As the home of Independence Hall, where America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and signed by the country’s forefathers, Philadelphia is a top destination for history buffs.
But did you know that it's so much more? It's home to the largest urban park in the nation, and a 3000-year-old Egyptian Sphinx. It also has an exciting brewery scene. One of the greatest ways to get to know Philadelphia is through its vibrant and distinctive neighborhoods. Here are six of the very best for you explore on your next visit to the City of Brotherly Love.
Brewerytown is the place to buy specialty foods
Pick up provisions for a picnic in Fairmount Park
Best known for its century-old brewing history, this neighborhood Northwest of Center City is also perfectly positioned to shop for all the makings of an al fresco lunch after a visit to the Museum of Art, or the Philadelphia Zoo. Pay a visit to Heather Thomason’s snout-to-tail butchery, Primal Supply Meats, for a sandwich of house-made Mortadella and other Italian specialties, and pick up provisions from local purveyors like chocolate from Shane’s Confectionery, or ice cream sandwiches from Weckerly’s.
To try another local delicacy, seek out Spot Burger for one of the best cheesesteaks in town, and afterwards head across the street to Rybrew to pick up a few beers from their selection of over 300 cans and bottles. Take your spoils to nearby Fairmount Park, where you can find yourself the perfect picnic spot among the 9200-acre park. Some top options: Glendinning Rock Garden, or Boathouse Row, especially if one of the rowing clubs’ regattas are scheduled.
Fishtown is the best place for beer lovers
Explore the city’s brewery scene
Just north of Old City, Fishtown is one of Philadelphia’s most vibrant neighborhoods for food and music lovers, but it’s also home to a robust craft beer scene. At Philadelphia Brewing, one of the oldest breweries in town, visitors can tour the facility to learn about its history and process before sampling Pennsylvania Pale Ale and Walt Wit, an unfiltered Belgian-style white ale.
Find a seat in the spacious courtyard at Evil Genius and order one of the inventive brews, like a chocolate peanut butter porter, or guava IPA. St. Oners is the city outpost of suburban brewery Tired Hands, serving up a fresh selection of its latest beers.
East Passyunk is great for foodies
Tour the neighborhood's best places to eat
The South Philly neighborhood of East Passyunk is anchored by one slanted street that passes across the rest of the grid. For breakfast, hit modern Jewish bakery Essen for coffee and chocolate babka, and Vanilya, just a few blocks south, for one of the city’s best bagels. Stop into East London pie shop Stargazy for classic shepherd’s pie, sausage rolls, and, on Fridays, fish and chips.
Grab a cocktail at Manatawny Still Works, made with the distillery’s small batch whiskey. For dinner, book a table in the garden at regional Italian restaurant Le Virtu, or at Laurel for chef Nicholas Elmi’s tasting menu featuring seasonally-changing, local ingredients. Save room for dessert at D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats, where Chris D’Emilio is churning out water ice — a Philadelphia summer staple — using fresh ingredients and his grandmother’s recipe.
Old City is packed with beautiful stores
Get your souvenirs here
Yes, Philadelphia’s Old City is the historical heart of the city. American democracy was born here, and you can explore it with a firsthand look at Betsy Ross’s flag, or the crack in the Liberty Bell. But it’s also a shopping haven. Hit up Omoi Zakka for a well-curated selection of beautiful Japanese stationery and home accessories. Find wonderful Turkish textiles at Cuttalossa and antique Persian and hand-woven modern rugs at Parisa.
For a sweet souvenir, stop into Shane Confectionery, where chocolate has been made for 150 years. Plan to spend a little extra time at Art in the Age. Head to the handsome little bar in the back to taste local spirits and deftly-made cocktails, then shop for spirits, barware, and all the ingredients to mix up your own great version at home.
University City has lots of history and artwork
Find under-the-radar cultural highlights here
This corner of West Philadelphia gets its name from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the other higher learning institutions found here. But it’s not all college bars and pizza joints. At the Penn Museum, find the 25,000 pound, 3000-year-old Sphinx of Ramses II, plus galleries that showcase archaeological items that originated in Africa, Central America, and beyond.
Stroll through Penn’s campus to see sculptures by world-renowned artists, including Alexander Calder, Robert Indiana, and Simone Leigh. Her sculpture, Brick House, sits at the entrance to College Green on the corner of 34th and Walnut Streets. On a hot day, stop into Ice Cave or Lil Pop Shop for Taiwanese shaved ice and small-batch popsicles, respectively. And to stay nearby, book a room at the historic Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast for Victorian-era charm and lemon buttermilk pancakes.
The North Broad neighborhood is experiencing a rebirth
Discover public art on the streets near the opera house
The North Broad neighborhood has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance since the 2018 reopening of the beautifully restored former opera house, the Met Philly. Big-name performers here include Demi Lovato, John Legend, and Alicia Keys.
Before the show, book a table at one of the new or long-established restaurants on this stretch of Broad Street. Cicala showcases southern Italian cuisine like handmade pasta with octopus, and linguine with mussels. To sample more of the city’s best Italian food, served on a peaceful garden patio, stop into Osteria. The neighborhood is also awash in public art, with the colorful, 55ft North Poles lining Broad Street from Hamilton Street to Glenwood Avenue, and several notable larger-than-life artworks from Mural Arts.