Information for visitors to Hamburg
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Free and Hanseatic city Hamburg At home by the water

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© This Is Julia Photography
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© Timo Sommer Lee Maas
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© JFL Photography Fotolia
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© Carolin Matysek
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© Timo Sommer Lee Maas

The northern German city on the Elbe River enchants tourists and locals with its Hanseatic charm. From the colourful Schanzenviertel to the massive container port, Hamburg has much to discover.

The largest seaport in Germany, more bridges than in Venice and an infinite number of favourite places can be found in Hamburg. The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg convinces with its eventful past and lively present.

The landmarks of the city

The main church Sankt Michaelis, better known as the Michel, is one of Hamburg's most famous landmarks. For a long time, the 132.14 metre high church tower was the highest building in the city and was visible to seafarers from afar.

Hamburg's most famous pirate, Klaus Störtebeker, is still known today. Numerous myths and legends entwine around the seafarer. According to legend, Störtebeker was granted a last wish shortly before his execution in Hamburg. Thus, all his allies, whom he could still pass with his head cut off, were spared the beheading. After he had passed the eleventh man, the hangman put a leg to him. Today, a Störtebeker monument in the Hafencity reminds us of the alleged execution site.

Hamburg's most modern figurehead is enthroned on the banks of the Elbe: the Elbphilharmonie. Completed in 2016, the building houses two concert halls, a hotel and several apartments. The curved roof landscape and gleaming glass facade make the Elphi unmistakable.

Hamburg's districts

Hamburg's districts could not be more versatile. While the Schanzenviertel is adorned with individual cafés, restaurants and shops in charming old buildings, the Hafencity is characterised by modern office towers and residential buildings. Hamburg's Speicherstadt has been a listed building since 1991. The historic warehouse complex, characterised by red brick, is unique among its peers. The shops and boutiques in Mönckebergstraße are the perfect place for Shopping Queens and Kings.

The Reeperbahn

The is well known far beyond the city limits of Hamburg. The road leads through the notorious red light district of St. Paulis. Numerous bars and discos attract night owls from near and far to the neighbourhood. By the way, music history was written in a side street of the Reeperbahn. The Beatles celebrated their first appearance in the Große Freiheit.

Water everywhere

Whether on the Alster, one of the many canals or the Elbe, water can be found almost everywhere in Hamburg. Rustic jetties, well-kept green spaces and wide sandy beaches invite you to linger on the banks. Those who pass the old Elbe tunnel at the landing stages can enjoy a unique panorama of the city from the southern bank of the Elbe.

From a village to the second largest city in Germany

The beginnings of the city of Hamburg go back to the 9th century. Almost 200 farmers, fishermen and craftsmen settled in the village of Hammaburg at today's Speersort. With the foundation of the archbishopric of Hamburg in 832, Hammaburg became the base for the missionary work of the pagan north.

In 1188 the new city of Hamburg was founded. Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa granted the merchant settlement a carte blanche with extensive commercial and town law privileges. The port of Hamburg was thus born and the foundation stone for the up-and-coming Hanseatic city was laid. The most important trading point at that time was Alsterhafen, an area at the end of Nikolaifleet. With the increasing size of the ships, the port was relocated to the Elbe.

To protect the flourishing Hanseatic city, in 1616 the people of Hamburg erected a rampart around Hamburg's Old and New Town. This protected the city's inhabitants and trade, especially during the Thirty Years' War. Many people sought refuge in Hamburg during this time. The city gates Dammtor, Steintor and Millerntor are still reminiscent of the defensive system today.

The Great Fire of 1842 lastingly changed the cityscape of Hamburg. The fire, which raged for three and a half days, destroyed large parts of the Hanseatic city. Alsterhafen and Jungfernstieg fell victim to the flames.

The year 1871 was of historical importance for Hamburg. The Hanseatic city joined the German Empire, but initially secured the right to a customs exclusion area. With the loss of this special permit, the duty-free free port of Hamburg was founded, which remained in existence until 2013. At the same time, construction of the Speicherstadt began.

Today, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany after Berlin and is home to the largest seaport in the country.

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