Guide to Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and is home to a lot of history. There is also great food and culture, making it a great place to stay for a few days.
How to get there
If you are coming from either Washington DC or New York, you can take a train however I would highly recommend taking Megabus as this is the cheapest option. If you book in advance, you can get tickets for $5.
Where to stay
I would recommend staying in an Airbnb as are a huge amount available that are both nice and affordable (cheaper than all of the hotels). I stayed in a great apartment that had its own bathroom and kitchen for US$80 a night.
What to do
There are lots of things to do in Philadelphia that would easily take up a few days. If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing and activities, it is worth checking out the Philadelphia Pass to see if this would save you money, as opposed to paying for lots of separate admissions.
Eat a Philly cheesesteak
While in Philly, you must try a philly cheesesteak! It is basically steak with melted cheese on top in a bread roll. Restaurants will have many different varieties on their menu and you can add whatever toppings you like. The locals will tell you that it is best to try one in a small local shop, rather than a big chain, as it is more authentic. We went to Pete’s Pizza on Fairmount Avenue and it was delicious.
Take a Big Bus tour
If you have just arrived in Philly, a great way to see the whole city is to join a Hop on Hop off Big Bus tour. You can ride around the whole route and then know where you would like to spend your time. This is ideal if you only have a few days, as the city is quite spread out.
Visit the Rocky statue and steps
On the western edge of the city, you can run up the famous Rocky steps and celebrate your own little victory. These are actually the steps of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art. You can also see the Rocky statue here.
Visit the Liberty Bell Centre
The Liberty Bell is an important symbol of American Independence and the original is displayed in the Liberty Bell Centre with a great view of Independence Hall in the background. Admission is free, however there was always a long line when we went past.
See the Boathouse Row light up at night
Nearby to the Rocky steps is the beautiful Boathouse Row. This is a string of old houses on the Schuylkill river that are covered in lights. At night time, they light up and reflect on the water.
Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary was operational from 1829 until 1971 and is now a significant historical landmark, as it was the first prison in the USA to enforce solitary incarceration. It housed famous inmates such as Al Capone.
I would highly recommend taking a tour of the prison – it was fantastic. You are given an audio guide and you walk around the cell blocks listening to stories and historical facts told by past inmates and workers. It is truly fascinating and I would allow a few hours there.
One Liberty Observation Deck
If you like good views, you should take yourself up to the One Liberty Observation Deck to see all of Philly’s surrounds. However make sure it is a clear day so you get your moneys worth!
See the “LOVE” sculpture
The LOVE sculpture is a lovely addition to the city and sits in Dilworth Park just outside of the City Hall. This is a nice spot to take a photo.
Reading Terminal Market
This market is huge and is a fantastic place to indulge on local treats. You can easily spend a few hours walking around here sampling, eating and buying some great produce. It is a popular place for lunch as well and most stalls have space for you to sit down.
If you’re a fan of the TV show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, then you should take a visit to Mac’s Tavern. Although it is not where the show was filmed, the actors who play Dee and Mac own it and a lot of the influence is similar.
If you are staying north of the city and want to visit a local bar, I would recommend St Stephens Green. They are always playing lots of different American sports on TV and the drinks are well priced. You really feel like you are drinking like a local!
Otherwise, Philadelphia has some great bars on South Street.
How long to stay
I would recommend staying at least 3 days or so as there is definitely enough to do in this time.