The City of Brotherly Love has a rich history and a thriving art scene, much of which can be enjoyed for nothing at all. From free museums to fun neighborhoods to explore – and some very famous steps to run – here are 17 of the best free things to do in Philadelphia.

Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel and opening hours may vary. Check the latest guidance before planning a trip, and always follow local health advice.

A large bell with a crack running upwards through it, mounted in a glass building
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are free to visit © dszc / Getty Images

1. Independence Hall

Philadelphia's prime attraction, Independence Hall, is considered the "birthplace of American government", and it is here where the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776. Tours are on a first-come first-serve basis, and lines can be long (around an hour) in summer. 

2. Liberty Bell Center

Liberty Bell, previously mounted in Independence Hall, tolled the day of the first public reading of the Declaration. Now housed in a glass building across the street, here you can learn all about the Bell, from its casting in London, to the story behind the crack, its inscription, and its significance today. Again, expect long lines when waiting to see this symbol of American independence. 

A narrow street lined with brick buildings dating from the 18th century. There are colorful shutters and two flags waving outside the properties
Stroll the historic street of Elfreth's Alley in Old City Philadelphia © jamegaw / Shutterstock

3. Elfreth's Alley

Historians and architecture-lovers will want to stroll down this picturesque narrow cobblestone lane with well-preserved Federal and Georgian row houses. It's been occupied since the 1720s, and is America's oldest residential street. It was first occupied by artisans and traders who made Philadelphia their home. 

4. Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is the biggest outdoor park in Philadelphia and is a wonderful place to have fun at no cost at all. Bring some comfortable walking shoes: there are over 2000 acres of hills, trails and woodlands, many of which wind through a true urban forest. In addition to its verdant, lush forests, Fairmount Park is also home to huge architectural structures like the Smith Memorial Arch.

skyline of Philadelphia, with a rose-pink and lavender sunset reflecting off the skyscrapers and the Schuykill River and the boardwalk trail in the foreground
The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the best places to enjoy a summer sunset © Sean Pavone / Getty Images

5. Schuylkill River Trail

The greenish-blue Schuylkill River (pronounced "skoo-kul," if you’re wondering) has several places on its banks for visitors to enjoy themselves. Explore the Schuylkill River Trail, which extends alongside the river for around 75 miles. The 10-mile stretch within Philly is perfect for a stroll or a jog, and it's one of the best places to watch the sun setting over Philly, too.

6. Mural Arts

Philadelphia triumphantly has more murals throughout its city limits than almost any other city in America and that is due mostly to the work of Mural Arts. This philanthropic organization helps paint gigantic, colorful murals throughout the city of Philadelphia featuring hometown heroes like Grammy Award winners The Roots, basketball legend Julius "Dr J" Irving and more. You’ll find a mural anywhere you go – to catch them all, follow the official Mural Arts Tour.

The facade of a colonial-era home where George Washington once lived, now an open-air museum, is lit up at night, with a modern building in the background
It's free to wander the historic site of the President's House © Michael Butler / Lonely Planet

7. The President's House

The President’s House is an open-air structure that commemorates the complicated legacy of enslaved Africans in the United States. US presidents George Washington and John Adams both owned slaves, creating circumstances that make visitors re-evaluate the true meaning of freedom and the American dream. Fact-filled explanatory panels are on display throughout the space, allowing for an educational look at America’s past

8. LOVE sculpture

Any Insta-loving photographer is going to want to stop by the LOVE sculpture in Love Park. The artwork by Robert Indiana was first placed there in 1976, briefly removed in 1978, and quickly reinstalled due to public demand. Grab that perfect shot with the Philly architecture in the background.

Long shot of park set up on docs on a river with red and yellow umbrellas over tables
Philadelphia's most popular summer park is along the Delaware River © M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

9. Spruce Street Harbor Park

There's a lot happening on the Delaware River Waterfront. If you're visiting in summertime, you need to soak up the colorful lights and spacious hammocks of Spruce Street Harbor Park. Play a free game of ping-pong or shuffleboard at this Old City attraction. If you're looking to spend some money, it's a great place to stop for craft beer and food stalls, too. 

10. Dilworth Park

Dilworth Park is one of Center City’s most photogenic outdoor spaces. Formally opened in September 2014, Dilworth Park is known for gushing fountains and ongoing programming featuring live music, fitness classes and more. Enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown Philadelphia with the classical architecture of City Hall looming overhead.

11. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

South Broad Street’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts features free concerts showcasing genres as diverse as modern jazz and Latin salsa. It also offers family fun days plus workshops, plays and concerts for kids. 

Distance shot of the ornate Chinatown Friendship gate that is at the entrance to Chinatown in Philadelphia
The 40ft Chinatown Friendship Gate makes for a great photo-op © Visit Philadelphia

12. Chinatown Friendship Gate

Whether you’re in Chinatown for bubble tea or dinner at one of many Chinese restaurants, Philly’s Chinatown community is widely recognized by its ornate, beautifully designed Chinatown Friendship Gate, which was renovated in 2008. This symbol of cultural exchange and goodwill between Philly and its Chinese sister city, Tiajin, is a great backdrop for a memorable photo or two.

13. Institute of Contemporary Art

Located on a very visible corner of University City, The Institute of Contemporary Art has free admission year-round and showcases socially conscious and avant-garde artwork. ICA is known for exhibits that reimagine how we view visual art and the media used to create it. Don’t be surprised to see installations featuring video cameras, large sculptures or even engaging performance art.

14. United States Mint

The United States Mint in Philadelphia gives visitors an intimate look at the coin-making process for free. Take a self-guided tour of a facility that produces millions of coins (!) every 30 minutes. Even if you can’t take millions of coins home with you from the facility, this fascinating Old City destination shows how much work goes into even one cent of US currency.

Two men line up to photograph the bronze Rocky statue in Philadelphia
There's always a line of admirers waiting for their moment with Rocky © Michael Butler / Lonely Planet

15. The Rocky statue and steps

Once upon a time, an emerging actor called Sylvester Stallone created a film that would eventually represent the toughness that people now come to expect from Philadelphians. That movie was Rocky (1976), and the star's likeness as fictional boxer Rocky Balboa has been immortalized with a statue near the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps that his film helped make famous. Grab a picture with a Philly legend, or head for the real prize, The Rocky Steps! Run to the top just like Rocky Balboa did in the movies. Don’t be embarrassed: many visitors travel to Philly from all over the world just to recreate this classic film moment.

16. Franklin Square 

You'll pay to play mini-golf or to ride the carousel, but it's free to enter historic Franklin Square, which hosts events throughout the year. Time your visit to see the impressive sound and light show at the fountains, which benefitted from a $2 million renovation in 2019. 

A large brick university building on the edge of a green campus
Wander through the University of Pennsylvania campus © SINITAR / Shutterstock

17. University of Pennsylvania

The leafy campus of the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania is a lovely spot for an afternoon stroll. It's immediately west across the Schuylkill River from downtown Philly and, together with Drexel University, you'll feel like you're part of one big college town. 

18. Joe Frazier statue

While fictional boxing hero Rocky Balboa may have more fanfare in pop culture, former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier’s statue at the Sports Complex is a treat for any sports fan. The late Philly sports star’s statue is located near Xfinity Live! and features "Smokin’ Joe" just as he looked after knocking out Muhammad Ali in what sports lovers affectionately call "The Fight of the Century."

19. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Adult tickets for the Philadelphia Museum of Art are usually $25, but every Friday night from 5pm and the first Sunday of every month it's pay whatever you want for admission. Immerse yourself in iconic art from visual artists like Pablo Picasso. Afterward, the top of the Art Museum’s steps features a scenic view of Philly’s skyline. With new exhibits opening on a regular basis, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is always worth checking out.

Beyond the cheesesteak in Philadelphia

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This article was originally published in October 2018, and last updated in February 2021.

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This article was first published October 2018 and updated February 2021

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