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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

6 reasons to visit Philadelphia

American history, thriving arts & unique food

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5 February 2024 by Norire Arakelyan

Too often overshadowed by nearby crowd-pullers New York City & Washington, DC, Philadelphia often sneaks under the radar. But with history dating back to the founding of the United States, a thriving arts and culture scene and delicious food, perhaps it’s time we paid Philly more attention. Below, we take a look at the top six reasons to visit the City of Brotherly Love.

The historic Old City, Philadelphia

1. Embrace American history

For visitors who are curious about American history, there is really no better place to visit than Philadelphia – the birthplace of America. It is not by chance that its Independence National Historical Park is commonly referred to as "America's most historic square mile". A small district of Philadelphia, it contains and preserves several of the country's most historically significant sites, closely associated with the nations founding and the American Revolution.

It was in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, that a group of disaffected colonialists signed Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776. A few days later the famous Liberty Bell rang out, summoning citizens to hear the document’s first public reading. The bell is now installed in the park across the street and is revered as one of the nation’s most hallowed symbols. Visitors have a chance to walk the same streets and enter the same buildings as America's Founding Fathers, including the aforementioned Independence Hall – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Carpenter's Hall – host of the first Continental Congress in 1774, and of course the iconic Liberty Bell.

Philadelphia is also home to incredible museums, from science to history and the arts. The city's famous Parkway Museum District is where you'll find the majority of them, conveniently located close to each other allowing visitors to see the best of the city's arts and culture in a single day. Discover the likes of the Penn Museum – exploring over 10,000 years of human existence through artefacts or the Fels Planetarium – a popular spot for families and astrology enthusiasts. 

Away from the historic square mile, there’s history and architecture of another kind behind the foreboding façade of the Eastern State Penitentiary, which once housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone. You can take tours of its crumbling corridors and see the gangster’s old cell for yourself.

Philadelphia Art museum

2. Relish in the mouthwatering culinary scene

Thanks to its renowned chefs and restauranteurs, Philadelphia's dining scene is exceptional. Not only does the city boast an endless choice of restaurants with international cuisine, it's also bursting with mouthwatering local choices. But, when it comes to eating like a Philadelphian, there's only one place to start – the famed Philly Cheesesteak. This local delicacy involves folding cheese, onions, peppers and beefsteak (perhaps even a rib eye) into a huge hoagie roll. You'd do well to not get involved in an argument with a local over who serves the best cheesesteak; but take it from us that the top two contenders are Pat’s King of Steaks and, directly across the road, Geno’s. Alongside its most famous food, the traditional hoagie, Philly pretzel and the regional party staple, tomato pie are Philadelphia's must-try foods.

Other gourmet attractions come from restaurateur Stephen Starr, who can take credit for at least ten of the city’s premier restaurants, including the spectacular Buddakan, a delicious taste of modern Asia. For local tastings, there's also Reading Terminal Market, home to over 80 local vendors and a large indoor food hall, it is one of America's oldest and largest public markets.

The famous Philly Cheesesteak

3. Enjoy the great outdoors

Philadelphia is very compact and easy to get around on foot; in fact it is said to be the most walkable city in the United States. When Englishman William Penn founded the city in 1682, he had it laid out around five pivotal public spaces, including Rittenhouse Square, a great place to sip a drink at one of many trendy bars. But, when it comes to enjoying the outdoors without the need of a car, there are plenty of options to choose from. Consider Fairmount Park for 2,000 acres of woodland paths, adventure courses and wetlands all within city limits. Wissahickon Valley Park is a further favourite for locals and visitors alike as a great place to unwind and take in great nature views. The Delaware River Trail would be the top pick for those who prefer a waterfront view.

Just outside the city – although often considered as part of Philadelphia – are Longwood Gardens, one of the area's most popular tourist attractions and the perfect day trip from the city. It offers over 1000 acres of flower gardens and meadows and is a beautiful visit at any time of year.

Tandem bike, Philadelphia

4. Take in the thriving arts & culture

If you have an appetite for the arts you’ll be right at home in Philadelphia. In fact, the city is home to the largest collection of public art in the U.S and also boasts museums and performing arts companies and theatres aplenty. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway – modelled on the Champs-Élysées in Paris – is home to some of the city’s iconic art museums. The Barnes Foundation houses the largest number of privately owned Impressionist works in the world, featuring the likes of Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and van Gogh. Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Museum of Art houses collections of over 240,000 objects, including sculptures, paintings, prints and decorative arts.

Even outside the walls of a museum, Philadelphia's thirst for art isn't abated. With over 4,000 murals – originally evolving from an anti-graffiti programme in the 1980s – it is now the nation’s largest public art program and has grown into an international leader.

Mural painted on a wall – South Street, Philadelphia

5. Immerse yourself in the city's sports scene

There's no doubt about it – Philadelphians are mad about sport. Home to prominent teams in baseball (Phillies), American football (Eagles), basketball (76ers), ice hockey (Flyers) and soccer (Union), Philadelphia offers visitors and fans a chance to experience all five major American sports.

What’s more, with world-class venues such as Lincoln Financial Field, the city is also known to host major national and international sporting events, with more on the horizon including the hotly contested Army-Navy American college football game, which is set to return to Philadelphia in 2027, the U.S Open Golf Championship in 2025 and 2030 and the MLB All-Star game in 2026. The city also recently hosted WrestleMania in April 2024.

The city is home to the American Football team Philadelphia Eagles

6. Fill your suitcase with tax-free shopping 

One of Philadelphia's biggest virtues is its tax-free shoes and clothes shopping. Not only are you able to buy American brands cheaper than in Britain, but you can buy them cheaper than in most other parts of the USA too, making Philadelphia a must-visit destination for shopaholics.

Head to Fashion District Philadelphia, which spans three city blocks and is home to a mix of shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences. In addition to name brand stores and boutiques, the mall also has a range of factory and outlet stores.

Downtown Philadelphia

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