Hamburg was known as Hamma Burg ,a fortified town. It was designated an archbishopric and bishop Ansgar of Hamburg became the Apostle of the North.
In 845 a fleet of 600 Viking ships, drakkars, came up the Elbe river and destroyed Hamburg. Hamburg at that time had 500 inhabitants. Hamburg was later combined with Bremen as the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen in order to better withstand the raids and attacks of the Vikings and Slavs. During the Reformation it became Protestant.
Hamburg was destroyed by fire several times, the last and greatest destruction came in World War II.
Due to it's geographical proximity to both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea it recovered from this devastation and continued to increase in size and strength.
Hamburg is also known for giving the Beatles a jump start.
See the state's own website, http://www.hamburg.de/