The Travel Maven: Berlin is Where History, Culture and Decadence Thrive

We are part of The Trust Project
Richard Levy

By Richard Levy

When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn and learned about the Holocaust, I could not have imagined ever going to Berlin. I remember asking my parents, “Where was God”?

The first time I dared to travel to Berlin was during Hanukkah, where I visited the historic Brandenburg Gate. At one time this very impressive monument was covered in swastikas, but when I first went it had a large Menorah in front while snow fell from the skies. Tears rolled down my face.

Surprisingly, I found the Germans delightful yet remorseful about their history. The natives seemed more like Americans than any other country.

Berlin is Europe’s most vibrant and bubbling city, with gourmet restaurants, innovative nightclubs, inventive bars, edgy fashion shops, avant-garde art galleries and the most outrageous techno clubs. There’s an incredible upbeat, contagious atmosphere everywhere you go in Berlin.

Significantly, the delicious decadence of the 1920s, which Hitler banned as degenerate, is back and booming. To get an overview of this one-of-a-kind city take a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour and be sure to pick up a Take a Walk Map. The latter includes fabulous walks of most neighborhoods and the most informative map of Berlin. They’re free and you’ll find them in most Airbnb rental units and Uber cars or visit

Berlin’s must-see attractions include “Checkpoint Charlie,” the dividing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War where you can see the last remnants of the wall which separated the city for 35 years. Head to the Reichstag, Berlin’s most historic building or the spectacular Jewish Museum.

Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, an entire block covered with stone slabs with a powerful and moving Holocaust museum beneath it. There’s the DDR Museum with its interactive exhibits where you can experience what it was like to live in East Berlin or go to the former Gestapo headquarters.

Museum Island, a complex of internationally significant museums, is also worth a visit or take the S-Ban train to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and notice the sign on the front gate that reads “Arbeit macht frei.” (Work makes you free.)

My favorite neighborhood is Kreuzberg, a very artsy, colorful slice of Berlin. Stroll and eat your way through the Turkish Market.

There is also the Fernsehturm Television Tower built in 1965, once a symbol of communist power in East Berlin and at one time the tallest building in Europe. Also, don’t forget about the Berlin Zoo.

Berlin’s Airbnbs are usually disappointing, so stay in one of the charming boutique hotels. My favorite is the historic Hotel Adlon Kempinski across from the Brandenburg Gate. It’s one of Europe’s finest hotels with every luxurious amenity possible. It’s where world leaders, movie stars and the rich and famous have stayed. Splurge, life is short. Reserve a room with a breathtaking view of the Brandenburg Gate, which is illuminated at night.

Experience dinner at the outstanding two-star Michelin Guide restaurant Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer. Order their eight-course tasting dinner, which will be the most inventive, delicious meal you’ve ever devoured. Or you can stop for currywurst, every Berliner’s favorite snack, consisting of steamed then fried pork sausage, cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup sauce. It is usually served with fries.

There’s always live music somewhere in Berlin every night. From the Berlin Philharmonic, to all-night techno clubs, to burlesque clubs and the most creative gay clubs.

For the best fares, download the Google Flights app.

Hastings-on-Hudson resident Richard Levy is a former advertising “Mad Man” creative director and now prolific travel writer. He’s also an inventor of innovative new products and is writing and illustrating a new children’s book. You can contact him at


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.