Philadelphia: 16 Great Activities in The City of Brotherly Love

Updated On: July 10, 2023

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Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy and a city steeped in history, is a wonderful destination that entices tourists from around the world. Located in the heart of the United States’ East Coast, this vibrant metropolis offers a diverse range of tourist attractions that showcase its rich heritage, unique neighbourhoods, and culinary delights.

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Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love.

The City of Brotherly Love has attractions and destinations that everyone to enjoy. To ensure you explore the best parts of the city, we’ve examined the attractions that make Philadelphia one of the most popular USA holiday destinations for tourists.

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Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the USA.

History of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, known as the “Birthplace of America,” has a rich and storied history that dates back to the founding of the United States. Established in 1682 by William Penn, a Quaker and prominent figure in English colonial history, Philadelphia quickly became an important centre for trade, politics, and culture.

The city played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, serving as the meeting place for the Continental Congress and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was also the temporary capital of the United States from 1790 to 1800 while Washington, D.C., was being built. 

Throughout the centuries, Philadelphia has been at the forefront of numerous social and political movements, including the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement.

Today, the city’s historical landmarks, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, stand as reminders of its significant contributions to American history and its enduring legacy as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

Historical Attractions

Independence National Historical Park

Independence National Historical Park stands as a testament to Philadelphia’s significant role in American history. Within this park, visitors can explore several notable attractions. The Liberty Bell Center houses the iconic Liberty Bell, an enduring symbol of American freedom.

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The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American freedom.

Visitors can learn about the bell’s history and its symbolic significance in the development of the United States. Adjacent to the Liberty Bell Center is Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted. Exploring this historic building offers a glimpse into the birth of American democracy.

Additionally, the National Constitution Center, located nearby, provides an interactive and engaging experience that delves into the history, impact, and relevance of the U.S. Constitution.

Eastern State Penitentiary

The Eastern State Penitentiary is not only historically significant but also architecturally captivating. Built in the early 19th century, it was one of the world’s first penitentiaries and served as a model for prison design worldwide.

The prison’s unique radial layout and imposing Gothic architecture provide a haunting backdrop to its storied past. Visitors can take an audio tour that offers insights into the prison’s history, notorious inmates, and the impact of the penitentiary system on modern corrections.

Additionally, the exhibits within the penitentiary shed light on the challenges and debates surrounding criminal justice reform.

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The “Rocky” steps are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a cultural landmark and a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces. It gained worldwide recognition, in part, due to its iconic steps, immortalised by the film “Rocky,” where visitors often recreate the memorable movie scene.

However, the museum’s appeal extends far beyond this pop culture reference. Inside, visitors can explore an extensive collection of art spanning various periods and cultures.

The museum offers a diverse range of artistic expressions, from Renaissance masterpieces to contemporary works. Special exhibitions further enhance the museum’s offerings, showcasing renowned artists and exploring specific themes or movements within the art world.

Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution immerses visitors in the compelling story of the American Revolution and the birth of the United States. Through interactive exhibits and carefully curated artefacts, visitors can delve into the events, ideas, and people who shaped the nation’s history.

The museum highlights the Revolutionary War’s impact on various aspects of society, from political developments and military strategies to the experiences of ordinary individuals. Interactive displays allow visitors to participate and better understand the challenges, sacrifices, and triumphs that paved the way for American independence.

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The Reading Terminal Market is full of local vendors.

Cultural Attractions

Reading Terminal Market

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market is a vibrant and historic public market offering visitors a sensory feast. With roots dating back to the late 19th century, this bustling market showcases the city’s diverse culinary scene.

Inside, visitors can explore a vast array of food vendors offering everything from local delicacies to international cuisines. From freshly shucked oysters and mouthwatering cheesesteaks to artisanal chocolates and handmade pastries, the market is a food lover’s paradise.

Beyond its delectable offerings, the market also serves as a gathering place for locals and tourists, fostering a sense of community and celebrating Philadelphia’s rich culinary heritage.

Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program

Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the United States, transforming the city’s urban landscape into a vibrant gallery of street art. Visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty and creativity of these large-scale murals, which can be found adorning walls throughout various neighbourhoods.

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The Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the USA.

The program offers guided tours, providing a deeper understanding of the artwork’s significance, the artists behind them, and the themes they explore. These tours offer a unique perspective on Philadelphia’s cultural identity, highlighting the city’s commitment to public art as a means of storytelling, community engagement, and urban revitalisation.

The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is a world-renowned art institution that houses an exceptional collection of artworks spanning various periods and styles. Established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in the early 20th century, the foundation boasts an impressive array of pieces by artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso, among others.

What sets the Barnes Foundation apart is its distinctive approach to display and interpretation. The collection is presented in carefully curated ensembles, blending different art forms, cultures, and time periods.

This unique arrangement encourages visitors to explore the connections and contrasts between works, fostering a deeper understanding of artistic expression and cultural context. With its rich and diverse collection, the Barnes Foundation inspires and amazes visitors.

Neighbourhoods and Local Flavor

South Street

South Street is a lively neighbourhood in Philadelphia that bursts with vibrant energy. Known for its eclectic mix of shops, boutiques, and restaurants, South Street offers a unique shopping and dining experience.

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There are many shops and restaurants in Philadelphia.

Tourists can explore independent stores, vintage shops, and quirky boutiques, discovering an array of unique treasures. The neighbourhood comes alive at night with its vibrant nightlife scene, featuring live music venues, bars, and clubs.

Street performances further enhance the energetic atmosphere. Walking down South Street is an adventure in itself because it serves as a cultural melting pot, offering a diverse range of cuisine, art, and entertainment.

Old City

Stepping into Old City feels like travelling back in time to the birth of the nation. This historic neighbourhood is home to some of Philadelphia’s most significant sites and museums. Tourists can explore iconic landmarks such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, immersing themselves in the history of the American Revolution.

The cobblestone streets and charming alleys add to the neighbourhood’s allure, creating a quaint and picturesque atmosphere. Beyond the historical attractions, Old City is also a hub for art galleries, showcasing contemporary works alongside traditional and folk art.

The neighbourhood’s blend of history, culture, and artistic expression makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of Philadelphia’s rich heritage.

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The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League research university.

University City

University City, located in West Philadelphia, is a vibrant and intellectually stimulating neighbourhood that revolves around prestigious universities. Home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, among others, the neighbourhood fosters a spirit of intellectual curiosity.

Visitors can explore beautiful campus grounds, admire stunning architecture, and immerse themselves in a culture of learning and innovation. University City is also a hub for cultural events and performances, with theatres, concert venues, and art galleries offering a wide range of artistic experiences.

Outdoor Spaces

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is a sprawling urban oasis that offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Spanning over 2,000 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

The park is characterised by its expansive green spaces, rolling hills, and picturesque trails, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can engage in a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, and picnicking.

Fairmount Park is also home to several historic mansions and gardens, adding a touch of elegance and beauty to the natural landscape. These stately homes and meticulously landscaped gardens provide a glimpse into Philadelphia’s rich history and architectural heritage.

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The Delaware River waterfront is very scenic.

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Situated along the Delaware River waterfront, Spruce Street Harbor Park is a vibrant and inviting outdoor space that combines relaxation, entertainment, and scenic views. The park features hammock lounges suspended over the water, perfect for unwinding and enjoying the waterfront breeze.

The park’s design incorporates colourful LED lights that illuminate the area at night, creating a magical ambience. Visitors can indulge in a variety of delicious food from the park’s food vendors, ranging from local favourites to international cuisines. Live entertainment, including concerts and performances, adds to the lively atmosphere. 

Philadelphia Zoo

Established in 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo holds the title of America’s first zoo. With its dedication to conservation, education, and animal welfare, the zoo provides an enriching and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

The zoo is home to a diverse range of animal species from around the world, including big cats, primates, reptiles, and birds. Visitors can explore a variety of exhibits that showcase these magnificent creatures and their natural habitats.

The zoo also offers educational programs and interactive experiences that allow visitors to learn about wildlife conservation, the importance of protecting our planet’s biodiversity, and gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.

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The Philadelphia Zoo was the first zoo to open in the USA.

Culinary Delights

Cheesesteaks and Hoagies

Cheesesteaks and hoagies are iconic culinary delights that have become synonymous with Philadelphia’s food culture. The cheesesteak, a mouthwatering sandwich filled with thinly sliced beefsteak, melted cheese, and toppings is a must-try when visiting the city.

Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, located in South Philadelphia, are renowned local eateries that have been serving up delicious cheesesteaks for decades, each with its loyal following.

Hoagies, on the other hand, are hearty sandwiches packed with a variety of cold cuts, cheese, and toppings, all nestled in a fresh Italian roll. John’s Roast Pork is a highly recommended restaurant for its delectable hoagies.

The Italian Market

The Italian Market in South Philadelphia is a historic market showcasing the city’s Italian heritage and offers a delightful culinary experience. This bustling market is known for its authentic Italian food and culinary specialities.

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Geno’s Steaks is located in South Philadelphia.

Visitors can explore a vibrant array of vendors offering fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, olive oils, and a variety of Italian pastries and desserts. Di Bruno Bros., a beloved speciality store, is a must-visit for cheese lovers.

The famous Isgro Pasticceria tempts visitors with its delectable cannoli and other Italian sweets. The Italian Market provides a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage and offers a feast for the senses.

Craft Breweries and Beer Gardens

Philadelphia’s craft beer scene has been thriving in recent years, making it a haven for beer enthusiasts. The city boasts a plethora of craft breweries and beer gardens where visitors can savour a wide selection of locally brewed beers.

Yards Brewing Company, known for its award-winning ales and lagers, is a popular destination for beer lovers. Other notable breweries, such as Evil Genius Beer Company, offer unique and creative brews.

Additionally, Philadelphia is home to numerous beer gardens, such as Spruce Street Harbor Park and Frankford Hall, where visitors can enjoy a refreshing beer outdoors in a lively atmosphere.

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Philadelphia has many interesting tourist attractions.

Philadelphia is an Iconic USA Destination

Philadelphia stands as a captivating destination that offers a wealth of tourist attractions for visitors to explore. The city has something to offer every tourist, from its rich historical landmarks to the famous “Rocky” steps.

The city of Philadelphia offers immersive and enriching experiences that encourage tourists to delve into America’s past, engage with its vibrant culture, and savour its culinary delights. Philadelphia is truly one of the most engaging cities to visit in the United States.

If you’re planning a holiday in Philadelphia, check out these 19 Awesome Attractions in Pennsylvania.

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