Looking back at many of the Diners Drive-ins and Dives, we always knew Philadelphia was going to be a promising trip, not only because of its Philly Cheesesteak sandwich but because of the history and heritage this city has to offer to the U.S.

This visit was part of our trip on the East Coast of the United States – Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York and Boston.

Overview

Part of our East Coast U.S. tour in 2019, Philadelphia has stood out as a strong contender for one of the best cities to visit in the States. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, is notable for its rich history, on display at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed) and other American Revolutionary sites.

This city started out as a colonial capital, run in many respects as a corporation by William Penn. Iconic are the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, immortalized by Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant run in the film “Rocky.”

Throughout its relatively short history compared to other Western cities, it has become a major city that defined and changed the local economy and with it, its people.

The city features a lot of industrial landscape but also hosts many colonial landmarks that remind this young, civic nation about its beginnings. Many of the central streets still remind people of the once busy colonial town and major trading hub it was.

Top things to do in Philadelphia

Here are some of the places we visited and would recommend whilst in Philadelphia.

If you don’t have enough time in the city, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Philadelphia Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.

Elfreth’s Alley

The journey continues through some colonial looking streets till we finally reach Elfreth’s alley, a reminiscence of perfectly maintained early colonial terraced houses. What can I say, it reminded us of the UK.

Betsy Ross House

Not far from this alley you can also find the place where the U.S. flag was born. Although nothing particularly spectacular, Betsy Ross was commissioned by the early revolutionaries to come up with a flag to represent the American cause.

Having a short coffee break, yes of course it had to be a Starbucks, we decided to march on and see the main reason we were there.

Independence Hall, Congress Hall and Carpenter’s Hall

The old colonial administrative square or what they are now, the Independence Hall, Congress Hall and Carpenter’s Hall. These buildings were the main administrative buildings during the English period.

However, the meaning for the early Americans is that this is where the proclamation of independence was first read.

Interestingly enough, the proclamation was never intended to be a complete separation and succession from the British Empire. It was meant to be a statement to ask the King of England the right to self governance.

Because of how fast things escalated and the propaganda on both sides, the revolutionaries sought complete independence.

After the reading happened and the vote casted, the now renegade lawmakers found themselves outside the law and had to meet somewhere else. Their first meeting was in the building of the Carpenter’s Hall.

Overall, the Independence Hall and the nearby buildings felt impressive considering their history and valour to the American people.

Liberty Bell

The famous Liberty Bell can be found not far from the Hall but be ready to queue up to see it close enough and have a few photos with it. The Bell, previously called the State House Bell, is an iconic symbol of American independence.

Museum of the American Revolution

After visiting all those historic places, we paid a visit to the Museum of the American Revolution. The museum’s collection includes items owned and used by General George Washington during the War of Independence and was pretty interesting for us to see.

We learnt a lot about the roots of conflict in the 1760s, the rise of armed resistance, the Declaration of independence of 1776 through the final years of the war.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Having seen some of these historical bits we decided to go to the Art Museum and explore some of the exhibitions there. Whilst the building itself was impressive, let’s not forget why it’s famous – Any takers?

Yep, you guessed it – that’s where Rocky trained in the eponymous movies. To our surprise some of the exhibitions were also from a famous Romanian artist, Constantin Brancusi.


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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is another place worth visiting. It is so beautiful on the inside and definitely worth a visit. It is the head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania.

The Franklin Institute

From the Art Museum, there is an extraordinary avenue that opens in front and is just a joy to walk through. The avenue finishes at the The Franklin Institute which is a science museum.

Although we didn’t quite to go in the building, one of its features is a statue of Benjamin Franklin inside a hallway designed to be like the Roman Pantheon temple with an oculus like dome. This is the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.

Whilst most American cities are large, Philadelphia is definitely do-able just walking. Some of the highlights of this city also include hosting the largest town hall in the U.S., a superb food hall/market (Yes, we had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich) and some great restaurants that serve some delish food. But we will talk more in the Food Highlights session.

Philadelphia City Hall

You won’t miss Philadelphia City Hall during your tour of the city. The building, built of brick, white marble, and limestone is the world’s largest free-standing masonry building.

It is the seat of the municipal government of the City of Philadelphia and also houses the chambers of the Philadelphia City Council and the offices of the Mayor of Philadelphia.

Love Park

Next to the Philadelphia City Hall is Love Park. It is officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza and is a public park in the city. The park is nicknamed LOVE Park for LOVE sculpture which overlooks the plaza. We had to take some photos, of course 🙂

Food and Drink highlights

As from our past articles in New York and Washington D.C., food in the North East Coast is fairly heavy but delicious. Having said this, the culinary scene in Philadelphia is definitely worth exploring.

Reading Terminal Market

We start off at the Reading Terminal Market, which is a relatively large area indoors filled with stalls and restaurants serving minute ready food.

As we were in Philly, we decided it couldn’t be a better time to try the all time favourite Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. Tender beef, with caramelised onions, all smothered in American cheese in your favourite baguette. Yum!

China Town

This part of the city captures many Oriental smells and tastes. Plenty of restaurants to cater for, even for the most sceptical of you foodies. This is where you will find the Chinatown Friendship Arch.

American Cuisine

As you would imagine, fried check, milkshakes are all part of these menus. We decided to try out a few places. I particularly remember we went to this restaurant called Urban Farmer Philadelphia and the portions were huge.

They i.e. gave me 1/2 of a whole chicken and the price was fairly decent also. I remember the waiter’s face when he saw I couldn’t finish it – he must’ve thought I didn’t like it!

Another thing worth mentioning is that whilst some restaurants may have set menus they don’t mind to cater for other things, not on the menu. We went to this brunch place and I really wanted some pancakes. As they didn’t list them in the menu, I asked the waitress if they could set me up with some pancakes and mac’n’cheese for Hristina. She said yes and soon after our food arrived we were happy bunnies.

So lesson learnt – if it’s not on the menu it doesn’t mean they can’t server it!

Final thoughts

Philadelphia is a very interesting city. In that it has a rich colonial heritage with many of its old city centre buildings still boasting its British architecture.

Moreover, we think if you are setting out to discover the U.S. and want to explore more, as of the original 13 colonies, here, you will be surrounded yourself in Americana.

The destination is friendly for solo traveller and couples/families alike and overall we felt very safe during our trip there.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:


  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.


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Paul Nabosnyi

I am Paul and together with my wife, Hristina, we love travelling. I am originally from Romania. I am an IT sales professional. We enjoy city breaks and long haul destinations. We also like cooking and my passion is baking! In order to burn the calories from all that eating (hehe) we also cycle.

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