Philly is one of the most underrated cities in the United States. Being so close to popular cities like New York City, Boston, and Washington DC, Philadelphia seems to fall by the wayside too often. Full of brick architecture, art galleries, award winning museums, and (of course) history, Philadelphia is the perfect spot for just about anyone to explore. Not sure where to start? Read on!
Philadelphia is the perfect city for walking, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and get to the city in the early a.m. (think 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.) to fit more in for the day. We suggest parking in Chinatown, due to the proximity of everything. Have fun exploring the vibrant streets in this culturally diverse area. This neighborhood celebrates cultures from China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and beyond.
Enjoy the electric colors, bustling markets (be sure to stop in and pick up some snacks from Asia), hanging lanterns, and the beautifully hand-made friendship arch!
This place is hopping with artistic touches, so we highly recommend spending at least an hour there. While you’re there, pick up a refreshing morning pick-me-up – bubble tea! We adore the drinks at ViViBubble Tea for their rainbow array of drinks (especially their “Blue Galaxy” drink). Before you leave, check out the Chinese Zodiac Walk- a colorful walk featuring 95 bronze medallions that showcase the many zodiacs. Find yours, and remember to snap a photo!
As you head towards Old City, take a walking detour to the Edgar Allan Poe house. Read all of the historic signs, walk through the museum, and get a picture of the giant mural of his face. This stop is perfect for the book worms and the artists. While in the neighborhood, take the time to appreciate this industrial district- complete with a newly opened Rail Park (think the Highline meets Philly).
Getting hungry for breakfast? There are so many great spots in this food-obsessed city, but our favorite is United by Blue. Sound familiar? You might have heard of the clothing brand before- their ecofriendly threads are to die for. Philly hosts their flagship store (made from re-purposed material), which houses not only their amazing products, but also an incredible and rustic eatery! Scarf down trail oats, healthy breakfast sandwiches, and mounds of griddle cakes, all while supporting a business that breathes sustainability. We call that a win!
Once you’re all full on gorgeously campy food, walk over to Elfreth’s Alley. Not many tourists know about it, so enjoy the lack of crowds in this insanely cool lot.
Take a stroll back in time, as you walk the cobblestone alleys of this preserved, colonial neighborhood. The scarlet and ivory colored homes, overhanging ivy, and maze-like roads create an intimate look into what it was like to live during the Revolution.
After you’ve had your fill of wandering through time, head over to Spruce Street Harbor Park, and enjoy the boardwalk, flag-donned ships, strung lights, and carnival. This area is prime for late morning walks on the harbor, and gazing at the decked out boats floating by. Take your time, and soak in the local culture of this residential favorite.
As lunchtime approaches, there are a few restaurants to keep in mind. One of our favorites is actually a food hall- the Bourse Food Hall. The Bourse is located in the 123 year old building, bringing history to the artisan food scene. This all-in-one stop features everything from Hawaiian poke bowls to authentic Filipino comfort dishes. Our other recommendation is Farmicia.
This earthy eatery is filled with fairy lights, origami stars hanging from the ceilings, and of course, delectable and colorful food to scarf down. Munch on heaping plates featuring ingredients such as pan seared tofu, fennel tomato jam, fresh herb vinaigrette, or roasted eggplant.
Once you have gotten your fill of wholesome eats, explore history-filled places like the Betsy Ross house, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the Liberty Bell, and of course, Independence Hall. See where the founders of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence. Oh- and it’s free! Want to make it even more interesting? Bring your own copy of the Declaration (or your own version of it- we suggest revising it to include women and minorities), and sign it in this historic place.
After, walk to the Christ Church Burial Grounds, and partake in the local tradition of tossing a penny on Ben Franklin’s grave (a nod to his famous quote, “a penny saved, is a penny earned”). Have fun browsing through nearby bookstores as well! The city has had a huge bookstore boom in recent years, so no matter where you feel like wandering, there is sure to be a great place for the reader in you.
While you’re in the area, walk on Church Street’s cobblestone. Feeling hungry again? Stop by the best ice cream shop in the city- Franklin’s Fountain. This old fashioned stop has countless flavors, all creamier than the next. They even have vegan flavors (mango ice cream, anyone?)! It is a must for anyone who loves dessert.
Feeling artsy? Explore the folk-art environment of Magic Gardens. This art space is studded with glittering mosaics in every color imaginable. Get lost in the kaleidoscope that is the garden, and take in the designs that swirl for days.
Still on an art kick? Take in the pieces at the Philadelphia Museum of Art! We love their array of impressionist paintings, and and exhibits that highlight artists of the African American south. After, have fun people watching at the nearby Rittenhouse Square. Soak in the luxurious ambiance of this well-to-do neighborhood, and toss some coins into their fancy fountains. There are also plenty of sculptures to admire as well.
Before dinner, we suggest taking the time to visit Random Tea Room. The quirky tea shop carries more than just (phenomenal) teas. It also offers tea accessories, locally made jewelry, an art gallery, and light food options. The best part? You can get a tarot card reading in the back.
This place is as eccentric as it is mysterious. Being not very well known among tourists, we highly recommend stopping in.
Hopefully by now you have worked up a huge appetite, because dinners in Philadelphia are showstopping. With so many choices, and its huge number of award winning chefs in the area, choosing where to go can be a challenge. We have a growing number of favorites, but we especially love Pizzeria Beddia and Amada.
Pizzeria Beddia has been voted the best pizza in the country for many years, so getting a seat might be rough. Call ahead for reservations, but do not be surprised if they are booked solid. It is worth the try though, because between the dandelion green-topped pies and endless wine menu, we are smitten!
Amada is also well worth the stop. This restaurant features authentic Andalusian tapas, and their chef has been awarded the “Best Chef, Mid Atlantic” award. This place does not disappoint.
Feast on Spanish olives, wild mushroom and black truffle flatbread, asparagus avocado salad, and just about every type of tapas.
If you thought your night was over, think again. Philadelphia has a prime night life scene. Rather than hitting up a typical club or bar, we suggest enjoying the true-to-Philly scene. Sing your heart out at one of the many piano bars (a local favorite being Tavern on Camac– an excitingly classy piano bar open until 2 a.m. nightly), or spend the night at the Franklin Institute at their Science After Hours.
Grab tickets ahead of time to enjoy this original extravaganza featuring a cash bar, performances, and crazy cool science showcases (from cocktail concocting to time travel).
Each month takes on a different theme- whether it be “Sci-chella” or “Wizard School”. This hot spot is not to miss!
Maybe you have been to Philly before, or maybe you are looking forward to seeing it for the first time. Either way, this city is truly exploding with life and culture. While neighboring cities might be fun as well, Philadelphia has its own unique and vibrant culture; a culture that anyone should regret missing out on. Happy wandering!