Philadelphia is the birthplace of American independence— a stop in the city isn’t complete without a visit to one of the many historic sites like The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, or The Betsy Ross House. But, after you brush up on your history of the Founding Fathers, what else should you see and do in the City of Brotherly Love? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Philadelphia has a lot to offer — a diversity of art and culture, plenty of hip shops and restaurants, and much more. If you’re planning a trip, be sure to check out these 8 things to do and see in Philadelphia.
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The Absolute Best Things To Do in Philadelphia
1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
If you like art, this is a must-see spot in Philly! The entire museum and grounds have been created by hand with mosaic tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and more by artist, Isaiah Zagar. Isaiah originally started by beautifying neighboring buildings in the 1960s and then it grew to include its half-block location on South Street. The art reflects the personal story of Isaiah as well as the community and the wider art world. Tickets are $15 for adults and must be purchased online. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 10 am they host Morning Magic tours of the gardens, and on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at noon, they host walking tours to explore the mosaics in the neighborhoods surrounding the museum/garden.
Another option for exploring this area is this Lonely Planet South Philly, Magic Gardens, & Market Tour. It is 3 hours and covers the artwork of Isaiah Zagar (including the museum entrance fee), The Italian Street Market, and the local neighborhoods.
If you love gardens, be sure to carve out some time to wander through the many gardens and farms that are near Philadelphia too!
Take a guided history tour
Many of the tours start at The Independence Visitor Center
599 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
A “things to do in Philadelphia” list isn’t complete without a walking tour! Even if you’re not a US history buff, taking a walking tour is a must thing to do! It’s a great way to recount the steps of the Founding Fathers (or some badass ladies, see below) and see where important moments in US history occurred. There are a variety of tour options that vary in length and locations covered, but most hit the key hot spots like Independence Hall, The Betsy Ross House, and Liberty Bell. Some explore inside these locations, while others only pass by while sharing key facts and stats about their importance.
I really like walking tours because you always learn tidbits that you might not pick up from just wandering around or reading a brochure, like that Ben Franklin’s family sold his home and print shop to redevelop the property. Today, the land is deemed a historic site and The National Park Service has created a “ghost structure” to show an outline of where the house would be if it were still standing.
Check out these great tour options:
Historic Philadelphia walking tour—covers many of the historic landmarks, the tour is 75 minutes.
Old City Philadelphia historic walking tour— check out many of the historic landmarks, plus walk through the Old Town and stop by Christ Church and the Ben Franklin Post Office, the tour is 90 minutes.
Private Philadelphia walking tour— have the guide all to yourself for 2-3 hours.
Badass women’s history tour—learn about Philly’s female pioneers that fought equality, the right to vote, made medical advancements, and more! The tour is 1 hr. 45 minutes.
Hang out, check out art, and more at the Pier at Cherry Street Pier
121 N Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106
What was once a municipal pier on the Delaware River is now a hip spot for art, food, and fun. The inside of the pier has been transformed and includes an art gallery made from shipping containers, a large open-air corridor that often hosts markets, yoga classes, and live music, but the best place to hang out is The Garden. Underneath the historic steel trusses strung in lights, The Garden is a casual seating area that overlooks the water and The Benjamin Franklin Bridge. It is the perfect spot to grab a snack and just relax in the fun atmosphere. The Pier often hosts a variety of food trucks throughout the week.
Walk along the Rail Park
Noble Street, N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
This rail line was bustling in its heyday, bringing in passengers and freight to and from the city. Over the years, the trains stopped rolling and the tracks fell into disrepair. In 2018, The City along with local foundations decided to use the property to create a three-mile greenway. As of July 2021, phase one of the project is complete and phase 2 is in the works. Once complete, this 3-mile greenway will be the perfect place to walk and enjoy incredible Philly skyline views.
Grab Lunch at the Reading Terminal Market
51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Reading Terminal Market is one of the largest and oldest operating markets in the US— it has been the place to fill your belly since 1893! This bustling market is filled with vendors selling fresh produce, locally baked sweets, sandwiches, fresh juices, and much more. It is located only a couple of blocks from The Philadelphia City Hall and a 15 min. walk to The Independence Hall, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch or a snack!
While you’re there, I suggest that you first grab a freshly pressed juice from The Four Seasons juice bar then wander down to either Luhv Vegan Deli or Nanee’s Kitchen. Luhv Vegan Deli is the place to go if you’re craving a toasted hoagie piled high with vegan cheese and Italian “salami.” They make many of their own sandwich toppings and what they don’t make they source locally. If a toasty sandwich isn’t your thing then head over to Nanee’s Kitchen for traditional Indian-Pakistani cuisine. Their Chana Masala and coconut curried cauliflower will fill you up for more sightseeing! If you need more vegan food suggestions, be sure to check out my vegan guide to Philadelphia!
Explore Old Town
Begins at the Delaware River to 7th Street, and from Vine Street to Lombard Street
If you love cobblestone streets, charming shops, and 18th-century row houses then wandering through the Old Town is an activity you must do! This section of the city is known as America’s “most historic square mile” and is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions like Independence Hall, The Betsy Ross House, and The Liberty Bell Center. Aside from these historic sights you will also find great food at The Bourse Food Hall, learn about the role of African Americans in the founding of the US at The Museum of African American history, and finally relax at The Cherry Street Pier. Make sure after you pack in all the must-see activities that you take the time to wander through and admire the charming row houses, but remember, these are people’s homes, don’t be obnoxious. You can easily spend an entire day or two exploring this area of Philadelphia.
Say hey to Rocky and check out the art at The Philadelphia Art Museum
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
I read that the Rocky Steps and statue are two of the most popular tourist attractions in Philadelphia! I didn’t believe it until I saw a line of people waiting to take their photo with the larger than life bronze statue and people sprinting up the steps, fists in the air. But, to be honest it’s fun and even if you don’t care about Rocky, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the surrounding Fairmount Park are two places that you must explore!
The Museum is home to an expansive collection of Renaissance, Impressionist, and modern art from notable names like Renoir, van Gogh, and Picasso. And if you really love art, you’ll be elated to know that the general admission ticket also includes entrance to the nearby Rodin Museum. When you’re planning your itinerary, keep in mind that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
If you happen to really be a Rocky fan AND like to run, check out this Philadelphia Rocky Run. This running tour covers four miles and along the running route, your tour guide will share little-known facts and important sites. After the run, you’ll receive a detailed map of your run and the sites that you saw for further exploration.
Explore East Fairmount Park
2839 W Glenwood Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19121
Whether you want to work up a sweat or just enjoy nature, this is the place to come! If you’re just interested in a stroll, then it is a great idea to pair a stop here with your visit to The Philadelphia Art Museum. The 650-acre park straddles both sides of The Delaware River and is home to countless trails and the lovely Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. At the Horticultural Center, you will find a greenhouse featuring collections of tropical plants and succulents and standalone a Japanese and Butterfly Garden. If the weather is nice, this is the perfect place for a picnic!
If you want to work up a sweat, then head over to the 30-mile mostly paved Schuylkill River Trail, or for something shorter check out the 3.8-mile Boxer’s Trail or 4.5-mile Trolley Trail. All the trails are very popular with runners, bikers, and walkers. While on the Schuylkill River Trail be sure to continue your jaunt over to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. The trail became too narrow to build on the land, so the City continued it over the water from Locust Street to South Street. The boardwalk offers scenic waterfront and city views. On the weekend, come early to avoid heavy trail traffic.