Fit the most into your first-timers itinerary with this two days in Philadelphia guide.
America’s first capital, Philadelphia, appeals to visitors with its rich historical offerings and booming food scene. As a transplant to this city, I now understand how Philadelphia earned its nickname, “The City of Brotherly Love.” Philadelphia played a pivotal role in the USA’s establishment. This is where America’s early leaders debated and pursued life, liberty, and happiness as the framework for the government. Today, Philadelphia continues to uphold its democratic ideals and remains fiercely community-driven. With only two days in Philadelphia, this itinerary will cover the must-see spots like Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell, but also celebrate the little quirks that make Philadelphia unique like Elfreth’s Alley and Cheesesteak Corner. Are youse ready?!?
MORNING (8:30 – 11:30 AM)
Neighborhood: Old City
Locations: La Colombe at 100 S Independence Mall W #110, Independence Hall, and The Liberty Bell
In short: The “most historic square mile” in America
Your perfect two days in Philadelphia itinerary begins in Old City, a neighborhood where many of America’s “firsts” began. Pick up a light breakfast at La Colombe, a recognized coffee retailer that was founded Philadelphia. Then get in line to see the Liberty Bell up close, a longstanding symbol of freedom. As a National Park Service, seeing the bell is free but the lines can get very long. Across the street, Independence Hall is the site where two of the most important documents in US History were signed: the Declaration of Independence and The US Constitution. While visiting Independence Hall is also free and open to the public, tickets are limited between March and December so make reservations in advance if you want a tour.
More around this neighborhood:
📍 Elfreth’s Alley: The oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the USA known for its picturesque homes. Although a courtesy reminder: people actually still live on this street.
📍 Betsy Ross House: An American heroine by way of thread and needle, Betsy Ross is the creator of the American Flag.
📍 Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History: A collection of Jewish stories and heritage marked by the bright yellow OY/Yo Sculpture, playfully expressive in both Yiddish (OY) and English (YO).
📍 Museum of the American Revolution: A celebration of America’s Revolutionary period, this is a must do for history buffs.
📍 The African-American Museum: The first museum funded by a city to preserve Black Heritage and celebrate Black experiences in American through culture and history.
📍 Benjamin Franklin’s Grave: Drop a penny on the grave of Philly’s most famous resident who is buried at the Christ Church Burial Ground alongside other signers of the Declaration of Independence.
LUNCH (12 – 2 PM)
Neighborhood: Center Ctiy
Location: Reading Terminal Market
In short: One of the oldest indoor public markets in the USA
This next stop holds a very special place in my heart. Since 1893, merchants have been selling food, produce, baked goods, housewares, and confections at Reading Terminal Market. About 80 vendors congregate daily in this indoor market until 6 PM. And this spot is not just for the tourists; locals love eating here too. Don’t forget to feed a donation to Philbert the Pig, the market’s unofficial mascot and literal piggy bank. Here are the spots I make a beeline for when eating at Reading Terminal Market:
📍 Saami Somi: Georgian sibling duo sell khachapuri, cheese-filled boat bread topped with an egg, alongside an impressive aesthetic.
📍 Beiler’s Doughnuts: Operated by the Pennsylvania Dutch, descendants of German-speaking emigrants. They are gifted bakers so pick-up their baked goods that are traditionally made with fresh butter.
📍 Little Thai Market: A humble Thai canteen dole out a much raved about salmon curry with aromatic rice.
📍 El Merkury: Central American food stop known for their savory baleadas and churro ice cream desserts.
📍 Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies and Cheesesteaks: Cash only spot serving up a very patriotic cheesesteak, “The Franklin,” made with both American Cheese and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
📍 Hershel’s: Jewish deli where corned beef is the star. Pick up a juicy Reuben sandwich.
AFTERNOON (3 – 5 pm)
Neighborhood: Old City
Location: Cherry Street Pier
In short: Public mixed-use space overlooking the Delaware River
You’ll walk off that big lunch on your way to the Delaware River waterfront. Score some great views of The Benjamin Franklin Bridge from the docks of Cherry Street Pier. The suspension bridge connecting Philadelphia to New Jersey is also accessible to pedestrians. Down below, Cherry Street Pier is a communal space for artists-in-residences and their respective studios, flea markets, an interactive gallery, and even a beer garden. There are also live performances like the Philadelphia Ballet. See the full schedule of special events here.
EVENING (6 – 9 pm)
Neighborhood: South Philly
Locations: Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, Garage Philly on 1231 E Passyunk Ave, and Bok Bar
In short: Cheesesteak rivalries and a skyline sunset
Your two days in Philadelphia would not be complete without tasting a Philly Cheesesteak. The iconic sandwich is made with shaved ribeye steak, onions, and cheese, slapped inside halved Italian bread. A visit to “Cheeseteak Corner” (9th and Passyunk) is a tourist rite of passage where longstanding rivals Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks face off daily for best cheesesteak. Pat’s is credited as the inventor of the cheesesteak and gets my personal endorsement between the two, although there are way better places in the city to get cheesesteaks. I love coming at night because Pat’s and Geno’s food showdown only intensifies under the light of their neon signage. You can also bring your cheesesteaks into the neighboring Garage Philly, a sports bar fashioned like an old auto garage with stockpiles of canned beer in their glowing fridges.
If you want a more local feel of the South Philly, then head to Bok Bar, a casual rooftop terrace hidden atop a repurposed public school building. Bok Bar is a place where locals come together for fiery sunsets and boozy beverages. Bok Bar also partners with different Philly restaurants for a monthly showcase.The lineup always features the trendiest in Philly’s food scene. Disclaimer: Bok Bar is only open April to November and can get rained out so manage your expectations.
MORNING (9 am – 1 pm)
Neighborhood: Logan Square and Center City
Locations: Federal Donuts at 1776 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia Museum of Art, LOVE Park, and City Hall
In short: Get your camera ready for iconic Philly spots featuring Rocky Balboa, Billy Penn, and the LOVE sign
Begin day two of your weekend in Philadelphia with gourmet donuts at Federal Donuts. These cake donuts are served one of two ways: Fancy (glazed and decorated) and Hot Fresh (fried to order and tossed in flavored sugars). The inventive flavors change constantly so you rarely get the same thing twice (and that’s also because they always sell out!) What makes the donuts unique is like their fried chicken batter—because Federal Donuts is also a fried chicken AND coffee shop— they’re whisked with a special ingredient: baharat, a popular spice mix from the Middle East.
Burn off the donuts recreating Rocky Balboa’s famous 72-step climb on your way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. If you want to spend your morning at this world-class museum, the first Sunday of the month is Pay-As-You-Wish admission. Next head over to LOVE Park where Robert Indiana’s four letter stacked sculpture makes for another prized Philly photo opportunity. This is one of 50 LOVE sculptures worldwide but the typographic art has become synonymous with The City of Brotherly Love.
Across the street is City Hall topped by an imposing bronze statue of the founder of Pennsylvania himself, William Penn. William Penn has been perched atop the building since 1894 commanding the development of the Philadelphia skyline thanks to an informal agreement that no skyscraper would be built higher than the brim of Penn’s hat, which was ultimately broken in 1986.
Not in a rush? On the weekends at 11 am or 2 pm, you can book a mural tour around different parts of the city. Mural City Walking Tours is run by non-profit Mural Arts, which has helped Philadelphia become the mural capital of the world. All the tours run 90 minutes long and fund the upkeep and creation of more street art. All tickets must be purchased in advance. Book a mural tour today!
LUNCH (1-3 PM)
Neighborhoods: Center City
Location: Dizengoff at 1625 Sansom Street
In short: Take a trip to Israel at Philly’s first hummusiya
Refuel with a hearty and protein-packed lunch Dizengoff. Hummus is the star at this fast casual eatery that pays homage to one of Tel Aviv’s most popular thoroughfares known for its many hummusiyas. If you’ve only thought of hummus as a condiment and not the main course, this place is here to change your opinion. Ask for extra pita and on a hot day, the frozen lemonade is as refreshing as the bright and tangy hummus. Did you know that Philadelphia is home to one of the oldest and largest Jewish populations in the USA? There are also a number of Middle Eastern restaurants in Philadelphia like Zahav and Suraya so Levantine cuisine should be on your two days in Philadelphia itinerary.
AFTERNOON (3 – 5 pm)
Neighborhoods: South Philly
Location: Magic Gardens
In a nutshell: Visionary folk art glitters in an outdoor labyrinth
A tourist favorite and for good reason: the Magic Gardens lives up to its name. This mosaic garden contains the life work of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, whose dreamy mosaics made from piecemealed bits and bobs feel a world apart. Everything from bike wheels to broken china, chipped mirrors to empty wine bottles decorate and mesmerize visitors as they walk through a mosaic maze. The artwork is heavily influenced by Zagar’s travels and inspire creativity in its originality. You need a reservation in advance and the reservations are timed and sell out often so book immediately
EVENING (5 – 8 pm)
Neighborhoods: Fairmount and Manayunk
Locations: Boathouse Row, Dalessandro’s
In short: Rowers, joggers, and cyclist share trails with pedestrians to the farthest reaches of Philadelphia
Your two days in Philadelphia itinerary come to an end on the banks of the Schuylkill River (pronounced skoo-kull). Boathouse Row is a block of ten local boating clubs made famous by the nighttime illuminations. Unfortunately, their lights are undergoing a much needed renovation and will be off all throughout 2023. Not to worry though— you can still have a ton of fun jogging or biking the trails that snake past 19th-century boathouses. Rent a surrey or double surrey by the hour at Wheelhouse Rentals. These bike carriages are super family friendly and you can even take them for a cruise at night. Peddle all the way to Manayunk Bridge, a remnant of the Pennsylvania Railroad that is now open only for non-motorized use.
End your time in the city with a worthy contender for Philly’s best cheesesteak at Dalessandro’s. This mom and pop shop is known for their crispy rolls and freshly made cheesesteaks and they even offer a chicken steak too. For an extra gooey version, order one up with all three cheeses. This is also a good spot to sample the hoagie, another Philly staple, crammed with salami, peppers, and provolone cheese. This wraps up your perfect two days in Philadelphia itinerary!
Map of all Philadelphia locations 🗺️
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