It's easy to see why the youthful Beatles fell in love with Hamburg. Germany's second largest city boasts a magnificent harbour right in its city centre and has more in common with canal cities like Amsterdam or Venice; locals will proudly point out that their city has more bridges than Venice.
But, unlike its maritime counterparts, Hamburg remains a hard-working port that is among Europe's busiest. Add to this the independence of a place that has been invaded only once in its history, by Napoleon no less - and you too will be inspired to serenade the city.
Hamburg Travel, German Tourist Attractions
There isn't really a single time of year that is better than any other to visit Hamburg, because it can be chilly year round. While Germany can have pleasant summer weather, northern areas are known for their year-round healthy, bracing climate.Capitol Reef National Park
Hamburg's social schedule is packed all year with concerts, fairs, festivals, parties, conventions and exhibitions, but there are a few standout occasions. Established in 1329, Hamburger Dom is one of Europe's largest and oldest funfairs; it takes place in late March, late July and late November.
In the 9th century, a moated fortress called Hammaburg was built which grew to be a missionary stronghold. It wasn't until the 12th century that the city began its rise as a trading power - Count Adolf III scored a royal charter from Emperor Friedrich I (aka Barbarossa) which gave the city free trade rights and exempted them from pesky customs tariffs. Armed with this increased trading power, Hamburg became a leader in the newly founded Hanseatic League, a collection of northern European merchants, which included 60 cities at the height of its influence.
Politically neutral Hamburg concentrated on developing trade, founding the Borse, Hamburg's stock exchange, in 1558 and establishing, in the 17th century, a merchant navy to guard its trading vessels. As the Hanseatic League weakened, Hamburg thrived, thanks to an influx of Dutch merchants who were fleeing religious persecution. While other cities and nations were caught up in wars or empire building, Hamburg pragmatically set about building trade with the world, irregardless of politics.
Hamburg's trading ambitions were interrupted briefly by the annexation of Germany into the Napoleonic Empire, but once the French tyrant was toppled it was business as usual. Hamburg joined the German Confederation and became known as the 'Free and Hanseatic City', with the city retaining a degree of independence within the new nation.
The city suffered a major blow with the Great Fire of 1842, which levelled a third of the city, but it soon dusted itself off and set about rebuilding. By 1913, the city was among Europe's top ports, trading with Africa, South America and Asia, and with a population of well over a million.
WWI reparations deprived Hamburg of most of its 1500-ship merchant navy, and WWII was even more brutal, destroying four-fifths of the port and two-fifths of the city's industrial area. The firestorm created by Allied bombing on 28 July 1943 killed more than 50,000 civilians and burnt out entire streets and neighbourhoods. Caught between two enemies, neutral Hamburg was also harassed by the Nazis, with 8000 local Jews perishing in nearby concentration camps.
Out of the ashes rose modern Hamburg, devoting more than 20 years to reconstruction and resilience. Always with an eye for a good deal, after the war Hamburg attracted the country's media giants, with 15 of Germany's 20 largest print publications being produced in the city, and more than 6200 publishing, film, radio, television and music companies calling the city home.
Today, Hamburg is Germany's second-biggest city after Berlin. Some 68,000 students study at nine institutions - the largest is the University of Hamburg, with 42,000 students. With 15 per cent of its population immigrants, the city has a cosmopolitan flair that has returned to Hamburg its title of Germany's Gateway to the World.