Hamburg (German), Germany, a city in the state of Hamburg. (The city and state have the same boundaries.) Hamburg is one of Germany's largest cities, a major seaport, and an industrial center. It is on the Alster River at the head of the Elbe River estuary, about 65 miles (105 km) from the North Sea.
Economically, Hamburg is heavily dependent on its seaport, which is the busiest in Germany and one of the leading ports in the world. Shipbuilding and ship repairing are major endeavors. A large fishing fleet operates out of the port. There are machine and chemical factories, oil refineries, and plants for processing metals, tobacco, and foods. Banking, printing and publishing, and radio and television broadcasting are also significant economic activities. The city is served by an international airport.
Educational and cultural institutions include the University of Hamburg (founded 1919), the Hamburg State Opera, the Hamburg Ballet, two symphony orchestras, and art and historical museums. A popular feature is the Aussenalster, a large lake in the center of the city, formed by damming the Alster River. The Binnenalster is a smaller lake adjoining the Aussenalster. Other attractions include St. Michael's Church (1762), the Rathaus (city hall), the Hagenbeck Zoo, the St. Pauli entertainment district, and a large botanic garden.
Hamburg originated as a settlement around the fortress Hammaburg, which was probably built by Charlemagne early in the ninth century. It became an archbishopric in 834 and played a significant role in the Christianizing of the Scandinavians to the north. On a number of occasions, until the early 11th century, the city was plundered by Danish and Slavic raiders. An alliance with Lübeck in 1241 eventually led to the formation of the Hanseatic League. As a principal city within the league, Hamburg flourished. It gained local autonomy in 1292 and was made a free city within the Holy Roman Empire in 1510.
Hamburg was occupied by the French under Napoleon early in the 19th century. In 1815, after the Napoleonic Wars, the city joined the German Confederation. A great fire in 1842 caused widespread destruction. Hamburg joined the North German Confederation in 1867 and became a state in the German Empire in 1871.
Hamburg's trade was virtually destroyed during World War I, but by the 1930's Hamburg was once again one of the leading ports of the world. Allied bombings during World War II killed some 55,000 inhabitants. Rebuilding was rapid after the war.