Explore the cosmopolitan center of Hamburg
Hamburg is the largest port city in Germany with a population of 1 700 000 people. Hamburg gained the status of Free Imperial City in 1618 and proudly retains its autonomy as one of Germany's 16 Lander and one of only three German city-states. Restoration and riots determined the post-WWII landscape, but today Hamburg has become a haven for contemporary artists and intellectuals as well as party-goers who live it up in Germany's self-declared "capital of lust".
Hamburg is more laid back than Berlin or Frankfurt, more sophisticated than Munich or Cologne, and with nightlife to rival the lot. Its skyline is dominated by the pale green of its copper spires and domes, but a few houses and the churches are all that's left from older times. The great fire of 1842 was a main cause of this loss, plus wartime bombing. Much of the subsequent rebuilding might not be especially beautiful, but the result is an intriguing mix of old and new, coupled with an appealing sense of open space.
Two thirds of Hamburg is occupied by parks, lakes or tree-lined canals, adding some much needed leafiness to this major industrial centre. Hamburg's city center sits between the Elbe River and the two city lakes, Aubenalster and Binnenalster. Most major sights lie between the St. Pauli Landungsbruken port area in the west and the Hauptbahnhof in the east. Monckebergstrabe, Hamburg's most famous shopping street runs all the way to Rathausmarkt. North of downtown, the university dominates the Dammtor area and sustains a vibrant community of students and intellectuals. To the west of the university, the Schanzenviertel is a politically active community home to artists, squatters, and a sizeable Turkish population. At the south end of town, an entirely different atmosphere reigns in St. Pauli, where the raucous Fischmarkt (fish market) is surpassed only by the wilder Reeperbahn, home to Hamburg's infamous sex trade and its best discos.