter is a great time to be here especially if you want to head south to the Harz Mountains. Being so close to the sea, Hamburg enjoys a milder climate then the interiors of Germany. The cool sea breeze ensures that pollution levels are low and the air is relatively clean. The summer months are pleasant, and it is at its wettest in July and August and driest in February.
Euro (EUR), Deutsche Mark (DEM)
The official language is naturally German although many understand and speak English quite well
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