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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Known affectionately as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia holds a special place in American history as the birthplace of the United States. It's a city steeped in history, offering a vibrant and diverse experience that caters to everyone's interests. From captivating art museums and historic landmarks to mouthwatering culinary delights, sprawling parks, sports stadiums, and charming churches, Philadelphia truly has something for everyone. The city's food scene is a delight, and its neighborhoods are full of character. Moreover, you'll find yourself surrounded by countless museums and iconic buildings that will leave you in awe. If you're planning a trip to Philadelphia and want to make the most of your visit, look no further. In this ultimate guide, I'll provide you with all the details you need on where to go, what to see, and, most importantly, what delicious dishes to try in the wonderful city of Philly.


Getting Around Philadelphia


Getting Around by Walking or Bus

Philadelphia is renowned as one of the finest cities for walking, thanks to its straightforward street grid spanning 25 blocks between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. You'll find that many attractions are within a comfortable walking distance of each other, enabling you to explore multiple sights in just a few hours.


Quick tip: Take advantage of the close proximity between attractions to maximize your sightseeing experience.


If walking isn't your preferred mode of transportation, you can opt for the hop-on/hop-off bus. This convenient service allows you to visit all of Philadelphia's major attractions within a single day. You can easily hop on and off the bus at any designated stop, granting you the freedom to explore different neighborhoods and enjoy a flexible pace. Not only does this option save time, but it also provides a comprehensive insight into Philly's rich history as you travel.



Things to Do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Discover the Vibrant Neighborhoods of Philly

When planning your visit to Philadelphia, whether it's for leisure or business, it's essential to consider your preferences and the sights you wish to explore. As a sizable city, Philadelphia offers diverse neighborhoods, each with its unique charm. To ensure the best experience, I recommend considering the following neighborhoods:


Rittenhouse

Rittenhouse is personally one of my top picks for neighborhood exploration in Philadelphia. It boasts a plethora of fantastic shops, restaurants, and bars. Whether you desire a cozy coffee shop or a satisfying meal, Rittenhouse has it all. Moreover, if you're in the mood for some retail therapy, you'll find an abundance of enticing stores and boutiques along Walnut Street and Broad Street. For a delightful retreat from the bustling city, Rittenhouse Square Park, located across the street from my favorite brunch spots, offers a serene oasis adorned with magnificent trees, flowers, and elegant fountains.


Old City

Old City is a neighborhood brimming with history and offers an array of culinary delights, lively bars, and intriguing shops. It serves as the home to many historical attractions, making it an ideal choice for history enthusiasts. The shopping scene here is exceptional, with numerous unique stores offering everything from trendy clothing to antique treasures. The best part? Parking won't be a concern as all these attractions are conveniently within walking distance of each other. Feel free to wander and immerse yourself in all that this captivating neighborhood has to offer.


Gayborhood

If you seek a vibrant and lively atmosphere, look no further than the Gayborhood. This tight-knit neighborhood is bursting with energy and hosts a vibrant LGBTQ+ community. It offers an array of bars where you can socialize, meet new people, and have a blast with friends. Additionally, you'll find a multitude of restaurants perfect for grabbing a delicious meal or enjoying drinks on a fun date. The Gayborhood is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a lively and inclusive environment.


Center City

Center City serves as the heart of Philadelphia, and it's easy to understand why. This bustling area is teeming with restaurants, bars, and shops, all conveniently located within walking distance of one another. Center City offers an abundance of attractions and activities to engage visitors. The historic architecture is awe-inspiring, and you'll find plenty to explore on foot or by car. If you're interested in history or science, be sure to visit notable museums such as the Liberty Bell, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, and the National Constitution Center—all conveniently close to one another. It's worth noting that the downtown area of Philadelphia is referred to as Center City.


Other Popular Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Fairmount, Fishtown When selecting accommodation, consider staying in a neighborhood near the central Philadelphia area.


During my own time in the city, I prioritized well-lit and busy areas, ensuring that I felt secure. It's always a good idea to exercise caution, especially when venturing out at night.


By exploring the diverse neighborhoods of Philadelphia, you'll uncover the city's vibrant tapestry and create lasting memories of your visit.


Independence Hall

Independence Hall holds a significant place in Philadelphia and plays a pivotal role in U.S. history. Originally known as the Pennsylvania State House, this iconic building served as the meeting place for the second Continental Congress, where the monumental signing of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 4th, 1776. It's an absolute must-visit when exploring Philadelphia, and booking a tour of Independence Hall should be at the top of your list.


Embarking on a tour of Independence Hall grants you the incredible opportunity to step inside the very rooms where the founding fathers gathered and witness the hallowed space where they affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence.


While tours of Independence Hall are free, it is highly recommended to book in advance to secure your spot. The demand for these tours is significant, so securing your reservation ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience. You can conveniently make your booking through the official government website, where a nominal fee of $1.00 per person applies. By planning ahead, you can guarantee your chance to immerse yourself in this essential piece of American history.




The Liberty Bell Center

The The Liberty Bell Center is one of the most iconic symbols of American independence. Originally housed in the steeple of Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall), it was rung for the first time in 1753 when it arrived in Philadelphia. However, within two years, it cracked when rung for July 4th celebrations and has been recast twice. The bell is displayed at the Liberty Bell Centre across from Independence Hall. It is free to visit and requires no tickets. As one of Philadelphia’s most popular tourist attractions, there is usually a long line to see it.




Betsy Ross House

The Betsy Ross House is a must-see in Philadelphia. This small, quaint house sits on Arch Street and is where upholsterer Betsy Ross sewed the first design of the American flag. President George Washington first approached Betsy in this house with a sketch of the original design. When asked if she could sew the flag, she replied, "I do not know, but I will try."" During tours of this historic site, visitors learn about Betsy's role in creating what has become one of America's most important symbols. One thing that stood out during my visit was how easy it would have been for Betsy to make six-pointed stars instead of five-pointed ones—but that slight change saved her so much time!



Elfreth’s Alley

If you're in the Philadelphia area, go wander the oldest residential street in America. After visiting the Betsy Ross House, head down Elfreth's Alley. Elfreth's Alley contains houses dating back to 1728, and I really enjoyed exploring there. It was so cool to see how different each house is from one another and how much time has passed since they were built. There are also small alleyways behind many of the houses, and if you’d like to visit the Elfreth’s Alley Museum, it’s located at 124 & 126 and costs $3.


Christchurch Burial Ground

During your visit to Philadelphia, you should check out Christchurch Burial Ground. This early-American cemetery holds the remains of Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Rush, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes and George Ross. Admission to tour the grounds is $5 at the gate.


LOVE Park

The Love Park, officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza, is the best place to go to sit and relax or grab a bite to eat. Located in Center City Philadelphia, this spot is surrounded by large buildings and is home to the LOVE statue designed by artist Robert Indiana. The big attraction here is of course, the LOVE statue but there are also plenty of tables and chairs for you to sit down and enjoy your lunch or take a break from all that walking. I really enjoyed this park. I was able to visit during a time of day when it wasn't crowded, so the atmosphere was quite relaxing. The fountains are great photo ops too, because you can line them up perfectly with the Philadelphia Museum of Art along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.


Eastern State Penitentiary

If you’re into haunted places and the paranormal, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is for you. The 142-year-old prison has a history full of suicide, madness, disease, and murder, making it easy to imagine the spirits of troubled souls left behind to roam its abandoned halls. Take a tour of one of Philadelphia’s most distinctive attractions—the Eastern State Penitentiary. Opened in 1829, it housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Today it is an abandoned building that tells the story of its history. Tours at Eastern State Penitentiary are offered seven days a week and are included with regular admission, or you can join a guided tour at select times throughout the day. Audio tours last approximately 35 minutes, but guests can spend two hours exploring this historic site.



Rocky Steps and Statue

Rocky's famous run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. Everyone knows that scene, even if you aren't into Boxing or have never seen the movies. Before you recreate his run, snap a photo with the Rocky statue, which stands to the right of the stairs.


Philadelphia Museum Of Art

You've just climbed the Rocky Steps, so head into the museum in front of you to see some amazing works of art. This museum is one of the best in Philadelphia and even if you are short on time, make sure to see at least a few of its many exhibitions. The museum has a lot of great stuff to see, so make sure you spend at least an hour or two here. If you’re looking for something specific, try the Museum of Art's website before your visit to see what’s currently on display. *Closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays


Philadelphia City Hall

If you’re visiting Philadelphia, you must see the city hall. It’s one of the most important landmarks in the city. It was once the tallest building in Philadelphia, but it may no longer be the tallest—but it sure is beautiful . You can take a tour inside to see some of its amazing architecture or head up to open observation deck for a panoramic view of the city.


There are two tours available:

  1. The Tower Tour, which takes guests in an elevator to the observation deck at the top of the building.

  2. The Interior tour is offered once a day and takes two hours. During the tour, you will get access to some of the premises inside the building, as well as an overview of its history and access to the observation deck. You can book both tours via the website.




Chinatown Friendship Gate

The Chinatown Friendship Gate, a colorful 40-foot archway constructed by artist Sabrina Soong, marks the entrance to Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood. It represents a friendly exchange between Philadelphia and its sister city, Tianjin, China. The structure is beautiful to see so check it out during your visit to Philly.


Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

This red-brick home was once the residence of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), one of America’s most original writers. While living with his wife, Virginia, and his mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, he wrote The Black Cat, which describes a basement eerily similar to the one found here. This building house exhibits Poe’s family and his literary contemporaries. Visitors can tour the rooms and cellar of the three-story home, where Poe’s imagination ran seductively wild. There's also a theater that shows an informative eight-minute film.


If you're interested in learning more about Poe's life and work, you'll want to pay this historical site a visit. You can walk through the house and see exhibits that document his life and his literary works. The site also has an exhibit on how Poe's stories were adapted into films, so if you're into that kind of thing, it's worth checking out!




Philadelphia Magic Gardens

The Magic Gardens of Philadelphia is an outdoor sculpture garden that consists of mosaicked cement and found objects. Isaiah Zagar, the artist behind the project, began tiling South Street in the 1960s and never stopped, constructing the space out of cement, bicycle spokes, bottles, ceramic shards and other artistic knick-knacks. The Magic Gardens are made up of colorful mosaics that cover the walls, floors, and ceilings of a series of underground rooms beneath South Street. Artist Isaiah Zagar has created more than 100 mosaics in Philadelphia, the majority of them along the South Street corridor. A walk around the neighborhood unveils not only the work of the artist, but also of a geographic renaissance.




Barnes Foundation

There are many things to see in Philadelphia, but if you only have one day to spend there, I recommend checking out the Barnes Foundation. It has one of the world's foremost collections of French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.



Coffee Shops in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Metropolitan Bakery

I stumbled upon this cute bakery called the Metropolitan Bakery & Cafe while I was in Rittenhouse Square. The bakery reminds me of one of those old-school European-style bakeries, which is amazing because their goods look and taste so delicious! This bakery (with several locations around Philadelphia) was started by Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett in 1993. It started as a bread bakery, using all-natural starter and a long-slow-cool rise to create unique crusts that were unheard of in Philadelphia at the time. They use locally sourced and sustainable ingredients whenever possible, as well as whole grains—long before those words became hip for the past decade. The café―with its warm wood, minimalist interior, and tall chalkboards displaying the menu―is a welcoming place. I highly recommend their cappuccino, which was great. The whole milk they use is rich and creamy. The chocolate cake was superb—the texture was soft, moist and fluffy. The cake was flavorful and not too sweet, so you can enjoy the chocolate flavor without any bitterness.


La Colombe

La Colombe is one of those local chains that have a strong following but still feels like a local shop. This coffee shop, which began in Philadelphia, is one of the city's best places to get coffee. The coffee is always incredible, and although its locations don't have as many coffee options, it's all the more reason to go because you know their coffee is that good.


Ultimo Coffee

Ultimo Coffee is the place for you if you're looking for a place to kick back and relax with great coffee and a cozy ambiance. The coffee is delicious, and they have excellent coffee art to go along with it. It's got tons of natural light, which makes it feel bright and welcoming even on cloudy days. Their coffee and pastries are delicious, and have a wide range of coffee drinks. They also have free WiFi if you want to get some work done while enjoying your coffee. The space is relatively small, but it's got plenty of seating options for groups or solo patrons. It is also the perfect place to get photo opportunities with your coffee. This cute coffee shop is worth going back to.


The Franklin Fountain

The Franklin Fountain, an old-fashioned soda fountain, is a great place to get some ice cream. The ice cream sundaes are complete with a cherry on top, and they also serve milkshakes, traditional ice cream cones, and many soda flavors from an old-fashioned soda fountain. This place is so authentic it still uses a brass cash register. Make sure you bring cash—there are no card machines here. The lines can get long during the summer months, but luckily I went in October and didn't have to wait very long at all. The ice cream is worth the trip!


Where to Eat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I've got you covered when it comes to finding the perfect places to eat in Philadelphia! Whether you're looking for a quick bite on the go or a relaxed sit-down meal, I've got some amazing recommendations that will surely satisfy your cravings.


Ants Pants Cafe

If you want to experience the rich cafe culture of Sydney firsthand, come here. It has a great environment that celebrate a love of good food, a good cup of coffee and a place for friends to gather to enjoy it. I highly recommend trying the 'Ants Pants Cakes', 'The Stack', 'The Lot' and French Toast. For coffee, try the Mocha, Latte, and Chai Latte.


Giuseppe & Sons

I went to Giuseppe & Sons with my sister and cousins for an early dinner while visiting Philly. As you walk down the steps to the true entrance of the restaurant, there's a large bar on your left and tables on your right. You immediately feel the positive vibes from the people and know you are about to have a great time ...and we did! The service was excellent, and so was the food. We tasted several appetizers and entrées, which we really enjoyed. We tried the fried calamari, Caesar salad, rigatoni alla vodka, chicken parmigiana, and chicken marsala. For dessert, we tried the tiramisu; it was awesome! I highly recommend dining at Giuseppe & Sons while visiting Philly.


Sabrina’s Café

Sabrina's Cafe is a place to enjoy great food, drinks, and company. The restaurant's signature dishes include spiced tofu scrambles and thick-cut challah French toast stuffed with all manner of sweet stuff. Of course, the always-outrageous lineup of specials is updated regularly—I highly recommend the eggs benedict, buttermilk full stack pancakes, and pumpkin latte. I recommend the berries n' cream latte and pumpkin spice latte for coffee.


Harp & Crown

Harp & Crown is a restaurant that has an old-world vibe. You can enjoy the delicate yet complex flavors of new-American dishes. Harp & Crown has a cocktail bar, lounge that has a great vibe. I was very surprised to find out that there's a two-lane bowling alley beneath the main room at Elbow Lane. Overall, the atmosphere is just great and you won't find another place like it. The food was delicious and the service was great. We had an amazing time at Harp & Crown. I highly recommend the spicy chicken wings, the sausage & peppers pizza, pierogies, rigatoni pasta, dry-aged beef burger, chocolate cake, and the s'mores cosmic brownie sundae.


Spread Bagelry

I was excited to discover that Philadelphia has a Montreal-style bagel bakery called Spread Bagelry. (I went to the one in Rittenhouse Square) Crowds line up down the street to bite into the fresh bagels at this Philadelphia spot. The wait is worth it! The bagels are delicious; they're baked in a beautiful wood-fired oven. I recommend the Standard (with rosemary olive oil bagel) and Carnegie breakfast sandwich. So check out this bagel place for some good bagels!


Reading Terminal Market

Visit Reading Terminal Market for some great food! The market has been going since 1893 when it opened under the train shed of the Reading Railroad Company (hence its name). It's a great place for all your food cravings—from breakfast sandwiches to artisan cheeses, fresh seafood to gourmet cakes. If you want more information about Philadelphia's food scene, consider taking a food tour. This place really is a staple and a must-do in Philadelphia.


Where to Stay in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

During my trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to stay with my godcousin in her apartment. It worked out perfectly since she attends Drexel University, and her apartment was conveniently located near the university campus. This meant that I didn't have to worry about booking a hotel or searching for an Airbnb. However, I understand that not everyone may have the same local connection when visiting the city. So, if you don't have anyone locally to stay with, I'm here to help! Here are some great accommodation recommendations in Philadelphia:


The Rittenhouse Hotel

Located in the upscale Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, this luxurious hotel offers elegant rooms, impeccable service, and fantastic amenities. It's situated within walking distance of numerous attractions and dining options.


Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia

Nestled in the heart of Old City, this boutique hotel combines historic charm with modern comforts. It features stylish rooms, a rooftop lounge with panoramic views, and easy access to iconic landmarks like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.


The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton

Situated near the cultural hub of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, this contemporary hotel offers spacious rooms, a rooftop pool, and a prime location close to renowned museums and the picturesque Fairmount Park.


Lokal Hotel

If you prefer a more intimate and home-like experience, consider Lokal Hotel in the hip Fishtown neighborhood. This boutique hotel offers beautifully designed apartment-style accommodations, giving you a taste of local living while providing access to trendy shops, bars, and restaurants.


The Study at University City

Located near the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, this modern hotel caters to both business and leisure travelers. It boasts stylish rooms, a cozy library lounge, and proximity to renowned educational institutions and cultural attractions.


These are just a few of the excellent options available in Philadelphia. When choosing accommodation, consider factors such as your preferred neighborhood, budget, and proximity to the attractions you wish to explore. With these recommendations, you can find a comfortable place to stay and make the most of your visit to the vibrant City of Brotherly Love.


Best Time to Visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The best time to visit Philadelphia is during the spring and fall. In the spring, you'll want to avoid summer's heat but not winter's cold. Temps in April, May, and September are still warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities without having to worry about sweating or shivering. Plus, all the trees will bloom with flowers! You can still have fun outdoors in the fall without getting too cold or too hot. You'll see the leaves change colors, and the weather will be perfect for hiking. Plus, there's always something going on during this time of year—you'll never run out of things to do!


I hope you fall in love with Philadelphia just as easily as I did. While it may sometimes be overlooked in the planning of an East Coast adventure, Philadelphia offers much more than just a quick stopover. If you have a few extra days in the city, you can explore beyond the immediate area and discover other nearby attractions.

Now, you might be wondering if it's possible to experience Philadelphia in just one day. While I personally wouldn't recommend it, it is certainly doable! The top tourist attractions in Philadelphia are conveniently close to each other, making it relatively easy to see them all in a day. However, I highly recommend allocating three days to fully immerse yourself in the city's charm.

Philadelphia is surprisingly affordable for a major city, and there is an abundance of things to do and see. In fact, you might find yourself wanting to extend your stay once you experience all that Philly has to offer. Even if you only have one day, go ahead and make the most of it; I'm confident you'll have a wonderful time.

I can't wait for the opportunity to return to Philadelphia myself. There's still so much more to explore, and I'm excited to delve deeper into its vibrant culture and rich history.


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I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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