In northwest Germany on the banks of the Elbe river lies the city of Hamburg. With almost 2 million inhabitants, it’s the second largest in Germany – surpassed only by Berlin, the country’s capital. Read these fun facts about Hamburg to learn about the city which its locals claim to be “the most beautiful in the world!”
#1 Hamburg is a city-state
The full name of Hamburg is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. It’s one of only three cities in Germany that are both a city and a state. Hamburg became a Free Imperial City in 1189, a status that came with special trading rights and privileges. In the following centuries, Hamburg was one of the key cities of the Hanseatic League and further increased its wealth and importance. Despite changing times and political regimes, Hamburg has succeeded to keep its status of a free city.
#2 It’s a big port far from the sea
Nowadays the port of Hamburg is the 3rd largest in Europe and the city calls itself the “gateway to the world.” What might come as a surprise is that the sea is actually pretty far away from the Hamburg port. To be exact, 109 kilometers (68 miles)! A cargo ship needs to travel along the Elbe river for a good 5 to 6 hours to reach the port.
Activity: Open a map of Germany and track the shipping route from Hamburg to the open sea!
#3 Hamburg and Hamburgers
If you have ever wondered whether the people of Hamburg are called Hamburgers, the answer is YES (for the record, it doesn’t sound as funny in German).
Or perhaps you have wondered whether the city of Hamburg has anything to do with the yummy food known worldwide as the hamburger? It does, sort of. To cut a long story short, the minced meat patty traveled across the Atlantic thanks to ships from Hamburg. The addition of a bun, however, was an American invention.
#4 A “Moin!” opens all doors
If you’re planning to visit Hamburg and want to pick up some basic phrases, put your German dictionary aside. Some things are different up here in the North. A greeting like “Guten Morgen” is simply too long, wouldn’t you agree? Why not use a cheerful “Moin” instead? Even better, while the former can be said before noon, a “Moin” works 24/7. It can be even used as a goodbye!
#5 Hamburg has more bridges than any other city in the world
One of the most popular fun facts about Hamburg is that the city has more bridges than Venice, Amsterdam, and London combined. I have tried to fact-check this claim in the past but didn’t have much luck. You would need to count all bridges across rivers, canals, roads, and railways and include not only roads but also foot and rail bridges. This information is simply not available in most cities. Even the numbers about Hamburg are not exact: sources cite between 2,300 and 2,500 bridges.
Activity: Do some fact checking of your own! For example, try comparing the total area of Hamburg, Venice, Amsterdam, and London. How many rivers and canals does each of the cities have? Based on the information that you find, do you think the claim about Hamburg having most bridges is true? Share your answer in the comments!
#6 Hamburg’s Speicherstadt is the largest warehouse district in the world
Ever since Hamburg gave up crusading and decided to focus on trade instead, it has been a rich city. Even today Hamburg has more millionaires than any other city in Germany. The colonial riches that were arriving in the city by ship had to be properly and conveniently stored, so in the late 19th century a new district was built. The tall red-brick warehouses rise out of the canals, making it easy to unload cargo from barges on the water side of the building and sell them directly out of the warehouse on the street side. The Speicherstadt is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
#7 The Advent Wreath was invented in Hamburg
Are you familiar with the tradition of lighting candles on the four Sundays before Christmas? Chances are, you had no idea that this beautiful tradition originated in Hamburg! According to sources, the first advent wreath was made in 1839 by a protestant pastor who was in charge of an orphanage. As the story goes, the orphans’ frequent questions about the days remaining until Christmas gave him the idea to construct a large round wreath with a candle for each day.
#8 It’s home to the world’s biggest miniature railway
Opened in 2011, the Miniatur Wunderland is unlike any museum you have ever visited. It holds the Guinness Record for world’s largest model railway but this fact doesn’t even begin to describe its magic. The 15,400 meters (50,525 feet) of railway tracks stretch across nine theme worlds that include a fully functional miniature airport, an erupting volcano, and the Alps. These and other scenes come to life thanks to over 260,000 little inhabitants that are up to all sorts of mischief.
The magnificence of Miniatur Wunderland cannot really be described in words or photos. So here’s a video instead:
#9 The Tierpark Hagenbeck was the first zoo without cages
When the Tierpark Hagenbeck opened its gates in 1907, it was unlike any other zoo in the world. You see, it was the first in the world where animals lived in open enclosures – nowadays the standard for modern zoos. Today Tierpark Hagenbeck is a perfect combination of the historic and the modern and houses over 1,850 animals. Definitely one of the highlights for a Hamburg visit!
#10 Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie is among the best concert halls in the world
One of Hamburg’s most popular landmarks – the Elbphilharmonie – is only two years old. Nicknamed Elphi by the locals, the building combines a modern glass facade sitting atop a giant historic red brick warehouse. Under the wave-like rooftop hides an acoustically and architecturally unique concert hall. Its walls are covered with a special “white skin” made out of gypsum fiber panels. These panels reflect the sound, ensuring perfect acoustics for every single seat.
Activity: Do you know any other famous concert halls? Try finding some photos of them! Which do you like best?
We hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Hamburg, Germany!
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