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Philadelphia – aka Philly – is one of the most famous cities in the United States and we had a ton of fun here on our most recent trip!
One thing that we loved about Philly is that it’s super historic. There are tons of museums and monuments to check out but a lot of the city’s history is actually pretty dark, which was really interesting to discover.
There’s also tons of art, culture, and food to enjoy in Philadelphia. And it’s not just about Philly cheesesteaks either, although we ate our fair share of them on a few food tours and can say they are pretty great.
All in all, we were super impressed by how much there was to do in the City of Brotherly Love, which is why we’ve put together this guide containing 33 awesome things to do in Philadelphia.
Don’t have time to read the full article? Check out our list of our absolute favorite things to do in Philadelphia:
- Eat Philly cheesteaks galore at Pat’s or take a food tour to find the best local spots!
- See the Liberty Bell (for free!)
- Run up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps made famous by Rocky and take a private tour to see other iconic filming locations
- Marvel at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
- Get the best views with a trip up the City Hall Tower
- Things to do in Philadelphia
- 1. Eat a Philly cheesesteak
- 2. See the Liberty Bell
- 3. Tour Independence Hall
- 4. Visit the Museum of the American Revolution
- 5. Check out the other museums
- 6. Go for cocktails
- 7. See Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
- 8. Philadelphia Museum of Art
- 9. Rocky steps and statue
- 10. Italian Market
- 11. Go on a food tour!
- 12. Visit City Hall
- 13. Go up the City Hall Tower
- 14. Macy's Organ concert
- 15. Night ghost/adult tour
- 16. Join a trolley (drinking!) tour
- 17. Eat a "Philly" pie
- 18. Visit the local breweries
- 19. Reading Terminal Market
- 20. Chinatown
- 21. Elfreth's Alley and Museum
- 22. Explore the Old City
- 23. Rittenhouse Square and eat at Parc
- 24. Walk Schuylkill Banks
- 25. Oldest pub in the city – McGillin's Olde Ale House
- 26. Visit the famous Love Park
- 27. Wander the Longwood Gardens
- 28. Go on an art tour
- 29. Washington Square and Talula's Garden
- 30. Ride on a hop-on hop-off bus
- 31. Visit the Masonic Temple
- 32. Historic (and fancy) dining experience at Del Friscos
- 33. Brunch at Cafe la Maude
- Where to Stay in Philadelphia, USA
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!
Things to do in Philadelphia
1. Eat a Philly cheesesteak
Of course, the number one thing to do in Philadelphia is eat a famous Philly cheesesteak!
For the uninitiated, Philly cheesesteaks are long hoagie rolls filled with thinly sliced beefsteak and melted cheese. They’re so good and pretty much every pub in Philadelphia sells them, and everyone has a different opinion about which place has the best sandwich!
We tried a few different Philly cheesesteaks while in the city (but come on, who’s counting?!).
You can actually go and eat the original Philly cheesecake at Pat’s in South Philly. Pat’s is the creator of the Philly cheesesteak and it’s been run by the Oliveri family for almost 90 years! It’s a bit outside of the main tourist area but we thought it was well worth the drive!
Meanwhile, across the road from Pat’s, you’ve got Geno’s, aka their biggest rival. At one point the owners even went on Dr. Phil to try to sort it out! Most locals think the rivalry is mostly for show these days. However, both places saw a huge surge in sales as a result of their famous rivalry, so I guess it’s true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
At both shops, you’ll see long lines, bright lights, and billboards. You need to carefully read the instructions on the walls for how to order your cheesesteak before you get to the counter, or you might get sent to the back of the line – yes, really!
Visiting Pat’s and/or Geno’s is a quintessentially Philly experience and we loved it, but for a more relaxing experience, there are also some excellent smaller spots in town.
We loved Sonny’s in the old city because the meat was really good quality. They use fresh rib eye steaks in their sandwiches and we found that they had a lot more cheese options than most other places. They even had blue cheese, which is Bailey’s favorite, whereas Pat’s and Geno’s only offer cheese whiz or American cheese.
Oh Brother Philly is another great spot that we really liked. They have some specialty cheesesteaks on offer, like mushroom truffle and Mediterranean!
Most Philly cheesesteaks cost between $12-$16 USD, and they’re pretty big. As we said, every pub in the city sells them so you can try a ton and see where you find your favorite – it might be different from ours! Also, make sure to specify whether or not you want onions when ordering your cheesesteak.
If you’re not sure where to start, some of the best food tours in Philadelphia will get you pointed in the right direction! You can even book this Philly cheesesteak segway tour, which will take you zooming around the city to all the best spots including Pat’s and Geno’s! It’s quite the experience and you get to explore some of the city’s coolest neighborhoods, like Chinatown and Society Hill, along the way.
This food tour costs $90 USD per person, including your friendly guide, all the cheesesteaks, Segways, helmets, and fun photos from your experience! You can book your spot online here.
2. See the Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is a must-see while in Philly. It’s a famous symbol of not just the city of Philadelphia, but the United States as a whole.
Honestly, for such an iconic historical artifact, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding the bell. It was made in 1751 and when Colonel John Nixon publicly read out the Declaration of Independence to the citizens of Philadelphia in 1776, bells were rung all over the city. It’s believed that the Liberty Bell was among those.
On top of this, no one knows exactly how or when the bell first got its famous crack, although we do know that it was rung for the final time on President’s Day in 1846 when the crack became too big for it to continue being used.
The bell was later adopted by the anti-slavery movement as an abolitionist symbol, which is when it became known as the Liberty Bell.
The bell is kept in the Liberty Bell Centre. Surprisingly, it’s free to visit and there’s no booking required, but unsurprisingly it’s usually super busy and there’s a LONG line to get in.
There are a limited number of visitors allowed inside the Liberty Bell Centre at a time and you’ll need to go through security, so it could be a couple of hours of waiting before you see the bell.
It opens at 9 am so you should try to get there beforehand to avoid a long wait. We arrived at 8:45 am and got in right when it opened, so it was perfect timing!
Once you get inside the Liberty Bell Center there are lots of information boards and it’s a bit like a mini museum. You also get to go right up to the bell and you can line up to take a photo with it if you like.
You can also visit the Liberty Bell on a history tour, like this one. This way, you get to visit and learn about lots of Philadelphia’s most historic sites in just a couple of hours, including the President’s House (the “first” White House!) and Congress Hall – which housed Congress back when Philly was the US capital.
Plus, joining a tour means you don’t need to read all of the info boards in the Liberty Bell Centre because you hear it all from your guide. It really helps bring all the history of Philly to life! For $29 USD per person, we think it’s good value for money, too. The walking tours are offered daily and can be booked here.
3. Tour Independence Hall
Independence Hall is known as the birthplace of the USA because it’s 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 the history inside these walls is extraordinary. Even as Canadian and Australian, we were blown away 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. Booking opens at 5 pm the night before and is 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. You’ll also need to arrive about 30 minutes before your tour start time to go through security. You also don’t need to book tour tickets if you’re visiting in January or February!
4. Visit the Museum of the American Revolution
There are a ton of museums to explore in Philly, but if you’re only going to do one, then make it this one!
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 a fantastic place to learn more about US history. We found that you need at least two hours to do the museum properly, but you could easily spend longer here, especially if you’re a big history fan.
There are lots of different exhibits but the entire upstairs section is one large one that tells the story of the American Revolution through artifacts including weapons, personal letters and diaries, and works of art. We found it really interesting to learn more about how and why the revolution started, and you even get to see George Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters tent and his list of grievances against the King of England.
The American Revolution Museum is also super popular so you should book your tickets in advance. It’s best to book online because it’s easier, helps you skip the ticket lines, and 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 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 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. We definitely think it’s worth doing, especially because it only costs $50 USD, including your museum entry! You can book this VIP tour of the museum with Viator here.
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- 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.
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5. Check out the other museums
There are far too many museums in Philadelphia to list them all, but you should definitely spend some time checking out the ones that interest you the most! From the African American Museum in Philadelphia to the Please Touch Museum which has two whole floors of exhibits for kids, there are so many experiences on offer.
The Penn Museum is also really cool with a range of exhibits documenting human history worldwide, including a super interesting ancient food exhibit.
Some other great museums to check out are:
- Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History
- Museum of Illusions
- Benjamin Franklin Museum
- The Mütter Museum
- Rodin Museum
- Betsy Ross House
- American Swedish Historical Museum
- The Rosenbach
As you can see, the list goes on … and on and on! Whatever you’re interested in, there’s probably a museum for you in Philly.
6. Go for cocktails
Philadelphia is home to some awesome cocktail bars, which are perfect for relaxing in the evening after a busy day of exploring.
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 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.
1 Tippling Place is another stylish spot with a really nice vintage feel. There’s a great atmosphere here as it’s not too busy and difficult to get in, but you still get the thrill of drinking in a super cool hidden bar.
Meanwhile, in the Old City, South 2nd Street is home to lots of nice bars, including Cuban and Peruvian spots (which are called Cuba Libre and Vista Peru respectively). Our favorite, though, was one called Sassafras. It’s a historic and cozy neighborhood bar with a big cocktail menu – there’s even an absinthe cocktail on there!
If you really love cocktails, then you can take this small group cocktail tour which takes you to 4-5 bars that you’d probably never find by yourself. There’s a max group size of 10 so it’s a great way to meet other travelers and enjoy a fun night together, and you get to discover the bars that Philly’s locals love. 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.
7. See Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
For a unique spot that we truly think is a must-see, head to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens!
It’s an open-air gallery on South Street that was once a pretty run-down neighborhood, but local artists came together to beautify the area, and this quirky garden is at the heart of it all. It’s known for its mosaics, which remind me a bit of Gaudi.
The Magic Gardens were created by Isiah Zagar, who used an array of materials including bottles, kitchen tiles, mirrors, bicycle wheels, and many other materials to make these beautiful mosaics.
You only need about 20 minutes here but it is so worth checking out because it really is a testament to the power of local art! Plus, it’s an amazing spot for photos and will definitely take your Instagram feed to the next level.
You should book tickets for the Magic Gardens in advance via their website to avoid having to wait outside. There are timed slots for entry every 30 minutes from 11:30 am until 5:30 pm. Tickets cost $15 USD. You can turn up on the day, but you’ll probably end up waiting a while, so it’s definitely best to book. Tickets go on sale one month in advance, but you can usually book the day before.
If you want a more comprehensive overview of South Philly’s art scene, you can also book this tour. It includes entry to the Magic Gardens and your guide will also take you to see some of the city’s best murals in the vibrant Queen Village and Bella Vista neighborhoods. It’s a great way to get off the beaten tourist track and learn more about Philadelphia’s awesome street art scene. Tickets are $49 USD which includes a donation to a group supporting local artists.
8. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Keeping with the art theme, Philly is an awesome city for art lovers and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is worth checking out. As well as their awesome collections of American and Asian art, Grace Kelly’s iconic wedding dress is on display here, too!
The museum will also be of interest to history fans, as there are lots of interesting historical collections, such as one that depicts Benjamin Franklin, and the Arms and Armor gallery. I also like the fact that there’s a collection of art by entirely self-taught artists.
Admission costs $30 USD and is free for under 18s. You can also “pay what you wish” on the first Sunday of every month and every Friday night from 5 pm until 8:45 pm.
The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s open from 10 am until 5 pm every other day of the week, except Fridays when it stays open late.
9. Rocky steps and statue
We know that art museums aren’t everyone’s thing but even if you’re not into art, you might still want to pay a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see its famous entrance steps.
These steps were made famous by the Rocky movies because Rocky himself runs up the front steps and then punches the air when he reaches the top. You’ll see tons of people doing this outside the museum and taking photos when you visit!
The steps are free to visit and there’s even a Rocky statue at the bottom of them, which is another great photo opportunity. We won’t judge if you decide to blast “Eye of the Tiger” while creating your own Rocky moment!
If you’re keen to see more famous movie locations in Philadelphia, you can take this private TV and movie tour! You’ll visit the iconic Rocky steps as well as other locations that have been used in hits like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Sixth Sense, and Cold Case. It’s fun if you’re a movie buff, but the guides are also great at giving you insight into Philly, so it’s a bit of a city tour too! Tickets are $70 USD.
10. Italian Market
The Italian Market has been around since the 19th century, but it’s another Philly landmark that was made famous by Rocky!
The scene where Rocky runs on the street and market vendors are throwing fruit was filmed here, and it looks pretty much the same today as it did in 1976.
It really takes you back to the days before big supermarkets took over and everyone used to get their groceries from local markets, although you can now find a ton of international foods here that probably wouldn’t have been available in the 70s.
Overall, though, the market does still have an authentic Italian feel and it’s a great place to shop for quality meat, cheese, fruit, and veggies. You can also find fresh fish and seafood around, so it’s a good place to shop if you’re looking to cook up a storm.
When we visited the Italian Market, we went to Anthony’s Italian Coffee and Chocolate House, and we loved it. They make amazing chocolates here which you just have to try, and they serve strong coffee, so it’s a great pick me up on a long day of sightseeing. They even do chocolate-covered bacon, which is so unique and a must-try!
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for pasta, go to Villa di Roma. It’s an authentic, no-frills restaurant, and it’s one of the best-known Italian restaurants in Philadelphia. The house sauce is especially beloved and now they even sell jars of it that you can take home. You can’t book a table here but if there’s a queue when you arrive, know that it will be worth the wait.
For the most in-depth experience of the Italian Market, you can also take this tour of the Italian Market which is led by a local chef! It’s an awesome way to learn more about Philly’s culinary heritage, discover the best stalls, and try a ton of locally made goodies, from cheese and Philly pizza to Mexican tortillas. It’s a well-rated tour with hundreds of 5-star reviews and for only $80 USD, there’s a ton of food!
Related Read: Another famous market FULL of incredible food is in NYC. Here’s everything you need to know before visiting Chelsea Market!
11. Go on a food tour!
Philadelphia is a foodie’s dream and trust us when we say that there’s so much more to the city’s food scene than just cheesesteaks! There’s so much on offer here, so you should go on a food tour in Philadelphia to try it ALL.
We wanted to eat as much great food as possible in Philadelphia so we booked this Flavors of Philly food tour and it was amazing. Seriously, we’ve done food tours all over the world and this was one of the best ones we’ve EVER done anywhere. We were so impressed and had so much delicious food!
You get to try so much typical Philly food on this tour. Of course, cheesesteaks are involved but we also had tomato pie (more on that later in the blog) as well as pretzels, cheese whiz fries, and desserts.
We had so much fun and were really impressed by this tour. Plus, for $65 USD per person, we thought it was good value for money and 100% worth it. Just make sure to arrive hungry, because you’ll leave feeling absolutely stuffed! You can reserve a spot on the exact same food tour we took right here.
12. Visit City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, and it’s super historic, too, dating back to 1894. It’s the seat of the local government and there’s a statue of William Penn at the top, who founded the city of Philadelphia and the whole state of Pennsylvania.
For a long time, there was actually a gentleman’s agreement in place that no building would be built higher than the hat on William Penn’s statue. However, this was broken in 1986 with the construction of One Liberty Place and it’s said that this placed a curse on local sports teams. The curse is said to have lasted for 22 years until 2008 when the Phillies basketball team won the 2008 World Series.
Philadelphia City Hall was also designed to be the world’s tallest building, but it was overtaken before it was even finished by both the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower. However, it’s still the world’s largest free-standing masonry building.
It has also been featured in a handful of movies, including Rocky, Limitless, and the second Transformers movie.
You can explore the exterior of City Hall on your own and go to the Visitor Center, but if you want to see inside then you’ll need to take a tour.
The tours last for 2.5 hours and you can book them through the Visitor Center website. You’ll get to explore the City Hall’s most impressive rooms and take a tour around the perimeter to see the 250 sculptures that adorn the building. You’ll also learn even more about the building’s history and hear some stories about events that have transpired here.
Tours run from Monday to Friday at 12 pm and 1 pm. They cost $35 USD and are wheelchair accessible. It’s definitely worth doing one if you’re interested in history!
13. Go up the City Hall Tower
A lot of people don’t know that you can actually go to the very top tower of City Hall – and even fewer people actually get to do it!
Not only is this one of the best things to do in Philly, but you also get amazing 360-degree views of the city from up here! It only costs $15 USD per person and lasts for about 30 minutes, so it’s easy to fit into a busy sightseeing itinerary.
You do need to book this tour well in advance as there are only a few spaces available per day. We are so glad that we did because it was one of our favorite things that we did while in Philadelphia! The views were spectacular and it’s so nice that they only let a few people up at a time, because the observation deck doesn’t get super crowded.
14. Macy’s Organ concert
A lot of people think of New York City when they think of Macy’s, but there’s actually one right here in Philly. It’s a very ornate and beautiful building, and it’s 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.
The organ has been played twice a day, six days a week, since 1911 without interruption, so 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.
15. Night ghost/adult 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.
Instead of taking a daytime sightseeing tour, we recommend taking a quirky evening tour instead. We did this adult night tour and it was awesome!
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.
16. Join a trolley (drinking!) tour
Philadelphia’s historic trolleys are great for sightseeing, but what’s even better is when you get to bring your own booze and drink as you learn all about the city’s history!
This BYOB super fun trolley tour aims to bring history to life. The guides create a fun and lively atmosphere, and of course, the fact that you can bring your own drinks with you helps, too. Plus, it probably works out a lot cheaper than just hitting the bars, and you get to learn something too – it’s a win-win as far as we’re concerned!
As you tour around the city, you’ll see some of Philly’s most famous sights, including Betsy Ross House, City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary (where Al Capone was briefly held), and the famous Rocky Statue. You’ll get off to snap some photos along the way and your guides will tell you stories that really bring these historic places to life.
Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get time to do this tour ourselves, but we heard really good things from friends and the tour has glowing reviews. It’s definitely at the top of our list for the next time we travel to Philly! You can book a spot on this trolley tour online for $48.50 USD and maybe we’ll see you there!
17. Eat a “Philly” pie
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, but 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!
Related Read: If you’re after more iconic eats, a food tour in New York delivers on the famous pizza and so much more!
18. Visit the local breweries
Philadelphia has a great craft beer scene and it’s been around for a while. Dock Street Brewery opened in 1985, and it was the first craft brewery to open since Prohibition!
We liked Craft Hall as it’s very central and has lots of beers on tap. There’s also a pirate ship playground for kids, arcade machines, board games, shuffleboard, and a pool table. It’s so much fun!
Yards Brewing Company is one of Philly’s most popular and it has been around since 1994. They’ve got a few different locations but the best one is on Spring Garden Street. It’s powered by green energy and they have 20 different beers on tap, as well as a nice beer garden.
Our favorite, though, is Iron Hill Brewery. It’s got a great location, right in the city center, and a ton of unique fruity IPA combination beers! We loved the Cherry Bomb, and they also serve excellent bar food like Mexican Street Corn, pretzel sticks, and of course their own take on the famous Philly cheesesteak.
If you’re keen to go more in-depth, then you should definitely join this guided brewery tour which visits three of the city’s best breweries. The samples are generous everywhere you go so you really get a taste for the craft beer scene and find exactly what you like (which for us was a lot!). The tour lasts for about 3.5 hours and includes a behind-the-scenes look at how the brews are made. For $120 USD including all transport (in a beer-themed van!), 12 different drinks, and a pretzel snack, we think booking this tour is great value for money and a really fun way to spend some time in Philly!
19. Reading Terminal Market
We weren’t kidding when we told you that Philly is a foodie city! This awesome indoor market is an amazing place to try a ton of different foods, and we loved exploring it.
We’d be here forever if we listed all of the delicious foods you can eat in Reading Terminal Market, but there were some that really stood out to us. If you’re ready for a main meal, head to Hunger Burger for amazing mac and cheese, or for a snack Sparrow’s sells gourmet flavored popcorn, which is fun to try. You can also visit Bassett’s, which is the oldest ice cream shop in the city and the first permanent merchant at the Reading Terminal Market!
We also loved the doughnuts at Beiler’s Doughnuts – they’re the best ever! And The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company sells amazing cookies, especially the chocolate chip ones. They’re made with a family recipe that hasn’t changed in over 40 years, it’s just that good!
You can head to the market by yourself and explore on your own, or you can join a food tour. The food tour that we did ended here and took us around the market to try some of its top goodies. We loved this tour so much and it’s a great way to get to know Reading Terminal Market, so we highly recommend it.
A lot of tourists skip Philly’s Chinatown, which we think is a real shame.
We had a local recommendation to explore the area and we’re so glad that we did. It’s a really nice area with plenty of authentic Chinese restaurants and shops to explore. You can also find Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Burmese cuisine around here so it’s yet another fantastic foodie destination in the city.
We went to Terakawa Ramen while we were exploring Chinatown, and we strongly recommend that you do the same. It’s so tasty and you get HUGE portions!
There are also some bubble tea spots around (although personally, I find it way too sweet) and lots of specialty stores.
There’s also a big Chinese friendship arch here, which marks the entrance to the area. It’s brightly colored and over 40 feet (12 meters) tall, so snapping a photo with it is a must while you’re in the area.
21. Elfreth’s Alley and Museum
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, despite the fact that 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, 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.
22. Explore the Old City
The Old City is the most interesting part of Philly to explore. There are dozens of historical buildings and museums here, including the Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. You can even visit the burial ground at Christ Church to see the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin.
One of the best ways to explore the Old City is to take a self-guided audio tour. This way you can go at your own pace while listening to stories that really bring the area to life and help you to put everything you’re seeing into context. It should take between 1-2 hours to complete and for $14.99, you really can’t go wrong!
If you prefer, you could just head to the Independence Visitor Center to get some information about the Old City and a map to help you explore.
You can also join a guided walking tour of the Old City, which we think is a really nice way to see the area. This tour is super highly rated and lasts for about 1.5 hours, during which you’ll explore the area’s most important landmarks, including the Ben Franklin Post Office, Elfreth’s Alley, and Carpenters’ Hall. The commentary is super engaging and really helps to bring history to life! It’s especially great if it’s your first time in Philly. Tickets are $43.50 USD when you book in advance.
23. Rittenhouse Square and eat at Parc
Rittenhouse Square is one of our favorite green spaces in Philadelphia. It’s a beautiful park that covers 3 hectares (7.5 acres) and it’s such a cute place to stroll around. There’s a water fountain, pretty garden beds, and plenty of benches to sit and relax on, so it’s ideal for people-watching!
And if you’re after an extra special street, you can go and eat at Parc, which is very literally named considering the fact that it’s right on the edge of the park. They’ve got French-style decor and tables out on the street, so it feels very Parisian!
We had lunch at Parc and found that the food was delicious, not to mention reasonably priced. We ate outside and people-watched in the park, which was a nice break!
24. Walk Schuylkill Banks
The Schuylkill River runs through Philadelphia and there are nice trails around for walking or cycling along. Better yet, there’s also a boardwalk that actually extends over the river between South and Locust Streets.
You’ll get great views of Philly’s skyline as you explore Schuylkill Banks and there are info boards where you can learn more about the local environment. There are benches along the way where you can stop to rest and admire the view, or even cast a line for a bit of fishing! Both locals and tourists frequent this area to get some fresh air and exercise, and we can see why.
You can even walk the boardwalk trail at night if you prefer so that you can admire the city lights if you want. The area is illuminated by solar-powered street lamps and the buildings look great when they’re all lit up.
25. Oldest pub in the city – McGillin’s Olde Ale House
We love a pub that makes us feel like we’re stepping back in time, so if you’re anything like us then you should definitely grab a drink at McGillin’s Olde Ale House.
McGillin’s first opened in 1860, which is the same year that Abraham Lincoln was elected president! It was originally owned by two Irish immigrants, who raised their 13 children in the rooms upstairs.
The pub even survived Prohibition, officially by serving food and ice cream, and unofficially serving alcohol in teacups to avoid suspicion from the authorities.
Funnily enough, McGillins also claims to be the most romantic place in Philadelphia, claiming that more couples have met here than anywhere else in the city!
It’s very much an old-timey Irish pub and it’s a great, low-key place to go for a drink in the heart of the city. The prices are really reasonable here and they have great happy hour specials, like $3 USD tacos on Wednesdays, $6 USD margaritas on Thursdays, and $5 USD Bloody Marys and mimosas on Saturdays.
26. Visit the famous Love Park
Love Park is one of the most famous photo stops in Philly. It’s a public park that’s best known for its red Love sign, with the slanting letter O.
It’s 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!
27. Wander the Longwood Gardens
The Longwood Gardens are some of the most beloved botanical gardens in the USA, and they’re just 36 miles (58 kilometers) from the center of Philly!
These gorgeous gardens cover a huge area and consist of six different districts, including a lakes district, a huge conservatory, and a stunning fountain garden which will make you feel like you’re in an episode of Bridgerton. Each district changes with the seasons, so the gardens are wonderful to visit at any time of year.
The gardens have been open to the public since the late 1800s, although they have developed a lot since then. They’re really popular with visitors to Philly, attracting well over a million visitors every year!
Tickets to the Longwood Gardens cost $25 USD for adults and $13 USD for kids, although it does cost slightly more to go at Christmas time. The gardens are open from 10 am until 6 pm on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, and stay open until 10 pm from Thursday to Saturday. They’re closed on Tuesdays, so don’t try to visit then!
If you don’t have a rental car while you’re in Philadelphia, you can visit the Longwood Gardens on this tour, which leaves the city at 9 am from Friday to Monday. For $129 USD, it includes admission to the gardens, round-trip transport, and a guided tour of the gardens.
We think it’s definitely worth taking a guided tour because you learn so much more! There’s never a bad time to go either – the tulips in the spring are stunning and the Christmas display is on my bucket list to see. You can book a spot on this small-group tour here.
28. Go on an art tour
The city of Philadelphia is famous for its murals and street art. Most businesses are actually required to paint a mural of some sort!
Street art in Philly has a pretty interesting history. In 1984 the Mural Arts Philadelphia program launched. It was actually an anti-graffiti initiative that connected with graffiti artists and encouraged them to create public artworks instead.
Today, the city is home to over 4,000 murals, so it can be hard to see all of the best ones on your own! That’s why we would recommend joining a street art tour that will take you to the best neighborhoods and tell you the stories behind Philly’s most vibrant and creative murals. This tour costs $49 USD and includes entry to the famous Magic Gardens open-air gallery, and we like the fact it’s a small group tour.
29. Washington Square and Talula’s Garden
Washington Square is another nice, green park that’s just a block away from Independence Hall. As well as being a great place to relax and enjoy a little respite in the midst of the busy city, it’s also a fantastic spot for learning more about Philly’s history.
There’s a memorial to George Washington here and a tomb for the unknown soldiers of the American Revolution. There are some information boards around that teach you more about the history of Philadelphia and its role in the American Revolution, which are interesting to read.
Most walking tours will take you to Washington Square, and it’s popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the city’s five original public squares that William Penn envisioned, so it’s pretty historic, too.
Hot tip: Talula’s Garden is on the west side of the park, and it’s one of the best restaurants in the city! You should definitely make a dinner reservation or come here for their awesome Sunday brunch.
30. Ride on a hop-on hop-off bus
One of the things we love about Philly is how walkable it is. Saying that, if you want to see and do everything the city has to offer, you’re going to need some kind of transport – especially if you’re only here for a few days!
Hop-on hop-off buses are super popular in Philadelphia, as they’re by far the cheapest and easiest way to get around. I also really like them because you get guided commentary along the way but you can go at your own pace and explore independently.
This hop on hop off bus has a super comprehensive route and takes you to a ton of places we’ve talked about in this blog post so far, including Reading Terminal Market, City Hall, Rittenhouse Square, Love Park, Chinatown, and tons more!
Buses run between 9:30 am and 5 pm, and you can book a 1, 2, or 3-day ticket online depending on how long you’re in the city for.
It costs $36 USD for a one-day ticket, $55 USD for two days, or $74 USD for three days. You also get a route map and there’s an additional free shuttle to hotels in the city center, so we think this a great bus to choose.
Related Read: We also loved seeing more famous American sights on a Washington, DC river cruise!
31. Visit the Masonic Temple
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.
32. Historic (and fancy) dining experience at Del Friscos
Del Friscos is super fancy, so go here for a treat or a special occasion, not a quick bite!
With that said, we do highly recommend a visit while you’re in Philly because it’s beautiful, and so unique.
The restaurant is housed inside an old bank – or, to be precise, the former home of First Pennsylvania Bank. Del Friscos took over the building in 2008 and they kept a lot of the original decor, including the iron gate, the gigantic marble columns, and the vault, which now houses the restaurant’s private dining rooms.
There’s also a gorgeous, multi-story wine tower that runs through the middle of the restaurant and houses more than 1,500 varieties of wine. Basically, this place is super impressive!
You can order a-la-carte or do the dinner for two, which costs $215 USD per pair and includes starters, appetizers, a 22 oz prime NY strip to share, and a choice of desserts, one of which is butter pecan cake with caramel. Yum!
33. Brunch at Cafe la Maude
Who doesn’t love going for brunch? We certainly do, and we loved Cafe la Maude. It’s a French-Lebanese brunch spot, and they’ve got a heated patio so you can even sit outside in the winter!
There’s a pretty extensive menu that includes baklava pancakes and brisket huevos rancheros. In keeping with Philly’s BYOB restaurant culture, you can bring your own alcohol with you and make your brunch as bottomless as you’d like.
Cafe la Maude is open from 8 am until 4 pm daily and they don’t take reservations, so it’s first come, first served. It’s such a cool and stylish spot, and they definitely live up to their claim of serving “Philly’s best brunch”!
Where to Stay in Philadelphia, USA
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.
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!
Whew, that’s quite the list of all the best things to do in Philadelphia! We loved the charm and history of this city that was around every corner and probably most of all … the food. But that should be no surprise! If you’re going to eat Philly cheesesteak, there’s no better place than Philly right?!
If you’re traveling to other cities in the United States, check out our other USA blogs. Or if you’re off to explore north of the border, we’ve lived and traveled across Canada, so we have lots of info to share!