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Hamburg is Germany's second largest city (behind Berlin) and its principal port. The official name Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg recalls its membership in the medieval Hanseatic League and the fact that Hamburg is one of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer rather than part of a state.

The state and administrative city cover 750 km² with 1.7 million inhabitants, while another 750,000 live in neighbouring urban areas. The wider Hamburg metropolitan region including nearby districts of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony covers 18,100 km² with a population of 4 million.


Founded in the first decade of the 9th century as Hamma Burg ("fortified town"), it was designated the seat of an bishopric (834) whose first bishop Ansgar became known as the Apostle of the North. In 845 a fleet said to number 600 Viking ships came up the Elbe river and destroyed Hamburg, at that time a place of around 500 inhabitants. Hamburg was two years later combined with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. The see was finally moved to Bremen after further raids in 1066 and 1072, this time by Slavs from the east.

Frederick I "Barbarossa" is said to have granted free access up the lower Elbe to Hamburg in a charter of 1189. Hamburg's proximity to the main trade routes of the North and Baltic Seas quickly made it a major port of northern Europe, and its alliance (1241) with Lübeck on the Baltic is considered the origin of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities.

In the 1520s the city authorities embraced Lutheranism, and Hamburg subsequently received Protestant refugees from the Netherlands and France. At times under Danish sovereignty while a part of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1768 it gained full Danish recognition as an Imperial Free City.

Annexed briefly by France (1810-14), Hamburg suffered severely during Napoleon I's last campaign in Germany, but experienced its fastest growth during the latter 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 post.

Jungfernstieg in Hamburg, looking across Alster with fountain (May 2003)
Hamburg was destroyed by fire several times, notably in 1284 and 1842. The last and greatest destruction came in World War II, when the city suffered a series of devastating air raids (24 July-2 August 1943). Today's inner city therefore hosts almost no buildings from before 1842 and even few from before 1945. In February 1962 the city's low-lying areas were affected by severe flooding.

The city boundaries were extended in 1937 with the Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz (Greater Hamburg Act) to incorporate neighbouring Wandsbek, Harburg-Wilhelmsburg and Altona. The population of the city proper peaked in the mid-1960s at 1.85 million, but has recovered from a mid-1980s low of under 1.6m. Growth is now concentrated in the suburban areas.

Culture Hamburg is home of the Hamburger Sport Verein[?] (HSV) and the FC St. Pauli[?]. The HSV is the only football club never to get relegated from the Bundesliga. In 1983 the HSV won the European club competition by beating Juventus Turin 1:0 in Athens. The most well-known players to have played for the HSV are Uwe Seeler[?] and Kevin Keegan[?].

Hamburg is also known for giving the Beatles a start in their musical career in the early 1960s.

External link For the state's official website, see http://www.hamburg.de/

Hamburg is also the name of several places in the United States of America:

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