- For ancient Philadelphia renowned for its role in early Christianity, see Alaşehir.
Long hidden in the shadows of New York City and, to a lesser extent, Washington D.C., Philadelphia is one of America's most overlooked cities. It's in southeastern Pennsylvania, in the mid-Atlantic region, and is the sixth most-populous city in the United States. Often referred to as "Philly," the city is coterminous with Philadelphia County. Philadelphia sits adjacent to New Jersey and the Delaware River, and only 15 miles from Delaware, and as such, its metropolitan area encompasses counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and even Maryland.
Despite being the cradle of the nation and remaining one of the largest cities in the USA, Philadelphia was - and arguably still is - ridiculed as a place where you only pass by to see the Liberty Bell, eat a cheesesteak, and go on to your next destination. A history peppered with misfortunes such as being overshadowed by other East Coast cities, being home to some of the most unfortunate sport franchises in the country, and news about crime and decay left the city with limited tourist appeal. Thankfully, Philadelphia has taken great strides in shedding these stereotypes and is now seen as an up-and-coming major US destination filled with history, an impressive culinary scene, a buoyant arts scene, and countless hidden treasures.
For most visitors, the focal point will be Center City and Old City, which comprise the downtown section of Philadelphia. It is bounded by Vine St. to the north, the Delaware River to the east, South St. to the south, and the Schuylkill River to the west. The 2010 Center City residential population of 57,000 makes it the third most populated central business district in America, behind New York City and Chicago. Other popular districts to visit are West Philly and South Philly.
|Center City East |
Philadelphia's beautiful City Hall, the Convention Center, Chinatown, Washington Square West, the gay-friendly Gayborhood, and the Broad Street Arts Corridor.
|Center City West |
West of Broad Street and City Hall, includes the art museum district, Rittenhouse Square, shopping resembling an outdoor mall with dining on Chestnut and Walnut Streets, and a good portion of the central business district with Philadelphia's tallest skyscrapers.
|Old City |
Philadelphia's oldest historic quarter, where the roots of American Independence began. It's between 6th Street and the Delaware River, and features Independence Mall and historical landmarks like the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, and Independence Hall. Also of significance are the art, design and fashion businesses and galleries, making Old City a vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhood with an 'old world' European aesthetic. Evening hours bring added excitement with great restaurants, bars and clubs.
|South Philly |
South Street, the Italian Market, the Sports Complex, endless cheap dive bars, and Philly cheesesteaks.
|North Philly |
Working class neighborhoods, some of which are struggling with crime problems, but also the home of Temple University and Northern Liberties.
|West Philly |
West of the Schuylkill River, includes University City comprising of University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University and its surrounding neighborhoods.
The off-the-beaten-path northwestern reaches of the city, most notable for its middle-to-upper class residential neighborhoods of Manayunk, Chestnut Hill, East Falls and Mt. Airy.
The far northeastern part of town, mostly residential.
Philadelphia, often called the "Birthplace of America", is the birthplace of the country's modern democracy. Philly was founded by William Penn in 1681, and assumed its present-day shape and size in 1784 when Montgomery County was split off from Philadelphia. The city's name translates to "City of Brotherly Love" and it has been a seat of freedom since its inception; founded by Quakers, the colony promoted religious freedom among its residents in stark contrast to the England of the time.
The definition of "Philadelphia" changed in 1854. Prior to that time, the term "Philadelphia" referred to what is today called "Center City", and what we today call "Philadelphia" was referred to as "Philadelphia County" (that term is still used today in legal and administrative contexts). For clarity's sake we will use modern terminology, though many people will refer to Center City as "Philadelphia" when referring to pre-1854 periods.
Known for its role in the American Revolutionary War, Philadelphia saw the convening of the Continental Congress as well as the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Shortly after the nation's inception took place in Philadelphia, Center City was named the nation's capital, a role it filled from 1790 until 1800, when Washington, D.C. took over. Prior to 1854, the city of Philadelphia only consisted roughly of what we now call Center City, extending east to west between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and north to south between Vine and South Streets. Everything else was Philadelphia County and contained thirteen townships, six boroughs, and nine districts. The Act of Consolidation in 1854 consolidated all these areas within the city of Philadelphia, creating the boundaries you see today.
Benjamin Franklin, probably Philadelphia's most famous resident, was responsible for the city's alternative title, the "new Athens." While Franklin's most famous experiment dealt with the conducting of electricity, he was also responsible for the country's first insurance company, the city's first public library and the first fire department; Franklin also played a great role in establishing the city's postal system and inventing new conveniences such as bifocal lenses and the Franklin Stove.
Philadelphia has seen its skyline and its name in lights throughout the years in such famous films as the "Rocky" series (the statue from Rocky III still stands prominently outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art), and films like namesake Philadelphia and many of Philadelphia native M. Night Shyamalan's thrillers.
The Liberty Bell is right in the center of Philadelphia inside of a pavilion near Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell is a major piece in Philly's history. It was rung to announce the news of the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 in Great Britain. John Sartain in his book, Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, claims the bell was cracked during this announcement:
- "The final passage of the Emancipation Act by the British Parliament is linked to a bit of Philadelphia history. On receipt of the news in Philadelphia the Liberty Bell in the tower of the State House was rung, and cracked in the ringing. When I was up in the tower in 1830, two years after, viewing the cracked bell for the first time, Downing, who was then the custodian of Independence Hall, told me of it and remarked that the bell refused to ring for a British Act, even when the Act was a good one."
The Philadelphia area's 6.2 million inhabitants comprise a diverse group of almost every nationality. Philadelphia's primary cultural influences can be seen in its plethora of Irish pubs, the city's Italian Market, the Chinatown District, and the Reading Terminal which plays host to a diverse crowd of merchants — from first-generation European and Asian immigrants to the area's local Amish and Mennonite farmers.
Compared to other major American cities, especially those in the Northeast, Philadelphia has a much smaller immigrant population; up until 1950 it was a magnet for European immigrants, with smaller African populations. But due to a sluggish economy, racial tensions, and the rising prominence of cities like New York, Boston, or even Atlanta, Philadelphia's immigrant population dwindled. Things have changed since the early 2000s however, with the area once again becoming an immigration gateway. Immigrants now flock from places as varied as China, India, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Ghana, Morocco, and Russia.
Philadelphia's economy is as diverse as the population that inhabits the city. In Old City, the 'Third Street Corridor', from 3rd and Chestnut Streets to Vine Street, is home to many locally owned businesses contributing to art, design and fashion industries. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the oldest one in America, has been in operation since 1790. In addition, the city is host to several Fortune 500 companies, including Comcast (the nation's largest cable television and broadband Internet provider), CIGNA insurance, Aramark, and Lincoln Financial Group. The largest private employers in the city are the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and Temple University. In the region there are approximately 50 higher educational institutions making Philadelphia a large 'college town'.
Dating back to the city's roots as the nation's first capital, the federal government's presence is also strong in Philadelphia. A U.S. Mint is near Philadelphia's historic district and the Philadelphia division of the Federal Reserve Bank is close to that. Thanks to this governmental presence the city plays host to a large number of prestigious law firms and is considered one of the nation's centers of law.
The Pennsylvania Railroad, once the largest railroad company in the world, continues to influence Philadelphia's economy under the Amtrak name. Amtrak's second-busiest station, 30th Street Station, is on the west bank of the Schuylkill River and employs many Philadelphians in customer service, engineering, accounting, and IT jobs at the station.
Many medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and medical technology firms make their homes in and around Philadelphia, arguably making it the nation's healthcare capital. And numerous virtual commerce firms have made their home in the Philadelphia area, including QVC, Half.com (purchased by eBay), DuckDuckGo, and Monetate.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Philadelphia sits at the northernmost boundary of the humid subtropical climate zone; it has many features of a humid continental climate, and the climate has four seasons. Winters are cold and often snowy, but are rarely unbearable like in Boston or Chicago; temperatures usually hover around 32°F (0°C) during the colder months. Average annual snowfall is 24 inches (59 cm) which is spread out mainly from December to March, but the area is sometimes hit by devastating blizzards that can dump up to half that total or even more on the city in one day, such as in 1996 when a single storm dumped 30.7 inches (78 cm) of snow on the city in just a couple days.
On the other hand, summers in Philadelphia are notoriously hot and humid, and conditions can get quite unpleasant when the air temperature is near 90°F (32°C) and humidity is high.
Spring and fall are rather pleasant, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s °F (15°C-25°C).
- 1 Philadelphia International Airport (PHL IATA). The largest airport in the Delaware Valley, minutes from the city. It is served by taxis and the SEPTA Regional Rail Airport Line. The predominant carrier at PHL is American Airlines, which offers flights to destinations throughout the U.S., Canada, and a handful of European cities, as well as a some Latin American destinations. Southwest has become American Airlines' main domestic competitor at PHL, and the two airlines constantly attempt to outbid each other's fares on many trunk routes. Air charter companies such as Monarch Air Group and Mercury Jets fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstream's down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals.
Taxis offer a flat rate of $28.50 from the airport to Center City.
The Airport Line serves each terminal throughout the day until approximately midnight and takes about twenty minutes to travel between the airport and Center City Philadelphia, making stops at all major commuter tunnel stations: 30th Street Station (Amtrak), Suburban Station (Penn Center, City Hall) and Jefferson Station (formerly "Market East Station": East Market Street, The Gallery, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Reading Terminal). Tickets for the Airport Line can be purchased on board the train, cash-only, for $8. Tickets purchased at ticket windows at stations in Center City cost $6.75. You can also buy a day pass for $13 valid on all regional rail trains after 9:30AM except into New Jersey either on board the train or at a ticket office. However, if you buy on board the train and want to use your pass on SEPTA services other than Regional Rail, you must trade in your pass for an Independence Pass at a ticket office in the city center. A family pass is available for $30; the same restrictions apply.
Or, the #37 SEPTA bus stops at all terminals (Directly outside baggage claim) and goes into South Philadelphia, terminating at the Broad Street Line subway station "Snyder." The trip costs $2.50 cash, payable to the driver.
Alternatively, you can fly to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR IATA) or Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI IATA), each of which is connected by Amtrak to 30th Street Station (1 hr from EWR; 80 min from BWI). Other New York and Washington-area airports are less convenient.
- 2 Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE IATA). Philadelphia proper also has a general aviation airport which does not have scheduled commercial airline service.
Philadelphia's 3 30th Street Station (ZFV IATA) is a major hub along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Keystone lines. Inbound trains from Washington, D.C. and New York City arrive at least once an hour during the day; some of them are high-speed Acela trains. Trains from Harrisburg arrive between 10-14 times daily, and trains from Pittsburgh arrive once each day. Amtrak also provides service to Vermont, Virginia, Charlotte, and overnight service to Florida and New Orleans. Tickets on Amtrak with 30th Street Station as the origin or destination are also valid on SEPTA regional rail to/from Suburban and Jefferson (Market East) stations in Philadelphia Center City. For ongoing 30th Street Station is also a stop on the Market-Frankford subway line, and has a taxi rank, as well as cars from several rental agencies.
It's also possible to get to Philadelphia from NYC via commuter rail. Using this method, one would take New Jersey Transit from New York Penn Station to Trenton and then transfer to the SEPTA Regional Rail Trenton Line. While this is about a third the price of Amtrak service from NYC, it is more than an hour slower; on the other hand, this is comparable to both the speed and price of an average bus trip from New York, with much more frequent journeys and a more comfortable trip. If you have a long layover in Trenton, stay put and just wait for the next train, as walking in the surrounding neighborhood is not advisable.
SEPTA Regional Rail lines (commuter rail) connect Philadelphia to its many suburbs. All regional rail lines stop at 30th St Station (at the upper level/SEPTA concourse), and at two stops in Center City (Suburban and Jefferson stations).
The New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line connects 30th Street Station to Atlantic City.
Philadelphia is connected to neighboring cities by freeways:
- The New Jersey Turnpike, running just outside Philadelphia in New Jersey, is the main route to New York City. Strangely, there is no direct freeway connection between the cities - you will have to get off the Turnpike and go through a few traffic lights before getting on a Philadelphia freeway.
- Interstate 95 continues south from Philadelphia to Baltimore, Washington D.C., and the remainder of the East Coast, ending in Miami.
- The Pennsylvania Turnpike traverses the state of Pennsylvania from east to west. The Northeast Extension of the Turnpike connects Philadelphia to the Poconos and Wilkes-Barre-Scranton.
- Within the city, the main freeways are I-95 (north-south), I-76 (north-south within the city), and I-676 (east-west). Route 1 (also called the Roosevelt Expressway) connects Northeast Philadelphia to Center City.
Several bridges across the Delaware River link Philadelphia to New Jersey. Of these bridges are Tacony Palmyra Bridge (Route 73), Betsy Ross Bridge (Route 90), Benjamin Franklin Bridge (US 30) and Walt Whitman Bridge (I-76).
Philadelphia is served by the Greyhound, Trailways, Bieber, and Peter Pan bus routes to cities across the U.S. The city is also served by a Chinatown Bus service, which began as a way to shuttle Chinese immigrant workers between various Chinatowns, but are now low-cost bus options for anyone looking to get in to Philadelphia from New York City or Washington, D.C. Although the buses are a bargain compared to corporate competitors like Greyhound, they are far from luxurious; they also use small terminals in both Chinatown districts, and have a poor reputation for safety, which can be daunting for less adventurous visitors.
To compete against the Chinatown buses in the low-cost, low-frills bus market, corporate bus companies have started Megabus and BoltBus services. There are two main bus terminals. Greyhound operates the City's main bus terminal at 1001 Filbert Street in Center City. Megabus and BoltBus make curbside stops near 30th Street Station.
- Apex Bus. The NYC stop is at 88 E Broadway. The stop for Philadelphia is on 121 N 11th St. The ride is about 1½ hr. $20 one way, $35 round-trip (from NYC).
- Today's Bus. The NYC stop is at 28 Allen St. The stop for Philadelphia is on 121 N 11th St. No advance purchase is required. $12 each way (from NYC).
- Megabus. Provides service from NYC, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg, Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, Richmond, and Hampton; fares start at $1 when ordered far enough in advance. Buses arrive and depart on the east side of Schuylkill Ave. between Chestnut and Walnut streets, a couple of blocks south of 30th street station.
- BoltBus. Provides service from NYC, Newark, and Boston; fares start at $1 when ordered far enough in advance. Free Wi-Fi. Buses arrive and depart from 30th and Market Sts., near 30th St. Station.
- Bieber Tours. Provides roundtrip service from Philadelphia Bus Terminal to Allentown and other eastern Pennsylvania locations.
If you buy tickets online, be sure to get on the right bus. Some companies trick you into taking the wrong bus and then charge you again.
The RiverLink and Freedom Ferry services provide travel from Philadelphia to neighboring Camden, New Jersey, between April and September. The service provides direct service to Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center on the Waterfront, a popular concert venue for the Philadelphia area. Access to the other waterfront attractions, including an aquarium, is also provided by the ferry service.
There are plenty of public transportation options to get around the downtown core of Philadelphia. Buses, trains, and trolleys gather at 30th St. Station and the 69th St. Transportation Center.
Absolutely no smoking is allowed in any SEPTA Transit Station. SEPTA Staff, transit police officers, and even fellow riders will ask you to extinguish/dispose of tobacco before entering. Violators may be subject to fines, arrest, or even community service.
Philadelphia is one of America's most walkable cities. This has been taken advantage of and the city is marked extremely well by "Walk! Philadelphia" signs that are placed on each block, sometimes only several feet apart, that guide visitors toward shopping, dining, gallery perusing, cultural enjoyment, local must-sees and public transportation should it need to be taken. The city has two very walkable shopping districts as well as the walkable Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to many museums, including the Franklin Institute and the Museum of Art that was made famous in the "Rocky" movies.
SEPTA Bus. SEPTA runs an extensive bus network in Philadelphia. Buses are a convenient (if slow) method of getting almost anywhere within the city. On-time performance is relatively lacking especially in the suburbs, and it's bound to happen to you at least once in a weekend if you take the bus heavily. Frequencies are spotty in the outer suburbs so plan ahead. In Center City, bus routes will be fairly well documented on bus shelters, but in all other locations around Philadelphia, route maps and schedules will generally not be posted; in fact the stops or route markers may only be posted on a tree branch, so do your bus route research early. Seniors ride free with a Medicare Card or a Senior Citizen Transit ID Card.
Fares can be paid with cash at $2.50 but passengers must have the exact amount as change will not be given. Tokens (to be discontinued on 30 April) will effectively reduce the cost of a single ride to $2.00 but must be bought in groups of 2 ($4), 5 ($10), or 10 ($20). Because tokens are discounted, you might want to buy tokens in bulk when given a chance; token purchases are most easily done at machines located in the busiest subway stations in Center City and at some convenience stores, but unfortunately, not all stations have token machines. SEPTA also has a reloadable chip Key Card which works like most other contactless SMART cards and the fares are the same as when a token is used ($2). SEPTA Key Cards are also available in selected locations. Passengers who require a transfer need to pay $1 on the first mode of transport they take (either through a deduction of their Key Card balance or payment of exact cash amount).
Phlash Bus. Philadelphia has a seasonal (May-October) trolley bus for tourists called the Phlash. It runs in a 20-stop east-west circuit of major tourist locations, from the Museum of Art in the west to Penn's Landing in the east. It is $2 per ride or $5 for a one day pass. SEPTA pass and key card holders ride free, as do children ages 4 and under and seniors 65 and older. Look for the purple trolley bus or the winged purple & blue logo.
The 69th St. Transportation Center and 30th St. Station are the main hubs of major commuter (regional) rail, subway rail and trolley lines.
SEPTA Regional Rail regional commuter rail trains stop in Center City at underground commuter rail tunnels. The three major Center City stops, 30th Street Station, Suburban Station and Market East Station, serve most of the city's major attractions. Suburban Station is adjacent to near City Hall, the shopping district, the financial district, and many cultural attractions; Market East Station connects to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, shopping at The Gallery, and the Reading Terminal Market, a famous local marketplace. Traveling within Center City is considered a "Zone 1" fare and will cost $4.75 if purchased in advance and $6 if purchased on board the train. Seniors ride for $1. Fares to other destinations are up to $10. Between Temple University, the city center stations and University City, service is generally frequent enough that you won't need a schedule. Service in other areas tends to be about every half-hour, with more frequent service during peak hours. The Airport Line comes every 30 minutes daily from about 4:30AM to midnight, and Paoli/Thorndale Line (between Center City and Malvern) and Lansdale/Doylestown Line (between Center City and Lansdale) also have half-hourly service during the day on weekdays. The lightly used Cynwyd Line only comes Monday through Friday on an erratic, rush hour centered schedule.
New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line provides service to suburbs in New Jersey and to Atlantic City. Service patterns are somewhat uneven; be sure to check the schedule online in advance. These trains pick up passengers from the Amtrak concourse at 30th Street Station.
SEPTA operates two metro (subway/elevated) lines, and a "Subway-Surface" trolley line which crosses Center City in a tunnel but runs in the street elsewhere. Just like SEPTA buses, the cash fare is $2.50. Tokens are no longer sold by SEPTA, though they remain valid for use on bus, subway, and trolley. A subway ride also costs $2 if a SEPTA contactless Key Card is used. Seniors ride free with ID.
Broad Street (Orange) Line (BSL) — referred to by locals as the "subway" — runs North-South underneath Broad Street, the main north-south arterial. It serves Temple University, City Hall, the Sports Stadium Complex and everywhere in between. The BSL also has a "spur" called the Broad-Ridge Spur that serves Chinatown and 8th & Market Sts. in Center City. At City Hall station, there are free transfers to the Market-Frankford Line and Subway-Surface Lines. Transfers from a subway to a bus or from a bus to a subway cost $1 and must be purchased when you pay for the first leg of your trip. This transfer is also required if transferring from the 8th St Ridge Avenue spur to the 8th St MFL station.
Market-Frankford (Blue) Line (MFL) — referred to by locals as the "el" — follows Market St from 69th St east to 2nd St, then turns northeast to Frankford Transportation Center in Northeast Philadelphia. The line runs underground beneath Market Street from 2nd to 45th Streets, and is elevated elsewhere. An free interchange with the BSL is available at 15th St, and a paid interchange with the Broad-Ridge Spur at 8th St station. Paid interchanges with SEPTA's Regional Rail are available at 11th St, 15th St, and 30th St stations. At 30th St you can also board Amtrak intercity trains.
Subway-Surface (Green/Trolley) Lines — referred to by locals as the "trolleys" — are a set of five streetcar lines: 10 (Lancaster), 11 (Woodland), 13 (Chester), 34 (Baltimore), and 36 (Elmwood). The other routes run along a different avenue in West Philadelphia, but all meet at a subway portal at 40 St. and Woodland Ave. (except the #10, which joins the subway at a portal at 36th St.) to run in a streetcar subway under the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to 30 St., then under Market St. from 30 to Juniper St, near 13 St. The trolley shares 30th, 15th, and Juniper/13th St stations with the MFL, but is the only subway stopping at 19th and 22nd Sts along Market St. There is a free interchange between the lines at all three shared stations. A sixth trolley line, #15-Girard Avenue, runs through North Philly and uses refurbished vintage PCC streetcars.
Norristown High Speed Line (Route 100) — this above-ground electric train service departs from the MFL's 69th Street terminal, and travels through suburbs in the main line to Norristown. Service comes about every 20 minutes, with more frequent service including express trains during peak hours. Stops are made on request only - to request a train to stop when standing on a platform (except at 69th Street, Ardmore Junction, and Norristown), you must press a button to activate a signal to stop the train. Otherwise, trains can blast through at up to 65 miles per hour, leaving you stranded.
PATCO Hi-Speed Line operated by the Delaware River Port Authority, travels between 16th and Locust Sts. past 8th and Market Sts. in Center City Philadelphia and Lindenwold Station in Southern New Jersey. PATCO runs underground in the city and rises above ground to cross over the Delaware River on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. It then runs underground in the center of Camden, then is above ground through the rest of its trip in New Jersey. There is no free interchange between SEPTA's subways or regional rail and the PATCO service, and SEPTA passes are not valid on PATCO; a discounted round-trip transfer to SEPTA can be purchased for $3.10 extra when buying a round trip from a New Jersey station to Philadelphia. The PATCO line is the easiest way to access Camden, NJ's waterfront attractions, including the Adventure Aquarium and the BB&T Pavilion at the Waterfront concert venue. Fares are based on the distance of travel. Those rates are as follows:
- Lindenwold, Ashland & Woodcrest Stations and Philadelphia: $3.00
- Haddonfield, Westmont & Collingswood Stations and Philadelphia: $2.60
- Ferry Avenue (Camden) Station and Philadelphia: $2.25
- Travel within Pennsylvania, between Broadway and City Hall (Camden), and between PA and those two stations: $1.40
- Any other trip within New Jersey: $1.60
SEPTA one-day passes
Passengers who wish to use a combination of SEPTA trolley, bus and subway around downtown Philadelphia may purchase a One-Day Convenience Pass. It costs $9 and may be purchased from the ticket booth at a SEPTA subway station. It can be purchased either as a paper pass or loaded into a SEPTA chip Key Card. Unlike other metropolitan transit systems, the one-day pass does not entitle the passenger to unlimited rides on the entire system and is limited to eight rides on the day it was first used. That said, it still effectively brings down the cost of each ride to $1.13 (compared to the standard fares of $2.00 to $2.50).
To use the paper pass, just present it to the driver or station attendant at the fare gate who will punch in the current date and ride number (from 1 to 8) you have taken to indicate how many rides were already used. If the pass is loaded on a SEPTA Key Card, just tap the card against the reader you normally would. Transfers that require you to exit the station fare gates (including subway-to-bus transfers) will be counted against your ride allowance.
The Convenience Pass is not valid on regional/commuter rail lines. However, SEPTA also offers the Independence Pass, which is a one day pass that is valid on all modes of transit, including the regional rail lines (except to Trenton and West Trenton, which are $5 extra each way). The Independence Pass cannot be used on Regional Rail trains arriving in Center City prior to 9:30AM on weekdays, with the exception of the Airport Line where it is valid at all times. The Independence Pass costs $13 for an individual and $30 for a family. The Independence Pass does not have the 8-ride limit of the Convenience Pass.
Taxis are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority and display a medallion license on their hood. As a result, Go2Go does not serve Philadelphia and the surrounding area. All taxis are metered. Rates are $2.70 at flagfall and $2.30 per mile (1.6 km). There is also a variable gas surcharge. In July 2012 it was $1.15. For trips from the airport, a flat rate, including fuel surcharge, of $28.50 applies. An additional $1 per passenger ($3 maximum) after the first passenger will be charged on flat rate trips between the airport and Center City for those passengers over the age of 12. Tipping for good service is common.
By ride-hailing services
Philadelphia is also home to Enterprise Car Share and Zipcar, where, after registering, you can book vehicles by the hour or day for significantly less than a rental car. Enterprise Car Share has vehicles including Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper stationed at various locations called 'pods' around Philadelphia. You first book online, and then use your personal key to unlock the vehicle and away you go. Rental is $5.90-7.90 per hour, or approximately $50 for a full day, plus a few dollars booking fee and $0.09 per mile (1.6 km) traveled.
You can park at the ends of the subway lines for very little. Remember that Philadelphia is the center of a metro area of 6 million, so the roads are congested from early morning until the mid-evening, and parking is not cheap. Should you choose to bring a car, check with your hotel about parking in the city. Legal street parking is available but is very difficult to find close to Center City attractions or hotels. Secured parking garages can cost $10-35 per day or higher in some cases. In the historic district, there were several parking options under $20. Visitors should also be aware that the Philadelphia Parking Authority is renowned (even notorious) for its efficiency, and PPA parking enforcement personnel are as quick to write tickets as they are unlikely to yield to a violator's plea for leniency. Tickets that are not paid promptly quickly accumulate additional penalty fees. It is also worth mentioning that the only coins that the meters accept are dollar coins and quarters. Putting other coins in the meter will not give you extra time. Fortunately, depending on where you are in the city, a quarter can give you up to a half hour of parking. However, in such busy places such as Chinatown and Center City, a quarter can get you only eight minutes of parking. A new parking method has been brought about in the city -- although there are still parking meters throughout the city, some areas have a kiosk at which patrons can use bills or credit cards (not just quarters) to print a ticket which they leave on the dashboard. You can park and ride for $1 at AT&T Station (the southernmost stop on the Orange subway line) on Mondays through Fridays until 7PM, but you must get there before noon.
In terms of congestion Center City Philadelphia compares favorably to most large U.S. cities. Gridlock does occur, however, particularly during rush hour. Traffic generally moves at the slowest pace in the Chinatown neighborhood, on the numbered streets west of Broad and in the South St. and Old City areas on weekend evenings. Broad St. is typically only moderately congested. The most heavily-traveled roads in the area are I-95, I-676/I-76 (the Schuylkill Expressway), which connects Center City to the various suburbs west of the city, and I-476 (the "Blue Route") which curves from the south to the northwest of Philadelphia, connecting I-95 with I-76 and, beyond that, the PA Turnpike. Rush-hour delays are common on all these roadways: During the morning rush-hour I-95 south-bound typically backs up between the Bridge St. and Girard Ave. exits; and eastbound I-76 typically jams from Gladwynne to 30th Street. During the evening rush-hour, I-95 usually slows from the Bridge Street to Academy Road exits. On I-676 and the west-bound Schuylkill, traffic can be stop-and-go from roughly Broad St. potentially all the way to the so-called "Conshohocken Curve," just east of the town of the same name, effectively doubling the time it normally takes to drive from Center City to the PA Turnpike entrance at King of Prussia. Anyone planning to drive through Philadelphia during either rush hours would do well to anticipate traffic conditions and plan accordingly.
SEPTA operates 8 trolley lines including the 5 subway-surface branch lines and the two suburban trolley lines, numbered 101 and 102, that leave from the 69th Street terminal on the Market Frankford Line. In addition, the 15 line (running along Girard Ave.) has been renovated and vintage trolley cars are now in use on this route. Connections to this line can be made at either the Broad Street Line or Market-Frankford Line Girard Stations; a transfer should be purchased upon boarding the trolley or entering your origin subway station for $1 to avoid paying an additional fare when making the connection. Among its other uses, the 15 line provides the only rail link to the Philadelphia Zoo. SEPTA has also been studying whether to restore trolley service on former lines, as many miles of rail are still in place.
Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from Philadelphia CityPASS, which grants admission to 6 Philadelphia attractions within 9 days of first use for a much reduced rate and includes expedited entry in some cases. The included attractions are: THE Franklin Institute; Adventure Aquarium; Phila Trolley & the Big Bus Company, 24 hours of on-off privileges; Philadelphia Zoo; Option Ticket One with choice of either the Academy of Natural Sciences or the National Constitution Center and Option Ticket Two with choice of Please Touch Museum or Eastern State Penitentiary. A Weekend in Philly offers a detailed itinerary that includes several of these attractions.
Thanks to Philadelphia's innovative Mural Arts Program, the city has a truly massive amount of art that can be seen without paying a dime or entering a single building. Originally designed to help stop graffiti and enliven the city's buildings, the Mural Arts Program has led to Philadelphia now having the largest collection of public art in the world, with over 3500 murals completed since its inception. There are tours offered as well, from trolley or train tours to the mural-mile walking tour. Other public art of note includes the many glass mosaics found throughout the city; a sampling of this great public art can be seen on South St. east of Broad.
Center city Philadelphia offers many public statue displays. "The Clothespin" is a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg that resembles a clothespin located just across from City Hall on West Market St. LOVE Park, serving as a terminus between City Hall and the museum-laden Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., features a famous LOVE statue that has come to represent the brotherly love that Philadelphia was founded on. The site once was the city's (and perhaps the nation's) most popular skating attraction until new legislation and remodeling efforts outlawed skating in the park. Just across the JFK Blvd. from City Hall at the Municipal Services Building, visitors can find many larger than life game pieces from popular board games as well as a statue of former mayor Frank Rizzo.
More statues can be found throughout Fairmount Park along Kelly Dr. on east side of the Schuykill River. Sculptures by Remmington can be found on the path, while several sculptures by Alexander Milne Calder can be found in Laurel Hill Cemetery, which is just off the paved walking path.
Philadelphia is known for two world-famous art museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation, both located in Center City West.
Center City West also hosts the Academy of Natural Sciences, Franklin Institute Science Museum, Mutter Museum, Rosenbach Museum & Library and Rodin Museum. The Rare Book department of the Free Library of Philadelphia is also worth a visit.
Center City East is home to the African American Museum, and Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History.
Old City is home to the National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Seaport Museum.
West Philly is home to the Penn Museum (for archaeology) and the Please Touch Museum.
Independence National Historic Park is Philadelphia's signature historic site in the Old City. It features the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Constitution Hall (home of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution), and other historic buildings.
Eastern State Penitentiary is billed as "America's Most Historic Prison." It is also the site of an annual Bastille Day recreation. In October, the notoriously haunted penitentiary is home to one of the city's most popular Halloween attractions: the "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house.
The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site contains the former home of the famous American author of mystery and the macabre.
The Fairmount Water Works features information on local watersheds as well as interpretive art.
William Penn designed Philadelphia to have "five squares" of public, open space. Four of the five squares are now city parks, somewhat symmetrically located at the four corners of an imaginary square surrounding the very center of Center City. (The fifth square, at the very center of the city, is now occupied by City Hall.)
Fairmount Park is a large park on both sides of the Schuykill River northwest of Center City. East Fairmount Park is home to the Smith Memorial Playground, Dell East Concerts, and a driving range. West Fairmount Park, much of which has been renamed the Centennial District, includes the Mann Music Center (where the Philadelphia Orchestra plays in summer), the Japanese Tea House, Please Touch Museum for kids in a restored Memorial Hall (from the nation's centennial celebration).
LOVE Park is square near City Hall, known for its Robert Indiana "LOVE" sculpture, and for attracting skateboarders from around the world (but since 2002, a ban on skateboarding has been rigorously enforced).
Spruce Street Harbor Park takes on a fairground atmosphere during summer nights, with colorful hammocks, floating gardens, trees adorned in colored lights, local craft beers, and food trucks from some of Philadelphia’s most popular restaurants.
Rittenhouse Square (the southwest park in William Penn's original plan) sits among classic and classy Rittenhouse hotels and residences and attracts people from around the world. It is named after David Rittenhouse, a clockmaker and astronomer.
Logan Square (northwest, better known as Logan Circle), named after William Penn's secretary James Logan, is the gateway to Fairmount Park and the Art Museum area. Until 1823, Logan Circle was an execution site as well as burial ground. In Logan Circle there is the Swann Memorial Fountain.
Washington Square (the southeast park in William Penn's original plan) is near Independence Hall. It was also used as a burial ground and a potter's field. Franklin Square (northeast) is located on the outskirts of Chinatown at 6th and Race Streets. It is home to the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, has a Philadelphia-themed miniature golf course, two playgrounds, a fountain (new technology causes the water to shoot lower on rainy or windy days so bystanders do not become wet), and a gift shop. The center of City Hall's Square is a large compass in the ground. There are four archways leading into it.
Penn Treaty Park, in North Philly, is a small riverfront park. On this site William Penn famously entered into a treaty of peace with Tamanend, the Lenape Indian chief.
The Philadelphia Zoo, the first zoo in the United States, is located in West Philly.
Clark Park, also in West Philly, maintains a busy events schedule with festivals, flea markets, theatrical performances, concerts and a year-round farmers’ market.
- Every year, Philadelphia is host to the Philadelphia International Championship, which is a 144-mi (232-km) bike race from Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the hillside community of Manayunk, which is the site of the Manayunk Wall. The event has been run since 1984. The event usually takes place in early June.
- The Philadelphia Marathon is also another annual event. This marathon race is held every 3rd Sunday in November. There are three races: the full marathon, half marathon and the "Rothman Institute 8k".
- Every year in the beginning of July, an All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival is held down Penns Landing. $5, children under 6 free.
- The Philadelphia Flower Show, one of the largest indoor flower shows in the world, is held every spring at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
- AIDS Walk Philly occurs every October. It is an 8.2-mi (13-km) walk that begins and ends at Eakins Oval (in front of the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum). The first walk started in 1987 and raised $33,000 that year. Since then, the event became annual.
- The Mummers Parade is held each New Years Day. The first official parade took place on January 1, 1901. Local clubs (usually called New Years Associations) compete in one of four categories (Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades). They prepare elaborate costumes and moveable scenery, which take months to complete. The parade of over 10,000 marchers travels approximately 3 miles northward on Broad Street, beginning in South Philadelphia and concluding near City Hall in Center City.
- The Made In America Festival is an annual music festival taking place during Labor Day weekend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. While rappers draw the biggest attention, bands from musical genres as diverse as free-jazz, metalcore, and pop are featured.
- West Philly Porchfest is a beloved annual do-it-yourself music festival featuring free shows on porches all over West Philadelphia.
- The Odunde festival takes over a dozen-block radius in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood on one Sunday every year in June. Hundreds of stalls and several musical stages celebrate Africa and the African diaspora.
Theater and music
Philadelphia prides itself on its wide variety of live performances, particularly for music. Venues can be found throughout Center City East and West, Old City, South Philly and the Northern Liberties/Fishtown districts of North Philly. R5 Productions promotes smaller bands and affordable shows at several local venues.
The Fringe Festival, held every September, is a 4-week-long, city-wide celebration of innovation and creativity in contemporary performance. Each September, the Festival explodes into every nook and cranny of Philadelphia with more than 1,000 artistically daring performances.
As one of the largest metro areas in the USA, Philadelphia has an extensive sport history and culture. However, whenever the topic of American sports comes up, one will soon notice that Philadelphia is seen with disgust and derision. This is the result of two preconceived notions: 1) Philadelphia sports teams have had very little luck competing for, let alone winning, championships, 2) Philadelphians have a reputation for being hard-nosed and passionate fans who joyfully engage in violent behavior. While these are certainly based in reality, you should not be deterred from enjoying yourself, far from it. In fact, Philly sports fans are often praised for their passion and in-depth knowledge of their teams and league rules, and few cities can boast crowds as electrifying as Philly. Having teams with volatile performances in all major sports will inevitably create fans that stick to their teams through thick and thin.
- Philadelphia Phillies. The city's hometown baseball team. Founded in 1883, they are the oldest one name, one city franchise in all of professional sports. Since 2004 the team has played at Citizens Bank Park, a $350-million baseball-only facility in South Philadelphia that is among the best in the big leagues. The park is easily accessible on the subway and tickets start at $18. The food at the park was named as Best Ballpark Food in a survey of Food Network viewers in 2007. Keep your eye out for Dollar Dog Nights, where hot dogs are only $1.
- Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia's divisive NFL team, and without a shadow of a doubt the most beloved by locals. The Eagles have played at Lincoln Financial Field, next door to Citizens Bank Park, since 2003. Known for their rabid and passionate fans, Eagles games routinely sell out, often before the season even starts.
- Philadelphia 76ers. The city's NBA team, playing at Wells Fargo Center, in the immediate vicinity of the two major stadiums.
- Philadelphia Flyers. Hockey fans can also enjoy the city's NHL team, which shares Wells Fargo Center with the Sixers.
- Philadelphia Union. Members of Major League Soccer since 2010, the Union differ from Philly's other teams in the four biggest sports in North America in that they don't play in South Philly. Home games are played at Subaru Park (which was called Talen Energy Stadium from 2015 to early 2020), their soccer-specific stadium on the waterfront in the nearby suburb of Chester. The Union's reserve side, Philadelphia Union II, plays in the second-level USL Championship at Subaru Park as well.
- College sports – The Philadelphia area is also a mecca for college sports, especially men's basketball. One term you will often see or hear in the sports pages, talk shows, and general sports conversation is "Big 5". This refers to the heated men's basketball rivalry between five of the major universities in the area—Temple, Villanova, Saint Joseph's, Penn, and La Salle.
- Temple Owls. The sports teams of Temple University are in the American Athletic Conference. The football team, the city's only top-level NCAA Division I FBS program, shares Lincoln Financial Field with the Eagles. Temple men's basketball is a regular contender for conference honors. The school's best-known venue is the on-campus Liacouras Center, home to basketball.
- Villanova Wildcats. Villanova University (often called "Nova"), a Catholic school located in the Main Line suburb of Villanova, has the city's highest-profile college basketball program, a member of the rugged Big East Conference with national titles in 2016 and 2018. Since the current Big East does not sponsor football, Nova plays that sport in the second-level Division I FCS as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Most of Villanova's venues are on campus, most notably Finneran Pavilion (basketball) and Villanova Stadium (football). However, high-profile basketball games are often played at the Wells Fargo Center.
- Saint Joseph's Hawks. Saint Joseph's University, like Villanova a Catholic institution, plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference (A10). Basketball is the hot-button sport on campus—"Saint Joe's" has no football team. Basketball games are played on campus at Hagan Arena. While a part of the Big 5, it has an especially strong rivalry with Villanova, with their matchup locally called the "Holy War".
- Penn Quakers. The Ivy League's Philadelphia outpost, the University of Pennsylvania, also enjoys a rich athletic tradition, especially in men's basketball. Historically, Penn and Princeton have dominated the league in that sport, though other schools have emerged as contenders. Penn boasts two of the most historic venues in American sports—the Palestra (basketball) and Franklin Field (football and track). The latter is also home to the historic Penn Relays track meet.
- La Salle Explorers. La Salle University is another Catholic institution in the A10. Like Saint Joe's, it also has no football team. Basketball games are played on-campus at Tom Gola Arena.
- Drexel Dragons. Drexel University, a private secular institution, is something of an "odd man out" in the Philly sports landscape. Despite being literally next door to Penn, it is not part of the Big 5. Nonetheless, the Dragons enjoy a strong basketball rivalry with Penn, known as the Battle of 33rd Street—the teams' arenas are a mere three blocks apart along said street. The Dragons are members of the CAA, and like Villanova and Saint Joe's have no football team. Basketball games are played on campus at the Daskalaskis Athletic Center, often called "The DAC".
- In addition to the above, Philadelphia is the most common site of the Army–Navy Game, one of the most iconic events in college football. The game involves the teams of the country's two oldest service academies—the Army Black Knights of the United States Military Academy, and the Navy Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy. The game is steeped in decades-old military traditions, and combines bitter competitiveness and mutual respect. Its date is now fixed as the second Saturday of December, the week after FBS conference championship games, making it the last game of the FBS regular season. When in Philly, the game is played at Lincoln Financial Field; it is scheduled for "The Linc" in 2022 (the 2021 game will be held at MetLife Stadium near New York City).
Philadelphia is rich with educational opportunities. The most prestigious university in the area is the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.
Other universities include Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, Drexel University with the only co-op program in the area, La Salle University a major Catholic university, Saint Joseph's University a Jesuit university, and United Lutheran Seminary a divinity school; as well as "Westminster Theological Seminary" in Glenside.
The Community College of Philadelphia is Philadelphia's premier community college.
Art schools include the University of the Arts, one of the most prestigious art schools in America, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Moore College of Art and Design an all-women college, Hussian College, and the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia's job market is ever-expanding both in the city and in its suburbs. The 975 ft (297 m) Comcast Center is a constant reminder of the economic revitalization of Philadelphia and of Comcast's presence in the city. Additionally, a Keystone Opportunity Zone over the Powelton Rail Yards adjacent to 30th St. Station promises a bright future for jobs and new office buildings in the city.
For those who are unfamiliar with either the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast or even just Philadelphia regions, local lingo and enunciation can seem rather daunting. Older white working-class locals mostly speak with a distinctive accent, as does Philadelphia's African-American community; in fact, the latter is responsible for many modern-day slang words and expressions that have become ubiquitous in American culture. However, transplants, academics, other ethnic minorities (especially Asians), and Millennials now tend to speak with a more general American accent. Speaking with an "old-school" Philly accent is increasingly seen as juvenile and moronic.
With that said, most young people from the Philadelphia area - regardless of race - have made laudable efforts in keeping elements of the accent alive, most notably with regards to vowels and vocabulary.
Here is a breakdown of Philadelphia's most popular local terms:
- Wooder Water. This is seen as the ultimate giveaway that someone is from Philadelphia.
- Youse (guys) You guys, you all. Second-person plural. (Can sound like /juːs/ (yooce) or /juːz/ (yooze.)
- Water Ice A dessert served by local restaurants that features flavored slushy ice. Sometimes called Italian Ice. Pop's, near the corners of Oregon Avenue and Broad Street, is arguably the most popular.
- Gravy This is tomato sauce, and is for the most part only used by those who are of Italian heritage. "Gravy" is usually prepared with meat including meatballs, sausage, and sometimes pork in order to give it flavor.
- Coffee Regular (pronounced Caw-fee Reg-lar) Coffee with cream and sugar.
- Jimmies Chocolate or rainbow colored candy sprinkled onto ice cream or cookies.
- Steak Any sandwich in the cheesesteak family. An entire menu category at neighborhood pizza joints.
- Hoagie Submarine sandwich.
- Grinder A toasted hoagie.
- Tomato pie Pizza crust with tomato sauce but no cheese (besides, perhaps, a little Parmesan).
- Stromboli A sauceless pizza rolled up: like a calzone, but with mozzarella and without ricotta.
- Jawn A substitute noun used as a placeholder for most things.
- Strapper A fairly new term, used derogatorily to describe someone you do not like.
Philadelphia's Old City has always been a center of commerce, and as Philadelphia grew to be a bigger city many shops and department stores were found on Market Street between Old City and City Hall. Two such landmark department stores on Market Street were Gimbels and Strawbridge & Clothiers, which faced increasing difficulty in competing against suburban department chains in the 20th century. In the 1970s, the Gallery at Market East, an urban mall with Gimbels and Strawbridge & Clothiers as major anchors, opened to stem the tide of retailers fleeing the urban core to the regional shopping malls. Despite success in the first decade or so of operation, the Gallery remained unable to compete; Gimbels closed in 1986, while Strawbridge's closed in 2006 and now stands vacant. The rest of the mall offers mid-range stores catering to the city's working class population, and has a busy food court on the basement level, convenient for the 12,000 or so daily commuters who take the regional rail into the city.
Just northwest of the Gallery is the Reading Terminal Market, a very successful indoor public market that opened in 1893 at the site of the Reading Railroad's headhouse terminal, now part of the Philadelphia Convention Center, after open-air sidewalk markets were closed down in the 1850s due to health and safety concerns. Some of the vendors have been in business for over a century, and sell produce, meats, chocolates, and a variety of other usually handmade foodstuffs and items. There are a lot of small restaurants and a section for Pennsylvania Dutch (or Amish) vendors.
The high-end shopping district of Center City did eventually regain its footing in downtown Philadelphia starting in the 1980s and 1990s, and is along Chestnut Streets and Walnut Streets west of Broad Street to Rittenhouse Square, featuring national brands and boutiques, from the high-end Burberry, Tiffany and Diesel to locally-managed corporate Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. Chestnut Street also has a larger range of mid-range shops as well, with many ma-and-pa outfits in addition to bargain big-leaguers H&M and Daffy's, and extends from as far east as 11th Street to 22nd Streets. The Shoppes at Liberty Place is in Philadelphia's second-tallest building, and The Shops at the Bellevue is in a historic building on Broad Street.
For a more unique flavor, there are shopping districts with its own distinct character. 3rd Street Corridor in Old City has the city's best in high-end, independent retailers for fashion, art and design. Landmark Sugarcube should not be missed for the fashion savvy. Beauty-goers will enjoy Moko, an organic beauty studio along the corridor. Antique Row, on Pine Street between 9th and 13th (Center City), is home to a mix of antique stores and local gift and craft boutiques. The Italian Market in South Philly is an open-air street market with fresh produce and food; although it has been a predominantly Italian district, there is now a large infusion of Mexicans. Chinatown (Center City) is similar to many other similar Chinatowns in various U.S. cities, as an ethnic enclave of Asian American immigrants and residents.
See the Districts articles for specific listings.
No trip to Philadelphia is complete without trying the cheesesteak, Philly's most famous homegrown food, a sandwich made of a fresh roll filled with grilled shaved beef and cheese (as well as onions, mushrooms, and other optional sides). The spiritual homes of the cheesesteak are Pat's King of Steaks, where the cheesesteak was invented, and Geno's Steaks, where they claim to have improved on Pat's version. They are across from each other in South Philly at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue.
There are many ways to order a cheesesteak. Some cheesesteaks are made with chopped steak (Pat's and Geno's), while others are made with sliced top-round (Steve's). While Cheez-Wiz is a local favorite, many people also enjoy American or Provolone cheese on their cheesesteaks. The way the cheese is served makes a huge difference. Some cheesesteak joints simply place the cheese on top to melt (Pat's and Geno's), while others, such as Steve's, ladle hot melted cheese on top, adding to the delicious grease from the meat. Any local will tell you as well that the most important part of the cheesesteak (or hoagie, for that matter) is the roll, which is why many have found it difficult to replicate the cheesesteak outside of the Philadelphia region. Many displaced Philadelphians who have started their own restaurants elsewhere have encountered trouble making authentic cheesesteaks, and import their rolls from the Philly area.
Although Pat's and Geno's are the most famous cheesesteak joints, they are far from the best. There are many others to choose from, particularly in South Philadelphia—John's Roast Pork at Snyder and alley-street Weccacoe is considered by many locals to offer a standout. John's offers what sports radio 610 WIP's Cheesesteak Challenge called the best cheesesteak in the city, and an outstanding roast pork sandwich. It is common for people visiting John's to bring a friend and split a cheesesteak and a roast pork sandwich. Placing at #2 on the 610 cheesesteak list is Steve's Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philadelphia, which has 2 great locations. They also serve a delicious side of cheese fries, which can be had with wiz, American, or provolone. Many enjoy Jim's Steaks or Tony Luke's. 'The Great Northeast' is also home to Joe's Steaks + Soda Shop, a delightful drug-store throwback on Torresdale Avenue near the Delaware River. No cheesesteak aficionado can call himself such without a visit to Dalessandro's Steaks or Chubby's on Henry Avenue in the Roxborough section of Northwest Philadelphia (north of Manayunk and East Falls). One of this region's better steaks is found at takeout-only Sorrentino's on Cresson in Manayunk. Sonny's in Old City, on Market St between 3rd and 4th, also serves an excellent cheesesteak in a location close to Independence Hall. Philadelphia's other notable sandwich is roast pork which can be found at Dinic's in the Reading Terminal Market, Tony Luke's, John's, or a Latin version at Porky's Point. Lastly, the city's best roast beef sandwich served on a locally baked Sarcone's roll is at caffe chicco.
A caveat before ordering a cheesesteak, particularly at the often crowded Pat's and Geno's—know how to order. There is somewhat of a 'no soup for you' attitude at these busy and fast-service oriented establishments which can really make a tourist stand out. The way to order is as follows: It is assumed that you are going to order a cheesesteak, so unless you are not, don't specify this. First, say the type of cheese—only American, provolone, and whiz are generally available. Ask for Swiss at your own risk. The only condiment that is not available in a jar outside the stand will be fried onions; with (or "wit" in Philly parlance) or without ("witout") will specify your preference on the matter. So 'Whiz "Wit", Provolone "Witout",' etc. Not too complicated, and a straightforward way to have a nice local moment on your travels.
Local and street food
You can also find cheesesteaks at Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch Sts. Here visitors will find many stands selling produce, meats, flowers, and baked goods. Reading Terminal Market is a good place to get lunch if you are in the area. The multitude of vendors and low prices provide plenty of options for a quick meal. It's also home to one of the city's best pretzels (Miller's).
Philadelphia's most famous snack is the salted soft pretzel, which, while shaped with the three holes like soft pretzels everywhere else, are distinctive in that they are flattened into a wide rectangle and are made in long chains in which the wide sides of the pretzels are attached. A person may typically buy two, three, or more attached pretzels at a convenience store or from a street vendor. The price is low, especially compared to national vendor brands sold in other cities and in malls. Unlike pretzels served in many other cities, Philly pretzels are not served hot, but at room temperature and often eaten with mustard.
The most famous sweet snack is from the Tastykake brand. Their main factory is in the Navy Yard in far south Philly, so every flavor and type of TastyKake is sold in Philadelphia, and they are usually extra fresh, since they do not have to travel far to the retail outlet.
Also unique to the area are Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, a bit-sized chocolate bar with a chewy peanut center. Originally developed as a high-energy ration bar during World War I, but still popular today!
Scrapple is a favorite comfort food of native Philadelphians. Best described as a seasoned breakfast pork product, scrapple is of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and is made from pork by-products (you're better off not knowing exactly what's in it) and cornmeal, cooked into a thick pudding, formed into a loaf, sliced, and fried. You'll find it on the breakfast menu of many neighborhood diners in Philly. Ask for it very crispy.
Some other Philly foods include Philadelphia Cream Cheese, water ice, and hoagies.
The Kraft/Nabisco factory is in the far Northeast of Philadelphia at Byberry and Roosevelt Blvd. Drive by with your windows down and take a whiff!
Wawa is a chain of local convenience stores similar to 7-Eleven. They are most famous for their deli ordering terminals, which allow you to specify via a touch-screen monitor exactly what you want on a sandwich. Although locals refuse to consider Wawa's cheesesteaks as authentic, due to its use of ground beef rather than sliced or diced beef, the Wawa option is still delicious and you get to customize it with a wide range of options. Many stores also carry a respectably thick and doughy fresh soft pretzel at their counter.
Philadelphia has an extremely vibrant culinary scene, with many young and enterprising new chefs coming to the City of Brotherly Love for its food-obsessed culture. Local restauranteurs such as Stephen Starr, Marc Vetri, Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Jose Garces, and others have become household names and food celebrities in their own right, transforming Philadelphia's food scene and exporting its concepts to other parts of the country. In part, the scene is bolstered by a culture of organic and sustainable foodstuffs coming from local farmers.
Pennsylvania's draconian liquor laws make it very expensive and inconvenient for restaurants to obtain liquor licenses. As a result, many restaurants—including some of the best—are BYOB, that is, "Bring Your Own Bottle". These restaurants will advertise their BYOB-status, and will usually help you out by supplying corkscrews, glasses, or club soda, so long as you supply the beer, wine, or spirits. You'll have to pick wine or spirits up at a state-sponsored liquor store, or six-packs or individual beers from a neighborhood bar or bottle shop, which are good locations for finding a variety of craft beers. Convenience stores do not sell alcoholic beverages. Even if you don't drink, or don't want a drink, dining at a BYOB can pay off as the restaurant doesn't need to pay off a license and can charge a little less for the food.
Because of the state of Pennsylvania's complicated liquor laws (which date from immediately after Prohibition and were designed, in the words of the governor at the time, to "discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible"), supermarkets won't sell beer or spirits, although some small neighborhood convenience stores might. State-sponsored liquor stores are all over the place but don't sell beer, and beer distributors sell beer only in bulk and are scattered in inconvenient locations, and neither will be open late or on Sundays. Thus, even for locals, the most convenient way to get a drink is to find a local bar or restaurant with a liquor license. In part because of this complicated setup, Philadelphia has a visibly strong, public beer culture, celebrated in events such as the annual summertime Philly Beer Week [formerly dead link] or the Philly Craft Beer Festival in March.
Local beers include Yuengling, Yards, or Troegs. Many bars will have a varied selection of beers you already know and love alongside ones you've never heard of. If you're ever stuck on a choice but don't want to look out of place, just ask for a "lager", which in Philly specifically means the Yuengling Traditional Lager, a pre-Prohibition style amber lager rather different from the mass-market pale lager you find elsewhere. You can also order a "Citywide Special", which is a shot of house whiskey with a can or bottle of light lager usually Pabst Blue Ribbon or Miller Lite.
Primarily, most of the nightlife scene takes place in Center City (West and East) and in Old City. The areas around Rittenhouse Square in Center City, and Headhouse Square and Penn's Landing in Old City, are popular destinations that have a large concentration of bars and clubs, many of them attracting the hip, young, pretty people of the suburbs or the universities. Slightly further out, the rapidly-gentrifying Northern Liberties district is another solid nightlife destination with more of a "yuppie" or "hipster" vibe. Yet another area that has a vibrant nightlife is the Manayunk neighborhood [dead link].
However, bars can be found in just about every corner of Philadelphia, and nothing is more characteristic of Philly than the local bar as a default place for social gathering; every neighborhood's got one or two just around the corner, even if it's a dark, run-down dive without proper signage and a crowd of blue-collar regulars, or a new-but-looks-old pub attracting the yuppies with outdoor seating and live music. Any major street or well-known district is going to have its own selection of watering holes, and each of these establishments will cater to a crowd, whether it's students, sports fans, hipsters or clubbers. In particular, streets and neighborhoods with a notable collection of drinking locales, not including Center City, Old City or Northern Liberties, include University City and West Philly; South Street and Passyunk Ave in South Philly; and the Art Museum District.
In the summer, the Center City District sponsors Center City Sips, a downtown-wide Happy Hour every Wednesday from 5PM-7PM where many bars and restaurants all participate in drink specials: $2 beers, $3 wines and $4 cocktails, and usually some selection of food specials.
It's been said that Philadelphia invented, or at least popularized, the popular pub trivia event that is known here as Quizzo, which are called by other various names such as "quiz nights" by the time they expanded to other parts of the United States. Philadelphia native Patrick Hines first began running Quizzo games at the New Deck Tavern in University City in 1993 (though he spelled it with one 'z', as in "Quizo"), and began a second one at Fergie's Pub in Center City in 1995; there are now plenty of other bars running their own Quizzo nights throughout Philadelphia, and while Hines has moved to Ireland, he still writes the questions for several local bars. If you're able to find yourself in a game (you'll have to have a team and needlessly long and/or hilarious team name, or see if you can join one as a free agent) it's a fun way to spend a night, but be prepared to be completely left in the dust by trivia buffs who play regularly.
- Philadelphia Brewing Company produces a variety of beers. If you can't make it to the brewery (or find it in a bar) you can pick up a sampler pack (24 bottles) for around $30 at a beer distributor.
- Yard's Brewing. Produces a variety of beers, though notably Philadelphia Pale Ale, ESA (especially if you find this in cask format), and the ales of the revolution. Historically certified beers from recipes tied to Ben Franklin, Jefferson, and a porter named after Gen. Washington. Accessible via the Spring Garden Station on the Market Frankford el.
- Earth Bread and Brewery - Known as much for their well made beer as they are for their bread and locally sourced food.
- Dock Street Brewery - Two locations in West and South Philadelphia. Also famous for their pizza.
- Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant - It's in the Manayunk neighborhood right on Main St.
- Iron Hill Brewery - Local brewpub chain that has two locations within city limits, one in Chestnut Hill and one in Market East.
Philadelphia is home to two hostels within the city limits, both are affiliated with Hostelling International USA:
- 1 Apple Hostels of Philadelphia, 32 S Bank St, (Old City), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Less than 3 blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, free wireless Internet (for travelers with laptops), 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.
- 2 HI — Chamounix Mansion Hostel, 3250 Chamounix Dr (West Fairmount Park), ☏ . On a scenic bluff above the Schuylkill River and 45 minutes to downtown Philadelphia's cultural and historic attractions. Associated with Hostelling International
There is a wide variety of hotels located in Philadelphia. Prices usually range from $100 to $200 a night, excluding weeks with major trade conventions. Center City is home to a wide variety of moderate and high end hotel chains that can be found in five main areas:
- Convention Center: Loew's, Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Residences at the Marriott, Four Points, Hampton Inn, Le Meridien, Hilton Garden, Travelodge, Clarion Suites
- Rittenhouse/West Market-Palomar, Latham, Rittenhouse hotel, Bellevue at Stratford, Ritz Carlton, Embassy Suites, Four Seasons, Crowne Plaza, Sofitel, Club Quarters, Windsor Suites, Westin
- East of Broad/Washington Sq West-Doubletree, Alexander Inn, Independent Hotel, Holiday Inn, Rodeway Inn, Parker Spruce
- Old City (near Independence Hall)-Sheraton Society hill, Penn's View, Comfort Inn, Hyatt, Omni, Holiday Inn, Best Western
- Philadelphia International Airport in South Philadelphia
Philadelphia is thoroughly covered by all of the major American cellular telephone companies. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile phones will all receive full service in most parts of the city. As always, service indoors varies according to signal strength, phone brand, and the composition of the building itself. AT&T has contracted with SEPTA to provide wireless service in transit tunnels.
There is no way to sugarcoat it, so let us cut to the chase: yes, Philadelphia has a massive crime problem. As early as the late 1980s it was bestowed the notorious moniker of 'Killadelphia'. However, the city's overall crime rate has declined somewhat since the late 2000s, now boasting a lower crime rate than more tourist-friendly cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. As a rule of thumb, it is important to know that the places visitors are likely to spend time in are safe and well policed.
Center City and the surrounding neighborhoods have very low crime rates (some of the lowest in the country). Wealthier neighborhoods like Rittenhouse Square, Old City, and Society Hill, are safe, as are Northeast Philadelphia (for the most part), Northwest Philadelphia, the Art Museum Area, Chinatown, the Parkway, and Bella Vista. Some petty crimes (mostly pickpocketing) happen but much less often than the media suggest. South Philadelphia is generally safe, though certain parts should be avoided (especially those near I-95).
On the flip side, other parts of the city struggle with rampant crime. The city's criminal activities are overwhelmingly concentrated in North Philadelphia (with the very notable exception of Temple University), far West Philadelphia (though this area has seen improvements), and Southwest Philadelphia. These areas are of little interest to tourists, but do be careful if you do end up venturing there.
Non-violent crimes & scams
Pickpocketing and scams are nowhere nearly as common in Philadelphia as they are in other cities, but the threat of being mugged or approached by unwanted individuals remains real, so keep an eye on your belongings. One known scam is being "photographed" by homeless men near the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.
Be careful of traffic when crossing at major intersections—in Philadelphia, as in many major cities, one must always walk, cross, and drive defensively. The winding Schuylkill expressway provides some beautiful views, particularly around Boathouse Row, but do not try to enjoy them from your car; with the high speeds, the river on one side, and jagged rocks on the other, this is a sure way to cause an accident.
Although it is frequently blown out of proportion, Philadelphia sports fans have earned a reputation as a very passionate and notorious bunch. It is advised to be extra vigilant when attending a major sports match at the Sports Complex, particularly those who have the courage to wear the opposing team's gear in hostile territory. For these fans, it is best not to provoke the Philadelphia faithful and take their jabs in stride, as fans have been assaulted and even seriously injured in fights in and around the Sports Complex and around town. Be especially cautious if you are a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, any team from the New York City area (especially the Giants and Mets), Pittsburgh Penguins, New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, and Washington Capitals.
Whereas Philadelphia has a history of crime, the rest of the Delaware Valley is one of the safest metropolitan areas in the USA. Certain places like Camden (across the Delaware river in New Jersey), Reading, Tinicum Township, and Chester have very high crime rates, so visitors should exercise caution when visiting. With all that said, most of Philadelphia's suburbs have low crime rates.
- Belgium (Honorary), 1701 Market St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Denmark (Honorary), 1650 Market Street, Suite 1800, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- France (Honorary), One Penn Center, 1617 JFK Blvd Suite 1500, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Germany (Honorary), One Penn Center, 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd Ste 340, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Israel, 1880 John F Kennedy Boulevard #1818, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Italy, 100 S 6th St, 1026 Public Ledger Bldg, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Mexico, 111 S Independence Mall E, Bourse Bldg Ste 1010, ☏ , fax: .
- Netherlands (Honorary), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Norway (Honorary), 1735 Market Street (BNY Mellon Center, Suite 3750), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Portugal (Honorary), 7950 Loreto Ave, ☏ , fax: .
- Sweden (Honorary), Larson & Scheuritzel, Centre Square West, Suite 3510, 1500 Market Street, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Allentown, Pennsylvania's third largest city. Home of Dorney Park.
- Brandywine Creek, historic site of American Revolutionary War.
- Doylestown, Browse world-class museums, including the renowned James A. Michener Art Museum, the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, the Mercer Museum and Fonthill, a 44-room mansion featured on A&Es “America’s Castles.”
- Gettysburg, historic site of American Civil War.
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's state capital.
- Hershey, home of Hershey Park.
- Kennett Square, the site of the beautiful Longwood Gardens, featuring over a thousand acres of manicured landscapes and fountains.
- King of Prussia, edge city northwest of Philadelphia that is home to the King of Prussia Mall, which is the largest mall in the United States in terms of leaseable retail space offering more than 400 stores.
- Lancaster, home of Pennsylvania Amish.
- Langhorne, Home of Sesame Place. Approximately 30-45 minutes outside Philadelphia. Sesame Place is a one of a kind theme park aimed towards toddlers, pre-school, and grade school children. The theme of the park is based on all of the characters from the children's show Sesame Street. This park is as close to Disney World that the surrounding Philadelphia Area has to offer. The park includes wet and dry amusement rides, games, shopping, live shows, musical parades, restaurants, and meet and greet opportunities with Elmo, Oscar, Bert and Ernie, among other characters.
- Lehigh Valley, region of eastern Pennsylvania north of Philadelphia.
- New Castle, Delaware, quiet, charming town south of Philadelphia.
- New Hope, major shopping center north of Philadelphia.
- New York City is 1 hour 20 minutes away via Amtrak and somewhat longer on a bus or via SEPTA to Trenton and then NJ Transit to New York Penn Station. Driving is very possible but not recommended, due to traffic and the hassle of parking in New York.
- Poconos and Endless Mountains, home to some ski and other mountain resorts.
- Princeton, New Jersey, home to Princeton University.
- The Jersey Shore, including Atlantic City, Cape May, Ocean City, and Wildwood. Visiting the Jersey shore is referred to locally as "going down the shore." Atlantic City is home to the Borgata, Caesar's, and several other casinos. Cape May offers historical tours (and haunted tours!) of the town. And hey, it's a great way to cool off and unwind—and perhaps work off that cheesesteak!
- Valley Forge, historic site of American Revolutionary War.
- Washington Crossing, historic site of American Revolutionary War.
- Washington DC, the capital of the United States, is 2 1/2 hours south on I-95 or more with traffic, or around 1 hour 40 minutes-2 hours 10 minutes on Amtrak.
- York, historic site of American Revolutionary War.
|Routes through Philadelphia (by long-distance rail)|
|Washington, D.C. ← Wilmington ←||SW NE||→ Trenton → New York City|
|Baltimore ← Wilmington ←||W E||→ Trenton → New York City|
|New York City ← Trenton ←||N S||→ Wilmington → Baltimore|
|Lancaster ← Ardmore ←||W E||→ Bensalem → New York City|
|Baltimore ← Wilmington ←||SW NE||→ Bensalem → New York City|
|Harrisburg ← Exton ←||W E||→ Trenton → New York City|
|Baltimore ← Wilmington ←||SW NE||→ Trenton → New York City|
|Routes through Philadelphia (by car)|
|Harrisburg ← Bala Cynwyd ←||W E||→ Camden → Atlantic City|
|New York City ← Bensalem ←||N S||→ Philadelphia International Airport → Baltimore|
|New York City ← Langhorne ←||N S||→ Bala Cynwyd → Baltimore|
|Bristol ← Bensalem ←||N S||→ Sharon Hill → Wilmington|
|Lancaster ← Ardmore ←||W E||→ Camden → Atlantic City|
|Doylestown ← Elkins Park ←||N S||→ END|
|Routes through Philadelphia (by mass transit and commuter rail)|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Pennsauken → Atlantic City|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Camden → Lindenwold|
|Doylestown ← Elkins Park ←||N S||→ END|
|Middletown ← Lansdowne ←||W E||→ END|
|Thorndale ← Ardmore ←||W E||→ END|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Bensalem → Trenton|
|Warminster ← Elkins Park ←||N S||→ END|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Elkins Park → Ewing|
|Wilmington ← Sharon Hill ←||SW NE||→ END|