Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and an incredible destination for culture and history lovers. There are plenty of things to do in Philadelphia. Whether you want to race up the steps Rocky Steps like Rocky Balboa, enjoy a free concert or take in a stunning view of the Philadelphia skyline, the city will keep you entertained.
Best things to do in Philadelphia
This guide will cover the absolute best things to do in Philadelphia. From rich history to world-caliber performing arts, and world-class museums, these attractions, and activities will create the Philadelphia itinerary of a lifetime.
Philadelphia’s founder William Penn dreamt of a tolerant city where nobody could be persecuted. Its name literally translates from the Greek words phileo (love) and adelphos (brother) lending to its nickname, The City of Brotherly Love.
Before you visit Philadelphia, pick up an all-inclusive Go-City Pass. If you plan on seeing a lot of Philadelphia attractions, the best way to enjoy bundling ticket prices is to get a City Pass. The all-inclusive pass gives entrance to 30 tours and attractions. It is good for 1,2,3, or 5 days and the pass isn’t activated until you enter your first attraction. Book tickets here
1. See the Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell was once called the State House Bell and is a symbol of American Independence and a major attraction in Philadelphia. The bell was only rung for special occasions, including the signing of the Constitution and after the deaths of figures like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
Today, Liberty Bell is retired in Liberty Bell Center, where visitors can see it up close. It suffered several cracks while used, eventually becoming too precious to use anymore.
You will pass the Liberty Bell on tours at the center. There is also a detailed exhibit where you can learn more about the bell and its history, not just passing the bell itself. Liberty Bell Center offers free admission; just be aware that it is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
2. Run up the Rocky Steps
It is up its 72 steps that Rocky Balboa ran up in triumph after his run through Philly during the original movie in 1976. Nearly 50 years later, tourists still race up these steps celebrating with great views of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the end. A visit to these steps is a must for movie buffs and for first-time visitors to Philadelphia. His statue is located at the bottom of the stairs and when you reach the top of the stairs you can go into the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
3. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Art lovers will adore the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum houses fine arts from every corner of the world and various periods – you can even find pieces from the medieval era. The museum has been collecting pieces for over 150 years, and it prides itself on its diversity of artwork displayed. Better yet, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has several days of ‘Pay What You Wish Admission’, which can mean free admission.
Philadelphia’s major art museum is a beautiful place to spend a few hours or even a whole day if you are an art enthusiast. The museum hosts many events, including live music, ever-changing exhibitions, and organized talks. If you are an art lover or are looking for a fascinating indoor attraction in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is for you. The building itself makes the museum worth a visit, and you can enjoy browsing art at a magnificent, grand venue. Entry included with a Go CityPass
4. Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the most famous in Philadelphia and is designed to emulate the Champ Des Elysees. The mile-long parkway is lined by trees, sculptures, fountains, and museums. The result is a scenic boulevard that leads directly to City Hall, starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
You can walk the parkway in less than twenty minutes. However, we recommend stopping at one of the attractions, restaurants, or cafes. The Parisian attempt in its design will not be lost on you, and walking the parkway is a beautiful experience. Don’t be afraid to take your time. Besides, it is a great way to combine different attractions. You can visit Love Park, the Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, and the Barnes Foundation, all on one street.
5. City Hall
Ready to dive straight into American history through architecture? City Hall is the largest municipal building in the US. The building has a whopping 14.5 acres of floor space plus a statue of William Penn, the city’s founder. Just when you thought it couldn’t get more impressive, City Hall also has a 548-foot tower that is one of the tallest load-bearing masonry structures in the world without a steel frame.
This founding fathers tour is a great introduction to the city as you take a historical walking tour to see where the first American flag was sewn at the Betsy Ross House. You’ll visit the Independence Mall, a three-block section of the Independence National Historic Park, and more about William Penn at Washington Square. See where the US Constitution was signed at Independence Hall.
City Hall is a national historic landmark and easily one of the most famed sites in Philadelphia. Today, City Hall is the seat of the state’s municipal government and the offices of the Mayor of Philadelphia. You can take exterior and interior guided tours, which are great ways to get a deeper understanding of Philadelphia and what makes the city tick.
6. Independence Hall
Independence Hall is the birthplace of the Constitution and no trip to Philadelphia would be complete without seeing where it all began. The hall is where the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted by the Founding Fathers. You’ll be visiting one of the most important sites in the entire country.
To visit Independence Hall, you’ll need to embark on a guided tour, which operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Keep in mind that visitor numbers are capped, so it is best to arrive early to avoid missing out. Tours include a visit to the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration and Constitution were signed, and are a fantastic way to learn more about pivotal US history. See how to book tickets here.
7. Eastern State Penitentiary
A penitentiary might sound like a strange place to visit, but rest assured, Eastern State Penitentiary is now purely for tourists only. The prison was once one of the most world-famous, holding notorious inmates like Al Capone. However, now, you can tour its cells and corridors.
Tours include a visit to Al Capone’s cell, and you’ll explore all the creepy nooks and crannies of the ex-prison. Bring a camera and be prepared for some spine-tingling ghost stories – Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most atmospheric places to visit in Philadelphia. The peeling walls and slowly decrepitating cells are miserable yet enticing. The visit is also massively educational, and you can expect lots of information on mass incarceration, an issue that the US still struggles with today.
This highly rated tour takes you through the prison as you listen to The Voices of Eastern State’s audio, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Tour at your own pace as you learn about the history of the world’s first true penitentiary. Entrance included with Go City Pass
8. Love Park
It’s fitting that the city of brotherly love has a love sculpture. Love Park is your typical urban plaza. The park is stone floored and surrounded by Philadelphia’s inner-city skyscrapers and is a concrete place of solace for those wanting a quick coffee break or sit down.
Love Park is most famous for its massive ‘I love Philly’ sign, where tourists pose for pictures with its city backdrop. There’s also a huge ‘Love’ sculpture with the letters sitting on each other in a square shape. And many different water fountains spread throughout the park. It is also conveniently located at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the most famous street in Philadelphia. You can easily walk the parkway after a visit to Love Park.
If you are looking for something more contemporary to do in Philadelphia, This South Philly Art Tour takes you on a walking tour to the Queen Village and the Bella Vista neighborhood. After exploring street art and galleries, you’ll end at Magic Gardens to explore its labyrinth of indoor and outdoor murals and mosaics.
9. Walk the Benjamin Franklin Bridge
This bridge is one of Philadelphia’s most iconic structures. The 1926-built bridge spans the Delaware River and features a scenic walkway you can walk or bike across for stunning city skyline views. Walking the bridge is not an activity to miss out on – even if you are just visiting Philadelphia for a day or two.
Of course, walking the bridge is best timed with good weather. However, you may also wish to coincide your walk with the sunset for the ultimate experience. Watching the sunset in orange over Philadelphia’s CBD is stunning, and you’ll want tons of pictures to immortalize the moment.
The bridge’s pedestrian walkway has free admission. It is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia, yet also totally free. A win, win if you ask us. Allow around half an hour to walk one way across the bridge and have time to take pictures.
10. Penn Museum
Are you interested in archeology and early humanity? The Penn Museum has a fascinating collection of early artifacts and finds, including artifacts from Ancient Egypt and Italy.
The museum is actually a shortened name for this prestigious Philadelphia attraction. It officially goes by ‘The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. However, we can all agree that Penn Museum is less of a mouthful.
Allow at least half a day to explore all the exhibitions at the museum. There are over a million artifacts, and you want to allow time to stop for a coffee or snack at the museum cafe. It is a world-renowned museum – so take your time and enjoy the incredible exhibits. You can go into the museum with your Go City Pass
10. National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is one of the best places for political history lovers in the US. It is situated within the Independence National Historical Park. The museum is entirely dedicated to the Constitution, exploring its story and importance through interactive exhibits and artifacts. The center even houses a 350-seat theater, where you can catch a production performance of the Constitution’s story.
You can learn about everything, from the first continental congress and George Washington to its influence that lingers today. If you are interested in socio-political history or are looking for an educational attraction in Philadelphia. It’s also one of the best ways to spend a rainy day, so keep it as a good emergency option. Guess what? Entry is included with a Go City Pass
11. Fairmount Park
On the other hand, if you want an outdoor attraction, Fairmount Park is the Philly attraction for you. The park has over 2,000 acres to explore. You can stroll along trails, picnic along the waterfront of Schuylkill River, go horseback riding, and even attend an outdoor concert (check for Philadelphia Orchestra performances in summer).
Visiting the park is an ideal way to spend a few hours or half a day. The park is open from sunrise until sunset and is always busy with at least a few runners and dog walkers. There’s free admission to the park itself, although some attractions located in the park charge entrance fees independently. These attractions include the likes of the Philadelphia Zoo, which is the country’s oldest zoo. Still, the park is a good attraction for those on a budget, and you can pick and choose from its activities when you visit.
12. Benjamin Franklin Museum
It’s safe to say that Benjamin Franklin is a household name. The Benjamin Franklin Museum introduces guests to the nitty gritty details of his life and legacy. Each room in the museum is divided by its key characteristics. There are rooms labeled anything from ‘ambitious and rebellious’ to ‘curious and full of wonder’. You’ll find rare exhibits and artifacts in each, reflecting the character of the room.
The museum is uniquely laid out, which makes it an exciting place to discover crucial American history. You could easily spend an hour or two walking through the rooms, and there is a gift shop to browse after you’ve finished.
The museum is located in Independence National Historical Park, a historical district in Philadelphia protected and managed by the National Park Service. It is well combined with a visit to the other attractions in the park, such as the National Constitution Center, First Bank of the United States, Museum of the American Revolution, and City Tavern Museum.
13. Rodin Museum
Art enthusiasts, this is another attraction for you. Rodin Museum is the largest museum dedicated to Auguste Rodin’s works outside Paris. Entry included with Go City Pass
The sculpture museum is spread over multiple indoor floors and has outdoor grounds. The outdoor sculpture garden is gorgeous on a sunny day. It is designed in the eye-catching style of a formal French garden. Inside, you’ll find spacious corridors and stunning, classy exhibits.
You can easily spend an hour or two wandering the museum. Those interested in art and design will enjoy the experience the most. However, the sculptures are diverse and impressive enough to enthrall all visitors.
14. Kimmel Center
Ready for Philadelphia’s home of performing arts? The Kimmel Center is a force to be reckoned with, churning out live music and shows left, right, and center. There is a high chance that your visit will coincide with an exciting event, and you should check the schedule so that you can book tickets in advance and guarantee a seat.
While you can catch the Philadelphia Orchestra at Fairmount Park in summer, it is well worth checking for performances at the center all year round. The center is home to orchestra, ballet, opera, drama, and performances by the University of Philadelphia students. A ticket for an event at the center is one of the best ways to treat yourself in Philadelphia.
15. Barnes Foundation
When you thought that Philadelphia’s art scene couldn’t get more exciting, we introduce the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes Foundation is a specialist art museum dedicated to impressionist, post-impressionist, and modernist art. You’ll find works by artists like Picasso and Renoir and spot some particularly famous artwork along your way.
As a quick side note, it is worth researching the different types of art before choosing which art museum to visit in Philadelphia, especially if you are short on time. Those with a professional or academic interest in art might want to see all the galleries. Still, even they might struggle to squeeze in everything.
Impressionist art is visually pleasing and stimulating. It is full of subjectivity, depiction of natural light, and a reflection of modern life. The bright colors are easy to be entertained by, and the Barnes Foundation is a fun gallery to choose from on your trip to Philadelphia.
16. Walk the Schuylkill River Trail
The Schuylkill River Trail is a beautiful riverside walkway that runs for around 30 miles, starting near Center City. You could tackle the entire length as an ambitious long-distance urban hike or pick a smaller section to amble. You pass many attractions, including the 9/11 Memorial and Fairmount Water Works. You also have peaceful views over the Schuylkill River.
Developing this area of Philadelphia is a current priority. You can expect the trail to be extended and developed over the coming years. At the moment, though, the track is a cemented path that attracts around 20,000 runners, bikers, and commuters every year. There’s no reason to miss out on hiking just because you are in a city; the Schuylkill River Trail proves that.
17. Rittenhouse Square
Rittenhouse Square is a favorite spot in the city, and the square is surrounded by Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood. The park is perfect for unwinding if you want downtime in green space. There’s a beautiful reflecting pool in the center of the park and walkways looping around the entire square that you can stroll down, shaded by trees. Rittenhouse Square is also tastefully decorated with Grecian urns and ornamental lamp posts – giving a loveable old-world charm.
Rittenhouse Square was also one of William Penn’s five original squares that he planned for Philadelphia, so it has some historical significance. It gets its name from David Rittenhouse, an astronomer, and clockmaker, and is a great place to spend an hour or two. Rittenhouse Square is easily one of the best things to do in Philadelphia and is family-friendly yet also peaceful enough for a thoughtful solo stroll.
18. Penn’s Landing
There are so many fun places along the Delaware River Waterfront, and the best place for fun in the sun (and night) is Penn’s Landing. Think of this spot as a pick-and-mix destination with various things to do and see that you can pick and choose at your fancy.
Penn’s Landing is a launch point for boat tours and river ferries. It is also home to Penn’s Landing Historic Walk and Blue Cross RiverRink. You can ice skate at the RiverRink, snap photos along the Historic Walk, or even embark on a boat tour up the Delaware River. Afterward, you can walk just ten minutes to Cherry Street Pier to relax in the waterfront beer garden or head to Spruce Street Harbor Park.
This lunch or dinner cruise leaves Penn’s Landing to see the Philadelphia skyline, Naval Shipyard and Ben Franklin Bridge.as you enjoy a buffet meal followed by taking in the sights from the deck as you are entertained by a live DJ.
19. Spruce Street Harbor Park
So, let’s look at the ‘nearby Spruce Street Harbor Park’ in more detail. The park is only opened seasonally and comes to life in summer. You’ll find an urban beach for inner city sunbathing, hammocks, and seasonal events that pop up throughout the year. It is a trendy spot designated to and designed especially for relaxing – making visiting one of the best things to do in Philadelphia if you want a low-key day.
As we mentioned, Spruce Street Harbor Park is located next to Penn’s Landing, so it is an easy addition to your itinerary. And you can even visit at night when the trees light up with fairy lights of bright colors like red and pink. At this time, visitors flock to sample craft beers and socialize in style.
20. National Liberty Museum NP
What is more important than liberty? The National Liberty Museum is the perfect place to appreciate the importance of liberty and its impact worldwide. It celebrates heroes from across the globe that have fought for freedom, no matter what group or cause.
The museum has four floors of exhibitions and a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibits. You’ll find everything from symbolic contemporary art pieces to glass sculptures. The museum was founded by Irvin Borowsky, who dedicated his life mission to collecting art and becoming both a publisher and philanthropist. As the youngest son of two Polish immigrants, Borowsky’s own relationship with liberty has clearly marked his museum design and collection.
21. Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market is where to go for your Philadelphia farmer’s market experience. The market is covered, so you can enjoy an indoor shopping experience unaffected by the weather. It is also huge, with over seventy businesses operating stalls daily.
You can zig-zag down the mini market streets – window shopping, sampling different foods, and picking up souvenirs. Reading Terminal Market is famous for its Philly cheesesteak and roast pork sandwich. It is a fantastic spot for foodies and is best visited around lunchtime or if you want a snack. The market is located within walking distance of many major attractions, so it is easily slotted into a busy itinerary.
22. Italian Market
Speaking of markets, there is also an Italian Market to visit in Philadelphia. This market is much smaller and features food stalls only, although there is a little visitor center that you can pop into. The Italian Market is a little rough around the edges but in an authentic, enjoyable way. It is an excellent place to visit if you want a more local, residential market experience with fewer tourists.
The market is located south of the city center, around a ten-minute walk from Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. It opens from 10 am until mid-afternoon every day except Mondays. It is a great place to stop by for groceries during your stay or for a takeaway bite to eat.
23. Citizens Bank Park
You can’t go to Philadelphia and not consider watching a baseball game. Citizens Bank Park is the home ground of The Philadelphia Phillies. It is a stunning stadium with retro touches and (if you get the right seats) eye-catching views of the city skyline.
If you are a sports fan or love baseball in particular, definitely check to see if your visit to Philadelphia coincides with a game. If you are desperate to see a game, you might even want to book your trip around a game day.
Are no games scheduled for your visit? Don’t worry. You can still tour the stadium. Tours typically include visiting the Press Box, Diamond Club, and stepping onto the pitch. A 43,500-seat stadium is undoubtedly an impressive thing to experience in person, so add Citizens Bank Park to your itinerary either way.
24. Independence Seaport Museum
Independence Seaport Museum was founded in 1960, and its mission is to remember and immortalize the history of Philadelphia’s rivers. It is an interactive museum full of fun and exciting exhibits. The museum has the former warship Olympia and a World War II submarine called Becuna, which you can not only admire but also board.
You’ll be exploring one of North America’s largest maritime art and artifact collections. Discover everything from pirates to the importance of river conservation and the role of the Delaware River today. Independence Seaport Museum is an exciting, unusual museum housed in a unique format.
25. Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History
American Jewish history and heritage aren’t recognized or celebrated to the extent they should be. Weitzman Museum tackles that – promoting education on lived experiences within the American Jewish community. You can catch live talks, events, and even concerts. The museum focuses on events and temporary exhibitions to provide cutting-edge information and up-to-date commentary.
Weitzman Museum is located on Independence Mall, next to the Independence National Historical Park. It is easily combined with a visit to major attractions like Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, so check the schedule for your trip dates.
26. The Franklin Institute
What would a city break be without a science museum? The Franklin Institute is Philadelphia’s best, offering fascinating exhibits and a huge planetarium. Displays vary from super science focused (like a floor on electricity) to almost fictional (like a Harry Potter exhibit). The diversity is fast-paced and fun. You could easily spend a few hours exploring but will probably find yourself rushing through at excited super speed.
Franklin Institute is located just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so it easily fits into a packed itinerary. It is also one of the best things to do in Philadelphia on a rainy day. Plus, The Franklin Institute Heart has been a sentimental favorite since 1954. Entry for free with the purchase of a Go City Pass
27. American Philosophical Society
The American Philosophical Society was actually founded by Benjamin Franklin himself in 1743 to promote ‘useful knowledge’. Today, the Philosophical Society does just that, both researching and presenting knowledge to the world. If you have a spare hour or so, visiting the American Philosophical Society’s museum is worthwhile. Check the schedule for exhibitions and lectures on any topics that spark your interest. as the society runs frequent events.
The American Philosophical Society sits opposite City Hall in Independence National Historical Park – you can’t miss it. Small but packed with history and exciting information and events, it is a great place to visit when visiting Philadelphia.
Now that we’ve covered the best things to do in Philadelphia let’s look at some common questions.
How to get to Philadelphia
The easiest way to get to Philadelphia is to fly. Philadelphia International Airport connects the city with more than 120 destinations worldwide, including domestic departures like Las Vegas and Orlando. If you are traveling from overseas, from a distant state, or are short on time, flying is the best way to get to Philadelphia.
If you aren’t in a rush, consider Greyhound or Megabus – long-distance coaches that connect most of the US’s significant locations. This is an excellent option for traveling inter-state in a more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) way. For those traveling within the northeast, the Amtrak railway line is another option and quicker, although slightly pricier.
Lastly, you could always road trip your way to Philly (that’s our favourite way to travel through the US. This is the best way to get to Philadelphia if you have lots of spare time and love adventures. The city is ideally positioned for an east coast road trip and is well-combined with New York and Washington DC.
Getting around Philadelphia
Philadelphia isn’t a place that you’ll struggle to get around. If you base yourself in Center City, you’ll be able to walk around the area on foot and easily venture between the main central attractions like Philadelphia Zoo and Liberty Bell.
Public transport is plentiful, regular, and easy to navigate for those exploring outside the city center. You have buses, a subway, and a railway system; Philadelphia’s public transit system is rated as one of the top in the country. There’s even an overnight bus service, with some Night Owl buses running 24 hours a day. And you can catch the River Link Ferry service along the Delaware River from Penn’s Landing.
If you aren’t comfortable with public transport, you can book a hop-on hop-off bus to take you to all the major Philadelphia attractions. This ticket includes a s Philly cheesesteak meal at Campo’s. Yum!
Even if you are averse to public transport, you won’t be stuck getting around. You can grab a taxi, Uber, or Lyft from anywhere in the city. Just download the apps or hail one in the street.
Best time to visit Philadelphia
The best time to visit Philadelphia is in spring. While its northern neighbors like New York City might come into their own in winter, Philly is best enjoyed after it has thawed out. Spring is an ideal time for it to have thawed and warmed up, yet it also avoids the crowds and busy summer.
We particularly recommend April if you want to avoid flocks of tourists. You’ll still need a jacket, but the main attractions will be much quieter than in May. April is a perfect balance and offers you the best of both worlds.
Where to stay in Philadelphia
There are plenty of fantastic accommodation options in Philadelphia, no matter your budget. And whether you want South Philly or Center City Philadelphia, the city has diverse neighborhoods and areas for you to choose accommodation. These are our top recommendations for accommodation in Philadelphia. Let’s take a look at what they offer.
Budget: Apple Hostels of Philadelphia
Apple Hostels of Philadelphia is an excellent budget-friendly accommodation option in the city. Located right next to Independence National Historical Park, you won’t need to sacrifice a quality location for a better price. The hostel has a bright, cheerful feel and is set in a historic building. You can also choose between private and dorm rooms – perfect for extra flexibility.
Guests receive access to free wi-fi, coffee, tea, and washing powder. You also have access to the kitchen, which is ideal for cutting costs on eating out.
Mid-range: Mint House at The Divine Lorraine Hotel – Philadelphia
Mint House at The Divine Lorraine Hotel is a high-rise apartment block turned hotel. The hotel is highly rated and really comes into its own because of its fantastic on-site facilities. You can check out the Italian restaurant, cocktail bar, recording studio, coffee shop, and beautiful outdoor courtyard.
Choose from the range of apartments – including a luxury two-bedroom penthouse. You’ll benefit from all the homely comforts, and some options come with stunning city views.
Luxury: Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel
Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel is the epitome of luxury. Sleek and classy, the hotel has the aesthetic and facilities to catch your eye. You’ll find an indoor pool, spa, 24-hour gym, and business center. It is the perfect place to relax in serene luxury after a busy day of sightseeing. Plus, the hotel is based in the city center – less than a mile from Liberty Bell.
Fancy splashing out on all-inclusive? Check out our guide on all the best all-inclusive resorts in the US here.
So, is it the city of brotherly love? South Philly certainly has enough attractions and activities to entice you into its community. We hope you sample as many of these things to do in Philadelphia as possible.
Philadelphia is an exciting, historical destination in the US. You won’t be short of museums or fascinating American history.