Founded by William Penn in 1682, Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city and is as rich in history as it is in iconic landmarks and monuments made famous by American history and Hollywood films.
Philadelphia is a cultural icon for the United States and, as a first timer visiting the city, it’s a good idea to come prepared with at least a list of what you’d like to see and do while you’re there, as there is just so much of it not to be missed.
The Liberty Bell is one of the most iconic symbols of independence in American history, earning its name through abolitionist publications in 1835. Now located at the Liberty Bell Center, the Liberty Bell is on display in the Independence National Historical Park aka the “birthplace of American democracy.”
Open Monday-Sunday, 9AM-7PM | N 6th St & Market St
Reading Terminal Market is America’s oldest farmer’s market – constructed in 1893 – and is famous for being a one-stop-shop for all things delicious – from local produce to articulate desserts. It’s easy to get lost in here, as the market is so large and crowded.. but this is quintessential Philly, you can’t miss it. (Hint: Have you ever seen National Treasure?)
Open Monday-Sunday, 8AM-6PM | 51 N 12th St
Philadelphia City Hall, constructed in 1871, houses the seat of government for the city and offers one of the best sweeping views of Philly. If you are seeking the experience of viewing the city from William Penn’s vantage point, I suggest booking a tour of City Hall Tower here or follow along with a virtual tour here! If you happen to just be passing through on a weekend when tours are not available, the grand design of the hall is beautiful enough to just appreciate from the outside, as the built in archway/tunnel offers a unique walkthrough of the grounds from one side to the other.
Open Monday-Friday, 8AM-5PM | 1401 John F Kennedy Blvd
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to the infamous Rocky Steps, so if running up the stairs a la Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky films is on your bucket list, this is where you’ll want to do it. I suggest visiting earlier in the morning if you want to enjoy the experience with less tourists around.
Bonus! The view from from the top of the steps offers the perfect opportunity to snap a photo of the flags along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Museum Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Sunday 10AM-5PM, Wednesday, Friday 10AM-8:45PM | 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
The Franklin Institute has recently been added to my list of things to do on my next visit. This science museum is famous for housing the Benjamin Franklin memorial and countless interactive exhibits, perhaps the most intriguing being the giant, walk-through human heart.
Open Monday-Sunday, 9:30AM-5PM | 222 N 20th St
The Philadelphia Mütter Museum is filled with extraordinary medical oddities, rare specimens, antique medical equipment, and similar phenomenon of the like. Anybody interested in the slightly unusual? This is the place for you. Though the museum itself is fairly small and can be a bit crowded, it is worth a visit just to look around and pick up something strange at the gift shop. Only downfall? No photography allowed past the lobby.
Monday-Sunday, 10AM-5PM | 19 S 22nd St
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was the highlight of my most recent trip and I would recommend it above all else, once you have finished nerding out over the historical attractions, of course. The museum of sorts is an art environment, both indoor and outdoor, featuring entirely immersive mosaic art, along with rotating exhibitions of local artists. Buy your tickets ahead of time to skip the lines!
Monday-Sunday, 11AM-6PM, closed on Tuesdays | 1020 South St
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, the largest fully functioning pipe organ in the world is right in here in Philadelphia. The Wanamaker Pipe Organ is certainly worth taking a look at, as the beauty of the instrument here is enough just to marvel at.
Macys -1300 Market St | Hours vary
Grab a Bite to Eat
John’s Roast Pork – rumored to have the best cheesesteaks in Philly
Tony Luke’s – for a more authentic, vintage Philly cheesesteak (among other options) experience
Talula’s Garden – farmhouse-style eatery with garden seating and excellent vegetarian options!
Parc – for traditional Parisian cuisine in a prime location
Vedge – vegetarian dishes served in an old mansion… so, the dream.
Reading Terminal Market – this place will cure any craving! just make sure you have an idea of where you’d like to enjoy your food, as seating is crowded and limited in here
The Philadelphia Flower Show – The largest in the world of its kind, the flower show is put on by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society every March and offers nature lovers incomparable photo opportunities and activities for all to enjoy
Vendy Awards – the gathering of the city’s best food trucks in Penn Treaty Park in June, and what could be better than that?
Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – The nation’s oldest parade, featuring larger than life floats, performances, and characters
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest – This festival transforms Penn’s Landing into a winter wonderland with an Olympic-size skating rink, ski lodge, arcade games, the list goes on and on
Philadelphia is arguably one of the most historical cities in our nation and is full of festivities, landmarks, museums, and eateries all dedicated to celebrating that history.
This list merely scratches the surface when it comes to the things to see and do in Philadelphia, so let me know in the comments below what you would recommend to visitors! (and so I can add to my list for next time)