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This Philadelphia city guide is a love letter to my newfound home, packed with insider tips, hidden gems, and all my favorite places.

Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love, where every neighborhood has its own personality and every cheesesteak is a work of art. Sandwiched between the Delaware and Schuykill rivers, Philadelphia stands as a vibrant testament to American history and innovation.

If you’re looking for a weekend itinerary, check out the Perfect Two Days in Philadelphia

Founded by William Penn in 1682, Pennsylvania’s capital played a pivotal role in the birth of the USA and was the nation’s first planned city. But hold onto your soft pretzels because Philly’s got more than just history up its sleeve. Think mouthwatering food that locals debate over as fiercely as they cheer on their beloved sports teams, and picturesque rowhomes that speak to the city’s special “neighborly” quality. So, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie on a quest for the ultimate hoagie, or just someone looking for a city with a spirit as big as its sports fandom, Philly’s got a spot for you in its heart.

MUST-SEES | What You Cannot Miss

LIBERTY BELL + INDEPENDENCE HALL

Two of America’s national treasures sit directly across from one another in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. The Liberty Bell was minted 1751 to mark the 50-year anniversary of the creation of Pennsylvania’s original founding charter. Independence Hall is the site where two of the USA’s most important documents, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution were signed. (101 S Independence Mall W, Philadelphia, PA 19106)

Did you know? When William Penn was mapping out the city, he created a grid that was based around five squares which are known as Rittenhouse, Washington, Logan, Franklin, and City Hall. These major squares are still major city landmarks.

The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

You can see the Liberty Bell for free and the hall includes an exhibit of the bell’s history

CITY HALL

The tallest municipal building in the USA, Philadelphia’s City Hall is also home to one of Philly’s most iconic pieces of art: the 37-foot-tall statue of city founder William Penn. Most people don’t know that you can actually take a tower tour of City Hall, offering rare 365-degree views of the city right under the bronze feet of iconic Billy Penn. (1400 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19107)

Don’t skip out on…  Dilworth Park is located at the western courtyard in front of City Hall. In the summer, take some laps around the outdoor retro roller skating rink or bring your kids to the public splash yard that delivers free summertime fun. There are also a ton of art market pop-ups throughout the year.

Where to take a photo of City Hall Philadelphia

Snap this photo on the northern side of City Hall

JFK PLAZA (LOVE PARK)

Across the street from Dilworth Park is JFK Plaza, more commonly known as Love Park, featuring the famous LOVE typographic sculpture by artist Robert Indiana. While it isn’t the original LOVE statue, it certainly is the most famous. During Valentine’s Day, the mayor officiates weddings at the statue. Visiting during the holidays? Do not miss out on the Christmas Village at LOVE Park, which as close as a European Market as you can get on the east coast. (Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19102)

MAGIC GARDENS

South Philly’s best tourist attraction is a mosaic labyrinth built completely by hand by local folk artist, Isaiah Zagar. The unique mixed media sculpture garden is a visionary masterpiece and well-worth the $25 entrance fee. You must reserve a spot in advance. There are free guided tours every Saturday morning. (1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147)

Tip: If you like public art and mural work, take a Mural Arts Tour around one of Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods.

Philadelphia Magic Gardens Unique Things To Do in Philadelphia

FAIRMOUNT PARK

An urban oasis with the best views of the Philadelphia skyline and its tranquil waterways frequented by runners, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. With over 2,000 acres of public recreational space, Fairmount Park is prime spot for picnickers enjoying a sunny day by the river. Notable landmarks include the iconic Boathouse Row twinkling along the Schuylkill River, and the enchanting and often overlooked Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, ranked one of the best Japanese gardens in the country. (Reservoir Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19119)

PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART + ROCKY STEPS

Take a page out of Rocky Balboa’s training routine playbook. A triumphant sprint up the Museum of Art’s grand staircase is an unofficial rite of passage in Philadelphia but running is optional.Just don’t skip out on entering the Museum of Art , especially for Impressionist paintings by Van Gogh and Renoir, and a full-scale Buddhist temple on the third floor. It’s “pay-as-you-wish” every Friday night from 5 to 8:45 pm. (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130)

Philadelphia Things to Do Greetings from Philly Mural

Find this mural at the beginning of the Rocky Steps aka the Philadelphia Museum of Art grand staircase

EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY

The crumbling cells of one of the world’s most storied prisons continues to appeal to history enthusiasts and “dark tourism” fans, fascinated by the grim stories of infamous prisoners like “Scarface” Al Capone, a notable gangster, and all the prisoners who went mad in this gothic correctional facility. (2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130)

Tip: The prison transforms into a haunted house complex come Halloween and offers a one-of-a-kind twilight tour in the summertime complete with a beer garden and radio broadcasts from incarcerated people in a functioning Colorado prison.

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FOOD FINDS | What To Eat

READING TERMINAL MARKET

Reading Terminal Market is one of the USA’s most popular public markets and it’s been operating since 1893. 80+ vendors peddle gastronomic delights daily from Georgian cheeseboats to aromatic Thai-style coconut salmon curries, and even decadent Amish baked goods and Moroccan kitchenware. Rain or shine, this is spot where locals rub shoulders with thousands of visitors weekly for their regular order. Here are my personal favorite spots to eat, especially for lunch:

📍Little Thai Market – Thai
📍Saami Somi – Georgian
📍Fox & Sons – Gluten-Free American State Fair Foods
📍Beiler’s Doughnuts – Baked Goods

Neighborhood: Center City | 1136 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Reading Terminal Market

The quieter hours are typically before 10 am and after 2 pm

SOUTH PHILLY BARBACOA

Don’t let the strange operating hours deter you from visiting this taqueria hidden in the Italian Market. The humble taco joint from critically-acclaimed chef and activist Cristina Martínez is a culinary refuge for Mexican homecooking and community. Slow-cooked, tender meats are served on freshly made corn tortillas with flavorful consommé broth. The spot is cash only with a constant line on weekends, but don’t worry, it goes quickly.

Neighborhood: Italian Market | 1134 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

MIDDLE CHILD CLUBHOUSE

The clubhouse elevates the classic Philadelphia “luncheonette” concept, where you order at the counter, no reservations required. Featuring neon signage and felt letterboards complimented by the city’s favorite color: Kelly Green, its a popular breakfast hangout with great vibes and award-winning breakfast sandwiches. My go-to order is the fully vegan “Phoagie” sandwich, a club inspired by a bowl of Vietnamese pho noodle soup.

Neighborhood: Fishtown | 1232 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA 19122

Middle Child Clubhouse Best Things to Eat in Philadelphia

TERAKAWA RAMEN

Terakawa serves Kyushu-style ramen, with pork bone broth simmered for at least two days and two types of fresh ramen noodles. Their ramen is fantastic (and I say this as a non-ramen love), but my go-to is the Gyu Don donburi, which is an umami explosion made up of savory-sweet beef slices garnished with pickled onions and a seasoned egg. There are only 30 seats so it gets packed very quickly. Go during the day for no lines.

Neighborhood: Chinatown | 204 N 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Terakawa Ramen best places to eat in Philadelphia

CÀPHÊ ROASTERS

My obsession with coffee culture in the city began with Càphê Roasters, Philadelphia’s first and only Vietnamese roastery. This spot is insanely trendy and a favorite co-working spots thanks to its homey, living room-like atmosphere. Here, you get a real taste of the Vietnamese flavors with specialty beverages like egg coffee and Bạc Xỉu (Saigon-style coffee). The menu is a bit on the pricier side but their banh mi sandwiches are phenomenal and they have a seasonal pumpkin porridge that has a cult following on social media.

Neighborhood: Kensington | 3400 J St G1, Philadelphia, PA 19134

FEDERAL DONUTS

Local celeb chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav and Goldie fame banded together with four other friends to dream up a one-stop shop for donuts, fried chicken, and coffee. First-class comfort food is spiced with baharat, an addictive Middle Eastern spice blend. Their inventively “Fancy” iced cake donuts are really out-of-this-world when it comes to originality. And I can’t forget their fried chicken sandwich, which is my FAVORITE in the city. The secret: the baharat is also in the fried chicken batter.

Neighborhood: Fairmount, Northern Liberties, Logan Square, Center City, Queen Village

Where to get donuts in Philadelphia

You can also order “Hot Fresh” donuts which are freshly fried donuts dipped in flavored sugars

JOE’S STEAK & SODA SHOP

Philadelphians take their cheesesteaks so seriously that there is a holiday observance dedicated to the city’s namesake sandwich (March 24) and even an annual cheesesteak bracket run by the local newspaper. You’ll hear Pat’s (the original shop), Geno’s, and even Angelo’s (my second favorite), but for visitors, I really like taking them to Joe’s Steaks. The diner-esque restaurant is “All American”, and they even have walk-up window so you can take their 73-year-old cheesesteak recipe to-go.

Neighborhood: Fishtown | 1 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125

ROWHOME COFFEE

Came for the coffee, stayed for the soft pretzels. Rowhome has a unique take on the city’s favorite handheld snack. You can order their pretzels one of two ways: as a breakfast item with cream cheese OR as a heaping sandwich you can order with sage sausage, roast beef, and even the local processed meat, Taylor Pork Roll. The sandwiches are extremely rich and hefty, so cut the richness with one of their many beverage offerings.

Neighborhood: Rittenhouse | 2536 Pine St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Rowhome Coffee best pretzels in Philadelphia

KALAYA

Buzzworthy Kalaya enchants with Southern Thai cuisine unfamiliar to Western palates, featuring dishes with intense spice levels and a hint of pageantry on every plate. Chef-owner and James Bear Award winner Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon is known for her lavender-tinged “Shaw Muang” dumplings and a fried branzino framed by a bounty of fresh herbs. The aesthetic is romantic tropics, completely with a trio of 14-foot palm trees in the middle of the vaulted restaurant.

Neighborhood: Fishtown | 4 W Palmer St, Philadelphia, PA 19125

HONEYSUCKLE PROVISIONS

If you find yourself in West Philly, make a beeline for this Afrocentric grocery. At Honeysuckle Provisions, every dish weaves together tradition and ingredients from Black farmers and producers to create nourishing takeaways. Picture this: hot pockets packed with smoky collard greens. Haitian fried pork smothered in brie. Scrapple made out of black eyed peas. Soul food at its finest.

Neighborhood: West Philly | 310 S 48th St, Philadelphia, PA 19143

BOK BAR

Bok Bar is Philly’s favorite seasonal bar and the ultimate rooftop hangout, the crown jewel of the iconic Bok Building in South Philly. The former Bok school was repurposed into a makerspace and people flock to Bok Bar for its killer views, chill vibes, and the best sunset in the city hands down. One thing I love about Bok Bar is they have a rotation of food partners so every month, you get a taste of the city’s hottest offerings like Tabachoy, Puyero, and even Kalaya!

Neighborhood: South Philly |  800 Mifflin St, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Tip: Seats are hard to come by so unless you want to be standing all night long, come 1.5 hours before sunset and travel via ride share since parking is pretty tough in this neighborhood, especially on the weekends.

Bok Bar Best Things to Do in Philadelphia


UNIQUE SPOTS | What To See

📍 Elfreth’s Alley – Explore Pennsylvania’s oldest street nestled in the Old City neighborhood, boasting 32 quaint brick homes that feel like a trip back into Colonial American times. (126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106)

📍 Southeast Asian Market at FDR Park – Cash and a picnic blanket are two musts at one of the country’s most unique outdoors marketplaces made up of 70 Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese vendors. They are open April/May to October. (1500 Pattison Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19145)

📍 Shane’s Confectionery A historic candy shop in Philadelphia renowned for being the longest continuously operating confectionery in the USA, with retro candies, Liberty Bell-shaped tarte cookies, and a secret cafe that serves hot and cold drinking chocolate. (110 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106)

📍 Cira Green – Hidden atop a massive garage in West Philly, this elevated greenspace offers a place to gather year-round with stunning views of Center City. (129 S 30th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104)

📍 Wissahickon Valley Park – North of the city lies a natural escape once inhabited by the Lenape tribe, offering 50 miles of winding trails through forests, brooks, and waterfalls, including the renowned “Forbidden Drive,” attracting runners, walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders alike. (Valley Green Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19128)

📍 Please Touch Museum – Step inside a world of wonder where children’s imaginations are fueled by interactive exhibits that spark creativity, and lots of hands-on activities that encourage exploration. (4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131)

📍 Boathouse Row –  A stretch of historic Victorian boathouses on the Schuylkill River illuminated every evening, giving the Victorian-era homes a festive glow throughout the year. (1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130)

📍 The Mütter Museum – A controversial yet fascinating museum dedicated to medical history and anatomical curiosities. It showcases a unique collection of specimens like the Hyrtl Skull Collection, with 139 human skulls from Viennese anatomist Joseph Hyrtl, and a piece of Albert Einstein’s brain. Trigger warning: there are fetuses on display and a recommended age limit of 10+. (19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103)

📍Sports Complex – On brand with Philadelphia’s sports mania, in South Philly’s sport complex, you’ll find the arenas of four major Philadelphia professional sports teams: the Philadelphia Eagles (football), the 76ers (basketball), the Flyers (hockey), and the Phillies (baseball). If you want to catch a game, take the Septa subway that goes straight from Center City —Philly’s downtown area— and chill out at the Xfinity Live! entertainment center before the game. (3300 S 7th St STE 1, Philadelphia, PA 19148)

 

Elfreth's Alley Unique Things to Do in Philadelpia

Did you know there are 300 blue city markers all over Philadelphia that tell you about the unique history of the city!

Shane's Confectionary Philadelphia Gems

The oldest operating candy shop in the USA is Shane’s Confectionery and they have a secret cafe in the back of the store.


SHOPS

📍For Philly themed gifts: Open House and Philadelphia Independents

📍For food-themed gifts: Salt & Vinegar

📍For books: Harriet’s Bookstore (Black-owned carrying titles by minority authors), Head House Books, American Grammar (coffee shop that also sells books)

📍For stationery: OMOI Life Goods, Bodie General Store and Occasionette

📍For ceramics: Ceramic Concept

Bookstores of Philadelphia Harriet's Bookstore

Harriet’s Bookstore in Fishtown is open 7 days a weeks starting at 12 PM.

Best shops in Philadelphia Omoi

My go-to places to pick up stationery are Omoi in Old City and Bodie’s General Store in Queen Village.

Salt and Vinegar Food-Themed Gift Shop

Salt and Vinegar is a food-themed gift shop in Italian Market


COOL DIGS | Where To Stay

THE MAJ HOTEL

The boutique hotel with surprising tech integrations that provide guests with immediate access to the city’s museum district. The guest rooms feature a harmonious balance between vintage industrial charm and the openness of modern design. Read my full review of The Maj Hotel here.

2225 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, PA 19130 | Rooms starting at $160 per night

YOWIE HOTEL

A hotel, cafe, and shop trifecta in Queen Village where vibrant, quirky design is the star. Whether it’s the funky decor, the lively social scene, or the delicious food and beverages served at its all-day cafe, the Yowie Hotel never fails to impress visitors.

 226 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 | Rooms starting at $220 per night

LOKAL

With two properties in two of the best Philly neighborhoods (Fishtown and Old City), the modern apartment hotels are your home away from home. The Old City property leans into its rustic heritage while the Fishtown offering is more contemporary. You’ll love the kitchens and soaking tubs in Fishtown rooms.

Visit Stay Lokal |  Rooms starting at $260 per night in Fishtown and $300 in Old City

CANOPY BY HILTON

Part of the Hilton family, the Canopy property in Philadelphia is super central and in addition to its great location, guests rave about the decor and friendly service. All the rooms are tastefully decorated suites styled in the vein of antique train cars and on-site restaurant, The Wayward, a pseudo-French bistro continuing the transatlantic travel theme.

1180 Ludlow St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 | Rooms starting at $160 per night

The Maj Hotel from one of the street-facing suites


GETTING AROUND | Navigate With Ease

Ride share is the easiest way to get around the city, but if you want to cover more ground, I would highly suggest biking. Biking around the city is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s the easiest way to beat city traffic thanks designated bike lanes. Warning: driving in the city lawless so I recommend that you bike defensively and with caution. Here is a full roundup of transportation options:

SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority): Utilize Philadelphia’s extensive public transit system, including buses, trolleys, and trains, for convenient and affordable travel around the city, and even to nearby suburbs like Villanova, Bryn Mawr, and King of Prussia.

Biking: Explore Philadelphia’s bike-friendly streets using the city’s bike-sharing program, Indego, to pedal your way to popular attractions. The e-bikes are extremely fast but are 2x more expensive than the manual bikes.

Walking: Experience the charm of Philadelphia up close by walking through its diverse neighborhoods and iconic landmarks. Walking is extremely advised in neighborhoods like Old City, Italian Market, and Passyunk, where parking is hard to come by.

Ridesharing: The most convenient was to see the city is using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, but bear in mind that surge charging happens during peak commute hours. I would use rideshare to and from the airports as the Philadelphia Airport is only located 20 minutes from Center City.

Hop On/Hop Off Bus: The double decker buses tend to stay in the Old City area where all the historic American attractions are. You could easily walk it but on poor weather days, this is the route to go.

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 MAP OF PHILADELPHIA | All The Locations

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EXTRA TIDBITS | More Planning Resources!

The Perfect Weekend Itinerary by There She Goes Again ⁠— one of my favorite travel bloggers and fellow Philadelphian!

Full on Philly on Instagram – for all things food in Philadelphia

Three Days in Philadelphia with Visit Philly by Petite & Bold

10 Must Visit Tourist Attractions by The Getaway

Philly 101: The Essential Guide to Philadelphia by Visit Philly

Philly Date Ideas on Instagram – for all things romantic in Philadelphia

An Eater’s Guide to Philadelphia by Eater

Somebody Feed Phil: Philadelphia by Phil Rosenthal


👉 Have you ever been to Philadelphia? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!

Give me a shout-out on Pinterest pretty please?

City Guide to Philadelphia on The Next Somewhere Travel Blog

City Guide to Philadelphia on The Next Somewhere Travel Blog

Filipina-American Millette Stambaugh is a thirty-something former expat who has traded her nomadic ways for Philadelphia living. Corporate worker by day, content creator by night, Millette specializes in visual storytelling and joyful journeys and wants to help others find their "next somewheres." Follow her escapades on Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok @thenextsomewhere.

Comments:

  • May 8, 2024

    We’ve been looking for new vegan options in Philly and that “Phoagie” sounds so good! Thanks for the recommendation!

    reply...
  • May 8, 2024

    I absolutely love this post! I grew up on the east coast but haven’t explored Philly really at all; I think I’ve only been there a couple times, and my visits were for sporting events or concerts primarily. You’ve definitely convinced me to go back and explore more sometime! Now, I’m also thinking I need to do a round-up post of all the best things to do in Houston, where I currently live! Thanks so much for sharing and for the inspiration :). Xx Sara

    reply...
  • May 9, 2024

    Looks like I will be adding Philly to my itinerary when I finally get back to America. It seems like an interesting place.

    reply...
  • Karen

    May 10, 2024

    This has so many good tips and suggestions that only a local would know. I wish I had read this guide before my trip to Philadelphia last summer.

    reply...
  • May 10, 2024

    Ah, I love Philly! I live in DC, so going to Philly for the day or weekend is a pretty easy trip, and I don’t do it enough. I love your list of off-the-beaten-path/unique things in Philly because I really do the same thing every time I visit and need to venture out more!

    reply...

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