Philadelphia Travel Guide
Would you guess that Philadelphia is one of the US' most visited cities? It might be because of its rich history — or it might just be because of how beautiful it is. Philadelphia is the nation's first UNESCO World Heritage City; so much history happened here, the entire city is considered worth preserving. That alone is reason to plan your next trip.
When planning your next trip to Philadelphia, you're visiting a city that feels a little gravid with its history in a way that some equally-storied cities don't quite manage. But beyond that, you're also visiting a city with its share of adventure: home to the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the iconic Philly cheesesteak, there's a lot about the city of brotherly (and sisterly) love to, well, love.
Eastern Standard Time
Best Time to Go
Philadelphia shares the same weather as other east coast cities — namely temperate, damp springs, humid and sunny summers, stunning and crisp falls, and cold winters with at least one big snowstorm on average. As such, it's best to go in the spring or summer, understandably the most popular seasons for tourists. The pleasant spring and summer weather lets you get the most out of your trip, giving outdoor and indoor attractions equal opportunity to shine.
Things to Know
Philadelphia is known as the City of Neighborhoods, and neighborhoods in Philly have very distinct identities. There's something for everyone, though, whether you're looking for a quiet family-focused area to spend your time, the thriving nightlife of the Gayborhood in Washington West (festooned, naturally, with Pride flags), museums and parks, chic high-fashion shopping, or thrifty, snappy vintage and boho vibes. If you know what you want out of your vacation, do a little looking around in advance and plan around the neighborhoods.
Don't miss out on Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak and Hires Root Beer (local beloved soft drinks), a sweet and delicious (if somewhat redundantly named) water ice, a soft pretzel, or scrapple (a delicious pork-based breakfast side).
Philly's public transportation is some of the best in the country, and with their many free things to do, a trip to Philly is easy, fun, and relatively low-cost for a trip to a large city.
How to Get Around
Transit in Philadelphia is maintained by SEPTA, which runs trains, buses, and trolleys. These are all paid for either through SEPTA's Travel Wallet program and a Key Card, or cash in hand.
Trains: Philly's rapid transit system combined subway lines, buses, and trolleys to get you where you need to go. The subways run out of two major lines, the Broad Street Line and Market-Frankfort Line. Together, these lines are quite comprehensive, making Philly a highly navigable city.
Buses: What you can't reach by subway, you can probably reach by bus — the lines are connected through SEPTA and you can easily transfer from one mode to the other.
Trolleys: Of course, the most fun way to travel around Philly just for the sheer novelty of it are the trackless trolleys – also connected through SEPTA, so as easy to transfer onto or off of as a bus or subway.
Taxis: Taxis are abundant in Philadelphia and can be hailed from most main streets.
Car service: Lyft and Uber are available in Philadelphia, or there are independently owned car services available — the most popular is Philly Black Car.
Address: 210 W Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
A luxurious hotel alongside Rittenhouse Square, The Rittenhouse combines timeless luxury with modern amenities in a sophisticated balance. Family-friendly and centrally located, the hotel is a classically luxury experience from decor to amenities.
Lokal Hotel Fishtown
Address: 1421 N Front Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125
If you're looking for an experience that isn't quite as rote as a standard hotel, consider Lokal Hotel, an apartment hotel comprised of six thoughtfully curated studio suites. With an excellent location and a true home-away-from-home feel, this Fishtown favorite is in high demand during the height of tourist season.
Klimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia
Address: 433 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
An icon for a reason, the Klimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia is widely regarded as one of the best hotels the city has to offer. Architecture buffs will love the gorgeous, unique design of the building giving the hotel a personality that extends into the 238 rooms — none of which is decorated precisely the same.
Klimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia
Address: 117 S 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
A few streets over is Hotel Monaco's sister, Hotel Palomar, an equally gorgeous but somewhat more serene stay. If Hotel Monaco is color and texture, Hotel Palomar is muted and calm, a true oasis away from the bustling Center City.
Wm. Mulherin's Sons Hotel
Address: 1355 N Front Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Wm. Mulherin's Sons Hotel has only four rooms, each a carefully curated demonstration of taste and style. The home of a former whiskey trust, the building has been carefully restored such that each room pays homage to history while losing none of its modern appeal. Bonus? The restaurant is to die for.
Hotel Suites at the Touraine
Address: 1520 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
The Touraine is actually a historical landmark apartment building, and prospective residents jostle for the opportunity to move in permanently any time there is an opening. Lucky for us, The Touraine has several "travel apartments," gorgeously decorated suites that can be rented for short-term stays by visitors.
The Warwick Hotel
Address: 220 S 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Located in a historic building along Rittenhouse Square, The Warwick Hotel has chosen luxe-feeling textures and bright, vibrant colors to accentuate the restorations. The Warwick is home to 301 rooms and two restaurants — once you check in, you might wonder if you even need to leave.
Morris House Hotel
Address: 225 S 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
A boutique hotel in the historic district of Center City, Morris House has kept its revolutionary roots alive in its decor and ambience. Don't let that fool you — the hotel is equipped with the latest in modern comfort, including jacuzzi-jet tubs and plush linens. Breakfast is included in your stay.
The Dwight D Hotel
Address: 256 S 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
An acclaimed boutique hotel with a storied past, the Dwight D Hotel is perfect for travelers looking for a luxurious and comfortable experience without spending a fortune. Its excellent location and beautiful rooms make it a top contender for couples and families.
Address: 1600 Christian Street 2nd floor, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Your eyes do not deceive you — The Deacon doesn't have a phone number, so the phone-averse will be right at home in this gorgeous, eclectic hotel. The Deacon was previously a church, and still retains much of the original stained glass and details from its former life. With eight bedrooms in high demand, space here gets snapped up quickly by visitors looking for a creative, warm, unique place to stay.
Address: 1528 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Topping dozens of "best of" lists is Suraya, a Lebanese eatery with a cult following. If you don't have your heart set on something specific, definitely go for the tasting menu — at $65 for two people, it's a great option to taste an abundance of what Suraya has to offer. And then, of course, get an extra serving of hummus and pita.
Address: 1301 N Howard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Laser Wolf is one of the best Middle Eastern meals in all of Pennsylvania, and the $39 per person three-course prix fixe menu is a must-try. Laser Wolf's best dishes are their traditional ones, like savory kebabs, whole branzino on the grill, and braised short ribs. They are known for their excellent cocktail pairings; don't skip your beverage.
Jim's South Street
Address: 400 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
You absolutely cannot go to Philadelphia and not get a Philly cheesesteak, and if you're getting one, you're going to Jim's. The original location opened in 1939, and they've been doing cheesesteaks right since then. Get a classic cheesesteak or, for a little bit of a lighter option, try Maxine's Meatless.
Hershel's East Side Deli
Address: 51 N 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Located in the iconic Reading Terminal Market, Hershel's is a Jewish deli on par with New York. Stick to the classics with their incredible matzo ball soup and pastrami sandwich, or try their latkes or potato knishes for a warm pick-me-up.
Address: 1221 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Luscious, seasonal vegan and vegetarian dishes are given the star treatment at this former mansion. Vedge serves small plates, medium plates, and more composed dishes according to your appetite; come ready for fresh vegetables, house-made pickles, and a shifting menu that gives you a unique experience with every visit.
South Philly Barbacoa
Address: 1140 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Two words: traditional tacos. South Philly Barbacoa is a roaming pop-up that appears in cities nationwide, but lives in Philadelphia full-time. Their pop-ups elsewhere sell out almost immediately, and there is almost always a line at the Philly location, but it is worth it. Cash only.
Kalaya Thai Kitchen
Address: 764 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Inside the iconic 9th Street Italian Market, Kalaya Thai Kitchen and Market serves up delicious classics and fresh takes on old favorites. Try the Shaw Muang (flower-shaped chicken dumplings) and Khao Soi Nua (egg noodles in curry sauce with skirt steak) for a rich and extra-filling meal.
Address: 2229 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Sally Philadelphia tops sourdough pizzas with house-made, fresh ingredients, like fermented tomato sauce and fennel and pork sausage. The Stracciatella is a top choice, and the potato pizza is a delicious, rich surprise.
Address: 1754 S Hicks Street #2217, Philadelphia, PA 19145
Hardena is a beloved Philly mainstay, and for good reason — serving classic curries, soups, and more, Hardena's food is silky and luscious with heady, fragrant spices. A local favorite is their bakwan, fried corn fritters; order ahead and get their #NotPizzaBox, a pizza box lined with banana leaves and stuffed with Indonesian specialties (vegetarian and vegan options available).
Address: 2104 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Central American street food comes to Philadelphia, and if you don't have the elote loco you're doing yourself a disservice. El Merkury is one of the only places to get a truly great pupusa in the city, or anywhere nearby; with fresh, fragrant ingredients and small surprises (Loroco flower buds make an appearance), El Merkury is worth seeking out.
Things to Do
Address: 526 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The iconic Liberty Bell and its crack are located in a park in an otherwise innocuous area of the city — just follow the line of people waiting to take a selfie. Having inspired civil rights activists, suffragettes, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters of all sorts, the Liberty Bell now lives on display for anyone to come and see.
Independence National Historic Park
Address: Philadelphia, PA 19106
This park contains the Liberty Bell and rubs shoulders with Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The park itself has played host to suffragettes, civil rights leaders, and more, gathering to protest for expanded rights and liberty for all.
Address: 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
A museum with a stunning collection including Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Modigliani, and more. On display is also a selection of Native American arts and textiles, African sculpture and arts, and an arboretum replete with rare plants.
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
Address: 1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
An art exhibition focused on nonstandard methods of expression, the mosaic art of the Magic Gardens is not to be missed. In addition to the murals on display, the Magic Gardens feature a rotating selection of exhibitions that focus on sculptural, textile, and otherwise overlooked forms of art.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is, most importantly, home to the "Rocky steps" — the staircase Rocky ran up, which you can and should do and take a photo at the top. In addition to that unbeatable cultural icon, the Philadelphia Museum of Art features works by Mary Cassatt, Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keefe, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and many more.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Address: 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Built in the Gothic architectural style, this decommissioned prison once housed Al Capone, and is allegedly one of the most haunted places in America. These days, Eastern State Penitentiary is a nonprofit dedicated to educating and exploring the history of American criminal justice reform. The Penitentiary offers regular tours and exhibits and, around Halloween, partially transforms into a haunted house.
Please Touch Museum
Address: 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Absolutely everything in this children's museum is meant to be touched, played with, squeezed, and explored, making it an educational experience that is genuinely fun. Please Touch Museum is dedicated to learning through play, and adults are welcome to join in with their children in exploring, deconstructing, building, and figuring out the exhibitions.
Address: 3400 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Opened in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo is devoted to conservation and education through experiences with animals. With over 1,300 animals, it's easy to spend an entire day here, enjoying the company of giraffes, rhinos, chimpanzees, and many more.
Address: 222 N 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Named after Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute is a lively place with many interactive exhibits and a planetarium. Check the schedule in advance to see what movies, events, and exhibitions are on display before you go.
Address: 19 S 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Do you love the odd and slightly macabre? Don't miss the Mütter Museum, a museum of medical history with anatomical specimens, models, medical instruments, and a series of displays that have to be seen to be believed — including Einstein's brain.
Reading Terminal Market
Address: 51 N 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Reading Terminal Market is one of America's oldest and largest markets, continuously operating since 1893 and home not only to specialty and grocery shops but bars and restaurants. Here, you'll find not only fresh ingredients, but the tools to make a delicious meal: kitchenware, linens, cookbooks, and more.
9th Street Italian Market
Address: 919 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This 100-year-old community space has a rich history of immigrant families, and part of their mission is to continue to foster and build the community that first began over a century ago. When you shop here — and shop here you should, for fresh and delicious cheeses, baked goods, flowers, seafood, vintage finds, and everything else you can think of — you're part of a century-old tradition.
The Shops at Liberty Place
Address: 1625 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Thirty-six shops and eateries fill The Shops at Liberty Place, which differentiates itself from other shopping centers through thoughtful architecture and fascinating design. Take a mid-shopping spree snack to the rotunda to enjoy.
Address: South Street from Front Street to 11th Street, Philadelphia PA
Starting at 11th street, and heading toward the Delaware River, South Street is a vibrant, eclectic avenue of shops of all kinds, from curios and boutiques to record stores and cafes. Head out early to avoid the crowds, and make sure to stop at Spread Bagelry for a snack.
Address: 701 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Established in 1851, Jeweler's Row is historically specific to, well, jewelry, but has branched out a bit in recent years to include swanky restaurants and salons. While it's a perfect place to find a one of a kind gem (literally) for yourself or as a gift, Jeweler's Row is fun to explore even if jewelry isn't on your shopping list.
Address: Broad Street to 21st Street between Spruce and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 972-0101
Starting at Rittenhouse Square and extending for several blocks, Rittenhouse Row is dotted with al fresco dining, high-end boutique shops, spas and salons, and cafes. It is one of the most iconic shopping areas in the city, with so much to do and see that it can easily take up an entire day all on its own.
Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books
Address: 5445 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144
This beloved Philadelphia institution lives by the motto "Cool People. Dope Books. Great Coffee." and lives up to all three of those promises. With a fun and eclectic event schedule, a thoughtfully curated selection of books, and a seriously delicious cafe, Uncle Bobbie's should be top of list for any visitor with a love of books, coffee, or cool people.
Neighborhoods to Know
Center City: Most visitors opt to stay primarily within Center City – and there's a reason for that. This neighborhood could be considered the main hub of Philadelphia in the way that Times Square is the most iconic area of New York; here, most of the thrilling things that visitors come to Philadelphia to experience are scattered, including the Liberty Bell, Barnes Foundation, Independence Hall, and Franklin Institute.
Logan Square: City Center is broken up into smaller neighborhoods, and Logan Square is one of these. Home to the Barnes Foundation and the Franklin Institute, Logan Square is also where you'll find the iconic LOVE sculpture — if you're going to Philadelphia, a selfie with this sculpture is the ultimate in gotta-do-it cheesy-fun tourist experiences.
Rittenhouse Square: Located within City Center, Rittenhouse Square is one of Philadelphia's most fashionable neighborhoods. If your interest is in chic shopping and high-profile restaurants, make your way to this beautiful, idyllic enclave of Philadelphia's bustling heart. Walnut Street, the heart of the neighborhood, features art galleries, fashion boutiques, and spas.
Fishtown: Fishtown is by far the coolest of Philadelphia's many neighborhoods. Formerly a working-class neighborhood home to — you guessed it – sailors and fishermen, Fishtown has become an enclave of creative, youthful energy. Trends in fashion, art, and food start here, and this is the place to be for the trendiest bars, restaurants, and nightlife.
Philadelphia averages about the same amount of rain per month — between 7 and 10 days — throughout the year, which is helpful in that it is consistent, but does mean you should probably bring an umbrella or a raincoat just in case.
Spring is lovely in Philadelphia, but can be chilly at the beginning of the season. Temperatures range from around 35°F to 75°F, especially towards the summer. Spring is a popular time to visit Philadelphia thanks to its temperate weather and the blooming of the many flowers and trees around the city.
Summer can be hot, and like many eastern states, Pennsylvania gets humid — Philly is no exception. Lows tend to be around 65°F at the beginning of the season, but spike up to 90°F and occasionally above at the height of summer. Philadelphia is gorgeous in the summer, and the excellent weather makes for a great visit, but don't forget your sunscreen and your water bottle.
Fall plays host to the foliage that the east is known for, and can be a fun time of year to visit, especially as tourism falls off a bit so it's quite a bit less busy. Bring layers; average fall temperatures range from 42°F all the way up to 80°F.
And finally, winter — cold, yes, but not as bitterly so as other eastern states can get. Average temperatures range from 28°F to 45°F, and Philadelphia usually sees some snow. It can be a great choice to visit for the holidays and enjoy a less crowded, festive city.