Very few cities in the US can lay claim of the same role in history as Philly, the City of Brotherly Love can. So if you are coming to pay us a visit, then the most crucial place to start knowing the city is by its past.
Founded by William Penn in 1682 and the fifth-largest city in the nation, Philly was the meeting place of the first-ever and also Second Continental Congresses, and it was here that they wrote both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Moreover, Benjamin Franklin made his fortune and his home in the city.
Philly, once the nation’s most populous city, served as the capital of the US from 1790-1800. Home to the nation’s first Fire Company, library, and hospital, Philly has been and remains a powerhouse. Today, 13 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here, as are 68 colleges and universities and a big portion of the nation’s pharma industry.
Places to Stay in Philly Neighborhoods
The city has an abundance of great neighborhoods, as well as neighborhoods to avoid, each with its own character and amenities. One of the most crucial decisions in deciding where to stay is figuring out what part of the city you want to find a hotel in.
They often say that Philly is a city of neighborhoods. The rich ethnic and culture of the people who built the city over the past three centuries have created a beautiful tapestry of neighborhoods, each with their own distinct character.
Compared to its East Coast neighbors, Philly is a bargain when looking for lodging. While in New York and Washington DC, it is often hard to find a high-quality hotel in the downtown core for under $300 per night, it is not unheard of to book similar quality places to stay in Philly for half of that price.
Here are some of the best places you may want to discover during your stay:
More a subsection of Center City, Rittenhouse Square is home to many of the city’s wealthy residents. They window shop at the city’s many top boutiques and eat at its five-star restaurants and cafes, and often enjoy a stroll along the leafy square.
Convention Center District
The convention center district is home to the newly expanded PA convention center, steps from Philly’s Chinatown, and home to plenty of convention center hotels.
Just west of Center City, and home to the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and many other top institutions, as well as an eclectic mix of students, professors, young professionals, and young families.
Philly’s college hub boasts an Ivy League institution (The University of Pennsylvania), one of the nation’s premier science and engineering schools (Drexel University), as well as several other universities and colleges.
Great nightlife, great restaurants, home to theaters and cultural venues, and the business hub of the city. Downtown Philly is home to many national and international companies HQ’s, great restaurants, and the fantastic Arts, home to many of the city’s theaters and performance venues.
This is the historic district, where they wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Walk the very same streets as the founding fathers, see where Ben Franklin’s final resting place is and see the famous Liberty Bell. The Historic Old City Philly is home to Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, Ben Franklin’s home, and tons of other historical sites from the time of the Revolution.
As the old song says, “Where do all the hippies meet? South Street!” Here you’ll find a collection of wacky shops, fun bars, and tons of entertainment and people-watching.
Home to Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) and Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles) as well as the Wachovia Center (Flyers and 76ers). This neighborhood, populated initially by Italian and Irish immigrants, is also the place to find great Italian restaurants and the city’s famous Mummers clubs.
Like college town, without the college. Located just 10 minutes from Center City, Manayunk’s Main Street hosts a diverse collection of bars, pubs, and restaurants, full of grad students and young professionals.
Northern Liberties / Fishtown
This is one of the top up and coming bohemian places in town and here you’ll find an eclectic mix of art galleries, eateries, condos, and nightlife options.
Similarly, one of the most famous places in Philly, this leafy enclave is only just a 20-minute hop on the train from Center City. It boasts a classic main street (Germantown Avenue) with boutiques, antique shops, cafes, and more.
Moreover, 35 minutes from Center City lays Valley Forge National Historic Park, where George Washington and his troops spent a grueling winter drilling and training his forces for battle.
45 minutes from Center City, West Chester is a college town (home to the West Chester University) and the seat of Chester County. Here you’ll find great shopping and fun restaurants. When there don’t forget to visit the Couch Tomato Café for some excellent cuisine.
The Main Line
Of all the places in Philly and its suburbs, the towns along “The Main Line” most represent “old money Philly,” and are home to stately mansions, modern villas, and charming main streets and villages. Check out the Autograph brasserie with its meat centric menu for a tasty meal.
Getting Around Philly
Because it is a major metro region, there is any number of options for getting around Philly, both in the city and its suburbs.
The city has a great street grid, and the roads are generally in good shape. Both the east and on the west sides of the downtown core are in between major interstates (I-76 on the west and I-95 on the east). Both are also connected by I-676, which runs through the northern part of downtown.
Philadelphia has a well-developed mass-transit system run by SEPTA (The Southeastern PA Transport Authority).
The regional rail system runs through the city and suburbs and is the quickest and easiest way to get to and from Center City. There is also the El (Market-Frankford Elevated Line) and the Subway (running north and south under Broad Street), a vast bus network, and if you are going to South Jersey, the PATCO line running from Center City across the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Taxicabs are plentiful in the city, and you can hail a taxi in most places in the downtown core. Cabs serve the neighborhoods and suburban towns, but you need to call ahead since it’s not easy to hail a cab in most of the outlying areas.
If you are visiting between May 1st and October 31st, the city’s tourism authority runs an excellent bus service that loops through the downtown cultural and historic districts, called The Phlash.
These purple buses/trolleys stop at 27 locations, run every 15 minutes, and are cheap ($2 per person per ride, or $5 per person for an all-day pass, or $10 for a family for an all-day pass). To ride The Phlash, just get on at one of the many stops downtown and pay on the bus.
If you’re looking for a deal, be sure to check out any promotions being run by the Philly Convention and Visitors Bureau, which often runs two-for-one specials and other discounts on hotels and resorts in the city.