This U.S. Destination Is the Country’s First UNESCO World Heritage City

Discover the best hotels, restaurants, and things to do with this highly curated Philadelphia travel guide.

Philadelphia Skyline from the bridge
Photo: Keith Reid/EyeEm/Getty Images

With its rich history and a food scene that just keeps getting better, a trip to Philadelphia can be a real treat. It's the nation's first UNESCO World Heritage City (because both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed here) and is home to the always-iconic Philly cheesesteak — two details worth planning a trip around.

When you visit Philadelphia, you're visiting a city that feels 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 culture: home to the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Orchestra, there's a lot about the city of brotherly (and sisterly) love to, well, love.

Best Time to Visit Philadelphia

Philadelphia shares the same weather as other East Coast cities — namely temperate, damp springs; humid and sunny summers; 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.

How to Get Around Philadelphia

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 SEPTA Key card, or with cash in hand. You can reload your card at one of the many SEPTA kiosks, which accepts cash, credit, debit, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. SEPTA is in the process of a five-year transportation revitalization program called SEPTA Forward. With this program, the transit company hopes to create a unified and equitable transit network. Download the SEPTA app for on-the-go access to schedule information, fare options, and more.

Trains: Philly's rapid transit system combines 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. SEPTA is constructing a new transit hub on Ridge Avenue to help with wait times and congestion.

Trolleys: Of course, the trackless trolleys are the most fun way to travel around Philly, just for the sheer novelty. They are also connected through SEPTA, making for easy transfer.

Taxis: Taxis are abundant in Philadelphia and can be hailed from most main streets.

Car service: Lyft and Uber are available in Philadelphia, and independently owned car services are also available — the most popular is Philly Black Car.

Best Hotels in Philadelphia

Four Seasons Philadelphia at Comcast Center

As one of the most luxurious stays in the area, the Four Seasons Philadelphia brings modernity to this historic city. Home to a rejuvenating spa, fine-dining options from award-winning chefs, and an infinity-edge pool on the 57th floor, this hotel opened in 2019 and remains one of the most coveted hotels in the city.

The Rittenhouse

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 classic luxury experience from decor to amenities.

Lokal Hotel Fishtown

The Lokal Fishtown hotel in Philadelphia
Heidis Bridge/Courtesy of The Lokal

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.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

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.

Hotel Suites at the Touraine

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.

Morris House Hotel

A boutique hotel in the historic district of Center City, Morris House has kept its revolutionary roots alive in its decor and ambiance. 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 Deacon

The Deacon Hotel in Philadelphia in an old church
Courtesy of The Deacon

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.

Best Restaurants in Philadelphia


Named an outstanding restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2019, Zahav is Israel-born chef Michael Solomonov's first restaurant in Philadelphia (he now owns nine). Guests are treated to a five-course prix-fixe menu, which includes delicious breads and mezzes, a choice of entrée (try the famous pomegranate lamb shoulder), and ends with dessert. The meal costs $75 per person, and you will need to make reservations well in advance.

JG Skyhigh Lounge

If the $200 prix-fixe menu at Jean Georges Philadelphia isn't for you, head upstairs to the 60th floor of the Four Seasons Philadelphia where you'll find the JG Skyhigh Lounge. The lounge is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's first a la carte restaurant in Philadelphia and offers snacks and small plates. Sip on a cocktail, like a lychee raspberry bellini, at the bar, and soak in the incredible view.


Suraya is a Lebanese eatery with a cult following in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood. If you don't have your heart set on something specific, definitely go for the tasting menu — at $75 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.

Laser Wolf

Laser Wolf is one of the best Middle Eastern meals in all of Pennsylvania, and the three-course prix-fixe menu is a must-try (prices start at $37). Also created by chef Michael Solomonov, Laser Wolf's best dishes are its 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.


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

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

Kalaya Thai Kitchen food dishes on table
Courtesy of Kalaya Thai Kitchen

Now open in Fishtown, 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.

Sally Philadelphia

Sally Philadelphia tops sourdough pizzas with house-made, fresh ingredients, like fermented tomato sauce and fennel and pork sausage. The soppressata pizza is a top choice, and the mushroom and egg pizza is a delicious, rich surprise.


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. Try their bakwan, or fried corn fritters, it's a local favorite.

El Merkury

Central American street food comes to Philadelphia, and if you don't try 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 in Philadelphia

Liberty Bell

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

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.

Barnes Foundation

The exterior view of Barnes Foundation.
Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images

A museum with a stunning collection, including works by 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 Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is, most importantly, home to the "Rocky steps" — the staircase Rocky Balboa ran up in his self-titled film. (You can run up them, too, and don't forget to take a picture 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

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

Father and son in toy car at Please Touch Museum
Courtesy of Please Touch Museum

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.

Philadelphia Zoo

Opened in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo is devoted to conservation and education through experiences with animals. With more than 1,300 animals, it's easy to spend an entire day here, enjoying the company of giraffes, rhinos, chimpanzees, and many more.

Best Places to Shop in Philadelphia

Reading Terminal Market

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

9th Street Italian Market in Philadelphia
Getty Images

This 100-year-old community space has a rich history of immigrant families, and part of its 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.

Jeweler's Row

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.

Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books

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 the list for any visitor with a love of books, coffee, or cool people.

Philadelphia Neighborhoods to Know

Center City: Center City could be considered the main hub of Philadelphia in the way that Times Square is the most iconic area of New York. It's home to some of the city's most iconic attractions, including the Liberty Bell, Barnes Foundation, Independence Hall, and Franklin Institute.

Logan Square: Center City 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 Center City, 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.

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