New York may be the most popular city and Washington DC, the capital of the USA, but Philadelphia is the most important city in American history. The city of “Brotherly Love” is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States, known as the birthplace of the American Republic. For us it was a quick trip, just two hours away from New York. In Philadelphia we had an unforgettable experience getting to know the historic city center, the major boulevards and enjoying the famous cheesesteaks.
Table of Contents
- It is the largest city of Pennsylvania.
- It is the 2nd largest English speaking city, after London.
- It is often referred to as Philly and a city of solidarity.
- It has more than 6 million inhabitants.
Our transfer to Philadelphia was made by the Port Authority in Manhattan by Peter Pan bus. The duration of our trip was about 2 hours and the cost was only $ 9 per person. The company intercity bus also had free Wi-Fi and air conditioning. Prices can be found from $ 7 per person depending on the date and availability. For the available routes and the corresponding prices see here.
Transportation from the airport
Philadelphia International Airport is the largest airport in the city and manages the most air traffic. It is quite a busy airport and is served by many international airlines. It is connected to the city by train.
SEPTA buses cover three routes in Zone 1 of airport arrivals upon receipt of baggage:
Route 37 to and from South Philadelphia and Chester, PA.
Route 108 from and to the 69th Street Transportation Center.
Route 115 to and from Suburban Square in the Ardmore area.
The price of the non-refundable ticket is $ 2.50.
SEPTA’s Airport line stops at the PHL terminal and goes to 30th Street Station. From there you will take the Amtrak train, which is a 30 minute journey and the ticket costs $ 8 (cash only). This train route is a wonderful travel experience. It is worth noting here that trains in the US are considered “luxury” and are relatively more expensive than other forms of transportation.
Transportation within the city
Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the United States and the public transportation system fits its size. There are buses, trams and trains that connect the whole city as well as the surrounding suburbs.
SEPTA is the largest transportation company in Philadelphia. Most buses and trains in the city are managed by it. There is a fairly extensive transport network with which you can travel anywhere. You can buy individual tickets for the city’s trains and buses, or you can use the SEPTA Key or Independence Pass card.
You save a certain amount of money on the SEPTA Key card. Use it with a simple pass over the machine at the entrance of the station or bus. The Independence Pass is used in the same way, except that it provides unlimited one-day travel at $ 13 per passenger.
Philadelphia is a fairly organized city. If you do not wish to use public transport you can easily circulate on foot. Specifically, it only takes a 30 minute walk from one attraction to another.
You can also use the Uber and Lyft applications to get around the city. Their use is widely known in Philadelphia, and it is a safe and economical way of transportation.
Across Philadelphia you will see bike lanes that make cycling very enjoyable. Cycling is an opportunity to see the city more easily and experience the rhythms of the city from the perspective of a local.
Low cost hostels in Philadelphia can be found here.
What to Do in Philadelphia
Independence National Historical Park
One of the first and most important attractions in Philadelphia that is worth visiting. Independence National Historical Park, known as the place where America was “born”. At this point the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America was signed. The park is quite large and covers 20 blocks in the area of the Old Town. There is the Independence Hall, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From March to December, those wishing to visit must declare the hours they wish at the visitor center. Admission and tours are free. But if you book them earlier through the internet, the charge is $ 1.50 per person.
Located in Independence National Historical Park. Its role is particularly important as it is the symbol of Freedom both in Philadelphia and around the world. The Freedom Bell is an exhibit among the many pieces of information provided to visitors about American history. Admission is free, but the queue to see it is long. As you wait in line, you are given the opportunity to see the President’s House, an interactive place that provides photos and videos of the release of slaves in America.
Walking along South St, you cannot miss Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic artwork spread all over the street. But you will see most of his works in the gardens, and hence the name Magic Gardens. It is a labyrinth made of various objects such as mirrors, broken dishes, tiles, and bottles, which create a beautiful eccentric environment. Magic Gardens is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $ 10 and we suggest you get them earlier because they run out quickly.
Eastern State Penitentiary
It is an abandoned penitentiary that hosted some of America’s most notorious criminals. Admission to the ESP (Eastern State Penitentiary) is $ 16 per person. Free individual headphones are provided, with which guests learn all the details about the life and work of the detainees. The radial design of the building was copied by many penitentiaries. One of these cells, with many amenities and luxuries, detained Al Capone.
An architectural treasure both internally and externally. City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States. With the bronze statue of Philadelphia founder William Penn at the top of the building, the 165-foot-high central tower is the tallest stone building, and was the tallest building in the city until 1987. Its large open courtyard forms a beautiful walkway from Broad St to Market St, and the top floor provides a panoramic view of the city.
Southwest of City Hall, you will see the Love Sign. Be sure to take a photo in front of the Philadelphia landmark with your loved one. Designed by Robert Indiana, the sculpture symbolizes the love and companionship that Philadelphia stands for (Friend and Brother).
The Philadelphia Museum of Art – Rocky Steps
The Philadelphia Museum of Art dates back to 1876, and today it has become one of the largest art museums and one of the best attractions in Philadelphia. The museum houses 240,000 art objects (!). There is so much art that extra buildings need to be presented to the public. There are exhibits from ancient times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance period and many more until the modern era. During your visit, you will see works by Renoir, van Gogh and Picasso, as well as a collection of armour, an entire Buddha temple, sculptures and much more.
The ticket price is $ 25 for 2 consecutive days. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.
However, it is not only the museum artwork that attracts visitors. The main entrance was immortalized in the movie Rocky 2, when Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stalone) was running up the stairs while doing his training. These steps are now called Rocky Steps, and it is almost impossible when you go up to them not to sing the song Eye of the Tiger!
Also at the base of the steps is the statue of Rocky, which appeared in the movie Rocky 3 and has remained there to honour the beloved hero of the City of Brotherly Love. Do not forget to pose in front of the statue with the typical boxing pose.
9th Street Italian Market
It is one of the largest and oldest open markets in the USA. Dozens of vendors set up their stalls on the street and there you will find fresh vegetables, fish, meat and anything else you can imagine. Surrounding shops such as butchers, bakeries and grocery stores will take you back in time.
Reading Terminal Market
One of the best known and oldest markets in Philadelphia dating back to 1893 is the Reading Terminal market. Markets in Philadelphia have played an important role in the city’s culture since its inception. At first, they were open but then they were considered a health hazard and caused problems and noise on the roads. For this reason, they became closed like the Reading Terminal.
Personal experience: Once we entered the market we did not know where to start. The choices were many, the smells from the stalls were driving us crazy and as well-known food lovers we were looking forward to trying them all. We started with two delicious cheesesteaks, drank a refreshing smoothie, tried various samples from the counters and ended up with a big cookie with pieces of chocolate.
The Cherry Blossoms at Fairmount Park
Philadelphia is known for its presentation of cherry blossoms, which bloom in April and May. For a period of 2 to 4 weeks, the whole city is covered with pink petals. For a more beautiful scenery, just head out of town to Fairmount Park.
Where to Eat
Food in Philadelphia is affordable, depending on what and where you eat. You can choose from “fast” foods, such as cheesesteaks and pizza, to expensive restaurants and bars.
Philadelphia is known for its famous cheesesteak, sandwiches with chopped slices of meat, sauteed vegetables and cheese. Some may describe it as greasy and unhealthy, but the locals have the opposite view, who are proud of their local Philly Cheesesteak.
The best known stores where you will find the best cheesesteak are Steve’s, Jon’s, Gino’s, Pat’s and Delasandro’s. Pat’s is considered to be the first store to make this sandwich for the first time, and it is open 24 hours a day.
There are, of course, many more shops besides those with cheesesteak. Philadelphia is known for its gastronomic food and is one of the top destinations in the US for those who are foodlovers. Also its pizza and ice cream have received very good reviews.
Note: For those who want to drink alcohol in one of the restaurants, you have to be 21 years of age and the prices are quite steep. Nevertheless, restaurants allow customers to bring their own bottle BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle).
When to Go
Summer is the most touristy season in Philadelphia, when the weather is warm but there is plenty of humidity. Hotel prices are very high at this time, and availability is often limited. Some people prefer autumn and spring, because the prices are lower and weather is still warm.
Useful Sites & Apps
Nowadays, before or during travelling we always have some useful websites and apps which guide us towards the destinations we want according to our budgets. We have chosen certain websites and apps which have helped us a lot, or have been recommended a lot and have high grades. Apart from the really well known ones there are also a lot of lesser known ones which can assist you just as well. We offer you our proposals below:
With a plethora of choices, traveller grades, and a lot of offers for those who have booked many destinations, promo codes for you and your friends, discounts and many other advantages. Start booking to discover all the available options and offers. For available rooms and prices check here.
With over one million properties all around the world, and always increasing, ideal for a low budget stay even in expensive areas. Furthermore, because you stay in people’s villas, houses or flats you are made to feel more at home by the host of each destination and the homely surroundings.
Hotels.com is a leading provider of hotel accommodation worldwide, offering booking services through its own network of localised websites. Once you reach 10 nights, you’ll have a free night which you can apply at checkout. You can earn multiple free nights by continuing to book with Hotels.com, though. The platform gives travellers one of the widest selections of accommodation on the net, including both independent and major chain hotels as well as self-catering in over hundreds of thousands properties worldwide. The company offers a one-stop shopping source for hotel pricing, amenities and availability. Find the best deals here.
Tripadvisor helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travelers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before. With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions of nearly 8 million businesses, travelers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at delicious restaurants and discover great places nearby. Find available offers and booking your accommodation here.
Whatever you need is a click away. Find the best offers from the best companies for trains, buses, planes and ships. Travel to Canada, the USA and Europe. We use it often when we are already abroad and want to visit a neighbouring country. Check available routes here.
The first website that every traveller always checks. Instant and fast price comparison from airlines around the world. We love the “To any destination” filter, which shows us, all available flights sorted by price (low – high), for the dates we have selected. The best solution for a last minute trip. Available flights and prices can be found here.
A site which all adventurous travellers love as well as those who wish to visit museums and concerts. All the available activities and tours around the world gathered in a concise list. Read the reviews from each traveller well before booking your activities in order to avoid any misunderstandings with the organisers of each activity as to the days and times. We have tried it many times in America, Asia and Africa without any problems.
For car rentals at the lowest prices. Car service in over 150 countries, with many offers and support in over 12 languages and with any special requirements.
Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room.You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.
City Maps 2Go
Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay. Alternatively, as soon as you have looked at the information on a map you can delete it and then download a new one.
You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.
EXTRA TIP: When you mark most points of interest before your trip, you can roughly see in which area you will need to book a room. Try to be as close as possible to all points of interest.
Information and applications for the travel documents you need, depending on your origin and destination, can be found here.