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10 BEST Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours for First-Time Visitors

10 BEST Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours for First-Time Visitors

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Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States, so you can rest assured there’s plenty to do and see here! It’s hard to know where to begin, especially if it’s your first time in Philly. But when we visited, we found sightseeing tours made a great introduction to the city. Not only did we have a ton of fun and see famous sites, but we also discovered loads about the history of the United States

We learned so much from the tours we did in Philadelphia. However, we particularly enjoyed sightseeing tours because we were able to see so many locations in one go, which is ideal if you’ve only got one day in Philadelphia! These tours gave us an inside scoop on this city, from its Founding Fathers and oldest bars to today’s new foodie scene. And we weren’t doing them just to learn either – we were also on a mission to find the very best attractions and experiences that the City of Brotherly Love offers. 

We loved how many different types of sightseeing tours there were available in Philly, too. Whether you’re looking for an art tour, a visit to Valley Forge National Historical Park, or a pub crawl, you’ll be able to find a Philadelphia sightseeing tour to suit your interests. So if you’re planning an upcoming trip, keep reading. We’ve rounded up the top 10 sightseeing tours so you can have an incredible time in this city.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite sightseeing tours in Philadelphia include:

  1. For a quick introduction to Philly’s top spots, this 90-minute walking tour is perfect.
  2. History buffs will love this historic tour that includes famous sites like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Congress Hall.
  3. Avoid tourist traps and learn where the locals really go on this secret nightlife tour, which takes you to the best cocktail bars in the city.

10 Best Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours

1. Philadelphia Old City Historic Walking Tour with 10+ Top Sites

Bailey walks through Elfreth's Alley and Museum in Philadelphia, USA
Bailey walks through Elfreth’s Alley
Bailey poses for a photo with liberty bell in Philadelphia on a tour from New York City
Liberty Bell!

Philadelphia’s historic center is so much better when you explore it with a knowledgeable guide! This 90-minute tour is well-paced, and the guides do a great job of keeping things snappy and fun while teaching you all about the history of Philadelphia (and, therefore, America!). 

One thing that separates this tour from others is that it’s led by a former stand-up comedian and history teacher. Our guide, Seamus, definitely brought Philadelphia’s history to life with his storytelling and cool facts. I don’t always consider myself a huge history buff, but I fully enjoyed the whole experience and learned a ton! Plus, we walked by over 15 of the city’s top sites.

After joining your group at the meeting point, you’ll visit famous places like the Betsy Ross House, where the first USA flag is said to have been sewn. Whether or not this is entirely true is up for debate, but your guide will explain more! Your guide will also take you to Elfreth’s Alley, which is the oldest residential street in the USA. 

Other stops include the Benjamin Franklin post office and the Second Bank of the United States. The building ceased to be a bank long ago, but today it’s home to a gallery of presidential portraits. Your guide will take you inside for a quick look and share some fun facts about the men whose portraits adorn the walls. 

This tour wraps up with a visit to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It actually ends at Independence Hall, which is nicely done because you need to book a separate, free tour of Independence Hall if you want to go inside. 

This historical tour costs $44 USD for adults. This price is a steal considering how much you see, which is why we consider this tour one of the best cheap things you can do in Philadelphia. There are 8 different time slots to choose from each day, but do be aware that this tour books up really fast – even during the winter! If you only book a few days in advance, you may not get the time slot that you want. 

Check availability and book your tour well in advance here.

2. Philadelphia Hop-On, Hop-Off City Tour

Big Bus Philadelphia bus in Philly
The hop-on, hop-off bus!
Bailey out the front of the Museum of the American revolution in Philadelphia, USA
Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

I love a good hop-on, hop-off bus tour like this Philadelphia one! It gives you the freedom to explore independently, at your own pace, without needing to worry about how to get from A to B. It’s also a great option if you don’t have a lot of time in the city because the route is super comprehensive, with 27 different stops. 

And while we’d be here forever if we listed every single stop, the tour covers lots of our Philadelphia must-sees. For example, the bus stops near the Reading Terminal Market, which is a must for foodies visiting the city. We loved the sweet treats here, especially Beiler’s Doughnuts and the 4th Street Cookie Company. 

You can also stop at Love Park to snap a photo with the famous sign, see the iconic “Rocky Steps” or pay your respects to Benjamin Franklin at his grave at Christ Church Burial Ground

This bus also stops at a ton of Philly’s best museums, including the Rodin Museum, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, and the Please Touch Museum (an awesome, hands-on kid’s museum!). So basically, the route allows you to discover several different time periods of American history, as well as food and drink! It’s absolutely one of the best tours in Philadelphia.

There are a few different ticket durations for this hop-on, hop-off bus. A single-day ticket costs $36 USD, while it’s $55 USD for two days. If you have 3 days to spend in Philadelphia, a 3-day pass will set you back $74 USD. You’ll need to redeem your ticket outside the Independence Visitor Center before you can use it, and then buses leave from there every 45-60 minutes between 9:30 am and 5 pm. 

To see a lot of Philly without any transportation hassle, book this hop-on, hop-off bus here.

Related Read: If you plan to visit more cities on the East Coast, be sure to read our guide to the best things to do in NYC!

3. Philadelphia History, Highlights, and Revolution Walking Tour

George Washington old house in Philadelphia USA
Foundations from George Washington’s house!
Display inside the Museum of the American Revolution
Display inside the Museum of the American Revolution

A walking tour in Philadelphia is not only a great way to delve into its history, but it’s also a really good way to get your bearings in the city. This Philadelphia sightseeing tour is largely focused on the American Revolution and the birth of the USA, so you’ll visit lots of sites that have helped to shape the nation’s history! 

It’s fitting that this walking tour kicks off at the statue of The Signer, which is considered to be a symbol of American freedom – although obviously, it’s not quite as famous as the Statue of Liberty. You’ll then pass by famous sites like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Congress Hall. Your knowledgeable guide will not only share lots of information about these pivotal sites, but they’ll also dispel a lot of the myths that you might have heard about them. 

One thing that we like about this tour is that you get a quick look inside the Museum of the American Revolution and watch a presentation of George Washington’s War Tent. There’s not enough time for a full visit, but you will get a discounted ticket if you want to return to the museum after the tour. 

And since this tour is all about historical highlights, it’s only right that you visit the President’s House, which is where the country’s leaders lived when Philadelphia was the US capital. Iconic leaders like George Washington and John Adams lived here while they were president. However, the tour also reveals another side to Philadelphia’s history by teaching you about the slaves and servants who lived here. 

This tour lasts for 2.5 hours, so it’s a real deep dive into US history. It costs $59 USD per person, and you can go at either 10:30 am or 2 pm. It’s a small group tour with a maximum of 12 people, so you’ll have plenty of chances to ask questions and get to know your guide. If you’re looking for an in-depth tour with fellow history enthusiasts, then we think that this will prove to be one of the best Philadelphia sightseeing tours! 

History buffs, you can book your spot on this Philadelphia sightseeing tour right here.

4. Secret Bars and Favorite Spots Walking Tour in Philadelphia

Bailey at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Cheers!
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Old fashioned cocktails!

When you visit a new city, do you ever wish you had someone with you who could show you where the locals really go out?

If so, you’re in luck because this secret nightlife tour is the perfect way to dodge the tourist traps and find out how Philadelphians like to party! It’s also a fantastic way to meet new people if you’re traveling solo in the city. 

In a group of no more than 10 people, you’ll meet for a drink in the city center and then head out to explore five of Philly’s best cocktail bars on foot. Along the way, you’ll try specialty cocktails prepared by expert mixologists as you get to know your guides and fellow guests. It feels more like a relaxed night out than a tour! 

The bars you visit on this tour would be difficult to find on your own, especially since one of them is a hidden speakeasy! Here, you can imagine what Philadelphia’s drinking scene was like during Prohibition. It’s also just cool to visit a speakeasy that isn’t a gimmick-filled tourist trap. 

All in all, this is one of the most fun Philadelphia sightseeing tours available, and it’s an absolute must if you fancy a night out in the city. It’s the perfect option if you’re looking for a nighttime tour in Philadelphia. The 3-hour tour runs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and starts at 7 pm. After all, going out on a Monday night just wouldn’t be the same!

We won’t give away too many surprises, but the tour ends at a centrally located speakeasy. It’s also one of the best in the city and just might have live DJs and dancing. So if you want to stay on and party, you’ve got a built-in crew. It’s the perfect end to a vacation, which is why we included it in our 2-day Philadelphia itinerary.

It costs $35 USD, which includes skip-the-line entry to the bars and a complimentary tequila shot, and then all other drinks will be on your own account. I prefer this because then you can pick and choose the exact cocktails you want to drink, although these knowledgeable bartenders are happy to give you suggestions.

For a fun night out in Philly, book your spot on this tour here.

5. Half-Day American Revolution Tour in the Valley Forge

The National Memorial Arch on a tour to the Valley Forge National Historical Park
The National Memorial Arch
Old cannon at Valley Forge National Historical Park in USA
Old cannon at Valley Forge National Historical Park

If you want to explore the historic Valley Forge, this tour is for you! If you’re unfamiliar, Valley Forge was a significant site in the American Revolutionary War. It was where General George Washington (yes, the very same one who became the first-ever US president) led his troops through the winter months. 

The American troops faced a freezing cold winter with inadequate food and shelter, but under Washington’s leadership, they developed the resilience that eventually won them the war. As a result, Valley Forge is a symbol of courage, sacrifice, and unity and is a must-visit for anyone even vaguely interested in American history. In fact, we consider it one of the best history tours in Philadelphia!

Better still, this small-group tour makes it super easy to explore Valley Forge. You’ll meet your guide and be driven to the National Historical Park, where you’ll spend several hours exploring sites like Washington’s headquarters, the National Memorial Arch, and the Gothic-style Washington Memorial Chapel. Your guide will regale you with fascinating stories about the struggles the troops endured while they lived here during the winter of 1777-1778. 

The tour costs $115 USD per person and lasts for 4.5 hours. It runs every day except Monday and starts at 9 am. It includes your guide along with roundtrip transportation from a meeting point in Philadelphia.

To discover this part of American history for yourself, book this tour of Valley Forge online here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, read our complete Viator review to learn more about what we think about Viator.

6. Philadelphia Half-Day Small-Group Sightseeing Tour

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, USA
Such a historic bell!
Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo with he Rocky Statue in Philadelphia
A classic!

We love this small-group Philadelphia sightseeing tour because it does a great job of ticking off all of the city’s true must-see attractions in just a few hours. You’ll visit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Betsy Ross House, as well as check out one of Philly’s most famous sites – the legendary “Rocky” steps! 

The tour also takes you to Eastern State Penitentiary, which was the first US prison to keep inmates in separate cells. So basically, it was the first modern-day prison in the USA. Even notorious crime boss Al Capone was held here for a time, so you can look forward to hearing some grizzly tales about this place from your guide. 

After visiting the prison, you’ll enjoy a scenic drive through the city and glimpse famous sites like Love Park, City Hall, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Then, the tour ends on a high note at the Reading Terminal Market, which is one of our favorite places to eat in Philly! There’s so much delicious food on offer, and the market is also really historic since it dates all the way back to 1893. 

The tour costs $169 USD per person, which includes hotel pickup and drop-off from Downtown Philly and all entry fees for the attractions you visit along the way. You can leave at either 9 am or 2 pm, and the tour lasts for around 4 hours in total, so this is perfect for those who are short on time. We also love the fact that this is a super close-knit experience because there’s a maximum of 7 people per group! 

If you only have a short time and want to hit all of Phildelphia’s top highlights, book this small-group sightseeing tour here.

Related Read: If you’re interested in visiting more historic sites, check out the best sightseeing tours in Washington, DC, another city full of US history!

7. The Best of Philadephia: Private Half-Day Driving Tour

Daniel stands out the front of Independence Hall on a history tour in Philadelphia, USA
The front of Independence Hall!
A close-up of the Barry statue

If you would prefer a private Philadelphia sightseeing tour, then this half-day driving tour is a fantastic choice. 

What’s great about private tours is that you can take your time at destinations and really get to know your guide. With this tour, you’ll have 4 hours to see the city’s top highlights. The tour’s base itinerary includes Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Love Park (where you can snap that iconic photo).

You’ll also visit the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where you’ll see The Thinker sculpture and the Rocky statue, among other sites. Lastly, you’ll visit the beautiful Magic Gardens (entry fees are included). I love that you get a dose of local art along with all the notable sites we already mentioned.

You can also choose to start at either 9 am or 2 pm. So if you fly into Philly in the morning, you could book this tour for the afternoon to get acquainted with the city. Trust me, it’s the perfect way to get your bearings when you first arrive! And if you’re visiting the city in the summertime, we recommend heading out early so that you can hit the top attractions before they get too crowded. 

The 4-hour tour costs $770-$870 USD per group (maximum of 6 people). So if you’re traveling with a few friends or family members, it’s not too expensive per person for a private tour! The price includes pickup and drop-off from central hotels, as well as private transportation and a guide. Any extra admission fees or food and drink will be paid for on the day (but guides are happy to make restaurant recommendations!). 

If a private tour sounds ideal, you can check availability and book your tour here.

8. Liberty History Tour Pub Crawl

Daniel and Bailey enjoy drinks at Iron Hill Brewery in Philadelphia, USA
Cheers!
A beer at the bar of McGillin's Olde Ale House in Philadelphia
We sat at the bar!

Who says history can’t be fun? This historic pub crawl deviates from the regular curriculum and teaches you about the quirkier, funnier, and more scandalous side of Philadelphia’s history while you enjoy drinks at some of the city’s oldest bars. 

Honestly, I think if all sightseeing tours were as entertaining as this one, most people would be a lot more clued in about history! It covers a lot of Philly’s more sordid past, a lot like this Adults-Only Dark History tour we also took.

The bars and pubs you visit have plenty of stories of their own, and your guide will also entertain you with exciting tales of espionage. When we went, we also learned about Benjamin Franklin’s extensive philandering and the often-forgotten women who helped America win the Revolutionary War. 

This is a small-group tour with a maximum of 14 people, so it’s also a good chance to bond with fellow travelers over a pint. However, most dates require a minimum of 2 per booking, so grab a friend!

Tours leave from the meeting point at 1 pm, 4 pm, and 7 pm, so you can choose to make it a daytime or an evening event. The tour lasts for 2 hours and 15 minutes, but who knows, you might all end up carrying on the party afterward!

The tour runs every night except for Monday, and you’ve got two ticket options. A regular ticket costs $79 USD, which includes a draft beer or cider at each of the four pubs you visit. However, if you don’t drink (or just don’t drink a lot), you can save money by purchasing a “dry run” ticket for $45 USD. You’ll still be able to buy soft drinks at the bars on the day – or even alcoholic ones if you end up changing your mind. 

For a fun night out learning about Philly’s scandalous past, book your pub crawl tickets online here.

9. South Philly Art Tour – Small-Group Walking Tour

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

Philadelphia isn’t all about revolutionary history and the Founding Fathers – it’s also famous for its art scene. And on this small-group walking tour, you’ll have an expert guide to help you discover the city’s most vibrant murals and the artists and stories behind them. 

Not only is this tour fantastic for your Instagram feed, but it’s also a great way to explore the Queen Village and Bella Vista neighborhoods, which tourists sometimes overlook in favor of the Old City. In these areas, you’ll find some amazing public artworks and learn more about what makes the city’s creative scene so unique. 

Then, the tour ends with a visit to the Magic Gardens, which is an awesome open-air gallery that had a big role in reviving the neighborhood. It was created by Isaiah Zagar, who used a very random assortment of materials (including bicycle wheels, empty bottles, and kitchen tiles) to make this beautiful mosaic garden. 

If you’re looking for a Philadelphia sightseeing tour that will take you off of the tourist trail, this walking tour fits the bill! It shows you a totally different side to the city’s character. When I went, I was completely enthralled by just how funky and unique the art scene is here. 

The 2-hour tour costs $49 USD per person and departs from the Theatre of The Living Arts at 2 pm from Wednesday to Sunday. The cost includes your guide and entry to the Magic Gardens. A portion of these proceeds also goes towards a local community art project, so by taking this tour, you also help to ensure that Philly’s art scene continues to thrive. 

If you’re looking to see the artsy side of Philly, book this small-group walking tour here.

10. Philadelphia Movie and Television Sites Private Walking Tour

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

A trip to Philly offers you the chance to see a ton of famous locations from movies and TV shows. It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia and Cold Case were filmed here, along with some Martin Scorsese and M. Night Shyamalan films. And, of course, who can forget the iconic scenes from the Rocky movies? So if you’re a movie buff like me, I highly recommend taking this private walking tour to see all these top sights!

I loved walking around Philadelphia and recognizing locations from movie scenes. Even though it was my first time here, it made me feel connected to the city. Plus, the guide shared fun behind-the-scenes secrets. And since it’s a private tour, you can ask as many follow-up questions as you’d like! 

After meeting our guide at the starting point, we visited many popular TV and movie sites. We won’t run through every single one, so we’ll just give you an idea of what’s to come! Rittenhouse Square is home to scenes from several films, including Rocky II, The Happening, The Sixth Sense, and In Her Shoes. Meanwhile, 80s fans may recognize the Macy’s building from Mannequin and the Wells Fargo Trading Center from Trading Places.

The tour ends at one of my favorite Philadelphia locations – the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which Rocky climbs in one of the film’s most iconic scenes). If you love the Rocky movies and know all of the words to “Eye of the Tiger,” then you’ll probably recognize this spot! Feel free to recreate the scene like I did in the cheesy photo above.

This walking tour costs $70 USD per person, and since it’s private, you can arrange the starting time with your guide. Tours last 2 hours, so it’s easy to fit into your Philadelphia itinerary.

While most tours here focus on historic locations, this offers a unique chance to step into Philadelphia’s cinema scene. You’ll also get some exercise walking around the city. And if you build up an appetite, I suggest stopping at one of the best Philly cheesesteak spots afterward.

Cinema buffs can take advantage of this opportunity by reserving their tour online here!

Just a heads up … if you love the sound of this tour but you’re traveling on a budget, we’ve got you covered! You can book the group version of this TV and movie tour for just $35 USD per person. It usually requires 2 people per booking, and you won’t have a private guide, but you’ll still visit all the sites we mentioned!

Related Read: Visiting the Exorcist steps is one of the top activities on our list of things to do in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Film buffs should definitely add this stop to their bucket list!

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. 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 Booking.com or through Hostelworld.

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at th American Revolution Museum in Philadelphia, USA
Thanks for reading!

Philadelphia is such a fun city full of incredible places. It’s worth taking a sightseeing tour to make sure you see all the best spots. There are tons of options, so hopefully, this list helped you narrow it down and pick the ones that match your interests. You really can’t go wrong with any of these!

If you’re traveling to more cities across the States, be sure to read the rest of our guides to destinations in the USA. We’ve also written about lots of other places all over the world. Here are a few blogs below to get you started:

7 BEST Central Park Tours + 7 Things to Know BEFORE Booking!

How to Spend 5 Days in NYC: A Complete New York Itinerary

6 BEST Washington, DC River Cruises + 6 Things to Know BEFORE you Book!