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30 BEST Free and Cheap Things to do in Philadelphia (2024 Guide!)

30 BEST Free and Cheap Things to do in Philadelphia (2024 Guide!)

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We love Philadelphia. It’s a city we have returned to multiple times, thanks to its amazing food, fascinating history, and the number of fun things to do.

The only thing is that travel in the USA – especially to major cities like Philly – can prove pretty expensive. However, after visiting so many times, we’ve found a lot of cheap and free things to do here, from visiting major historical attractions to checking out museums, discovering secret bars, and eating as many Philly cheesesteaks as you possibly can!

Honestly, a trip to the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t have to be expensive. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our top 30 best cheap and free things to do in Philadelphia. Half are cheap, and half are totally free, so we hope that this blog saves you some money on your next trip to Philly! 

Don’t have time to read the full article? Here are our absolute favorite free and cheap things to do in Philadelphia!

  1. Wander through Elfreth’s Alley to see beautiful old homes.
  2. Try a Philly cheesesteak on a guided food tour!
  3. Run up the Rocky steps and take a photo with the statue!
  4. Visit the Liberty Bell on a history tour to learn even more!
  5. Go on an adult night tour for a hilarious and fascinating look at the city!

Free Things to do in Philadelphia

1. See the Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, USA
Such a historic bell!
Bailey poses for a photo with liberty bell in Philadelphia on a tour from New York City
The Liberty Bell!

The Liberty Bell is one of the top attractions in Philly, and worth a visit even if you only have one day here! Not only is it important to Philadelphia’s history, but is a significant piece of early American history. 

For a bit of context, the Liberty Bell was created in 1751 and was one of the many bells that rang when the Declaration of Independence was first read in 1776. It was then used for special occasions and later became a symbol for the anti-slavery movement. This is where the bell got its name, as it represented true liberty for all. The Liberty Bell is now retired and is famous for its huge crack, which no one really knows how it got there! 

You can visit the bell in the Liberty Bell Center, and let me tell you, it is a popular attraction! This is a completely free thing to do and no bookings are required, so the line can get quite long. They only allow a certain number of people in at a time, and you must go through security beforehand.

So while the center doesn’t open until 9 am, I recommend getting there early – we arrived at 8:45 and didn’t have to wait at all! However, the center is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm, so you can always go later if you’re not a morning person.

While here, you can explore on your own by reading all of the information boards. There’s a ton of information to take in, so it’s almost like a museum. And of course, you can get right up close to the bell and take a photo like mine above!

If you’re a true history buff, you might enjoy joining a history tour. While this isn’t a free tour, you will get to deep dive into Philadelphia history, including information about the original White House of the US, Congress Hall, the Liberty Bell, and more! Led by a history major tour guide, you will get to learn so much more than simply reading the informational boards. 

There are a lot of tours in Philly, but taking a history tour is a must during your visit! This 2-hour history walking tour is $29 USD, which is reasonably priced for all you’ll get out of it. And with over 1,000 positive reviews, I’d say others thought it was worthwhile too! You can book this tour in advance here

2. Visit the President’s House

George Washington old house in Philadelphia USA
Foundations from George Washington’s house!
bailey reads a sign about Geroge Washingtons House in Philadelphia, USA
Reading about the history and story of the building

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States, and a lot of the historical sites here represent freedom and independence. However, you can’t tell the true story of the Founding Fathers without acknowledging that they did own slaves, which represents a huge historical paradox. 

The President’s House sits on the site of the USA’s first executive mansion, where George Washington and John Adams lived during their presidencies. During this time, they were served by nine enslaved people. 

Visiting this historical site shows a different side to the story of the USA. You can learn what life was like for the people who were forced to work their lives away in the President’s House. There are timelines and videos to teach visitors the contradictions at the heart of the USA’s struggle for freedom and independence. We thought it was a truly insightful stop, and gave us a great frame of reference as we continued to tour historic sites in Philadelphia.

It’s free to visit the President’s House, and it’s located right near the Liberty Bell, so you can visit these two free attractions together. It’s open from 7 am until 10 pm every day, so you can’t miss the chance to visit. 

3. Tour Independence Hall

Inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia on a tour from New York City
Independence Hall!
Table where the declaration of independence was signed in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, USA
The table where the Declaration of Independence was signed!

Who knows what America’s history would look like without Independence Hall? This significant location is where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed by the Founding Fathers. 

You need to do a guided tour to enter Independence Hall. The tours are free although there is a $1 USD booking fee per person, and they last around 30 minutes. We enjoyed our tour and were really glad that we did it! 

Our guide was extremely passionate and did a great job of explaining the history within these walls. Even as Canadian and Australian, we were blown away by the story of the USA and so honored to be able to tour the building!

You can either book your tour online or at the Visitor Center across the road from Independence Hall. If you’re going the online route, bookings open at 5 pm the night before and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. We booked ours online and it made things faster for us when we arrived. 

You can either print your tickets or just present the mobile version. Tours are offered daily from 9 am – 4:40 pm. I recommend arriving about 30 minutes before your tour’s start time to go through security. You also don’t need to book tour tickets if you’re visiting in January or February (except for holidays)! 

Related Read: Looking for more budget-friendly travel? Check out the best free things to do in NYC!

4. Check out the Visitor Center

Front desk at the Philadelphia visitor center
Daniel at a display inside the Visitor center in Philadelphia, USA
The small museum is cool!

The Independence Visitor Center in Philly is worth a visit – and it’s totally free! It’s a great place to kick off a trip to Philadelphia and learn more about the city from the interactive exhibits inside. In fact, you can touch a replica of the infamous crack in the Liberty Bell or pretend to be a Founding Father and sign the United States Constitution. This is a great stop for photos, and it definitely brings Philadelphia’s revolutionary history to life. 

The building is located just across the street from the Liberty Bell and the President’s House Site, so it’s super convenient. It also has toilets, free WiFi, wheelchairs, and a huge map of Independence National Historical Park, so it’s ideal for planning your time in the park. We also highly recommend stopping for a coffee in the cafe and then heading upstairs for amazing views of Independence Hall, which is one of the most beautiful and important buildings in Philadelphia. 

The Visitor Center is open from 9 am until 5 pm every day. We thought this was an informative and fun way to start off our exploration!

5. Visit the Rocky steps and statue

Bailey poses like Rocky at the top of the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo with he Rocky Statue in Philadelphia
A classic!

There are a few things people think of when they hear “Philly” and I’m sure the Rocky movies are on that list! Lucky for you, you can recreate your favorite 1976 movie at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This is where the iconic scene was filmed, as Rocky runs up the steps and then punches the air once he reaches the top. You will surely find lots of tourists joining in the tradition, and you should too – when in Philly, right? While you won’t see Sylvester Stallone up there anymore, you will find a statue of Rocky at the bottom of the steps for the perfect photo op. 

Of course, it is completely free to run up the steps, and a sneaky way to add in a workout! 

If you’re a true movie aficionado, you’ll love this private TV and movie tour. There is a surprising amount of film based in Philadelphia, so you can tour the city and visit iconic sights as seen in The Sixth Sense, Cold Case, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, just to name a few. In a city that is draped in history, it’s fun to take a tour that is more pop-culture-focused. 

While this tour isn’t free, it balances out because of all the other free activities you’ll do off this list! You can reserve this tour for $70 USD per person – check the details and book it in advance here.

6. Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History
Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

The Weitzman is a Smithsonian Museum, and it focuses specifically on the American Jewish experience. It was first opened in 1976 and has the largest collection of Jewish American artifacts in the world, with over 30,000 different objects! Here, there are lots of exhibits exploring themes such as identity, heritage, diversity, and freedom, as well as the cultural shifts that the USA has experienced since 2020. 

The Weitzman is located in the same neighborhood as the Liberty Bell and other top sites. The museum is free to visit, and you can reserve tickets online. It’s open from 10 am until 5 pm from Friday to Sunday, and your tickets are valid for the entire day.

There are also free tours that run every day that the museum is open, at 11 am or 2 pm. You can’t reserve these tours as they’re first-come, first-served, so make sure to turn up a little early if you’d like to join one! 

7. Enjoy a Macy’s Organ concert

The organ at Macy's during the Macy's Organ concert in Philadelphia
The organ!
A man plays the organ at Macy's Organ concert in Philadelphia
Only a few people know how to play it!

A lot of people think of New York City when they think of Macy’s, but there’s another iconic one right here in Philly. This isn’t your average department store, it’s a very ornate and beautiful building and is home to the world’s largest organ, which has 28,750 pipes. It puts on a free show for shoppers twice a day, every day except Sunday. 

You can catch the famous Wanamaker Organ in action at either 12 pm or 5:30 pm in Macy’s from Monday to Saturday. You can even look around the console room on the second floor afterward. 

The organ has been played twice a day, six days a week, since 1911 without interruption. It’s safe to say that it’s very much a time-honored tradition in Philly! This is an awesome quick stop as you explore Philadelphia and you don’t need to book or reserve a place – you can just turn up and enjoy the music from the store’s gorgeous Grand Court. 

8. Walk the Reading Terminal Market

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, USA
All smiles at Reading Terminal Market!

You’ll quickly discover that Philadelphia is a haven for foodies! If that’s you, Reading Terminal Market is the place to be. Visiting this historic market is free, but you’ll probably smell all the delicious cuisines and be tempted to buy a snack or two – I certainly was!

There are over 75 food stalls in this market, so you can find snacks, full-blown meals, or something to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you’re looking for a main course, visit Hunger Burger for some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever tried! Beck’s Cajun Cafe serves up classic New Orleans-style food, like gumbo and po’boys that were oh-so-tasty. 

For something a little lighter, check out Sparrow’s Snacks for some gourmet popcorn. There is also no shortage of dessert options, such as Bassett’s, the oldest ice cream shop in Philly, or Famous 4th Street Cookie Company. They have Philly-famous chocolate chip cookies made from a 40-year-old recipe – yum!

Reading Terminal Market is located just a few blocks from the Macy’s, so you can grab food after watching the Macy’s Organ concert. The market is open every day from 8 am until 6 pm, although specific vendors’ hours may vary.

You can split a few treats here to keep costs low or simply walk through the market and enjoy the delicious smells for free!

9. Elfreth’s Alley and Museum

Bailey walks through Elfreth's Alley and Museum in Philadelphia, USA
Bailey walks through Elfreth’s Alley and Museum in Philadelphia, USA
A cute door at Elfreth's Alley and Museum in Philadelphia, USA
So cute!

Elfreth’s Alley is one of the oldest residential streets not just in Philly, but in the whole of the USA! It’s been continuously inhabited since 1703, so a stroll along here really is like stepping back in time. You can take a walk along this cute little alley and snap photos of the charming historic houses, most of which are still private residences. 

However, you can also visit the Elfreth’s Alley Museum at #126. The museum tells the story of the alley and the many people who have called it home over the years, most of whom were working-class laborers and artisans. We also found it heartening to learn that there’s still a very strong residential community here, too, even though the alley now receives 250,000 visitors per year! 

Elfreth’s Alley is still a public road so you can walk down it any time of the day at no cost, while the museum is open from mid-April until the end of October each year. It only opens on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from midday until 4 pm, so time your visit accordingly if you want to visit the museum. Tickets are cheap at $3 USD per person, and you can purchase them either in person or online.

Related Read: For more incredible history, head to the nation’s capital. There are some amazing sightseeing tours in Washington, DC and so much to explore!

10. Spruce Street Harbor Park

Spruce Street Harbor Park lights
The lights at night!
Spruce Street Harbor Park red chair
Exploring the waterfront during the day!

Visiting Philadelphia isn’t just about history. Sometimes, you just want to kick back and relax, and there’s no better place to do that in Philly than Spruce Street Harbor Park.

This free park is a true urban oasis. Open between mid-May and late September, the park is made up of boardwalks along the Delaware River and is full of activities. People flock here on a warm summer day, as you can lounge in a shade-covered hammock and listen to live music with their rotating entertainment schedule.

There are a ton of restaurants along here, ranging from tacos to dumplings and breakfast for dinner! Or stop by the floating barges serving yummy local eats like Philly cheesesteaks and tomato pie. But most importantly, you’ll find a beer garden where you can sip on local craft brews and arcade games dotted along the boardwalk.

Once the sun sets, the ambiance turns up as you see thousands of multicolored LED lights in the trees. They are really quite beautiful and make the park feel vibrant and magical. This is one of the most talked about aspects of Spruce Street Harbor Park, and it’s totally free to wander through the lights – go check it out!

If you’re here on a Saturday, you can catch their local market and snag some unique hand-crafted souvenirs. Be sure to check their event schedule ahead of time to see what’s happening!

11. Visit the Carpenters’ Hall

Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia USA
Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, USA

Carpenters’ Hall is important for a few reasons. It served as the Congressional Library for 17 years, was an arsenal for the War Office during the Revolutionary War, and was the home of both the First and Second Banks of America. 

However, perhaps the most important reason is that it was the home of the First Continental Congress, where representatives from the American colonies met to discuss resistance against the British. The foundations for the Declaration of Independence were laid right here! 

So basically, Carpenters’ Hall represents a rich slice of American history, and it’s also a very beautiful building. You can marvel at its beauty from the outside, and check out portraits, photographs, and original carpenter’s tools inside, as well as learn more about all of the different functions this historic building has performed during its 300-year lifespan. You can even take this free, self-guided walking tour of the area that ticks off lots of different historical sites in the space of an hour. 

You don’t need a reservation to visit Carpenters’ Hall. It’s open from 10 am until 4 pm every day except Mondays for most of the year. However, it also closes on Tuesdays in January and February. 

12. Walk Schuylkill Banks

Bailey walks Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia
Bailey walks Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia
bailey enjoys the views of the river along Schuylkill Banks in Philadelphia
It’s a beautiful place to walk!

You’ll pass by the Schuylkill River many times as you roam around the city, but I think dedicating some time along the river’s boardwalk is the best free thing to do in Philadelphia! The boardwalk extends over the river from South Street to Locust Street. It is 0.4 miles (610 meters) long and is great for walking or cycling. 

Not only will you get impeccable views of Philly’s skyline along the Schuylkill Banks, but it’s also a great source of information! There are info boards along the path that tell you about the local environment. You can relax on the benches, take in the views, and watch the local fishermen. This is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, bringing in nearly 19,000 people each week. 

I suggest allotting about 1 hour for this spot. While the trail isn’t terribly long, you’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll and those skyline views!

13. Visit the famous Love Park

Bailey poses for a photo with the Love Park sign at Love Park in Philadelphia
Bailey poses for a photo with the Love Park sign at Love Park in Philadelphia

Love Park is one of the most famous photo stops in Philly – it is the City of Brotherly Love after all! It’s a public park that’s best known for its red Love sign, with the slanting letter O. 

This is a quick stop but a must-do while you’re in the city, and it’s right next to City Hall, so it’s a super easy place to visit. Seriously, did you even go to Philly if you didn’t get a picture with the famous Love sculpture?

There are sometimes events held in Love Park and you’ll often see food trucks and pop-ups around. And, fun fact: you can get married here on Wednesdays for free! Whether you are here for the pics, for the food trucks, or to get married, a stop at Love Park is a great free activity in Philly.

14. Philadelphia Museum of Art

The outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, USA
The outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, USA

What’s great about the Philadelphia Museum of Art is that the collections here intersect with history and pop culture. For example, you can see Grace Kelly’s famous dress from her wedding to the Prince of Monaco, and portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and a gallery dedicated to arms and armor. 

Not only are there fantastic collections inside the museum – including one that celebrates self-taught artists – the steps up to the east entrance are the ones that Rocky runs up in one of the movie’s most famous scenes, as we mentioned earlier!

Best of all, you can visit the Museum of Art for free on the first Sunday of every month, and every Friday between 5 pm and 8:45 pm. Well, technically, it’s pay-what-you-wish, but the amount is totally up to you. It doesn’t have to cost you a penny! 

If you’re visiting outside those hours, it’ll cost you around $30 USD, so it’s still not terribly expensive. These tickets can be used for two consecutive days, and also allow entry to the Rodin Museum. The Museum of Art is open Thursday through Monday from 10 am until 5 pm, but stays open till 8:45 pm on Fridays.

15. Take the kids to the Science History Institute

Science History Institute in Philadelphia
Science History Institute in Philadelphia

The Science History Institute is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Philly with kids. It’s bright, colorful, and very interactive, so it’s the perfect place to get children excited about science. They really know how to make the mundane interesting – I never thought I’d be absorbed by an exhibit about plastic bags, but it turns out I was wrong! 

They cover lots of fascinating topics here. The superheroes exhibit shows how many popular comic book heroes and storylines are inspired by real-world environmental issues. Kids love this exhibit because of the superhero, and adults will find the deeper meaning rather interesting!

The museum is located right on Chestnut Street near many other top sites. It’s open from 10 am until 5 pm from Wednesday to Saturday, and admission is free to all – hooray!

Cheap Things to do in Philadelphia

16. Eat a Philly cheesesteak

Daniel out the front of Pats steaks during our segway food tour in Philadelphia, USA
Pats is the home of the Philly cheesesteak!
Bailey has a cheese steak from Genos in Philly

Easily the most popular cheap thing to do in Philadelphia is chow down on a Philly cheesesteak! There are hundreds of spots in the city, so figuring out where the best Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia is can be a challenge. 

First things first, a Philly cheesesteak is an American delicacy. It is a hoagie roll filled with thinly sliced beefsteak, grilled onion, and melted Provolone cheese. Locals will argue exactly where the best sandwich in the city is, but there are two standouts. We tried both and can attest to the fact that they are delicious!

Pat’s King of Steaks is the true creator of the iconic Philly cheesesteak. The business has been running for almost 90 years, so making your way here is essential to your Philadelphia itinerary. It’s a bit of a drive to get here from the main tourist area, but it will be well worth the trip. 

For comparison’s sake, you should also stop by Geno’s Steaks, which claims to have the BEST cheesesteak in all of Philly. Even better, it’s located right across the street from Pat’s!

Pat and Geno’s rivalry goes deep. They even made an appearance on Dr. Phil to sort out their differences! While this is mostly for publicity’s sake, it must have worked because they are the most well-known spots in the city.

Most cheesesteaks are around $12-$16 USD and are huge, so it’s well worth the money. Some of these options are cash only and move quickly, so be sure to have your money ready to go! If you can’t make it to Pat’s or Geno’s, there are cheesesteaks at nearly every pub in the city, so you’ll get your fill for sure. 

17. Visit the Museum of the American Revolution

Display inside the Museum of the American Revolution
Display inside the Museum of the American Revolution
Bailey out the front of the Museum of the American revolution in Philadelphia, USA
Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, USA

Museums are a fantastic cheap activity, no matter what city you’re exploring. There are a ton of museums to explore in Philly, but if you’re only going to do one, then make it the Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution tells the story of the insurrection against British rule which ultimately resulted in American independence. This is a HUGE museum and it’s the best place to learn more about US history. We found that you need at least two hours to explore the museum properly, but you could easily spend longer here, especially if you’re a big history fan.

The American Revolution Museum is another popular attraction so you should book your tickets in advance. It’s best to book online as there are timed entry slots. If you just show up on the day then there’s a chance you will be turned away or have to wait in long lines! 

The museum is located right off Chestnut Street and is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Tickets can be purchased online for $24 USD per person, or $29 USD including an audio tour, which we think is worth the extra $5. You have to choose a time slot for entry but you can stay as long as you want once you’re inside.

It’s also worth noting that tickets are valid for two consecutive days. So, if you are spending at least 2 days in Philadelphia and you run out of time, you can return the following day for free.

However, for a really special experience, we recommend booking this guided tour. You get to enter the museum an hour early, at 9 am, and enjoy an in-depth tour while there’s no one else around. Your expert guide will tell you some incredible stories about the artifacts you see and you’re in a small group, so you get to ask lots of questions about the aspects of the American Revolution that you’re most interested in. 

While it’s a bit more expensive at $50 USD per person, we think it’s worth the cost if you’re particularly interested in the Revolutionary War, and it includes your museum entry! You can book this VIP tour of the museum with Viator here.

18. See Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Bailey walks through Philadelphia's Magic Gardens in Philadelphia, USA
Bailey walks through Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
A statue at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens in Philadelphia, USA
So cool!

Take a break from all of your history tours and explore a true gem of Philadelphia! The Philadelphia Magic Gardens is an open-air art gallery with a twist. Located on South Street, this neighborhood used to be rather run-down, but the local art community banded together to improve the area, making an art-filled quirky garden. 

The gardens were created by Isaiah Zager and his wife, Julia. What I love most about this display of art is that it uses normal household items to create beautiful mosaic patterns! This whole project took 14 years to complete, and you’ll see how intricate it is when you visit. He used glass bottles, kitchen tiles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and other materials to completely transform the neighborhood. 

The gardens are open Wednesday to Monday from 11 am until 6 pm. We spent about 20 minutes here, but it was one of the highlights of our time in Philly. I recommend booking tickets in advance, as they have timed entry slots and you don’t want to wait around if you don’t have to. Tickets can be purchased on their website and are only $15 USD – so this truly is a fantastic cheap activity! 

For all my art lovers out there, you’ll get a lot out of this South Philly art walking tour. You’ll spend 2 hours touring the eclectic area that is full of murals and art installations dating back to the 1960s. It includes entry fees to the Magic Gardens, which is where you’ll end the tour, and part of your ticket price is a donation to support local art! If you want to get off the tourist track and see an authentic side of Philly – book this tour in advance for $49 USD. 

19. City walking tour

Daniel stands out the front of Independence Hall on a history tour in Philadelphia, USA
Daniel stands at the front of Independence Hall on a history tour in Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklins grave in Philadelphia, USA
Benjamin Franklin’s grave in Philadelphia, USA

A Philadelphia walking tour is a fantastic way to get acquainted with the city’s rich history and learn more about the birth of the USA. We love walking tours and try to take one in each new city we visit, as it gives us a great understanding of the place and the people!

This 1.5-hour walking tour is the best sightseeing tour in Philadelphia – you’ll stop outside of all of Philly’s major historic landmarks, including Independence Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, the Betsy Ross House, and the Liberty Bell. It’s a great intro to the city, and honestly, you learn so much it’s suitable if this is your first time or tenth time visiting. And at $44 USD per person, it’s one of the most affordable tours in the city! 

Jay, the guide, really knows his history and will bring the story of the Revolutionary War to life as you retrace the Founding Fathers’ footsteps. He has a knack for storytelling and knows an amazing amount about the city’s history, and he shares lots of fun anecdotes that make the Founding Fathers feel like real people, rather than figures in a history book. 

You’ll join your group at the meeting point, and after roughly 90 minutes of walking around the city, you’ll end in front of Independence Hall. The tour runs daily and there are lots of times to choose from, so fitting this fun history tour into your trip should be easy!

You can book this tour in advance here with 24-hour cancellation, and if plans change (as they often do) no worries!

20. Tour City Hall

Views of Philadelphia from City Hall Tower
Such a great view!
Bailey looks out the window of City Hall Tower in Philadelphia
This is a very unique thing to do!

The city combines beautiful architecture with interesting history at Philadelphia City Hall. Built in 1894, the City Hall was originally designed to be the world’s tallest building. But before it was even finished, the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower were erected, snatching the title away. 

However, it did become Philly famous, with a statue of the state’s founder, William Penn, at the very top. There was an unspoken agreement that no other building would be higher than Penn’s statue for over a century. But Penn’s statue was overtaken in 1986 when One Liberty Place was constructed, which locals will claim cursed Philly’s sports teams for 22 years!

Visiting Philadelphia City Hall is a must-do when in the city, and it’s budget-friendly! The building is located by the city center and exploring the exterior is free, of course, but you can also take a tour to see the interior. Tours last for about 2 hours and include a ton of history, fascinating stories, ornate rooms, and 250 sculptures!

The complete City Hall tours are wheelchair accessible and run Monday to Friday at either 10 am or 12 pm. These tours start at $26 USD depending on the time of year and can be booked on the Visitor Center’s website

To elevate your City Hall experience, you can even go up to the top tower for some incredible views! This is a rather unknown activity so when we went up, there were only a few people here and it became one of our favorite memories of Philly. You must book a guided tour, which is $15 USD, and will give you about 30 minutes at the top. 

We’ve explored a bunch of observation decks during our travels, but this historic building in Philly was a standout – it’s up there with the Empires State Building observation deck in NYC!

21. Night ghost/adult tour

A statue at Washington Square at night on a tour in Philadelphia
Learn about the dark side of Philly!
Our guide of our Dark Side of Philly tour talks to our tour group
This was a fun tour!

Philadelphia is known for being a historic city, and some of that history is very dark and grizzly. There are tons of ghost stories surrounding the city, so it’s no surprise that nighttime ghost tours are really popular. 

To change up your normal sightseeing routines, we recommend taking a quirky Philadelphia night tour. We did this adult night tour and it was awesome – it is a fun and unique way to experience the city and is truly unlike anything we’ve experienced!

It’s a walking tour and we visited lots of historic places – including the city’s original red light district, execution sites, and haunted spots – and heard tales about vampires, ghosts, and pirates. Our guide was an older lady with a wicked sense of humor which made the tour so entertaining, and we loved learning about Philly’s dark side! 

We also think this is a great tour to do during the summer because it starts at 8 pm, so you get to escape the heat! Summer days in Philadelphia can be sweltering, so an evening tour is ideal. And it’s cheap, too, with a 2-hour tour going for $38 – $48 USD depending on what night you go.  

If we haven’t already sold you, just check out our full review of this Dark Philly Adult Night Tour here. Spoiler alert: we think it’s worth it!

You can book this night tour of Philly through Viator with an option to buy now and pay later, fitting into your travel budget easily.

22. Oldest pub in the city – McGillin’s Olde Ale House

The front of McGillin's Olde Ale House in Philadelphia
The stories these walls could tell!
A beer at the bar of McGillin's Olde Ale House in Philadelphia
We sat at the bar!

What better way to experience a historic city than stopping by its oldest pub? McGillin’s Olde Ale House dates back to 1860 and was opened by two Irish Immigrants. This happens to be the same year Abraham Lincoln was elected! 

McGillin’s survived Prohibition by serving food and ice cream… as well as teacups full of booze to evade the authorities! Today though, McGillin’s is known as the most romantic place in Philadelphia. Apparently, more couples meet here than anywhere else in the city, and it is often the spot for proposals. 

We enjoy hearing the quirky stories that go on in a pub this old and often find that drinks are way more affordable here than in other bars. So swinging by for a cold pint on a warm day is a great cheap activity as you explore. 

You can also enjoy this classic Irish pub with their happy hour specials. Wednesdays have $3 USD tacos, Thursdays have $6 USD margaritas, and Saturdays are home to $5 USD Bloody Marys and mimosas!

McGillin’s is centrally located and open daily from 11 am to 2 am, so you can visit any night of the week!

23. Brunch at Cafe La Maude

Food at Cafe la Maude in Philadelphia
Photo credit: Cafe La Maude
Egg dish at Cafe la Maude in Philadelphia
Photo credit: Cafe La Maude

You’ll need plenty of food to fuel your adventures in Philly, and Cafe La Maude is one of our favorite places to eat in the city. It’s a French-Lebanese brunch spot with the elegant feel of a Parisian cafe. 

From Red Velvet Tiramisu Pancakes to shakshuka, shawarma, and steak sandwiches, there are SO many yummy dishes on their menu, and a filling meal is only about $25 USD. It’s an awesome place to hang out and people-watch in Philadelphia, and the portions are HUGE, so you definitely get your money’s worth here!

The atmosphere is lively and friendly. It truly emulates Philly’s “Brotherly Love” vibe. Plus, if you visit during the winter, they have a great heated patio that makes it so cozy! Best of all, they allow BYOB, which makes having a cocktail with brunch way more affordable than buying one from the restaurant.

Cafe La Maude is located in the Northern Liberties and is open from 8 am to 4 pm every day. We recommend arriving early as they don’t take reservations, and plan to spend about an hour here. Just remember to come hungry!

24. Try a Philly pie

Daniel with a slice of Tomato Pie that he got to try on a walking food tour around Philadelphia, USA
A Tomato Pie we tried on a food tour in Philadelphia, USA
It looks odd but it tastes amazing!

A Philly pie (or tomato pie) is basically pizza without cheese. I know it sounds weird because, let’s be real, cheese is one of the best things about pizza. That being said, don’t knock it until you try it! It’s a staple in Philadelphia and we LOVE it! 

Tomato pie was brought to Philly by Southern Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, and it’s one of the city’s most unique and best-loved foods. The secret to its deliciousness is a super flavorful marinara sauce. 

You can get an excellent tomato pie from The Angelo Pizza in the Old City. Joe’s Pizza also does a great one, and you can BYOB here. Philly pie isn’t actually on the menu at Joe’s but they often have it available by the slice at the window, so you might get lucky! 

Philly pies are about $17-$30 USD depending on the size you get, and of course, are cheaper if you buy by the slice! But with how filling they are, this is a rather budget-friendly meal!

25. Secret Bars and Favorite Spots Walking Tour

Bailey at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Bailey at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA

To really get to know Philadelphia like a local, you can take this secret bar crawl that will get you off the beaten tourist track to visit hidden speakeasies and bars where the locals actually hang out. 

The tour is one of the best Philly night tours out there. It’s led by two fun-loving locals who will show you the “real” Philadelphia after dark. They keep it fresh with a nice mix of low-key spots and more upbeat venues. The itinerary changes according to the day and group size, so we can’t tell you exactly where you’ll be going, but one thing’s for sure – you’ll have a great time! 

This is ideal for anyone who wants to experience a night out in Philly but isn’t sure where to go. It’s a fantastic way to meet new people in the city, and at $35 USD, it’s not too expensive either. The price includes one shot of tequila and then drinks are on your own account. The great thing about this is that you’re able to choose cheaper beverages like beer or treat yourself to something fancier if you feel like it.

The tour is only offered on Thursday to Saturday evenings since those are the best nights to party! It begins at 7 pm outside Bao Nine restaurant and lasts 3 hours. You’ll finish the night in a fun bar whose exact name and location we’ll keep as a surprise. Let’s just say you’ll end up listening to talented local DJs, and then it’s up to you where you go from there! 

This is definitely a popular tour, so I recommend booking it in advance so you don’t miss out.

26. Go on a food tour!

Pretzel outside the pretzel shop during a food tour in Philadelphia
Our food tour group on the streets eating pretzels during our tour in Philadelphia
Our food tour group!

There is more to Philly’s food scene than cheesesteaks. Some of the best food we had during our East Coast US travels was in Philadelphia, so do yourself a favor and join a food tour in Philly to try a whole spread of offerings!

With just a few days in the city, we wanted to try as much food as possible, so we joined this Flavors of Philly food tour. It was the best choice we could have made, as we certainly ate a LOT of food. This is a deep dive into the typical Philly fare, such as tomato pie and cheesesteaks, as well as cheese whiz fries and soft pretzels – which were new for us!

It’s a lunchtime tour, so you’ll take off from the meeting point at around 12 pm or 1:30 pm, depending on the day. This tour lasted for 2.5 hours and not only was it a good food tour, but we had a great time with our guide and got to see a more authentic side of the city. We finished the tour at Reading Terminal Market with some sweet treats, as we mentioned earlier in the blog.

It includes all of your food tastings for $65 USD, which is actually a good price for all you’ll eat! You can reserve the exact same food tour we took right here

Related Read: If you’re a foodie, you’ll love New York City! Check out the 5 best food tours in NYC and get ready to eat your heart out.

27. Go for cocktails

Bailey drinks a cocktail in Philadelphia, USA
A cocktail at a bar in Philadelphia USA
A classic old fashioned!

Philadelphia is home to some awesome cocktail bars, which are perfect for relaxing in the evening after a busy day of exploring. Some cocktail bars can be quite expensive, around $15-$20 USD per drink, but they often have good deals or you can limit yourself to just one or two craft cocktails to keep this activity within the budget!

The Old City, around South 2nd Street, is home to some nice Latin-inspired bars, Vista Peru and Cuba Libre. Cuba Libre has happy hour from 4 pm to 6:30 pm Monday through Friday, where you can get cocktails for $7-$8 USD!

Our favorite, though, was one called Sassafras, which is a historic and cozy neighborhood bar with a big cocktail menu – there’s even an absinthe cocktail on there! Their prices are around $10-$13 USD for a drink, which is much more affordable.

For more swanky cocktail bars, one of our favorites is the Ranstead Room, which is a candlelit speakeasy serving awesome craft cocktails. To get in, you’ll need to spot a black doorway along Ranstead Street with “RR” above the door. You might have to wait, as there’s a strict one-in, one-out policy, but it’s worth it! 

Andra Hem off of 16th Street is a Swedish-style cocktail bar that serves drinks made with ingredients you’ve probably never even heard of (unless you happen to be an expert bartender, that is.) With cocktails including things like olive oil-washed vodka and horseradish coconut cream, this is a great place to visit if you want to try something totally new.

If you really love cocktails, then you can take this small group cocktail tour, which we discussed in more detail earlier! It costs $35 USD, which doesn’t include your cocktails but does include skip-the-line entry to the city’s best cocktail spots and a complimentary shot of tequila.

28. Philadelphia Italian Market Walking Tour

Daniel walks the fruit market in the Italian Market in Philadelphia
The Italian Market!
Bailey enjoys an Italian Coffee during our food tour of the Italian Market in Philadelphia, USA
Italian coffee!

The Italian Market is a must-visit while you’re in Philly. This neighborhood has been around for over 150 years, and has even appeared in the Rocky movies! There are tons of specialty shops, restaurants, and food stalls to explore – so many that it can get a little overwhelming. But with this affordable tour, a local guide will show you what’s what and take you to sample Italian bread, cheese, and gourmet vinegar while teaching you about the history of this vibrant neighborhood. 

You get to try tons of yummy food and really experience all of the delights that the Italian Market has to offer. Plus, at $35 USD per person, this tour is budget-friendly and worth every penny in our opinion, since your guide will take you to lots of spots that you might miss when visiting on your own. Please note that this food tour does not include your food tastings.

The tour leaves at 12 pm from the meeting point. It lasts for 2 hours, so it’s perfectly timed for lunch! Plus, you’ll end up at Geno’s, one of the best spots to try Philly cheesesteaks.

You can check out the details and book this tour in advance here.

29. Rittenhouse Square and eat at Parc

meal at Parc in Philadelphia
Bailey enjoys a coffee at Parc in Philadelphia, USA
Just people-watching!

Rittenhouse Square is a gorgeous park in Philadelphia. We love finding green spaces in cities, and this one is a standout! It covers 3 hectares (7.5 acres), so you can spend some time strolling around and finding the fountain and garden beds, or sitting on one of the many benches to people-watch. Everyone loves a good people-watching spot, am I right?

Once you’ve stretched your legs a bit, head to Parc restaurant to grab a bite to eat. As you can guess from the name, Parc sits right along the park’s edge, so you get lovely views if you sit on the patio! They are outfitted in French decor, and the little patio tables on the street definitely make you feel like you’re in Paris!

The food is just as good as the vibe, and very reasonably priced. You can get Salmon Tartare for $18 USD or Avocado Toast for $15 USD! It opens at 8 am on weekdays and 10 am on weekends, closing between 10 pm and 11 pm. We enjoyed a slow lunch overlooking the park and eating yummy food. 

30. Visit the Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, USA
Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, USA

The Masonic Temple is a gorgeous historic building located close to City Hall. It’s the headquarters for the Philadelphia Freemasons, an organization that has over 80,000 members and dates back to the 17th century. 

The Temple was built in medieval style and completed in the late 19th century. It’s huge and inside there’s a grand ballroom, a library, and a museum, among many other rooms. It’s actually considered to be one of the most beautiful Masonic buildings in the world thanks to all of its rich artwork, stained glass windows, and sculptures. 

You can admire the building from the outside but it’s possible to take a guided tour of the interior, during which you’ll also get to visit the exhibit hall where you can learn more about the history of American Freemasonry. 

The tours last for an hour and are led by professional guides. They’re available from Tuesday to Saturday between 10 am and 3 pm, and you’ll need to book online, at least one day in advance. Tours cost $15 USD for adults and $5 USD for children aged 12 and under – so it’s a great cheap activity in Philadelphia!

Where to Stay in Philadelphia, USA

Element Philadelphia Downtown room with a view
Photo credit: Element Philadelphia Downtown

Philadelphia is a big city, and deciding where to stay can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve narrowed it down to our top choices for each budget range. So keep reading to find the best accommodations for you!

The Rittenhouse Hotel – $$$

The Rittenhouse Hotel is a centrally located, award-winning accommodation. It has that old-school Philadelphia feel with modern amenities. They offer a gym, an indoor heated pool, a sun terrace, and a fabulous restaurant. You can also enjoy British tea and cocktails in their tea room, which is connected to a gorgeous garden.

Prices range from $350 – $1,000 USD depending on the type of room and your dates. You can check prices and availability online here.

Element Philadelphia Downtown – $$

The Element Philadelphia Downtown is just a block from City Hall. It has a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, a shared lounge, and free bikes. The place has modern, well-equipped rooms, friendly staff, and a decent continental breakfast. Request a room higher up for an awesome city view.

This place is a great value for money, with prices starting as low as $160 USD when you book in advance.

Apple Hostels of Philadelphia – $

Apple Hostels of Philadelphia is my favorite budget accommodation in Philadelphia. It’s located in the Old City, within walking distance of the Liberty Bell and Center City. This hostel has it all, including a shared kitchen, laundry, pool table, foosball, Xbox, computers/iPads, guitars, and a TV area. You won’t have any trouble socializing, and they even offer free drinks and dinner sometimes. It’s clean, comfortable, and has a great vibe.

Shared rooms start at $34 USD, and private rooms begin at $85 USD. You can book your stay on or through Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey at the top of the City Hall Tower in Philadelphia, USA
Thanks for reading!

Traveling to Philadelphia doesn’t have to blow your budget, and I hope you found some awesome activities that are both cheap and completely free! We were pleasantly surprised to find out how many activities are budget-friendly in Philly, which simply makes the vacation fund stretch further.

Thanks so much for reading our blog! If you found it helpful, be sure to check out our other blogs about traveling in the USA, as we have a ton of resources. If your North American travels extend to Canada, we have a lot of great trips up there too. Keep your travel inspiration going by reading a few of my favorite articles below.

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