Philadelphia's Old City is home to a large number of historical sites, galleries, restaurants, and bars, and is known for its active nightlife and cultural opportunities.
Old City Philadelphia, sometimes known as "Olde City", is the most historic square mile in the USA. The streets and most of the buildings are still of the original brick and stone. This vibrant old-world neighborhood is the home to many independently owned boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Philadelphia’s most popular historic attractions — the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, Betsy Ross House, Penn’s Landing — and much more are all just minutes from each other. The area is also near the Pennsylvania Convention Center and several nationally renowned hospitals.
For shopping, visit the 3rd Street Corridor from Chestnut Street to Vine to enjoy art, design and fashion hosted by the Philadelphia region's most exciting independently owned shops and galleries. Highlights include acclaimed boutique Sugarcube, 20th century furniture design at Mode Moderne, and exhibitions at The Center for Art in Wood. It’s a haven for fashionistas and clothing is tax-free.
The area has easy access to all major transportation arteries; it is just ten minutes by car from the Philadelphia International Airport and Amtrak’s 30th Street Station.
Old City hosts a lot of nightlife; expect to see a young, professional crowd here on weekends. The club section of the neighborhood consists of restaurants and bars that frequently showcase music while street musicians entertain outside.
Just east of Old City is Penn's Landing, which is on the waterfront. You'll find an array of convenient hotels and restaurants. Every New Year's Eve and Independence Day, crowds gather on the Great Plaza to watch the fireworks. Nearby is Festival Pier, where many concerts are held.
- Penn's Landing is the waterfront area, popular year-round with attractions such as an ice skating rink, concerts, and various city events. There are also many restaurants, hotels, and even a museum. Penn's Landing
- Old City is between Front and Fourth Streets to the east and west, and generally bounded by Race Street to the north and Walnut Street to the south.
You can find parking structures and rates with the PPA Parking Finder. Parking along the streets in Old City is metered, scarce and frequently with a two-hour limit.
Numerous SEPTA bus routes serve the Old City, as well as the PHLASH Trolley trolley that operates part of the year.
The Market-Frankford Line runs under Market Street with two stations serving Old City: 2nd Street and 5th Street.
- Independence National Historical Park and Visitor's Center, 6th and Market Sts, ☎ . 8:30AM-5PM daily. This national park, covering several blocks of Old City Philadelphia, includes some of the Philadelphia's most famous historic sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin's house and grave, and the house in which the Declaration of Independence was written. The park also includes a modern interactive museum, the National Constitution Center. The Independence Visitor's Center, where you must buy tickets to see Independence Hall, offers a wealth of information on historical sites and other attractions in the area. Costumed interpreters at the Visitor's Center are a great source of entertainment for children. The National Park Service provides a helpful map of the historical sites in the park. Free.
Sites within Independence National Historical Park
- Independence Hall, Chestnut St between 5th and 6th Sts. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 9AM-6PM. The centerpiece of the park and arguably its most important building. Originally known as the Pennsylvania State House, this is where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, and where the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787, among other momentous historical events. The Independence Hall is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors to the park are encouraged to take a tour of the interior of the building, which is furnished with period pieces, including the exact desk and chair the Declaration of Independence was signed. Timed tour tickets must be reserved in advance online or at the Visitor's Center in order to enter. Tickets reserved online have a $1.50 processing fee, but are free at the Visitor's Center. Free.
- Liberty Bell Center, Market St between 5th and 6th Sts. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 9AM-6PM. The Liberty Bell once rang out public announcements from above the Pennsylvania state house (now Independence Hall). It became a public symbol of freedom when it toured the country after the Civil War to help mend political and social divisions. Returning to Philadelphia in 1915, it is now housed in the Liberty Bell Center where visitors can get an up close look at the 2000-pound bell and its mysterious crack. Free.
- National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St. M-F 9:30AM-5PM, Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. This brand-spanking new museum, which opened its doors in 2003, bills itself as the most interactive history museum in America. A visit to the museum begins with a performance of "Freedom Rising," a multimedia presentation about the major themes and origin of the Constitution. Afterwards, visitors can experience the democratic process first hand and see exhibits like the 42 life-size bronze statues of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Fun for all ages. Upcoming special events and exhibits are posted on the Center's website. $12 adults, $11 seniors, $8 children 4-12. Active military personnel and children under 4 enter free.
- Carpenter's Hall, 320 Chestnut St (in Carpenters' Court), ☎ . Tu-Su 10AM-4PM. The delegates from the first Continental Congress gathered in this building, built in 1770, and voted to declare independence from Great Britain. Afterwards, the Hall housed the first and second banks of the United States and was the site of the first bank robbery in America. Free.
- New Hall Military Museum, 320 Chestnut St (in Carpenters' Court). A small museum showcasing the role of the Army, Navy, and Marines in early American history. The building is a reconstruction of one built in the 1790s that housed the office of the first Secretary of War.
- Congress Hall, 6th and Chestnut Sts. 9AM-5PM daily. This smaller building to the right of Independence Hall is where the U.S. Congress met from 1790-1800 when Philadelphia served as the nation's capital. The Bill of Rights was ratified here, and it was the site of George Washington's second inauguration. A tour of the interior is a must, since much of the furniture and decoration is original. Free.
- Franklin Court, 316-322 Market St (between 3rd and 4th Sts). Printing office open M-F 10AM-3PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM; B. Free Franklin Post Office open M-Sa 9AM-5PM; underground museum currently closed for renovations until Spring 2013. This area contains the remnants of Benjamin Franklin's house (torn down 20 years after his death), the first Post office (still in operation today), a Postal Service museum, an 18th century printing office, and a Franklin museum. U.S. Park Rangers conduct printing demonstrations and performances of Franklin's "Glass Armonica." Great for kids. Free.
- Declaration House (Graff House), 701 Market St. W-Su 9:30AM-noon. This is a reconstruction of the house built by Jacob Graff in 1775, where, a year after it was built, Thomas Jefferson rented two rooms and wrote the Declaration of Independence. Today, the first floor of the house contains exhibits and a short film about the Declaration, while the second floor where Jefferson lived has been recreated with period furniture. Free.
- Christ Church, 20 N American St (corner of 2nd and Market Sts), ☎ . Visiting hours are M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM. Christ Church, the first parish of the Anglican church in Pennsylvania, was founded in 1695 and is still active today; the existing building dates from 1744. Many of the founding fathers worshiped here, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Francis Hopkinson and Robert Morris. Visiting the church is free, but a $3 donation is suggested.
- Christ Church Burial Ground, 5th and Arch Sts, ☎ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM from March-November. Seven signers of the Declaration of Independence and five signers of the Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin, are buried in this cemetery, affiliated with the church listed above. The earliest grave dates to 1721. Tours of the cemetery are $2 adults, $1 students.
- Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, 3rd and Pine Sts. W-Su noon-4PM. The house of this little-known freedom fighter and military engineer who designed fortifications for the colonists during the Revolutionary War is now open to the public. Visitors can watch a video of Kosciuszko's career in Poland and the United States, see his bedroom, and view exhibits commemorating his accomplishments. Audio materials are presented in English or Polish. Free.
- Second Bank of the United States, 420 Chestnut St (between 4th and 5th Sts). The Second Bank was chartered in 1816, five years after the First Bank lost its charter. Initially located a block away in the same building the First Bank was in (see above), it soon relocated to its permanent home. Its charter expired in 1836 and wasn't renewed; it then functioned as an ordinary bank until it went bankrupt in 1841. The building then served as the Philadelphia Custom House from 1845-1935; nowadays it houses a portrait gallery (the People of Independence exhibit) containing artwork depicting various colonial and federal leaders. Free.
Some historic sites in Philadelphia are associated with the Independence National Historic Park but are not located within its boundaries or the boundaries of Old City. These include the Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church in South Philly, the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute in Center City West, and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in North Philly.
Important historical sites outside the park
- Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St, ☎ . 10AM-5PM daily Apr-Oct; closed M Oct-Mar. This house, more than 250 years old, was the home of Betsy Ross. In 1777, Ross sewed by hand the first American flag, with its distinctive circle of thirteen stars. Visitors may tour the house independently, or purchase an audio guide for $5, and afterwards "meet" Betsy Ross and other colonial craftsmen in the courtyard of the house. A fun, low-key activity for children. Suggested admission $3 adults, $2 children.
- Elfreth’s Alley, off 2nd St, between Arch and Race Sts, ☎ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM; closed M. Elfreth's Alley is the oldest continually inhabited residential street in the entire United States. The earliest dated house was built in 1702. The Alley comes alive in the summer, when historical reenactments take place regularly. Each house is privately owned, and visitors are not usually allowed to take a tour of the interior, except on "Fete Day" (the first Sunday of June) when most of the houses will be open for public touring. On all other days, however, the museum at numbers 126 and 124 is accessible to the public and offers a look at the lives of the houses' earliest inhabitants. Free; admission to the museum $5; Fete Day admission $25.
- Fireman's Hall Museum, 147 N 2nd St, ☎ . Tu-Sa 10AM-4:30PM, first F 10AM-9PM. The restored firehouse was built in 1902 and today is a museum of firefighting owned by the city of Philadelphia. The museum exhibits include firefighting equipment, photographs, uniforms and fire marks from the 18th century to the present. Free.
Other attractions and museums
- United States Mint, 151 North Independence Mall East. M-F 9AM-3PM M-F; summer hours M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM. Taking a self-guided tour of the first and largest US Mint in America is an interesting but often overlooked activity. The tour allows visitors to see how new money is made, and exhibits describe the history and coinage of the Mint. A gift shop sells commemorative and new coins. Please note that visitors will be asked to show government-issued ID before entering. Free.
- National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East, ☎ . Near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the National Museum of American Jewish History is dedicated to chronicling the American Jewish experience.
- The 'Real World' House, 249 Arch St (at 3rd St). Fans of MTV's "The Real World" will recognize this former bank building, turned living space for the seven cast members of the show's 2005 season. Now the building, which stands next to the Betsy Ross House, is a gallery and wedding hall.
When it was built, I-95 effectively and disastrously cut off the Delaware river waterfront from the rest of the city. However, the walkways connecting Old City with Penn's Landing make it easy to get to the museums and sights on the water on foot. If you do make it over to Penn's Landing, here are some things to check out:
- Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S Columbus Blvd (at the end of the Walnut St walkway), ☎ . 10AM-5PM daily. This museum has lots of interesting displays regarding the maritime history of Philadelphia, from colonial times through the days of slave-trading to the Industrial Revolution. Admission to the museum, which has some lively, but rather sparse exhibits, includes tours of the USS Olympia, built in 1892 and the oldest steel warship still afloat, and the submarine Becuna, used in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. Other highlights include a mockup of a navigation room and a place where you can view woodworkers handcrafting rowboats. Children will find touring the ships great fun, and adults may find the museum exhibits and the views of the Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge interesting and relaxing. $12 adults, $10 seniors, $7 children/students/military; Pay-what-you-wish admission on Su 10AM-noon.
- Riverlink Ferry. Relaxing 12 minute ferry ride across the Delaware River to all the waterfront attractions in Camden (New Jersey). Offers a great view of the city from the river as well as the Ben Franklin Bridge. $7 adult, $6 children and seniors, under 3 free.
- Race Street Pier (at the foot of Race St, next to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge). 7AM-11PM daily. Pier that juts out into the Delaware River right by the Ben Franklin bridge, offering great views of both the river and bridge. Includes a spacious lawn and benches. View the schedule of events for nights featuring musicians or outdoor movies. One can also enjoy one of the many fireworks displays on the river during the summer months from the pier.
If you happen to be in Philadelphia on the first Friday of the month, you must attend First Friday. From 5PM-9PM, art and design galleries along with boutiques housed in historic industrial spaces of Old City like Rodger LaPelle (most of which can be found in the area between Front and 3rd Streets, and Vine and Market Streets) open their doors to celebrate new monthly exhibitions. But the art, design and fashion is only half the story. First Friday is an ideal time to watch the different communities living in Philadelphia mingle, and watch the sun go down over the city. It's Philadelphia at its best.
Theater and performing arts
- The Actors Center Philadelphia, 257 N 3rd St, ☎ . An acting school that occasionally hosts performances open to the public.
- The N Crowd: Improv Comedy, 257 N 3rd St (at the Actors Center), ☎ . Founded in 2005. Shows every Friday, the troupe has produced more than 300 performances of unscripted comedy. Travels to festivals and other parts of the country putting on fresh new acts every night.
- Arden Theatre Company, 40 N 2nd St, ☎ . The Arden contains a 360-seat mainstage theatre and a 175-seat studio theater. The company produces five or six plays each season, with an additional two plays for children. The Arden has received 44 Barrymore awards and was named Philadelphia Magazine's pick for children's theatre in 2007. $29-48.
- Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St, ☎ . The Bride, as it is known, was founded in 1969 and is dedicated to producing and showing works generated by points of view that are "outside the mainstream," according to the center's website. The center contains a gallery and a 250-seat theater, where shows such as "Jazz on Vine," Philadelphia's oldest continuously running Jazz series, are performed. The Bride also hosts innovative dance and world music performances. A Philadelphia treasure.
- Ritz East, 125 S 2nd St, ☎ . $6.50 all day W and M-Tu,Th-F before 6PM, $9 M-Tu,Th after 6PM, $9.50 F after 6PM and Sa-Su and holidays after 1st matinee, $7.25 1st matinee Sa-Su and holidays.
- Ritz V, 220 Walnut St, ☎ . $6.50 all day W and M-Tu,Th-F before 6PM, $9 M-Tu,Th after 6PM, $9.50 F after 6PM and Sa-Su and holidays after 1st matinee, $7.25 1st matinee Sa-Su and holidays.
- Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St, ☎ . $6.50 all day W and M-Tu,Th-F before 6PM, $9 M-Tu,Th after 6PM, $9.50 F after 6PM and Sa-Su and holidays after 1st matinee, $7.25 1st matinee Sa-Su and holidays.
In addition to myriad art galleries, Old City boasts design studios, modern furniture showrooms and amazing clothing boutiques. Also, it is the restaurant-supply outlet center of the city.
The 3rd Street Corridor located on 3rd Street between Chestnut and Vine Streets, is a premier shopping row which hosts over two dozen of the city's finest boutiques in the Philadelphia region. From vintage clothing at Briar, European furniture at La Roche Bobois, eclectic furniture at Reform, incredible contemporary and select vintage for men and women at Sugarcube, and womenswear at Vagabond. 3rd Street Corridor has the city's best locally owned independent retailers. Also of note are the array of salons and spas like Moko, Strands, Lakshmi, Hush and Spa Terme Di Aroma.
- Sugarcube, 124 N 3rd St (between Arch and Race Sts), ☎ . M-Sa noon-7PM, Su noon-5PM. A boutique which is nationally and internationally recognized for their large collection of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories created by both established and emerging designers alike. GQ Magazine hails Sugarcube as a trailblazer of fashion since 2004, while Wall Paper City Guides features them as one of the world's Best to Offer. Locally, Philadelphia Magazine has proclaimed Sugarcube the "Best of Philly" in combined men and women's categories 7 times in 9 years.
- a.k.a. Music, 27 N 2nd St (between Market and Arch Sts), ☎ . M-Th 11AM-8PM, F-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Lots of hard-to-find releases in all genres from rock & Indie to jazz & experimental. Good vinyl selection, too.
- The Book Trader, 7 N 2nd St (at Market St), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 10AM-10PM daily. Large selection of used books and a couple friendly cats.
- Shane Candies, 110 Market St, ☎ . Su-Th 11AM-7PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. The oldest candy store in the country, this is an original store that has been in this location since 1876. Not only is all the interior decor original but most of the candies are made the same way as they have for generations, without preservatives. Plenty of seasonal candy choices but they are best known for their buttercreams.
- Pemberton House Bookstore, 316 Chestnut St (between 3rd and 4th Sts, in Carpenters' Court). 9AM-5PM daily. Originally built as a house for Quaker merchant Joseph Pemberton, the building was later used as a military museum (which is now located next door in New Hall). Today the house is a bookstore and souvenir shop for Independence National Historical Park.
- Amada, 217 Chestnut St (at Strawberry), ☎ . Weekday lunch/weekend brunch: 11:30AM-2:30PM daily; dinner: Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. Excellent Spanish tapas cuisine; the standard against which all other tapas bars in the city must measure themselves. A large Spanish wine selection along with an enormous variety of tapas, some in traditional Spanish style. Also has an excellent cheese plate, great service, and is a good place for people-watching. Reservations are basically mandatory. $20-30 for entree.
- Buddakan, 325 Chestnut St (between 3rd and 4th Sts), ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5PM-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su 4PM-10PM. One of the more well known restaurants in Philadelphia, it has a fairly good wine list and a focus on Asian food (many varieties). It is often considered one of the top ten to fifteen restaurants in Philadelphia. $25-35 for entree.
- Continental, 138 Market St (at 2nd St), ☎ , fax: +1 215 923-8818. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM, Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- Eulogy Belgian Tavern, 136 Chestnut St (at 2nd St), ☎ . M-W 5PM-2AM, Th-Su 11AM-2AM. A slice of Belgium cuisine: Mussels & Fries, etc. Also a huge variety of beers (Belgian or otherwise) on draft or bottle.
- Franklin Fountain, 116 Market St (at Letitia), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 11AM-midnight, Sa-Su 10:30AM-midnight. An early 1900s-style ice cream saloon with tin ceilings, antique soda dispensers, belt-driven ceiling fans, and servers in period attire. Cash only.
- La Famiglia Ristorante, 8 S Front St (at Market), ☎ . Lunch: Tu-F noon-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. Philadelphia's best Italian restaurant serving customers since 1976. Enormous wine cellar.
- Karma, 114 Chestnut St, ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Excellent Indian cuisine, with a particularly exquisite lunch buffet; dinner specialties include standard Indian dishes as well as some modernized dishes; the focus is on the classics, however. Reservations are recommended for dinner. $10-20 for entrees, buffet is around $10.
- Morimoto, 723 Chestnut St (between 7th and 8th Sts), ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2PM; dinner: Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight. Japanese fusion cuisine from Masaharu Morimoto, famous as Iron Chef Japanese and currently on Food Network's Iron Chef America. Reservations are strongly recommended; dress is upscale casual, jackets are not required
- City Tavern, 138 S 2nd St (at Walnut), ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM. In 1773, the original City Tavern was built and became a prominent meeting place for many leaders of the American Revolution. By the 1790s, however, the tavern was declining as newer places came into favor; it changed hands and uses until its demolition in the mid-1800s. In 1976, in time for the Bicentennial Celebration, a historically accurate replica of the City Tavern was constructed on its original location. The restaurant features recipes by the Founding Fathers; Thomas Jefferson's ale is highly regarded. $7-32.
Old City is packed with restaurants, bars and smaller clubs from Front to 3rd Sts. and Race to Chestnut Sts. with the most concentration on 2nd and 3rd Sts. between Chestnut and Market Sts. Well-dressed attractive professionals crowd the sidewalks all night on the weekends, with the occasional celebrity too. Most of the venues are upscale, dressy and comparatively expensive with DJs and without; watch out for door policy and sometimes a line. There are too many to name and they're all right there, just look into the front windows to decide. You can also find more laidback drinking holes like Skinner's, Sugarmom's and Rotten Ralph's. Upstairs At Nick's has bands and special events. For a quieter drink, try Race Cafe or Continental. Cabs are everywhere at 2AM (closing time)
- Las Vegas Lounge, 704 Chestnut St (at 7th St), ☎ . 11AM-2AM daily. Daily drink specials and seasonal selection of craft beers on draft. Bar fare menu featuring fish tacos and hand formed burgers.
- Customs Coffee House, 211 Chestnut St, ☎ . M-Th 7AM-7PM, F 7AM-9PM, Sa 9:30AM-7PM, Su 9:30AM-6PM. Free Wi-Fi available. Comfy atmosphere. Great place to get work done, meet friends, play board games or simply grab a cup of coffee. Spacious seating area.
- Old City Coffee, 221 Church St (between 2nd and 3rd Sts), ☎ . M-F 6:30AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-6PM. For a great (strong) cup of coffee try Old City Coffee; their coffee is roasted on site.
- Apple Hostels of Philadelphia (HI-Philadelphia), 32 S Bank St (between Market and Chestnut), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Located less than 3 blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, this HI-affiliated hostel has free wireless internet and high-speed internet kiosks, free bed linens, no curfews, no lockouts. Affordable, clean hostel with loads of free activities, friendly & knowledgeable staff and plenty of outside tours you can book at the reception desk that's open 24 hours. All international travellers welcome; guests from the United States will need to provide either a college ID or a HI membership card along with government-issued ID with an address outside of a 100 mile radius from Philadelphia. Beds start at $28.
- The Philadelphia House, 325 Cherry St (at 4th St), ☎ . Small backpackers hostel with free wireless internet, security lockers, 24 hour reception, and laundry facilities. Dorms are either 4-bed or 8-bed and they are all mixed gender. $38-42.
- The Thomas Bond House, 129 S 2nd St (between Chestnut and Walnut Sts), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: +1 215 923-8504. This house was once home to Thomas Bond, who with Benjamin Franklin co-founded the Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in Colonial America. Now a bed and breakfast, it has been rated one of the top 25 best historic inns by American Historic Inns. It over looks Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park and the Delaware River. It has lovely Colonial furnishings and bountiful breakfast. There is wine and cheese and cookies in the evenings. $105-190.
- Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District, 400 Arch St (at 4th St), ☎ , fax: +1 215 923-4633. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. $270+.
- Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing, 201 S Columbus Blvd (at Dock), ☎ , fax: +1 215 521-6600. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. $200+.
- Sheraton Society Hill, 1 Dock St (2nd and Walnut Sts), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Established in 1986, it takes you back in time to the days of colonial Philadelphia. The hotel is located amidst lush landscaping and cobblestone streets in the most historic square mile in America and just four blocks away from Philadelphia's renowned Independence Hall. $200+.
- Omni Hotel at Independence Park, 401 Chestnut St (at 4th St), ☎ , fax: +1 215 925-1263, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This hotel overlooks the Independence National Historic Park and is within walking distance of the Liberty Bell, U.S. Mint, Independence Hall and the Benjamin Franklin House. $270+.