Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany, the thirteenth largest German state, and the sixth-largest city in the European Union. Situated on the river Elbe, the port of Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe (after the Port of Rotterdam) and 11th-largest worldwide. With the harbour, interconnecting waterways, and hundreds of canals, Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice combined, all adding up a to a great city with lots of maritime charm. Hamburg's official name, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg reflects Hamburg's history as a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, and that Hamburg is a city-state and one of the sixteen States of Germany.
The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva. But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808. The castle was built on rocky terrain in a marsh between the River Alster and the River Elbe as a defence against Slavic incursion. The castle was named Hammaburg, burg meaning castle or fort. The origin of theHamma term remains uncertain, as does the exact location of the castle.
Right in the heart of the city, there is a large lake: the Alster. A boat tour on the Alster ends in the city centre, where one can shop or simply relax in a street café. Hamburg's modern busses and underground trains (S-Bahn) will take you anywhere fast and for a small fare.
In the early 1960s, the Beatles wooed their German audiences in Hamburg and started their career in various music clubs along the street “Große Freiheit” (literally “Great Freedom”). Some of these clubs still exist, and if you are a fan of the Fab Four, get up and get down in the Indra Club and the Kaiserkeller, and visit the newly built Beatles Square at the street corner of Reeperbahn/ Große Freiheit.
- The Hamburg Rathaus is the seat of the government of Hamburg, located in the Altstadt quarter in the city centre, near the lake Binnenalster and the central station. Constructed from 1886 to 1897, the city hall still houses its original governmental functions with the office of the First Mayor of Hamburg and the meeting rooms for Hamburg's parliament and senate. After the old city hall was destroyed in the great fire of 1842, it took almost 44 years to build a new one. The present building was designed by a group of seven architects, led by Martin Haller. Construction started in 1886 and the new city hall was inaugurated in 1897. Its cost was 11 million German gold marks, about €80 million. On October 26, 1897 at the official opening ceremony the First Mayor Dr. Johannes Versmann received the key of the city hall.
- St. Mary's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Sankt Georg and the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg (as of 1995). The cathedral stands in Danziger Straße and was built between 1890 and 1893 to the designs of Arnold Güldenpfennig. The church was erected in Romanesque revival style at the instigation of Bishop Bernhard Höting of Osnabrück, then simultaneously officiating as Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Nordic Missions of Germany, then competent for Hamburg's Catholics. It was the first new Roman Catholic church built in Hamburg since the Reformation.
- The Hamburger Kunsthalle The art museum focuses on painting in Hamburg in the 14th century, paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, French and German paintings of the 19th century, modern, and contemporary art. It consists of three connected buildings located in the city center, near the Central Station and the Binnenalster lake. The first museum was built from 1863 to 1869 by architects Georg Theodor Schirrmacher and Hermann von der Hude. Architect Fritz Schumacher designed the second building, erected in 1919. Planned and constructed from 1976 until 1997, the Galerie der Gegenwart was built by O. M. Ungers. The museum houses an important collection of painting from the 19th century with works from Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, Adolf Menzel. The Gallerie der Gegenwart is devoted to modern arts from the early 20th century, e.g. Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Max Beckmann, and art after 1945.
- Miniatur Wunderland is a model railway attraction in Hamburg, and the largest of its kind in the world, built by the twins Gerrit and Frederik Braun. As of January 2011, the railway consists of 12,000 metres (39,370 ft) of track in HO scale, divided into seven sections: Harz, the fictitious city of Knuffingen, the Alps and Austria, Hamburg, America, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. Of the 6,400 square metres (68,889 sq ft) of floorspace, the model takes 1,150 m2 (12,378 sq ft). By 2020, the exhibit is expected to have reached its final construction phase, including at least a total of ten new sections in a model area of over 2,300 m2 (24,757 sq ft). The next section covering an airport opened in May 2011. The exhibit includes 890 trains made up of over 11,000 carriages, 300,000 lights, 215,000 trees, and 200,000 human figurines.
- St Nicholas' Church. The Gothic Revival Church of St. Nicholas was formerly one of the five Lutheran Hauptkirchen (main churches) in the city of Hamburg. It is now in ruins, serving as a memorial and an important architectural landmark. When Hamburg residents mention the Nikolaikirche, it is generally to this church that they are referring, and not the new Hauptkircheof St. Nicholas, which is located in the Harvestehude district. The church was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876 and is still the second-tallest building in Hamburg. The current condition of the Church of St. Nicholas is the result of air raids during World War II, continuing demolition in 1951 and restoration work in the 1990s. The Rettet die Nikolaikirche e.V. (Rescue the Church of St. Nicholas) foundation is responsible for the restoration of the church. The foundation is supported in its work by the city of Hamburg, the congregation of the Church of St. Nicholas and various corporate sponsors and private contributors. The organization is charged with maintaining the building's existing structure, restoration, arranging events and displays in the church, and operating an information center housed in the church's crypt.