Often overlooked in favor of New York and Washington D.C., Philadelphia boasts an array of tourist attractions for you to check out. Many of these relate to its rich history, with both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States signed in Independence Hall.
Besides attractive architecture and an incredible number of national historic landmarks, Philly also has excellent art, history, and science museums. Add the lovely green space of Fairmount Park and a fabulous food scene to the things to do in Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania’s largest city has something that will appeal to everyone.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Fairmount Park
Sprawled across the center of the city, Fairmount Park is split into two scenic sections by the shimmering Schuylkill River. Remarkably, it is the largest city park in the whole of the States, and has many outdoor activities for you to enjoy; hiking and cycling are particularly popular.
Founded in 1812, the picturesque park has grown with superb sculptures and public artworks found alongside landscaped lawns and historic houses. Besides the beautiful Boathouse Row, the park also houses the magnificent Memorial Hall and a gorgeous Japanese garden.
With playing fields and recreational opportunities on offer, Fairmount Park is one of the best places in Philadelphia to enjoy some splendid scenery and nature.
11. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
A very surreal and striking space to explore, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are found just to the south of the city center. An amazing mixed media art museum, its galleries and gardens feature a mesmerizing mix of mosaics, mirrors, and murals, with incredible artworks and installations on show wherever you look.
Although work on the unique site began in the 60s, the museum was only opened to the public in 2008. The life’s work of the mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julie, the Magic Gardens have everything, from fabulous folk art and tile mosaics to sensational sculptures and quirky creations.
It also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions with tours and workshops taking place.
10. Citizens Bank Park
Set in the south of the city is the Citizens Bank Park which is home to the Philadelphia Phillies, one of the oldest Major League Baseball franchises. When in town it is well worth going to a game. The intoxicating atmosphere and sparkling state-of-the-art stadium make for an unforgettable affair.
Only opened in 2004, the colossal Citizens Bank ranks among the best ballparks in the league with epic views over the field guaranteed wherever you sit. Besides enjoying the intimate and welcoming ambience, visitors can shop at its numerous stores or sample a cheesesteak sandwich at one of the stands. Additionally, you can also amble along the All-Star Walk, see the Phillies Wall of Fame, and even throw a pitch or two at its interactive games area.
9. Elfreth’s Alley
Lined by a whole host of historic houses, is the enticing Elfreth’s Alley which impressively dates back to 1703. One of the oldest residential streets in the States, its charming cobblestones and attractive architecture are located just a stone’s throw from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Once home to blacksmiths, furniture builders, shipwrights and silversmiths, its centuries-old houses are a popular attraction and are preserved as a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can stop by the small museum which offers up an interesting look into the history of the alley and its former residents.
One of the best times to visit is in June when the festive Fete Day takes place and the alley holds historical reenactments and open-house visits.
8. Franklin Institute
The phenomenal Franklin Institute is not to be missed. It is one of the most well-loved and well-respected science and technology museums in the States. Named after scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin, it boasts interesting and educational exhibits, artifacts, and attractions.
Since being founded in 1824, the institute has continued to grow with its incredible interactive exhibits from aviation and anatomy to electricity, ethics and our Earth.
Visitors can also explore the cosmos in the fantastic planetarium, watch a film in the IMAX cinema and gaze in awe at the massive marble statue of Benjamin Franklin in its rotunda.
7. Museum of the American Revolution
As Philadelphia played such a key role in the American Revolution, this museum is an absolute must-visit when in town. Through its interactive and engaging collection of artifacts and exhibits, you’ll learn all there is to know about the people, places, and events that shaped the founding of America.
Opened in 2017, it houses important items from the revolution with maps and manuscripts alongside artworks, firearms, and rare books. It takes you from the first battles of the war at Lexington and Concord, right up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and its aftermath.
With hands-on displays, dioramas, and 3D experiences to check out, the Museum of the American Revolution can be found in the historic heart of the city.
6. Independence Hall
Just a stone’s throw from the museum is another of the city’s standout sights; the impressive Independence Hall. It was in this refined red-brick building that two hugely important documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were drafted, deliberated over, and signed by the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Now preserved as part of the Independence National Historical Park, the handsome Georgian-style hall was built in 1753. Visitors can take a tour of the beautiful old building and see surviving copies of the signed documents, as well as age-old artworks and artifacts. In addition to this, you can also visit the Assembly Room where congress nominated George Washington to be the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
5. Reading Terminal Market
Packed with stalls, vendors and visitors, the lively Reading Terminal Market is certainly a charming place to explore. The market is a firm favorite with locals and tourists alike due to its bustling ambience and artisans that seem to sell everything under the sun.
Open every day of the week, and home to over 100 different vendors, the market is a fun and friendly place to stop by. Here you can sample delicious dishes from all over the world, and buy everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to homemade arts and crafts, jewellery, and souvenirs.
4. Barnes Foundation
Situated to the west of the city center is the Barnes Foundation which boasts a large collection of artworks. It’s well worth visiting if you have the chance, it has something to interest and impress all art lovers.
Most of its paintings are by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modernist masters. But its galleries also include African and Native American art, as well as Chinese, Egyptian and Greek antiquities.
Since being founded in 1922, its collection has continued to grow. The world-class museum is particularly known for its huge number of paintings by Cezanne and Renoir. It also houses artworks by both Matisse and Picasso and displays fine furniture and decorative arts, jewellery, metalwork, and sculptures.
3. Philadelphia Museum of Art
One of the biggest and best art museums in Philly, as well as the States, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must-visit when in town. Set in the northwest of the city center, its extensive galleries are a treat to explore with fabulous paintings and prints, photos, and art pieces wherever you look.
Its captivating collection encompasses more than 240,000 objects, with the museum holding large numbers of American, Asian and European artworks. Among its most popular pieces are paintings by El Greco, Monet, and Picasso, with Vincent van Gogh’s stunning Sunflowers one of its standout attractions.
Besides its astounding artworks, the world-class museum also has entire structures from around the world, with an Indian temple found alongside a Chinese palace and a Japanese teahouse.
2. Eastern State Penitentiary
Located not far from the museum is another of Philadelphia’s main tourist attractions: the eerie and atmospheric Eastern State Penitentiary. When it was first opened in 1829, it stood as a symbol of modernity as the prison focused on reform and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Since shutting in 1971, its hulking ruins have been preserved as a museum with guided tours around its crumbling cell blocks.
Over the decades, the imposing facility held notorious criminals within its innovative wagon wheel design. Of these, mob boss Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton are probably the most famous. As well as learning about the penitentiary’s past and its former prisoners, you can also check out some exquisite art installations dotted about its cold, grey confines.
1. Liberty Bell Center
One of the most important symbols in the United States, the cracked and chipped Liberty Bell can be found in the center of Philadelphia. Protected from the wind and rain by a glass-housed building, the big, broken bell is a very popular tourist attraction due to its historical significance.
Now an icon of American independence, it was forged in 1752 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country’s constitution. One hundred years after it was cast, the bell became seen as an enduring symbol of freedom. It was exhibited in towns and cities around the States to heal differences and divisions following the American Civil War. Well worth visiting, the Liberty Bell Center lies a stone’s throw from many of the city’s other main sights.