The city of Hamburg has a well-deserved reputation as Germany's Gateway to the World. It is the country's biggest port and the second-busiest in Europe, despite being located astride the River Elbe, some 100 kilometres from the North Sea. It is also Germany's second largest city with a population of over 1.8 million and the Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region has a population of over four million. Hamburg is proud of its status as a "Free and Hanseatic City" and thus shares the same status as a province, making up one of Germany's 16 federal-states or Bundesländer.
It values its status as being as independent as possible of other states that have existed or currently exist in Germany. Over the centuries, Hamburg has always been an international city. This is not only because of its position in international trade, but also in political dimensions. One of the most important harbours in Europe and the world, Hamburg takes great pride in its mercantile background, which built the city's wealth in the past centuries. From 1241 on, it was member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval trade monopoly across Northern Europe. In the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, millions left Europe on their way to the new world through the Hamburg harbour. Today, the harbour ranks second in Europe and eleventh world-wide. Consequently, one of Hamburg's tag lines is "The Gateway to the World" (derived from the city’s coat of arms, showing a white city wall with a gate and crowned by three towers on a red background). Hamburg is known to be one of the richest metropolitan area in the European Union, in the company of Brussels and London.