Ok, so it’s not within Delaware’s borders, but it definitely is a Delmarva gem. Berlin, just 50 minutes or so from Rehoboth and Lewes, and even less from Bethany and Fenwick is a must-see, whether it’s just for the day, or to attend one of its numerous festivals and parades.
With no ties to Berlin, Germany, the town’s name was derived from a 19th century tavern, the Burleigh Inn, a watering hole for travelers heading for Ocean City or Baltimore. Today, it is home to 4,500 – a number that reflects its small town atmosphere.
Berlin has many accolades for its charm, including “Maryland’s Most Beautiful Small Town” (House Beautiful), TripAdvisor’s “Traveler’s Travel Choice,” “Charming Towns to Visit,” (Esquire), and “America’s Best Small Town for Shopping” (Esquire).
Historic preservation is everywhere! There are 47 buildings and sites that are on the National Register of Historic Places – an extraordinary amount for such a small town. With a combination of Federal, Victorian and 19 Century architecture, it is a pleasant mixture of historical significance and modern gentrification.
Meandering through Berlin’s Main Street historical district, visitors can shop its unique boutiques or tour the Calvin B. Taylor Museum, a meticulously restored Federal style house loaded with Berlin historical documents and period furnishings. One of the most fascinating exhibits includes records of Isaiah Fassett’s manumission papers (granted freedom in exchange for service in the Union army).
Calvin B. Taylor was a prominent leader, educator and lawyer in Berlin around the turn of the 20th century. He is credited with bringing the then-vibrant railroad to Berlin, and also founded the town’s bank. . Amazingly, the building was scheduled to be demolished in 1981, but a group of concerned residents raised enough money to save the home’s demise.
Also saved from decay was the iconic Atlantic Hotel, built in 1895 and still thrives as an upscale lodging and culinary destination.
Berlin still draws attention from tourists curious to see the town that was prominently featured in the 1998 movie, Runaway Bride (Richard Gere and Julia Roberts). In 2001, the town was the backdrop of the movie, Tuck Everlasting (Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley and William Hurt). Shop owners told us that visitors still ask to see where certain scenes were recorded.
Shopping and dining are delightful in Berlin. There are more than 60 businesses in the historic district. Grab breakfast at Baked Dessert Café while you explore their onsite art gallery. Catch some live music on the streets of Berlin during its many festivals. And check out the farmers market every Sunday throughout the summer and fall.
Be ready to be challenged to choose which brew pub or restaurant you’d like. When asked what’s best, every shop owner my party talked with said the same: “They’re ALL good!” We chose Sterling Tavern, and it was even better than good.
Artistic murals that celebrate Berlin’s heritage cover the sides of historic buildings. Some are the result of community participation. A must-see is the gorgeous alley next to Island Creamery – famous for its homemade ice cream. What was likely a dull alleyway is now a vibrant nook with seating and plenty of mural artwork to admire while you indulge in Island Creamery’s fascinating flavors (expect a long line during peak visitor season).
The holidays draw visitors to the tree lighting and “Ice Ice Berlin,” (Nov. 25th in 2022) when the town is filled with lighted ice sculptures, festive decorations, culminating into its family-friendly December events: Berlin Christmas Parade (Thur Dec 1, 7pm – 9pm), Berlin New Year’s Eve Celebrations (Fri Dec 31, 6pm – 12:30am).
Berlin has something to offer everyone. We are close enough to our Maryland neighbors to enjoy this quaint town’s charm. Plus, the ride through the surrounding rural area is well worth it.