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8 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

8 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

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Oh, Philly, how we love the food scene in this city. Rich in history and flavor, the Reading Terminal Market is a hub for everything delicious. A quintessential stop for anyone coming to Philadelphia, we have been several times on our own and as part of some fantastic tours.

In this blog, I’ll break down the 8 things you need to know to make the most of your time (and limited stomach capacity) so you have an unforgettable experience. I will cover some fun history, the best places to eat, some of our favorite tours we took, and other information you’ll need before you go yourself.

1. About the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

Bailey holding popcorn at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Living my best life
Holding a 4th street cookie at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
It’s always a good time for a cookie.

Since 1893, Reading Terminal Market has been one of America’s largest and most celebrated markets. Originally, it was built when local vendors refused to move locations when the Philadelphian and Reading Railroad Company purchased the block for a new train terminal in 1890. What resulted was an agreement that a new market would be built under the train terminal for the vendors of the area – Reading Terminal Market was born.

A modern-day farmers market, it’s as lively today as it was 130 years ago with over a hundred stalls spread out over 78,000 square feet (7,250 square meters). Like much of Philadelphia, it has preserved its history and architecture wonderfully. We found walking through the different alleys and seeing where many local restaurants source their ingredients to be a blast. The sheer amount of variety between the different vendors is incredible, and you can find almost anything walking through the grid of stalls and restaurants. 

The Reading Terminal Market prides itself on cultural diversity and authentic interaction which I find to be true each time I visit. You’ll love talking with vendors, listening to local slang, and watching a living, self-sustaining market in action. The restaurants located throughout are phenomenal with flavors from all over the world. It also frequently holds events if one happens to align with the time that you visit.

With over 100,000 weekly visitors, the Reading Terminal Market is one of the most popular and authentic American markets that you can explore to this day. There are even two vendors that are descendants of vendors who were there when the market originally opened! Not limited to just food, you can find books, clothing, and other hard-to-find specialties within its walls. It’s no wonder many people refer to it as the Reading Terminal Bazaar. 

Oh, and I learned while we were here that Reading Terminal Market is pronounced “red-ing” like the color – not “reading” like a book. So now you know too!

2. Where is the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia?

Doors leading into at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Let’s go!

The Reading Terminal Market is located in Center City about a 2-minute walk from Jefferson Station if you take the train or 3 minutes from the 11 Street Subway Station.

I’m a fan of taking the subway here because that means you don’t have to worry about finding or paying for parking, a serious hassle during the weekends. If you do take the subway keep your valuables safe since there can be pickpockets! If you don’t want to take the subway or drive, rideshare apps like Uber are another great option.

If you do drive, two parking garages offer discounted 2-hour parking with a $10 USD purchase from the market (and merchant validation). You can park at the Hilton Garage Inn garage on 11th and Arch Street for $4 USD or at the Parkway Garage on 12th and Filbert Street for $7 USD.

3. When is the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia open? 

A flower shop at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
There’s more than just food!

The Reading Terminal Market is open daily 8 am to 6 pm. The market does close for several holidays over the year. The holiday closures include New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Related Reading: Another one of our must-visit stops in Philadelphia is the Museum of the American Revolution.

4. When is the best time to visit the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia? 

A rib shack at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Going in the morning means shorter lines!

We have gone in both the morning and afternoon depending on what we have planned for the day. Personally, we prefer going earlier because you can beat the afternoon crowds, but if you enjoy hustle and bustle, the afternoon might be when you want to go! It’s really up to your preferences since there isn’t a bad time to visit. 

5. What are the best places to eat in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia? 

A sign says falafel and there is a crowd at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
So many options!

Beiler’s Donuts – This Pennsylvania Dutch bakery serves freshly baked (on-site!) specialty goods. With literally hundreds of different items to choose from, I felt overwhelmed the first time I went. Thankfully, the friendly staff directed my attention to their sticky buns and whoopie-pies, an Amish buttercream-filled cake. If you love baked goods, Beiler’s Donuts is the best in the market! You can find their stall in A11 of the map for the Reading Terminal Market.

4th Street Cookie – Probably one of the best cookies you’ll ever have, 4th Street Cookie has been in the Reading Terminal Market for over 40 years and has become a local staple. Only using premium ingredients with no preservatives, artificial flavoring, or coloring, these cookies might give your grandma’s famous recipe a run for their money. Their secret family recipe has skyrocketed them to becoming one of the most popular vendors in the market and after having eaten one of their cookies (or two or three), I can see why. You can find their stall in A2 of the map for the Reading Terminal Market.

Popcorn on display at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Best popcorn ever!

Sparrows Gourmet Snacks – If you have a gluten or peanut allergy, I have good news for you, Sparrow’s Gourmet Snacks contains neither! While they may be a fairly new addition to the market, they have taken it by storm with their delicious and allergy-free foods. Their flagship snack, popcorn, is easily their most popular with multiple flavors. All of the ingredients they use are locally sourced and, boy-oh-boy, I never knew popcorn could taste so good. You can find their stall by the Arch Street entrance of the Reading Terminal Market.

Hunger Burger – Everyone loves a good burger, and Hunger Burger grills up some of the best all-natural Black Angus Beef burgers we have had. Only sourcing beef from local farmers who don’t use antibiotics or hormones, you will taste the difference when you have one. They also make veggie, turkey, and chicken patties although I stuck to the beef ones. What I appreciated about their business is that a portion of what you pay goes towards their “buy one, feed one” mission to help feed hungry children locally and globally. You can find their stall in C6 of the map for the Reading Terminal Market.

Bassett ice cream at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Bassetts world-famous ice cream!

Bassetts Ice Cream – America’s oldest ice cream company, Bassetts Ice Cream, was established in 1861 and was the first merchant to sign a lease at the Reading Terminal Market. Still operated by the same family today, their menu consists of over 40 different flavors. If you can’t resist having some adventurous food experiences like me, I recommend the Matcha Green Tea ice cream! With dairy sourced from Pennsylvania, this ice cream is deserving of a stop during your visit to Reading Terminal Market. You can find their stall in A6 of the map for the Reading Terminal Market.

Tommy DiNic’s – While the Philly cheesesteak is Philadelphia’s most iconic sandwich, it shouldn’t be the only one on your radar. DiNic‘s has been feeding locals and tourists everything from scratch, slow-cooked, Italian sandwiches with family recipes dating back to 1918. Their Roast Pork Sandwich won the Best Sandwich in America 2013, so I had to try it for myself, and wow was it incredible! When you have one yourself, you’ll see why it was featured on the Man vs. Food show. You can find their stall in B5 of the map for the Reading Terminal Market.

6. What are the best tours that visit the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia? 

Flavors of Philly Food Tour

Donuts at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Umm, yes, please!
Donuts on display at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
So many choices!

We loved this Flavors of Philly walking food tour and found that it was a great way for us to try some of the city’s most iconic dishes without having to figure out where the best restaurants were. 

Having taken lots of food tours, I appreciated the low-key local places our guide, Adam, took us to. Each stop tasted and felt authentic, and I don’t think I would have ever found them on any Google search of the area. When visiting Philly, it is easy to accidentally eat at a tourist trap restaurant serving only passable cheesesteaks at a high price. Not only is all the food in the tour included, but you know you’re getting the real deal.

Nanees kitchen at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
A popular spot!

We made five stops and had a Philadelphia classic at each. I’m biased towards a good cheesesteak, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed tomato pie! Tomato pie is kind of like pizza without any toppings, but somehow very different and still incredibly delicious. Two other staples we tried were cheese whiz fries and soft pretzels with cheese. Apparently, people in Philly like their cheese!

Because this is a small group tour, our guide got to know each of us and made everyone feel welcome. We even had a local in our group who was there with their family from out of town, and they were surprised to learn some history they never knew of! The afternoon ends in the Reading Terminal Market where you will enjoy two of my favorite foods, cookies and donuts!

This tour operates year-round every day of the week. At $65 USD on weekdays and $74 USD on weekends, this is a fantastic way to get a taste of Philadelphia.

Best of Philadelphia Food Tour

Pastries on a shelf at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Cookies on display at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
One of everything, please!

This Best of Philadelphia small-group food tour is a great option for people who want to explore the Reading Terminal Market and several other of the city’s up-and-coming food hotspots. 

This 2.5-hour walking tour begins outside the Masonic Temple where you’ll learn about some of the notable architecture around. Shortly after, it’s off to the Reading Terminal Market to sample a variety of foods from several of the best vendors. Our guide, Barry, did an amazing job of bringing the market history to life!

Be sure to come hungry because you will eat a lot over the next couple of hours. Cheesesteaks, mac and cheese, and German handmade pretzels are just a few of the things we got to try! All of the food is included for the day, and our guide handled ordering everything making it really stress-free.

Various foods on display at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Options, options!

After about an hour in the Reading Terminal Market, you will explore more of Center City which is known for taking old-world cooking practices and applying them to modern-day foods. This is a great opportunity to get some of your guide’s local recommendations on places to eat that many tourists don’t know about. We ended up with so many spots we wanted to check out later during our visit!

While this is a food tour, your guide will also do an excellent job pointing out all of the architecture and history as you walk by. I’m always amazed at how much new information I learn about this city every time I take a tour. Your final stop, the up-and-coming food destination Sansom Street, is no exception. Lined with historical houses you will enjoy a few more bites of innovative food trends before ending your day.

Operating seven days a week, tickets for this experience are $69 USD, and there is an option to select a private tour for a higher price if you’d like an even more personalized experience. 

Underground Donut Tour

Donuts in a box at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Best donuts ever!
Bailey eating a donut at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
You have to try this

If you’re like me and have a sweet tooth, this underground donut tour is the perfect way to try some of Philadelphia’s best baked goods. Stopping at four of the city’s top donut shops, this walking tour is great for people of all ages.

This roughly 2-hour tour meets at Federal Donuts to start off with freshly-made, hot donuts. I recommend eating a little something before beginning this tour because you will be consuming a lot of sugar and nobody likes a tummy ache!

The next couple of stops are unique spins on these doughy delights. Dottie’s Donuts, known for their delicious vegan donuts, and Tiffany’s Bakery which steams their donuts making them light and fluffy. Fun facts we learned – the donut was invented by Dutch immigrants, and its original name was olykoek which translates to “oil cakes.”

The final stop of the day is at Reading Terminal Market to try my favorite donuts in all of Philadelphia, Beiler’s Donuts. What I love about this place is the traditional and modern flavors they have for their donuts. If you’ve never had a s’mores donut, you’re in for a treat. The tour conveniently ends at the market so if all that walking worked up an appetite, you are in a great spot for a more substantial meal!

This tour is offered every day and is a must-do for donut enthusiasts. Philly has some incredible donuts, and you won’t want to miss out on any of them. Tickets for this experience are $65 USD. 

Secret Food Tours Philadelphia

Pearls oyster bar at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Going to all the best places
Walking through Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia in the morning
If only I had a second stomach!

Believe it or not, there is a food tour in Philly that doesn’t include a cheesesteak! Instead, you’ll be trying dishes from around the world with modern spins. Sound interesting? Well, this 3-hour secret food tour might be right up your alley.

We opted to take the 12-person group tour for this one, but it does offer a private personalized experience if you would like to upgrade. The group tour begins at the Reading Terminal Market. Following your guide, the first food item of the day is a delicious twist on a Philadelphia favorite – a Philly cheesesteak pretzel. You know you’re in for a good time with this fun combo!

What I loved about this tour was how each of the dishes was from a different cultural background and the history you learned about each. One of my favorite treats was the Apple Dumplings, which are delicious and were widely popular in America because of the ease of finding ingredients to make them and, of course, how tasty they are!

Making our way through the city, we stopped off at many places to try a variety of dishes. However, out of the whole day, I found the Malaysian Nasi Lemak we had in Chinatown to be my top favorite. Not only because I had never had Malay food, but also because everything was so fresh. Malaysian cuisine is certainly something I keep an eye out for everywhere we go now!

But this wouldn’t be a secret food tour without some secret food right? Each tour includes a secret dish that is only revealed on the day of. I wish I could tell you what yours would be, but I have no idea! All of this food and more is included during your day with the tour ending conveniently near the Liberty Bell. So if you haven’t seen it yet this is a perfect time to stop by.

This tour operates every day except Sunday and tickets are $85 USD.

7. Is the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia wheelchair friendly? 

A woman reading a sign at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
I can’t wait to go back!

Yes, the Reading Terminal Market is wheelchair friendly! All of the entrance doors are street-level with the exception of one, door number 3. There are automatic doors on both 12th Street and Filbert Street. Along with being wheelchair accessible, there is handicapped parking around the building as well as in their partner parking garages.

8. Is visiting the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia worth it? 

A woman walking through Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia with a sign that says chesters hoagies

Yes, the Reading Terminal Market can’t be missed! The sheer amount of world-famous delicious foods you can get here makes it a must-do when in Philadelphia. Couple that with the living history of the building and seeing where local restaurants source their ingredients and you have a recipe for a great time.

We found that we got more out of our experience when visiting with a tour since they take you to all the best places, are convenient, and give you a level of insight into the food you can’t get anywhere else. So what are you waiting for? Go enjoy some of the best food in Philly!

Related Read: If you’re a serious foodie, you’ll also love these NYC food tours!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Philadelphia

Bailey looks out the window of City Hall Tower in Philadelphia
Enjoying the view from the City Hall Tower
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA
Two cocktails at Sassafras in Philadelphia, USA

Going to Reading Terminal Market is awesome, but it’s not the only thing you should do in the City of Brotherly Love! There are plenty of fun activities in Philadelphia. So, if you’re looking to fill that itinerary, check out some of my favorite options below.

  • Go for cocktails – Philly is home to awesome cocktail bars like the Ranstead Room, which is a candlelit speakeasy serving craft cocktails. Andra Hem is a Swedish-style cocktail bar with super unique ingredients, and South 2nd Street is good for bar hopping (head to Sassafras!). Or, join this small group cocktail tour which takes you to 4-5 bars that you’d probably never find by yourself.
  • See Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens – Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is, indeed, magical! This open-air gallery on South Street is known for its mosaics, which remind me a bit of Gaudi. It’s a great example of local art and the perfect destination to snap Instagram-worthy photos. You can also book this art tour that visits the Magic Gardens along with the city’s top murals.
  • Take a nighttime ghost tour – If you like dark history, try this adult nighttime walking tour. We wrote a full review of this dark Philly tour, where we describe how it delves into Philadelphia’s creepier past – including the city’s original red light district, execution sites, and haunted spots. Along the way, you’ll hear tales about the city’s vampires, ghosts, and pirates … oh my!
  • Ride on a hop-on, hop-off bus – To see all the city’s top sights, check out this hop-on, hop-off bus. It has a super comprehensive route and takes you to a ton of places, including City Hall, Rittenhouse Square, Love Park, Chinatown, and tons more! You get guided commentary but can still explore at your own pace.
  • Go up the City Hall Tower – Not everyone knows you can go up to the very top of the City Hall Tower, where you’ll get epic 360-degree views! You do need to book this tour well in advance as there are only a few spaces available per day. It only costs $16 USD per person and lasts for about 30 minutes, so it’s easy to fit into a busy sightseeing itinerary. 

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!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia
Thanks for reading!

The Reading Market is a unique spot in Philadelphia – we love that visiting the market lets you learn more about the history of the area while also getting to eat some really tasty bites. Taking a tour helped us learn facts and try foods we wouldn’t have known about otherwise, but even just visiting on your own is a great experience!

Before you go, have a look at some of our other guides to destinations in the USA. You can get started with one of the related blogs linked below:

How to Spend One Week in NYC: A Complete New York Itinerary

The 10 BEST Washington DC History Tours for First-Time Visitors

30 BEST Free and Cheap Things to do in Philadelphia