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Hamburg, Germany

Germany’s second-largest city and principal seaport is laced by canals and loaded with history and culture. Hamburg was proclaimed a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire in 1189, and functioned as a fully sovereign city-state before the unification of Germany in 1871 (its official name is the “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”). That independent spirit lives on today, as witnessed in the hipster Schanzenviertel neighborhood and bawdy, gaudy Reeperbahn (red-light) district where the Beatles first honed their chops. The Great Fire of 1842 and aerial bombing during World War II destroyed much of Hamburg’s historic center; miraculously, a string of timber-framed townhouses along Deichstrasse street survived, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s medieval glory. The Rathaus (City Hall) is a fine example of neo-Renaissance architecture, while the Kontorhaus office district stands as a shrine to brick expressionism architecture; the Chilehaus building, in particular, is a modernistic marvel. Kontorhaus sits adjacent to Speicherstadt, the world’s largest port warehouse complex; together they have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.