Hamburg, a major city in north central Germany, is
both an incorporated municipality and one of the sixteen states that make up
Germany. It is located on the Elbe River about 110 km (68 mi) from the point at
which the Elbe empties into the North Sea. Hamburg covers an area of 754 km2
(291 sq mi) and has a population of 1,600,400 (1984 est.). Because of Hamburg's
low elevation and proximity to the sea, its weather is humid and mild. The
average annual precipitation is about 715 mm (28 in.).
Hamburg is laid out
in the form of a semicircle that is based on the eastern bank of the Elbe River
and is bisected by the Alster River, a tributary of the Elbe, which is dammed to
form a lake. The old part of the city, traversed by many canals, lies on the
eastern side of the lake, and the newer part lies on the western side. During
the 19th and 20th centuries Hamburg grew to its present size by incorporating
the numerous communities around it. In 1842 much of the old city was destroyed
by fire. After the destruction during World War II, Hamburg was again largely
Hamburg's main economic asset is its port, which ranks among the
largest and busiest in Europe. Shipping is also the basis of the city's highly
developed industries. The city's international airport is one of the busiest in
Germany. Its educational and cultural facilities include the University of
Hamburg (1919), several music conservatories, symphony orchestras, museums, and
theaters. The best-known theater is the Hamburg State Opera. The world-famous
Hagenbeck Zoo is also inside the city.
Hamburg originated early in the 9th
century AD, when Charlemagne built the Hammaburg fortress at the confluence of
the Elbe and Alster rivers; he also founded (811) a Christian church there.
Hamburg became (834) an archbishopric that was given the mission of
christianizing Jutland and Scandinavia. In 845 and several times thereafter,
however, it was plundered and burned by Danish and Slav invaders. In 1189, Holy
Roman Emperor Frederick I granted the city substantial privileges, including its
own judiciary, exemption from tolls, and the right of fishery from the city to
the mouth of the Elbe. During the 13th century Hamburg became a member of the
Hanseatic League. In 1815 it joined the German Confederation. The city was
incorporated into the German Empire in 1871.