Philadelphia Travel Guide: Discover Art, Food & History

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In the recent years, Philadelphia has become one of the coolest cities to visit on the East Coast. Hosting memorable political events like the 2016 Democratic National Convention and international sports tournaments like the Copa America Centenario, the City of Brotherly Love keeps gaining popularity among travelers.

With a growing restaurant scene, a downtown packed with historical sites and many scenic, diverse neighborhoods, Philly has earned a spot in our hearts – and our bucket lists – for much more than its cheesesteaks.

Below, we have compiled some of our favorite fun things to do in Philadelphia. Whether you’re looking to feast on delicious Italian meals or pay a visit to the Liberty Bell, you’ll find plenty of activities during your stay in Philadelphia.

Things to Do in Philadelphia

Whether it’s your first time visiting Philadelphia or you’re a regular in the city, we’ve put together a roundup that includes the essential attractions and our favorite things to do that are off the beaten path. With everything from the Independence National Historic Park to the speakeasy known as the Ranstead Room, we have found something for everyone.

Check Historical Landmarks Off the List

If you’re anything like other travelers, chances are you’ve heard of the significant historical landmarks in Philadelphia. You don’t have to spend your entire vacation seeing these spots, though, as a trip to the most important ones will help you check the essentials off your list, so you can move on to other fun activities.

If it’s your first time visiting Philadelphia, then you’ll want to visit three main historical sites: Independence National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell Center, and Independence Hall. At these landmarks you’ll get to follow the signing of the Declaration of Independence and see artifacts from some of the most historical moments in U.S. history.

Art & Culture

Aside from eating delicious meals, touring historical landmarks, and visiting the local pubs, you’ll probably want to get out and experience everything Philadelphia has to offer. If you’re looking to soak in the local arts and culture, then there is no better way to do that than by paying a visit to local artist galleries. One of our top recommendations is LatinX art galleries in Philadelphia – and you should start with Taller Puertorriqueño.

This is the cultural heart of LatinX Philadelphia and includes a gift shop where you can purchase local art, shop from the bilingual bookstore, and browse through the collection of Latin American and Caribbean art. There are plenty of other local LatinX galleries you’ll want to see, including Eyes Gallery and Indigo Arts. If you’d like to see a variety of different types of art, pay a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fun Indoor Activities

Aside from a rich network of artists, you’ll also find plenty of activities that will keep you moving while visiting Philadelphia. If you’re a fan of vintage video games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, then you should pay a visit to Barcade. In addition to video games, this local bar has an impressive list of craft beers and a flavorful menu that will please most foodies.

For film nerds visiting Philadelphia, there are two main independent theaters that should be on your list: Ritz East and PFS Roxy Theater. Both of these theaters feature regular showings of independent films. If you’d like to see more popular films, then head to the Cinemark University City Penn 6.

Where to Eat in Philadelphia

If you’re a foodie, we highly recommend traveling around Philadelphia to see the city and taste food from different neighborhoods. There are many different neighborhoods in Philadelphia known for their food, so you’ll never run out of places to grab something delicious to eat.

East Passyunk

You can start out in East Passyunk, where you’ll find an eclectic group of restaurants. You can grab drinks during happy hour or a bite to eat at Dos Segundos Cantina, which features tres papayas ceviche; black bean, plantain and queso fresco empanadas, and costillitasPat’s King of Steaks, whose founder claims to have invented the steak sandwich in the 1930s, has grown from a small stand in South Philly’s Italian Market to a globally recognizable name.

Cedar Park

Once you’ve exhausted your options in East Passyunk, make your way inland to Cedar Park. To get acclimated to the neighborhood, stop by Dock Street and take a tour of this craft brewery that has won countless prizes since 1985. You can also grab a bite to eat, from homemade hummus to wood-fired pizza. The rich Pan-Asian community in Cedar Park gave birth to Vietnamese-, Thai-, and Lao-style restaurants like Fu Wah and Vientiane Café. Walk into the Fu Wah mini-mart and you’ll be transported to a shop featuring Asian-style tofu and a deli counter that offers flavorful banh-mi. If you or anyone you’re traveling with is vegan or vegetarian, then the Vientiane Café’s coconut soup, steamed vegetable dumplings, and Thai curries are a great choice.

Bella Vista

If you’re looking for authentic Italian fare, then head on over to Bella Vista neighborhood where you’ll find a community informed by its Italian heritage. In this family-oriented residential area, you’ll find delicious restaurants featuring fresh pastas and red sauces. At Sarcone’s Bakery, you’ll uncover the secret to Philadelphia’s delicious cheesesteak sandwich. Their fresh bread is served at the deli counter, which makes this a terrific lunch spot. While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on a stop to the famous 9th Street Italian Market, America’s oldest outdoor market, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of this historical landmark.

Fishtown

Located along the Delaware River, this working-class neighborhood has its roots in the fishing industry. You can start your day off at Sulimay’s Restaurant, a classic diner with a stellar breakfast menu. Their morning specials include everything from biscuits and gravy, to corned beef hash and the Port Richmond Scramble—made with kielbasa and sharp cheddar cheese, served with hash browns and rye toast. For an outdoor patio and a menu that hosts almost every Greek favorite imaginable, check out Kostas and enjoy stuffed grape leaves and marinated octopus. After eating lunch or dinner, you can also play pool or grab a drink at the bar.

Washington Square West

You should reserve one night during your stay for experiencing some of the best dishes that Philadelphia has to offer. In Washington Square West, you’ll find some of the trendiest and most delicious restaurants. This eclectic neighborhood is at the intersection of three different neighborhoods and has increasingly become a go-to spot for foodies. If you want some high-quality grub on the go, then stop by Talula’s Daily. Their creatively designed interior is home to delicious recipes and craft beer. Select from their chopped cucumber salad, crisp mackerel, or their handmade cookies. Their seasonal menu includes the best local ingredients, so you’ll be able to taste the freshest flavors of the region. For a special date night, stop by Vetri, which is one of the nation’s most acclaimed Italian restaurants. While there, enjoy the spinach gnocchi with brown butter, or almond tortellini with truffle sauce. You will not want to skip out on dessert because the chocolate polenta soufflé and hazelnut flan are too delicious to pass up.

Where to Stay in Philadelphia

Penrose Hotel Philadelphia

Conveniently located near a metro station and the airport, the Penrose Hotel Philadelphia is an affordable option if you’re traveling around Philly for a few days. Each room includes pillow-top mattresses, blackout curtains, and free WiFi. There is also complimentary breakfast downstairs.

Sofitel Philadelphia

If you’re looking for something a little more glamorous, consider the Sofitel Philadelphia. This charming hotel just a stone’s throw from Philadelphia’s tourist attractions includes a bar and restaurant on premises, as well as a wide range of nearby dining options.

From a great night’s sleep at one of the local hotels to delicious eats, you’re sure to have a good time while visiting Philly! You can book a ticket to Philadelphia on Wanderu or by downloading the Wanderu app.

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About the author
Austin Bay

Austin Bay

As a Northern California native, Austin's favorite trips begin and end in the mountains. He's always on an adventure to find new running trails and stay somewhere long enough to get to know people.
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