Hamburg is Germany's second largest city, Europe's third-busiest port and an increasingly popular destination for tourists. Situated on the banks of the Elbe River, Hamburg has drawn casual comparisons as the Venice of Germany, a reputation enhanced by a network of canals and two large lakes near the city centre. The city was strategically important as a port and is still imbued with a strong maritime tradition. Hamburg is also a delight for music buffs, being the birthplace of famous 19th century composers Brahms and Mendelssohn. The city was also home to the Beatles in their formative years, building their reputation and earning their first recording.
Hamburg is today a distinctive mix of old brick buildings, modern glass facades and baroque churches. Nowhere is this more evident than the astonishing new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, its glass edifice perched atop an old brick warehouse. Visitors can take a free trip to the viewing deck of the building for views out over the harbour and Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse district in the world where the buildings are built on foundations of timber. Every Sunday morning since 1703, trade has sprung up at Hamburg's traditional fish market along the harbour, where tourists can sample the sights, sounds and tastes of local produce.
The main street running through the party district of St Pauli is called Grosse Freiheit (Great Freedom), and this is exactly what awaits the intrepid explorer. The city also hosts numerous music festivals throughout the year, spanning rock to jazz. For those whose tastes are more culturally refined, Hamburg has a number of museums dedicated to history, art, communications, ethnology and even spices. Lastly, Hamburg is the gateway to the seaside and spa resorts of the Baltic and North Sea coastline.