How to spend a day in Philadelphia, USA (2024)

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

The East Coast city of Philadelphia is often overlooked in favour of its big-hitting neighbours – New York to the north and Washington, DC to the south. But visitors here are rewarded with fantastic food, whether at a market stall or high-end restaurant; strollable, mural-lined streets; and a lively cultural scene, from art galleries to jazz bars. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the city.

8am: Breakfast at Reading Terminal Market

As the market tends to be less busy first thing, it’s a great place for breakfast. Slide into one of the kitschy booths at Down Home Diner for country-style cooking like grits and eggs, or head to El Merkury for Central American street food such as Salvadorian pupusas: cornmeal pockets stuffed with meat, veg or cheese. Pick up a coffee and one of Beiler’s Doughnuts namesake pastries for the road — its 50 toppings include M&Ms and Fruity Pebbles cereal.

10am: Go on a mural art tour

The mural capital of the world, Philadelphia is home to over 4,000 public art works, created as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia. Initially an anti-graffiti initiative, the programme uses panels of wall-hung parachute cloth to channel the creativity of local people from all walks of life. Mural Arts Philadelphia’s itineraries include a 90-minute route through Center City’s ‘Mural Mile’. Don’t miss Saligman’s Philadelphia Muses, a modern interpretation of the classical muses, or contributions from artists Shepard Fairey and Amy Sherald, known for their portraits of the Obamas.

1pm: Browse and snack at Yowie

A sedate redbrick exterior on South Street conceals this colourful boutique hotel and lifestyle shop. Incense by upmarket brand Agaric Fly scents the small-but-considered space, where founder Shannon Maldonado curates a collection of work by independent artists and designers. Check out the clothing and interiors range before heading to Yowie’s all-day cafe, Wim. A seasonal salad — plus one of its signature rosemary orange espresso tonics — should see you through until dinner.

How to spend a day in Philadelphia, USA (1)

2pm: Race through city history

Philadelphia’s Old City (part of its Historic District) is home to an extraordinary density of National Historical Landmarks, including the Liberty Bell, a hallowed symbol of US independence. Head 15 minutes east to stroll the cobbles of America’s oldest residential street, Elfreth’s Alley (1705): a picturesque row of Federal and Georgian houses that are still occupied today. Then take a cab to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, featured in the hit 1976 film Rocky. Every day, countless visitors copy Sly Stallone’s titular pugilist by racing up the 72 stone steps of its East entrance.

4pm: Explore Fishtown

Historically the centre of Philadelphia’s fishing industry, this neighbourhood on the Delaware River has become a hub for young creatives. Follow Frankford Avenue and you can’t go wrong — it strings together an apparently endless supply of cool small businesses. Pick up a coffee at premium roaster Persimmon, then disappear inside the cavernous Jinxed: a shoppable museum stocking everything from antique maps to Tiffany-style lamps. Head north past various vintage stores until you hit eclectic and super-friendly boutique Downerss, which sells women’s clothing and interiors objets.

(A guide to Philadelphia, the northeast US city stepping out of NYC's shadow.)

6pm: Drink Pennsylvania wine

Urban winery Mural City Cellars sources its grapes from a 300-mile radius of the city and commissions local artists to design the labels. Winemaker and sommelier Nicholas Ducos is often on hand to recommend a fresh new drop to go with a build-your-own cheese or charcuterie board. Its whites and rosé are particularly strong, as are bubbles like ‘pét-nat’ (‘Pétillant Naturel’, French for ‘naturally sparkling’). Its warehouse bar on Frankford Ave is buzzy on weekends.

8pm: Have dinner at Laser Wolf

One of the city’s most coveted tables is at this Israeli-style shipudiya (Hebrew for ‘skewer house’) in Fishtown that’s named after the butcher in Jewish musical Fiddler on the Roof. Its menu is packed with meat cooked over charcoal — plus flavour-packed vegetables like shawarma-spiced cauliflower and royal trumpet mushroom shishlik (skewers). An open kitchen adds to the convivial atmosphere, as do huge windows and high ceilings strung with paper lanterns and trailing plants. Don’t miss out on characterful co*cktails like rum punch Charred for Life.

How to spend a day in Philadelphia, USA (2)

10pm: Catch a show at Chris’ Jazz Cafe

Responsible for helping to create legends such as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday, Philadelphia has serious jazz pedigree — so finish up with a nightcap at one of Center City’s best-loved live music venues, which this year celebrates its 35th year. Low-lit and wood-panelled, the space has a sense of reverential intimacy, with draught beers and old-school spirits served at the bar (as well as a stage-side set menu). Students from the city’s many music schools fill the audience, and the performers are often real raconteurs.

How to do it:
British Airways Holidays has three nights staying at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District, which is a five-minute walk from the Liberty Bell, with flights from the UK included in the price, from £799 per person.

When to go:
Philly gets its best weather in spring and autumn, with an average temperature of 18C in May and 21C in September. With July highs of 32C, summer can be hot — and busy, with kids on field trips flocking to see key US history sites. Although January and February are colder, with average lows around zero degrees, they’re easier months for restaurant reservations.

Getting there & around:
American Airlines and British Airways have daily direct flights from Heathrow to Philadelphia. The average flight time is eight hours. Philadelphia is a compact and mostly flat city, so it’s possible to explore mainly on foot or by using the official bike-share programme. For longer journeys, book a taxi or use the city’s buses, streetcars (trams), subways and trains. ThePHLASHbus loops around most major sites.

Where to stay:
Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Center City. Doubles from £150, room only.Guild House Hotel, Center City. Doubles from £230, room only.

This story was created with the support of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Published in the May 2024 issue ofNational Geographic Traveller (UK).

To subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine click here. (Available in select countries only).

How to spend a day in Philadelphia, USA (2024)


How to spend a day in Philadelphia, USA? ›

In fact, the city has so much to offer that you can easily spend several days or even a week here. So with just one day in Philly, you will need to plan carefully when allocating your precious time. But with some advance preparation, it's definitely possible to see the best of Philadelphia in one day.

Is 1 day enough in Philadelphia? ›

In fact, the city has so much to offer that you can easily spend several days or even a week here. So with just one day in Philly, you will need to plan carefully when allocating your precious time. But with some advance preparation, it's definitely possible to see the best of Philadelphia in one day.

How much time to spend in Philadelphia? ›

With all the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia being so close together, seeing them in a day is pretty easy. From my experience I would stick to 2 days minimum. If you end up liking Philadelphia as much as I did, you'll regret not spending longer here! But if one day is all you can manage, definitely go for it.

What is the most famous thing about Philadelphia? ›

Philadelphia is home to the Philly Cheesesteak, the Liberty Bell, and a whole lot of history. If you look around the city, you might find “Pennsylvania” spelled “Pensylvania” at sites such as the Liberty Bell and in the Constitution – that's no typo.

What is the best way to get around Philadelphia? ›

Using Public Transit. Aside from walking, Philadelphia's excellent transit system is the best way to get around town. Both accessible and bike-friendly, SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) is one of the most comprehensive bus/subway/commuter-rail systems in the United States.

Why is Philadelphia worth visiting? ›

Philadelphia is rich in attractions that tell America's story. For visitors who are curious about American history there's no better place than “America's most historic square mile.” In the Old City historical district, you can walk the same streets and enter the same buildings as America's Founding Fathers.

Is Philadelphia a walkable city? ›

Walkable Philadelphia

The city was named the 2023 Most Walkable City in the U.S. by USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. Consistently ranked among the nation's most walkable cities, Philadelphia has block-to-block experiences just footsteps away from each other.

Is Philadelphia good for tourists? ›

Philadelphia is a relatively safe city, especially in the tourist-friendly part of town. There are certain areas you should avoid due to their high crime rate, but most Philadelphia neighborhoods and tourist areas can be toured without experiencing danger.

What is the best month to visit Philadelphia? ›

Best Times to Visit Philadelphia for Good Weather

While March and April can be variable, sometimes staying stubbornly cold or rainy, May and June are typically sunny and warm, with temperatures often hovering in the 70s.

What food is Philadelphia famous for? ›

11 Iconic Philadelphia Foods & Must-Have Philly Eats
  • Philly Cheesesteak. Philly's most iconic food is, of course, the cheesesteak. ...
  • Hoagie. ...
  • Roast Pork Sandwich. ...
  • Philly Soft Pretzels. ...
  • Water Ice. ...
  • Tastykakes. ...
  • Scrapple. ...
  • Tomato Pie.
Jul 14, 2023

Why is Philadelphia so special? ›

The country's first World Heritage City, Philadelphia is also the birthplace of the United States, where our Founding Fathers met, discussed, debated and formed a new country.

What are 5 interesting facts about Philadelphia? ›

More Philly Facts
  • Home of the first World Heritage City in the U.S.
  • Home of 67 National Historic Landmarks.
  • Home of over 300 blue-and-gold Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission markers.
  • Home of the first public hospital in the U.S.
  • Home of the first art museum and art school in the U.S.

Is downtown Philly walkable? ›

Walkable Philadelphia

The city was named the 2023 Most Walkable City in the U.S. by USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. Consistently ranked among the nation's most walkable cities, Philadelphia has block-to-block experiences just footsteps away from each other.

What is the famous street in Philadelphia? ›

Long known as the edgiest street in Philadelphia, South Street is a melting pot of groups and cultures. Residents and visitors, teenagers and adults, preppies and punks, artists and attorneys all mix seamlessly together on the storied boulevard.

How long is the walking tour of Philadelphia? ›

No visit to Philadelphia is complete without taking a Constitutional Guided Walking Tour, a 75-minute, mile and a quarter stroll that puts 15 historic sites... in perspective.


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