Planning an adventure to Philly and looking to soak up some American history? Carve out time on your trip to explore Old City, Philadelphia! Boasting quaint cobblestone streets and oodles of 18th-century charm, Old City is best known for being the birthplace of America and is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Spanning from Vine to Walnut Street and from 7th Street to the Delaware River, Old City is America’s most historic square mile. Step back in time at Independence Hall and Liberty Hall and pay tribute to the Founding Fathers.
Explore the rich tapestry of the Revolutionary War at the Museum of the American Revolution and discover the genius of Benjamin Franklin at the eponymous institute. The Race Street Pier offers a welcome respite from the city’s bustling streets, and you’ll find vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down with loads of bars and restaurants to enjoy.
Keen to dive into this historic haven? Plan your meanderings around Old City Philadelphia with this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay!
What to See & Do in Philadelphia’s Old City
Make your first stop in Old City, the birthplace of America: Independence Hall. Situated at the heart of the Independence National Historical Park on Chestnut Street, this historic site is best known for being where the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the United States Constitution were signed in 1787.
Originally built as the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall is an enduring symbol of liberty and democracy. The red brick exterior is adorned with Georgian and Palladian elements, and its majestic white columns emanate an air of grace and magnificence.
Embark on a guided tour to delve into the depths of this renowned structure and visit the Assembly Room, where the Founding Fathers passionately debated and ultimately ratified the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Take a step into the Supreme Court Chamber, serving as the hallowed meeting place for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from 1791 to 1800.
Stroll through Independence National Historical Park and marvel at other notable landmarks like the Liberty Bell Center, Congress Hall, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Next stop is the renowned Liberty Bell. Nestled within the Liberty Bell Center, adjacent to Independence Hall, this historic artifact, with its unmistakable crack, carries immense historical and cultural importance.
Initially forged in London, England, back in 1752, the Liberty Bell was specifically crafted for the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, to commemorate significant occasions and gather lawmakers for legislative sessions.
Embark on a journey through the Liberty Bell Center and uncover the bell’s rich history, its role as a symbol of freedom, and its profound impact on American culture. Engage with interactive displays and multimedia presentations that shed light on the bell’s significance and how it evolved into a potent emblem of the struggle for independence.
As time passed, the bell acquired a distinctive crack. Despite attempts to mend it, the fissure endures, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring symbolism embodied by the bell and the challenges confronted by the nation.
The resonant tolling of the bell during pivotal events, such as the passing of notable figures or the celebration of significant anniversaries, has further contributed to its historical reverberation.
Museum of the American Revolution
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of the Revolutionary War era by visiting the captivating Museum of the American Revolution. Situated mere steps away from both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, this enthralling institution provides a comprehensive glimpse into the events, individuals, and ideologies that gave rise to the United States of America.
Delve into interactive exhibits and thought-provoking displays that vividly depict the American people’s struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs during the Revolutionary War. Marvel at the museum’s impressive collection of genuine objects and artifacts, ranging from weapons and garments to manuscripts and artwork.
Indulge in multisensory experiences that transport you back in time, allowing you to walk through a military encampment, step aboard a privateer ship, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of a tavern at the Revolution Place: Philadelphia in the War for Independence exhibition.
The Museum of the American Revolution is a treasure trove of historical insights, inviting you to deepen your understanding of this transformative period in America’s past.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
Pay homage to one of America’s most iconic figures, Benjamin Franklin, at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. One of the most interesting places to visit in Philadelphia, this captivating museum uncovers the story and accomplishments of this polymath and Founding Father of America.
Located within Franklin Court, the Benjamin Franklin Museum offers a fascinating journey through interactive exhibits, historical artifacts, and engaging displays that bring Franklin’s story to life. Learn about his scientific discoveries, influential role in shaping American politics, and contributions as an inventor and writer.
Immerse yourself in the life and times of Benjamin Franklin as you explore his personal belongings, original manuscripts, and scientific instruments. Step into Franklin’s recreated print shop and experience the world of 18th-century printing. Discover how his innovations, such as the lightning rod and bifocals, revolutionized the world.
Marvel at Benjamin Franklin’s profound impact on Philadelphia and how his ideas and diplomatic endeavors left an indelible mark on American history.
Betsy Ross House
Step back in time and explore American heritage at the historic Betsy Ross House. Located on Arch Street, the museum is believed to be where Betsy Ross, a skilled seamstress, stitched the first American flag.
Explore the meticulously restored rooms and discover the story of Betsy Ross’s life and her contribution to the birth of the nation. Gain insights into her role as a symbol of American patriotism and the legend surrounding the creation of the flag.
Inside the Betsy Ross House, you’ll find exhibits displaying artifacts, period furnishings, and interactive displays that provide a glimpse into the life and times of Betsy Ross. Learn about her craft and techniques to create iconic stars and stripes.
Take a guided tour and listen to the knowledgeable guides who bring the history of the house and Betsy Ross to life. They’ll regale you with fascinating tales and anecdotes about the Revolutionary War era and the significance of the American flag.
Soak up the ambiance of the colonial era in the charming courtyard and reflect on the historical events that took place during Betsy Ross’s lifetime. Pop into the gift shop on your way out for a few patriotic souvenirs.
Elfreth’s Alley Museum
Embark on a captivating exploration of the city’s architectural and cultural legacy at the Elfreth’s Alley Museum. Tucked between North 2nd Street and North Front Street, this charming enclave is the oldest residential street in the United States, tracing its roots back to the early 18th century.
Meandering along Elfreth’s Alley, you’ll find yourself immersed in a picturesque scene of cobblestone pathways adorned with exquisitely preserved row houses, evoking a mesmerizing atmosphere that transports visitors to bygone eras. Remarkably, many of these homes are still privately owned and inhabited, turning Elfreth’s Alley into a truly one-of-a-kind living museum.
The unoccupied historic houses offer a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of artisans, tradespeople, and working-class families who once called this place home. Venture through the museum’s exhibits, where period furnishings, colonial-era kitchenware, vintage clothing, and personal mementos of former residents are proudly showcased.
Enthusiastic guides, brimming with knowledge, provide insightful commentary and intricate narratives about the street’s origins and its profound significance in the illustrious history of Philadelphia. Their expertise adds depth and context to your journey through Elfreth’s Alley, fully allowing you to appreciate its enduring heritage.
National Constitution Center
Whether you’re a history buff, a student of civics, or simply curious about the nation’s foundations, the National Constitution Center is an absolute must-visit! This esteemed institution on Arch Street delves into the history and significance of the nation’s founding document and celebrates the United States Constitution.
Interactive exhibits, thought-provoking displays, and engaging multimedia presentations bring the Constitution to life, highlighting its creation, interpretation, and impact on American society. Dive into the struggles and triumphs that shaped our constitutional history, from the Founding Fathers’ debates to landmark Supreme Court cases that continue to shape our nation today.
Discover artifacts, rare documents, and multimedia presentations highlighting pivotal moments in American history. Engage with interactive displays that challenge your understanding of constitutional concepts and encourage you to think critically about the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
Don’t miss the iconic Signers’ Hall, where life-size bronze statues of the Founding Fathers await. Walk among these remarkable figures who played a vital role in drafting and ratifying the Constitution and feel the weight of their historic accomplishments.
Race Street Pier
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Race Street Pier. This scenic waterfront park boasts beautiful views of the Delaware River and is the perfect place to unwind on any Philadelphia trip itinerary.
Located on Race Street, the pier is a testament to the revitalization of Philadelphia’s waterfront. It has a spacious open lawn and a picturesque promenade. Take a leisurely stroll along the riverfront, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the water, Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and the Philadelphia skyline.
Race Street Pier is also a hub of recreational activities. The park has top-notch amenities, from seating areas and shaded groves to a lovely seasonal garden. Bring your skateboard or bike and use the park’s skate spots and bike paths.
Keep an eye out for various community events like outdoor fitness classes, art installations, cultural performances, and other exciting happenings.
Where to eat & drink
When it comes to the culinary scene in Old City, Philadelphia, you’ll be hard-pressed to decide where to go! This historic neighborhood has restaurants and bars offering delicious globally-inspired fare and inventive drinks.
National Mechanics is a converted bank-turned-gastropub that’s the epitome of cool. The menu here is bursting with mouthwatering pub fare and an incredible selection of craft beers. The unique atmosphere blends seamlessly with their delicious food and drinks. Treat yourself to their irresistible mac and cheese bites – they’re pure cheesy heaven!
If you’re in the mood for an unforgettable Asian fusion experience, settle in at Buddakan. This upscale eatery offers a gorgeous dining space with a massive golden Buddha. Prepare yourself for a culinary journey of mouthwatering dishes that blend flavors from various Asian cuisines. Order their signature edamame dumplings; they’re the perfect blend of flavor and fun!
Looking for a place that combines excellent food with history? Revolution House is where it’s at. This rustic tavern boasts a menu filled with delectable American classics. All are served up in a cozy, colonial-style setting. Whether you’re in the mood for their famous wood-fired pizzas or hearty comfort food, Revolution House won’t disappoint. Insider tip: Head to their rooftop deck for a fantastic dining experience with amazing city views!
Craving some Mexican flavors? Look no further than Lucha Cartel. This lively cantina is a local favorite for its vibrant atmosphere and mouthwatering Mexican street food. Tacos, burritos, and refreshing margaritas await you at this fiesta of flavors. Swing by during happy hour for fantastic deals on their lip-smacking margaritas and tacos.
Calling all craft beer enthusiasts! Khyber Pass Pub is a must-visit for a phenomenal brew experience. With their impressive selection of craft beers and mouthwatering Southern-inspired dishes, it’s a match made in beer-and-comfort-food heaven. Spice up your night with their famous Cajun-style jambalaya.
If you’re in the mood for some Irish charm, head to The Plough & the Stars. Its welcoming atmosphere and classic Irish dishes make it the perfect spot for a fun-filled night. This traditional Irish pub serves classic dishes like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie. Catch their live music nights for an authentic Irish experience.
Transport yourself to the vibrant streets of Havana at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar. This lively eatery serves authentic Cuban cuisine, from flavorful empanadas to succulent roast pork. Treat yourself to their refreshing mojitos – they’re the perfect sip of summer to pair with the mouthwatering dishes.
For a laid-back open-air dining experience, the Old City Beer Garden is a great spot. This outdoor oasis offers a laid-back atmosphere to enjoy cold beers, delicious bites, and good company under the stars. Snag a seat near the cozy fire pits on cooler evenings for a warm and inviting ambiance that’ll keep the good vibes flowing.
Where to stay
As the historic heart of Philly, Old City is one of the coolest neighborhoods to stay in Philadelphia. There’s a handful of great accommodation options here, including B&Bs in historic homes and top-notch boutique hotels. If you run out of lodging choices here, extend your hotel search to other areas in Center City.
A charming bed-and-bed breakfast spot just a mile from Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, Thomas Bond House is a comfortable and convenient retreat. Set in a beautifully restored 1769 building, elegant rooms have period décor, spacious en-suite bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. Enjoy a continental breakfast on weekdays and a hot breakfast on weekends.
Overlooking Market Street, Penn’s View Hotel Philadelphia offers warmly decorated rooms with fireplaces, balconies with bridge views, and whirlpool tubs. Dine in a laid-back Italian restaurant and stay in the gym. A short walk from the hotel will take you to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Set in an exquisite 19th-century Italianate building, Independence Park Hotel Premier Collection has modern amenities in comfortable rooms with elegant en-suite bathrooms and views over the city. Tuck into a hot breakfast buffet every morning, traditional afternoon tea, and cheese and wine receptions in the evenings.
Conveniently located in the heart of historic Old City, Lokal Hotel Old City is a chic boutique hotel with fully equipped one- and two-bedroom apartments. Modern amenities include sound systems, iPads, and free Wi-Fi. Make use of a grocery delivery service and an automated check-in.
Just over a mile from the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia Marriott Old City offers traditional rooms with coffeemakers, minifridges, and flat-screen TVs. Book a club room to enjoy a lounge with complimentary breakfast and evening appetizers. Dine in a laid-back American restaurant and a bar.