The Free and Hanseatic City (Freie und Hansestadt) of Hamburg is the second smallest of the 16 Länder of Germany, with a territory of only 292 square miles (755 square km). It is also the most populous city in Germany after Berlin and has one of the largest and busiest ports in Europe. The official name, which covers both the Land and the town, reflects Hamburg’s long tradition of particularism and self-government. Hamburg and Bremen (the smallest of the Länder) are, in fact, the only German city-states that still keep something of their medieval independence. The characteristic individuality of Hamburg has been proudly maintained by its people so that, in many spheres of public and private life, the city’s culture has retained its uniqueness and has not succumbed to the general trend of standardization.
Hamburg, nonetheless, is a cosmopolitan city in its outlook. Although comparatively few foreigners live there, many pass through it. The city has dealings with a large number of nations, and it has more consulates than any other city in the world, except New York City. Shipping and trade have been Hamburg’s lifeblood for centuries. Not surprisingly, its harbour has remained the city’s most important feature.