Philadelphia is the sixth-largest city in the US, so public transportation is a must. Whether you arrive by bus, train or plane, you will have several options to get around to see this historic and lively city.
Though large, Philadelphia is easy to navigate by walking, grabbing a taxi or taking public transportation. It's best to break up the city by neighborhood to cut down on transportation time. Here is a list of the best ways to get around the city.
If you’re not in a rush and weather-permitting, walking is one of the best ways to see the city and the hidden treasures of architecture and public art scattered throughout the city. No matter the neighborhood, always be aware of your surroundings. If in doubt, it is a good idea to download, Google maps if you get lost.
Some of the best neighborhoods to explore on foot include: East Passyunk (filled with bakeries, bagel shops and international restaurants), Old City (for shopping) and University City (for that college-town feel).
Local tip: Streets running east to west are named after trees, like chestnut, walnut, or spruce, and north to south streets are sequentially numbered.
Best time to visit Philadelphia
Public Transportation is the way to go to get to all of the museums and attractions.
SEPTA stands for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. It is the city’s transportation giant that has the city on lock! It operates the buses, the subway and the trolley system. You can easily get to any section of the city by any of these modes. Purchase a day pass ($2.50) or a SEPTA Key (a reloadable, contactless chip). This gives you access and without having to carry cash or coins with you. Don’t throw away your SEPTA Key card. You can refill it with cash on your next visit to Philly. If you do want to pay cash on public transportation, it's exact fare only.
Subway trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Keep in mind, peak, and non-peak times. During peak hours, express trains will get you to your destination a little quicker. Be sure to check the train letter (A or B) before boarding. Subway maps are located at most stations or from booth attendants.
- Trains, buses and trollies operate frequently, and on average, people can expect to wait 15 minutes between rides. On Sundays, you may have to wait between 20-30 minutes so plan accordingly.
- All buses, trains, and trollies are outfitted with accessible seating and services. Buses offer a kneeling feature that allows for easy access on and off the bus for folks with accessibility issues.
The purple PHLASH buses offer looped service from downtown Philly with stops at popular sites like the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Museum, a kid-friendly must-do destination, as well as Center City.
PHLASH service is provided daily from May through Labor Day, September 10 through December 30, Friday to Sunday Service only. The bus operates every 15 minutes from 10am to 6pm. The fare is $2, but you can also buy a $5 all-day pass or a two-day pass for $7.
The best things to do for free in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a city made for cycling. There are over 200 miles of bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, conventional bike lanes, dashed/advisory lanes, marked shared lanes and neighborhood bike routes throughout the city.
Launched in 2015, Indego is Philadelphia’s bike-share program, it offers over 130 stations and 1,000 bikes across the city, available for rent 24/7. Users simply pick up a bike from a self-service docking station and return it to a station near their destination. Prices range from $12 for a 24-hour guest pass to $156 for an annual pass.
Taxis and rideshares
If you are short on time, then a taxi or rideshare is the way to go. There are taxis everywhere and available 24 hours a day. You’ll find taxis near transportation hubs like the Philadelphia International Airport and the 30th Street Train Station and Greyhound bus station located at 10th and Filbert Street. Most taxis accept cash and credit, debit, and prepaid cards.
For a ride at any time or location, ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft are the way to go. But remember, if you're going to a big event or traveling during rush hours, prices will increase dramatically.
Top 10 things to do in Philadelphia
Hop-On Hop-off Sightseeing Tours
A hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour is one of the best ways to start your trip. Get to know the city’s layout and top attractions like Independence Hall, Elfreth's Alley or the Christ Church Burial grounds while making the most of your time. You can see over 28 stops or sit back and enjoy the city during the 90-minute tour. Single-day pass prices begin at $38 for adults. Multi-language audio commentary is available.
From hotels to historic sites like the Liberty Bell Center and the Benjamin Franklin Museum to outdoor activities like ice skating on Penn's Landing, Philadelphia offers an array of options and infrastructure for visitors with disabilities. Both SEPA and PhillyPHLASH are wheelchair accessible. Venues and historic sites throughout the city offer wheelchair rentals (on a first-come, first-serve basis). Philly Touch Tours are historical tours specifically geared towards visitors with vision loss.
Click here to download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.
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