Perched within the gorgeous state of Pennsylvania, on the other side of the state from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia is a city steep in history and culture to explore. Not only that, it has enough foodie spots to keep you stuffed during your trip! Trust me, with so many incredible and best things to do in Philadelphia, you’re going to be spoilt for choice.
Philadelphia is a totally exciting city to visit, especially if you’re travelling around the North-Eastern states. It’s a perfect stopping point as part of a wider US road trip and totally easy to visit when driving between New York and Washington DC. That being said, Philadelphia is also a city to visit within its own right.
So, to get you on your way… and get the most outta your trip, I’ve shared some of the top places in Philadelphia to visit. This way, you can focus on the all-important exploring and avoid getting bogged down with the planning.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Philadelphia. Have an amazing trip.
1.) Independence Hall
Nestled on Chestnut Street, visiting Independence Hall is easily one of the best things to do in Philadelphia – especially if you’re interested in the history of the United States.
Open daily (closing around 5 pm), it’s the perfect place to explore where the Declaration of Independence was signed way back in 1776. It’s an incredible place to visit and you can easily book a ticket online before you arrive.
Just be sure to arrive at Independence Hall around 30-minutes before your allotted time. It has some pretty strict security and you will need to get through this before joining any tours.
Plus, you can easily visit the Liberty Bell Center to spot one of the world’s most famous bells… Liberty Bell! It’s just across the road and really easy to partner with a trip to Independence Hall.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to explore the Independence Visitor Center and learn more at the President’s House Site. The latter site holds exhibitions surrounding the polarised experiences of slavery and freedom in the newly formed country.
Looking for lunch? Hop over to the Bourse Food Hall which hosts local foodie vendors throughout the day. We loved Marino Brother’s Cheesesteaks. We had it with some long hot fryers to raise the heat!
2.) National Constitutional Center
Just up from the Independence Visitor Center, the National Constitutional Center is well worth visiting for its incredible It has many exhibits that are perfect for most age groups; including children. Inside, the original Bill of Rights, bronze statues of the delegates, and ‘We the People’ fill the halls. You’ll have a great time.
Afterwards, head on over to the nearby African American Museum that shares accounts and histories of historical black figures. It’s incredible to visit.
Oh, and you can also spot the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin that’s really close by. It sounds a little macabre but he’s such an important figure in the history of the US and well worth seeing as you stroll by.
3.) Betsy Ross House
If you didn’t know by now, Philadelphia is a totally historical place. In truth, this is one of the things that brought us to the city!
So, when you arrive, take the opportunity to learn about the life of Betsy Ross and her home – the birthplace of the American flag. Ross was a legend in history who fought for her country.
Take a tour of her home and enjoy interactive activities that are a short stroll from Benjamin Franklin’s grave – Then go sit on a Once Upon a Nation bench.
4.) Elfreth’s Alley
Dating back centuries, strolling through Elfreth’s Alley is easily one of the best things to do in Philadelphia. As the oldest residential street across the city, it is filled with cobblestones, rowhouses, and centuries’ worth of history that stands proudly to this day.
Just make sure to get your walking shoes out.. you’ll be walking quite a bit.
Afterwards, you can hop over to Cherry Street Pier and visit the seasonal flea market or grab a local brew or a bite to eat. Just be sure to reserve a table in advance; especially at busy times.
5.) Spruce Street Harbor Park
If you’re scouting out the riverfront in Philadelphia, then head on over to Spruce Street Harbor Park. Explore the boardwalk and spot the USS Submarine Becuna and USS Cruiser Olympia that call this area home. It’s great to stroll past whilst in the area, especially if you’re walking the Delaware River.
That being said, it’s probably a place you can skip if you’re running short on time or really too hungry to function! 😉
If that’s you, nearby, you have Zahav! It’s an Israeli eatery that serves up some of the tastiest mezze in Philadelphia. Alternatively, head over to the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen for one of their hot pastrami sandwiches. They’re a mouthful and totally yummy.
6.) Philadelphia Museum of Art
With thousands of artistic and cultural pieces to explore, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a totally incredible spot to visit if the weather takes a turn for the worst. Heck, if I’m being honest, it’s perfect for any day!
Once inside, be sure to explore the temporary exhibitions and permanent collections that make this one of the most iconic museums of art in the northeastern states.
See pieces by the likes of Monet and spot the Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons by Turner. It’s an iconic painting you can’t miss. Plus, you might be lucky enough to spot Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, too!
You can easily spend a whole day inside and is an art-lovers dream destination.
Oh, and don’t forget to take a ramble down the ‘Rocky steps’ and spot the Rocky Statue. It’s where the iconic scenes from Rocky (the film) were shot.
If you’ve got time, take a stroll over to the relatively close by The Franklin Institute. It’s a science museum that’s perfect for kids. Especially with all their interactive exhibits.
7.) Eastern State Penitentiary
Fancy getting locked up? Na, me neither! That being said, a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary is easily one of the best things to do in Philadelphia; especially if you’re interested in learning more about the, once, the biggest prison in the entire world!
Inside, the penitentiary has several noteworthy exhibits, special events, you should explore through the massive prison.
Take a look at what solitary confinement was like for prisoners and learn more about the pretty hostile and conditions that housed many notable prisoners.
8.) Reading Terminal Market
Probably one of Philadelphia’s most famous markets, the Reading Terminal indoor farmer’s market has been going since the 1800s. In fact, it’s one of the United States oldest markets!
One here, be sure to grab some sweet treats at Beiler’s Donuts; their glazed rings are divine. Oh, and be sure to grab a bite at Spataro’s Cheesesteaks. Their monuments and totally delicious. Finally, if you’ve got room, make sure to sample the chicken at Dienner’s Bar-B-Q.
Trust me though, you will leave stuffed.
9.) City Hall Tower
Being the biggest largest municipal building in the whole country, City Hall is a sight you have to see. Designed by an emigrated Scotsman (John McArthur) and Thomas Ustick Walter, it’s a building that’s stood proudly in Philadephia since the 1800s.
Once here, be sure to join one of the public tours and take a gander at all the art, statues, and historical facts of the building. Though, always double-check their website to see if internal tours are taking place when you visit.
Oh, and if you’re visiting in the winter months (around Christmas) be sure to hop on the seasonal ice rink and test your skating skills on the ice!
10.) One Liberty Observation Deck ( Philly from the Top)
Heading to the top of One Liberty Place (observation deck) is probably one of the best things to do in Philadephia if you’re looking for bird’s-eye views across the city.
It’s a pretty epic view and a relatively new vantage point to see the city from… well, at least if you consider how old some of the buildings in Philadephia are.
For the best time to visit, head around sunset and see Philadelphia glitter into dusk.