Wondering what attractions you can’t miss in the City of Brotherly Love? Our guide to the best things to do in Philadelphia is just what you need!
Philadelphia is arguably the most historical city in the United States. Other parts of the country may have led risings against the British, but it was in Philly that the new order was put in place and America was born.
Travelers can create a full itinerary based purely on the dozens of historic sites set around the Center City (downtown), from the Liberty Bell to City Hall.
However, with exciting food halls, elegant parks and charming neighborhoods, modern-day Philadelphia still commands your attention.
Skyscrapers now frame the skyline and the elegant Riverfront is vibrant, creative and inviting. Then there are the art galleries, of which Philly is proud to feature some of America’s best.
Read Next: Looking for a way to combine all these great activities into one short stay in Philly? Be sure to check out our post on the best 3 day Philadelphia itinerary!
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Things to Do in Philadelphia
- 1) The Liberty Bell Center
- 2) The Independence Hall
- 3) The Independence National Historical Park
- 4) The Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- 5) The Reading Terminal Market
- 6) Walk the Delaware River Waterfront
- 7) Rittenhouse Square
- 8) Citizens Bank Park
- 9) Take a Pic with the Rocky Balboa Statue
- 10) Philadelphia Museum of Art
- 11) Love Park
- 12) The Franklin Institute Science Museum
- 13) The Italian Market
- 14) National Museum of American Jewish History
- 15) Eastern State Penitentiary
- 16) Societal Hill Historic District
- 17) The Philadelphia Zoo
- 18) The Rodin Museum
- 19) Eat a Philly Cheesesteak
- 20) Philadelphia City Hall
- 21) Fairmount
- Where to Stay in Philadelphia
21 Best Things to Do in Philadelphia
Rain, hail or shine, there’s fun to be had in Philadelphia. From a picnic in the spacious parks to views atop a masonry tower, you won’t be left wanting for things to do.
If you’re interested in saving some money, consider investing in the Philadelphia CityPASS. The pass includes discounted entry to some of the city’s best attractions including the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, and numerous museums.
The CityPASS will help you save up to 50% on the entry fees for some of the best attractions, so it’s a great way to save money.
1) The Liberty Bell Center
Visiting the Liberty Bell Center is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia. Sure, it may not make a sound, but the iconic cracked bell has a historic message that rings louder than any chime could.
The famous crack in the Liberty Bell occurred almost a century after the bell was made. In anticipation of George Washington’s birthday, attempts were made to fix it, however, they were unsuccessful. The bell has been silent ever since.
You’ll find the Liberty Bell across from the Independence Hall and within a large glass room.
It was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the writing of the US constitution and became a symbol for freedom-seekers and abolitionists not just in the United States but across the globe.
- Address: 101 S Independence Mall W, Philadelphia, PA 19106
- Hours: 9 am-5 pm (Mon-Sun)
- Price: Free
Read Next: Be sure to add all of these activities to the perfect 3 days in Philadelphia itinerary!
2) The Independence Hall
The Independence Hall is a National Historic Landmark that served as Pennsylvania’s State House in the years leading up the American independence.
But it was on that storied day, July 24th, 1776, that the hall cemented its position in US history. It was here that the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence, marking the end of the British colony and the beginning of a new country.
You can tour the Independence Hall with your free admission. Highlights include the Assembly Hall, where motions were put in place to break away from Britain. It was also here that the document was adopted and George Washington became Commander-in-Chief.
To complete the trifecta, check out the National Constitution Center just two blocks away to learn more about another of the most important documents in the history of the United States.
- Address: 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
- Hours: 9 am-5 pm (Mon-Sun)
- Price: Free
3) The Independence National Historical Park
The Independence National Historical Park is the destination of the first two Philadelphia attractions. Both are set around the lush grounds alongside several other prominent museums and landmarks.
Not only do you have the hall and the Liberty Bell, but also the Ben Franklin Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the New Hall Military Museum and Bishop Whitehouse.
You could make the case that it’s the most historic section, not just in Philadelphia but the entire US. The cobblestone streets take you by important buildings where history was changed, founding fathers gathered and presidents were elected.
It’s all a lot to take in, which is why the grassy park makes for the perfect spot to sit, relax, and enjoy the historic views.
Another fun way to see the park is on a horse-drawn carriage sightseeing tour. This cozy private tour takes you through all the best historic sights of Philly’s Old City.
4) The Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Inspired by Paris’ Champs-Élysées, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is another brilliant section packed with attractions in Philadelphia.
But instead of history, the parkway focuses primarily on the arts. It’s the most creative section in downtown Philadelphia and features the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute.
The gorgeous thoroughfare cuts diagonally from City Hall through the heart of downtown towards Fairmount Park and the Schuylkill River.
Coffee in hand, it’s a beautiful morning walk with plenty of exciting stops along the way.
You could easily spend multiple days making your way through each museum, gallery and attraction, not to mention the iconic Rocky Statue.
Plus, if you’re ever wondering what to do in Philadelphia, then the parkway has you covered.
Looking to explore another scenic US city full of history? Read our list of the best things to do in Boston, Massachusetts
5) The Reading Terminal Market
Speaking of food, be sure to add the Reading Terminal Market to your culinary itinerary.
In Center City, the market is beloved by locals and travelers alike thanks to its wide range of produce, treats and ready-to-go meals.
The Reading Terminal Market blurs the line between a traditional market and a sprawling food hall.
It’s a popular option for a midday feed among local professionals, but come the later afternoon the atmosphere picks up and the community comes together to sample foods from across the globe.
Not only can you try a cheesesteak, but you can load up the picnic basket for a trip to Fairmount Park. There are over 100 stalls to browse with craftwork and souvenirs.
Visit the website to see a full list of the merchants at the market, and check for local events and news.
- Address: 51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
- Hours: 8 am-6 pm (Mon-Sun)
- Price: Free
6) Walk the Delaware River Waterfront
For years, the Delaware River Waterfront was left unused, and the piers abandoned as larger ships had to dock elsewhere.
But a strong urban renewal plan has led to the waterfront’s revitalization and brought back the public in droves.
The Delaware River Waterfront faces New Jersey, offering beautiful views of the neighboring state and the historic Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
But it doesn’t end there. Along the waterfront, you’ll find the popular Cherry Street Pier.
Cherry Street Pier reflects the city’s creativity and history spread across an old municipal dock. There are year-round art exhibitions, special market events and a forum for live music and performances.
In addition, you can relax at Spruce Street Harbor Park, which is the place to be in the summer thanks to its urban beach and colorful hammocks.
Another fun idea to consider is booking a river cruise. Choose from either brunch, lunch or dinner and enjoy a buffet meal with music and drinks while cruising down the river and seeing the sights.
This is a beautiful way to relax and see the city!
7) Rittenhouse Square
Before the urban sprawl of Philadelphia took place, Rittenhouse Square was merely a grazing area for regional livestock.
Today, it’s one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the city. It’s a reputation more fitting for an area named after the former director of the United States Mint.
Rittenhouse Square features some of Philadelphia’s most renowned restaurants along with some of the top shopping streets.
The square, which remains at the heart of the neighborhood, is well-maintained and is a delightful spot to enjoy some cheese and crackers while watching the world go by.
Other reasons to check out Rittenhouse Square are the Mutter Museum (an exploration of medical oddities) and the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife.
8) Citizens Bank Park
Ok, so picture this: It’s summer, there’s nothing but blue skies, the aromas of hot dogs and room-temperature beer. Where are you? That’s right, the baseball.
From March until October, the Philadelphia Phillies are swinging for the fences at Citizens Bank Park. If you like your sport, or just enjoy a reason to have a drink and sit in the sun, then this is the place to be.
The stadium can hold up to 43,000 fans and has a reputation for being one of the best ballparks in the Major League. With great views from any seats, key your eye out for a foul ball and enjoy the exciting atmosphere.
Read Next: Interested in history? Be sure to read our post on the best things to do in Washington, DC.
9) Take a Pic with the Rocky Balboa Statue
As you walk along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the second-to-last stop on the journey is the iconic Rocky Balboa statue and, of course, the “Rocky Steps”.
The Rocky Statue was actually created for a scene in Rocky III but in 1980, it was donated by Silvester Stallone himself. It now stands in the foreground of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
But it’s the steps leading up to the museum that are the most popular. Here, lines of people run up the steps just like Rocky, and complete an arms-raised salute with the beautiful Philadelphia skyline in the background.
Yep, this is one of the top Philadelphia activities and, while it doesn’t get more touristy than this, joining the fun is a rite of passage. Adrian!
10) Philadelphia Museum of Art
After standing on the Rocky Steps and getting your shot taken, head inside to one of the best Philadelphia attractions.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the crown jewel of the fabulous Parkway. The building itself is captivating, being a recreation of temples from ancient Greece. But it’s what is inside that will really draw you in.
The gallery features a rich collection of works from renowned artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh and Matisse.
The museum, however, goes beyond just the canvas to showcase replicas of prominent worldwide structures. These include a temple hall from 16th century India and a historic Japanese teahouse.
For more art, head to South Street, one of Philly’s colorful neighborhoods home to murals, potholes covered with mosaics and other vibrant street art.
- Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
- Hours: 10am-5pm (Thur, Sat-Mon) 10am-8.45pm (Fri)
- Price: $25
11) Love Park
Up until 1976, everyone knew Love Park as its official name, John F. Kennedy Plaza. But with the installation of the popular “LOVE” sign, the grounds were henceforth known as Love Park.
The space is not far from Center City and is another great option for a day with friends or for a romantic picnic. Of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap a selfie in front of the famed sign.
Around the green space, you’ll find plenty of room to veg out, not to mention a welcome center and a beautiful water feature. The park regularly holds community events, none more popular than the annual Christmas Village.
12) The Franklin Institute Science Museum
As one of the preeminent science museums in the United States, the Franklin Institute is not one to miss.
The space is dedicated to the Founding Father and scientist Benjamin Franklin, who is honored with a stunning marble sculpture placed in the main hall.
The museum is around 200 years old, and with the evolution of science and technology, the museum has kept up with a world that moves as fast as ever.
The institute will capture the minds of young and old thanks to its array of educational exhibits and interactive displays.
A great example of this is the opportunity to explore outer space and the Milky Way in the museum’s planetarium.
For more insight into one of Philadelphia’s most important figures, check out the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
- Address: 222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
- Hours: 9.30am-5pm (Mon-Sun)
- Price: $23
Heading to the nearby NYC next? Check out this Perfect 3 Days in New York City Itinerary
13) The Italian Market
The Italian Market is another destination foodies must add to their Philly itinerary. Situated on South Ninth Street, the market has been operating since the late 1800s, making it one of the oldest open-air markets in the country.
The Italian Market is all about gourmet food. Set within a historic space, the market sells delicious food from far beyond just Italy, including Mexico and the Middle East.
Its range of delightful cheeses, homemade sweets and regional produce ensures that it’s one of the best places in town to enjoy lunch or gather the goods for a day at the park.
Alongside food, you’ll find old books, blooming flowers and bars with sun-soaked patios.
- Address: 919 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
- Hours: 7am-7pm (Mon-Sat) 8am-1pm (Sun)
- Price: Free
14) National Museum of American Jewish History
For over 350 years, the Jewish community has been a part of the American way of life.
There have been peaks and valleys in their story, from early settlers to early 20th-century immigration and the years after the Holocaust.
Their story is an important part of the country’s fabric and one worth understanding.
If it’s your story, then the National Museum of American Jewish History also helps to understand your heritage and place within the country’s society.
The museum’s exhibits take you to the 18th Century and as you walk the timeline, you’ll come to learn about some of America’s important Jewish citizens and newcomers from Irving Berlin and Albert Einstein.
- Address: 101 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106
- Hours: 10am-5pm (Tue-Fri) 10am-3pm (Sat-Sun)
- Price: $15
15) Eastern State Penitentiary
In the lively Fairmount neighborhood lies one of the most interesting Philadelphia attractions.
When the Eastern State Penitentiary was built in the 1820s, it was seen as the most advanced prison in the country. It was expensive and made use of all the available technology.
It had one sole and ironically gruesome goal: to transform prisoners through the use of solitary confinement. The prison would remain in use for over 140 years, seeing a number of famous figures such as Willie Sutton and Al Capone.
Today, the prison doors swing open for tours. You can explore parts of the jail that have remained as is, creating an eerie experience like few others.
The museum also explores the wider history of crime and prison in the US in comparison to other nations.
- Address: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
- Hours: 10am-5pm (Mon-Sun) Plus night tours
- Price: $17
16) Societal Hill Historic District
For all the attractions around Philadelphia, there remain entire neighborhoods that are worth exploring. One of these is the pristine Societal Hill Historic District.
Flanked by Washington Square and Walnut Street, the historic district presents rows of elegant buildings from the 1700s, Victorian-era homes and warehouses that have been transformed into modern gathering places.
Among them, all are candle-lit restaurants, cafes serving third-wave coffee, boutique art galleries and a handful of beautiful churches.
Then there’s Washington Square, home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolution.
17) The Philadelphia Zoo
When the kids grow restless, take them to the Philadelphia Zoo. The wide range of habitats showcases wildlife from several continents including everyone’s favorite animals from Africa.
They can be found in the African Plains section where giraffes, rhinos and hippos roam the vast habitat.
You’ll also find some of the largest cats on the planet, including lions exploring the entire zoo through an intricate tunnel system. So keep an eye out!
Other habitats include the Outback Outpost, home to kangaroos plus the energetic Monkey Junction, where spider monkeys rule the roost.
The zoo has a large focus on education and wildlife conservation that will help the whole family learn about our natural world and the ways we can help.
- Address: 3400 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104
- Hours: 9.30am-5pm (Mon-Sun)
- Price: $24
18) The Rodin Museum
There are a number of exceptional galleries in the City of Brotherly Love, but art lovers shouldn’t pass up an experience at the Rodin Museum.
Where other spaces explore a wide range of subjects, this museum is solely focused on the work of Auguste Rodin.
The Rodin Museum has just shy of 150 works by the iconic French sculptor making it one of the largest collections outside of his home country. There are two sections to the fantastic gallery, the interior space and the eye-catching sculpture garden.
Both have their strengths with the inside featuring most of the bronze, marble and plaster sculptures. The opulent garden was designed by Jacques Greber and boasts eight of Rodin’s top pieces, including The Thinker.
- Address: 2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
- Hours: 10am-5pm (Fri-Mon)
- Price: $12
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19) Eat a Philly Cheesesteak
Whether it’s lunchtime or you’re seeking a midnight snack, there’s never a bad time to eat a Philly cheesesteak while traveling through the City of Brotherly Love.
You couldn’t name a more iconic food in Philadelphia than this cholesterol-spiking, cheese-laden, meat-soaked hoagie.
Yes, it’s not going to help the diet one bit, but as they say, do what the locals do.
The famous local delicacy was invented in 1930 by Pat Olivieri. He was a hot dog vendor who decided to throw beef on the grill one day and inadvertently changed the course of Philadelphian history.
That may seem like hyperbole, but the combo of hot beef, molten cheese and a thick roll will have you savoring every bite.
If you’re a real foodie, you could even book a Philly Cheesesteak tasting tour. Ride around the city on a segway while your local guide takes you to all the best local eateries for tasting the iconic sandwich.
20) Philadelphia City Hall
A visit to the Philadelphia City Hall sounds like the sort of bureaucratic experience you would want to avoid on your travels, but hear me out.
The building itself is a significant piece of architecture, the statues are sublime and the views from the observation deck are hard to top.
So you’re on board? Great! The City Hall is eye-catching. Set on pure granite foundations, the multi-story building is more akin to a Renaissance church than the largest municipal building in the United States. But I digress.
At the center of the hall is a remarkable tower that stands 548 feet tall. It just so happens to be the tallest masonry tower on earth than doesn’t have the support of a steel frame.
You can make your way to the top of the tower that holds an impressive William Penn statue. From the observation deck, you’ll be able to look across all of Philadelphia and retrace your travels so far.
- Address: 296 Philadelphia Pedestrian Transit, Philadelphia, PA 19107
- Hours: 9am-5pm (Mon-Fri)
- Price: Free
Just north of Center City, you’ll travel through the wonderful neighborhood of Fairmount without even trying.
That’s because as the “Art Museum Area” it boasts some of Philly’s top museums and galleries. But its independent personality helps separate it from other parts of the city.
Wherever you are in Fairmount, you won’t be far from either a historic building or gallery. The area connects the streets where locals live and Philadelphia’s creative past and present.
Beyond the notable attractions are streets that harbor amazing tales, old-fashioned book stores (Bookhaven and Book Corner) and charming bars all set within feet of monuments and marble sculptures.
Add on Fairmount Park with its cherry blooms and you’ll have a blast getting lost on its storied streets.
Where to Stay in Philadelphia
Ready to pack your bags and head to the City of Brotherly Love? Let’s look at some accommodation options.
Best Hostel in Philadelphia: Apple Hostels
In the heart of the Old City, Apple Hostels places you in prime position to explore the Independence National Historical Park. Guests will have modern amenities and a lot to keep them entertained from Xbox to a pool table.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Philadelphia: La Reserve Bed and Breakfast
In the gorgeous Rittenhouse Square district, La Reserve Bed and Breakfast is set within a historic home with charming 19th century decor, daily breakfast a free WiFi. Each room was carefully decorated and features a kitchenette.
Best Luxury Hotel in Philadelphia: The Four Seasons
Set within the Comcast Center, Philly’s tallest building, the Four Seasons Hotel has luxury in spades.
Each spacious room has amazing city views, and the hotel holds access to a number of award-winning restaurants, an infinity pool and a spa house.
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