How to Fall in Love With Philadelphia in Fewer Than 48 Hours
Philadelphia, or "Philly" as it's affectionately known, is one of those places that has it all. Infectious energy, renowned museums, delicious food — cheesesteaks, anyone? — and yet, despite the city's soaring skyline, it still has a unique way of retaining that small-town charm so many of us find ourselves drawn to. But what makes this pocket of Pennsylvania stand out among the rest? (You know, besides the spectacular significance it holds in American history.) Its endless list of things to do, of course! And luckily for you, we've narrowed down the top-rated, can't-miss experiences, so you're guaranteed to have a phenomenal Philly adventure. Whether you're a newcomer or lifelong local, check out the ultimate guide ahead.
Tour the largest municipal building in the country.
There's no better way to kick off your time in Philly than by touring the iconic City Hall. Containing over 14.5 acres of floor space, this governmental institution is the largest municipal building in the United States, not to mention an architectural treasure, both inside and out.
If you head this way, be sure to climb to the top of the observation deck for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
Explore the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Serving as the cultural heart of the city, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a spectacular place to spend the morning or afternoon. Here, you will find exhibits of art from around the world, including impressive works by Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Cézanne, along with many others.
Run up the infamous Rocky Steps.
Now, no visit to the art museum would be complete without running up the infamous "Rocky Steps." Ever since Sylvester Stallone made his triumphant run in the beloved classic film Rocky III, the steps of the museum have become quite the international destination.
So go ahead, embark on your own jog. Yes, it's a bit touristy, but trust me, you won't be the only one pumping fists in the air as you take in the view from the top!
Admire the beauty of Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River.
Just west of the museum is where you'll find another National Historic Landmark: Boathouse Row. Home to 10 charming 19th-century boathouses lining the banks of the serene Schuylkill River, this area makes a lovely place for a quiet, mind-clearing stroll.
Stand in America's Founding Fathers' footsteps at Independence Hall.
No matter if you're a history buff or not, everyone should pay a visit to the red-brick building known as Independence Hall. Not only is this the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, but it's also where America's Founding Fathers laid the framework for the United States Constitution. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers free guided tours, but make sure to plan ahead if interested, as tickets go fast.
Listen to the story of the Liberty Bell.
Located in the opposite direction of Independence Hall is another can't-miss attraction: Liberty Bell Center. While this 2,080-pound piece of history used to mark important monumental events — such as the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence — the chimes were last heard in 1846 for George Washington's birthday. Nevertheless, its fascinating story draws people from all over the world to stop and snag a photo, and unlike other notable exhibits, no ticket is required to visit.
Walk down America's oldest continuously inhabited residential street.
If you're yearning for another excuse to step back in time, head to the itty-bitty, cobblestone lane known as Elfreth's Alley. With old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, brickwork, and other admirable architectural details, this 300-year-old street will instantly pull at your heartstrings.
Explore the world's largest art gallery on foot.
Lover of art? Well, you've come to the right place, as Philly has more than 3,600 murals. And thanks to this free self-guided tour, you can explore the world's largest art gallery on foot — at your own pace — without breaking your budget in the process.
Devour some of the most delicious bagels on the East Coast.
Crisp and crunchy on the outside and oh-so chewy on the inside, there's no denying the bagel artisans in Philly know their stuff. In fact, the carb-a-licious circles at Spread Bagelry are so tasty, people will wait hours for them. Hand-rolled, boiled to perfection in honey water, and then baked all day in a brick oven — let's just say any line is worth it.
Chow down on around-the-world cuisine at America's oldest farmers market.
No matter what your taste buds desire, you're guaranteed to find it at the historic Reading Terminal Market. Known as America's oldest farmers market, this one-stop shop houses everything you need for a memorable meal. From hot reuben sandwiches at Hershel's East Side Deli to duck noodle soup at Sang Kee Peking, brace yourself for the mouthwatering aromas taking place at every turn.
Don't forget to feast on an authentic Philly cheesesteak.
Unless you're a vegan or vegetarian, you can't visit Philly without feasting on an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Why? Because these scrumptious sandwiches are inarguably the city's most famous food. Simply put: they're a civic icon. And fortunately, you can find them on practically every corner.
While the debate on where to find the city's best cheesesteak may never end, you won't be disappointed with Pat's King of Steaks. Located at the corner of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, this self-proclaimed "inventor of cheesesteak" is quite the fan favorite. But if you happen to still be hungry after this gastronomical experience, head right down the street to its rival Geno's Steak for another go!
See the world's largest collection of pizza-related memorabilia.
Whether you take your slices thick or thin, you're sure to have a wonderfully weird time at Pizza Brain. Acclaimed for being the world's first pizza museum — yes, that's a thing! — this quirky BYOB eatery is adored for its tasty brick-oven pies, as well as its pizza memorabilia.
Rest your head in style at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia.
When deciding on where to rest your head at night, there's no better place to stay than the recently-renovated Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Situated in the heart of downtown's Center City, this luxurious urban oasis not only offers tranquil accommodations — and a state-of-the-art spa — but it couldn't be more convenient.
Plus, where else can you say you've slept in a historical bank building?
Meander around the trendy Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.
From its elegant stores to its top-notch restaurants and swanky vibes, Rittenhouse Square is one of the trendiest areas in all of Philly. (And to think back in the day these streets served as a grazing area for livestock!) Once you've spent time meandering around, be sure to check out the one-block park — also referred to as Rittenhouse Square — located on Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Streets.
Stroll along the scenic Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
If you're in the mood for more walking and sightseeing, make your way over to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Serving as the spine of Philadelphia's Museum District, this diagonal, one-mile scenic boulevard oozes with museums, attractions, and public parks, including the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Barnes Foundation.
Gaze upon the architectural wonders of 30th Street Station.
With its five-story-high windows, Art-Deco-inspired chandeliers, and overall grandeur atmosphere, touring the historic 30th Street Station will leave anyone in awe. Whether or not you're planning to join the 20,000 other commuters and travelers who pass through here daily, carving out time to visit this opulent transportation hub is highly encouraged.
Check out the exotic wildlife at the nation's first zoo.
Lions, tigers, and bears — you can find them all at the Philadelphia Zoo, along with so much more. Stretching across 42 acres, this wildlife park is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered. Did I mention that because its doors originally opened in 1874, this zoo is the first and oldest in the country?
Shop the curb-side stands at the Italian Market.
Just one glimpse of the amazing array of products on display is all it takes to realize why the city's Italian Market is such a beloved hot spot. Spanning across 10 blocks, this produce haven has served as a South Philadelphia mainstay since the 19th century. Although it has an incredibly strong Italian heritage, this open-air market — the largest and oldest one in America — has experienced an exciting surge of international flavor over the last couple of decades, so expect to find ingredients from all across the globe.
Marvel at the Magic Garden's mosaic masterpieces.
Hands down, the Magic Gardens is an absolute must-see destination when exploring Philly. Covering an indoor and outdoor space equivalent to half a city block, this eclectic, mosaicked art exhibit is made up of everything from kitchen tiles and china plates (see the dishes pictured here) to bike wheels and Latin-American art. Chances are, you'll be infused with creativity as soon as you arrive.
Roam around the manicured campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the most acclaimed universities within the nation and is the largest of the eight prestigious Ivy League schools. While it is a private institution, all are welcome — and encouraged — to roam around the pristine 302-acre-campus. From Franklin Field to College Hall, you can dive deeper into UPenn's history with this self-guided tour. And if you're interested in paying tribute to the stylized "Love" sculpture as pictured here, you can find it on campus at the intersection of Locust and Woodland Walks.
While the university's campus boasts with fascination, it also is home to sweeping views of the city's skyline. My advice? Bring a blanket along for the ride so you can roll it out and indulge in a little relaxation. And while you're at it, why not add a picnic to the mix? Thanks to the mesmerizing skyscrapers in the distance, you couldn't ask for a more picturesque backdrop.
Cheer on the Philadelphia Phillies in person at Citizens Bank Park.
Attend Movie Night at the Mann Center.
Located in the green oasis known as Fairmount Park, the multi-stage campus of the Mann Center offers a broad spectrum of communal fun for all to enjoy. Whether it's the beloved Movie Nights or compelling concert series, it's no surprise why this center is one of the city's most admired outdoor entertainment venues.
Walk across the historic Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
If you ask me, very few places in Philly can compare to the iconic Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Spanning 7,456 feet across the Delaware River, this stunning suspension bridge offers awe-inspiring skyline views, no matter the time of day. And because the 1.3-mile pedestrian walkway is open until 9 p.m., it's the perfect place to reminisce on all your new memories as you gaze upon the twinkling city lights.