Thinking about visiting Pennsylvania? With so much vibrant history and culture, you won’t want to miss out on the best things to do in Philadelphia, PA. Whether you’re into the birth of the United States, amazing sports franchises, or have a hankering for a cheese steak, there’s a lot to love in the City of Brotherly Love.
History buffs will be in paradise in Philadelphia, with countless attractions, world-class museums, and artifacts scattered around the city. You can easily catch yourself walking in the footsteps of historical legends, including the founding fathers, as you roam among the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia.
Not sure what to do in Pennsylvania’s largest city? We’ve got you covered with our guide to the best places to visit in Philadelphia, PA.
Best places to visit in Philadelphia, PA
Cherry Street Pier
Looking for a spot that combines historic architecture with shopping and dining? Hit up Cherry Street Pier for an experience like no other.
Located on the banks of the Delaware River, this multi-use public space offers art exhibitions, markets, events, and even a beer pub. Whatever you’re into, head to Cherry Street Pier, get your culture fill, and then kick back with a pint overlooking the river.
With plenty of interesting and unusual events held here throughout the year, be sure to check out their website and events calendar before you visit. You never know what amazing experiences await at Cherry Street Pier!
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Wanting to put your feet up, enjoy a drink and watch the world go by? Spruce Street Harbor Park is one of the coolest places to go in Philadelphia to do just that. Just down the river from Cherry Street Pier, it’s become a haven for those who want a relaxing oasis in the heart of the city.
With local food and drink vendors dotted around the site, plenty of seating—including reservable hammocks in the summer, and even barges floating around—it’s easy to forget you’re in an urban metropolis.
Much like Cherry Street Pier, Spruce Street Harbor Park hosts plenty of events throughout. including gigs, stand-up comedy, and exhibitions. Check out their website or socials before you head out there.
No visit to Philly is complete without heading to South Street. Known as the most famous street in the city, it’s home to an eclectic mix of stores, restaurants, bars, and locals.
One visit to South Street in South Philly might not be enough. With 300 shops and over 60 eateries and bars, it’s less a street than a district, spanning up to 14 blocks depending on who you ask.
Whether you’re getting hungry, need a fresh new outfit, want to grab a beer and the game, or just want to people-watch, South Street is a must-visit for your Philadelphia trip.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Want to experience art and culture in a new and exciting way, away from the city’s museums? Then Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is just the ticket. Located on South Street, this interesting art gallery only costs between $5-10 to get in and is one of Philadelphia’s must-sees.
Located in South Philly, the Magic Gardens are a series of mosaicked walls and spaces covering three city lots. With a focus on local artists and supporting the community, its rotating exhibitions display the issues and struggles in modern Philadelphia.
Enjoy the outdoor labyrinth, mosaicked courtyard, murals, and indoor exhibition spaces. You definitely get value for money with this unique art experience!
Eastern State Penitentiary
Are you a fan of true crime and criminal history? If so, visiting the Eastern State Penitentiary is an absolute must. Home to infamous inmates, including Al Capone, the prison was declared a national historic landmark in 1965.
Not into true crime but love architecture? The Eastern State Penitentiary is brimming with Gothic features as it was the most expensive prison in the US in its heyday. Although it’s not quite in peak condition, the ruined state gives the building an eerie feel.
Visiting Philly around Halloween? If you’ve got the stomach for it, the Eastern State Penitentiary transforms into a haunted house for the holiday. Feeling brave enough?
One of the most iconic spots in Philadelphia, Independence Hall is one of the city’s must-see places to visit for history buffs. Built in 1753, this Georgian-style building is famed as the birthplace of the United States. At this UNESCO World Heritage site, America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, officially tearing the Thirteen Colonies from British rule and establishing the United States.
Managed by the National Parks Service, the building has been kept in immaculate condition. Independence Hall runs tours throughout the year, giving you an insight into the creation and signing of the US constitution. If you’re into US history, visiting Independence Hall is a no-brainer, especially if you only have one day in Philadelphia.
Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s fascinating to walk the halls of history and stand where a nation was born. There’s a reason it’s one of the top tourist attractions, not just in Philly but in the whole United States!
Philadelphia City Hall
Whether you’re a political buff or an architecture lover, a visit to the Philadelphia City Hall is well worth your time on your Pennsylvania road trip.
As the largest municipal building in the US, Philadelphia City Hall is a huge hub of power in the state of Pennsylvania. It also features striking, Empire-style architecture, setting it apart from many of the other historical buildings around Philadelphia.
If government buildings aren’t your thing, head around the side of City Hall and chill out in Dilworth Park. A half-acre oasis in the heart of the city, this popular green space attracts many locals on their lunch breaks to get away from it all.
Looking for a well-maintained green space in the center of Philly? Look no further than Rittenhouse Square. Claimed by many people to be the most peaceful place in the Center City, the historic square, designed by William Penn in the 17th century, is well worth checking out in between tourist sights.
Whether you want to kick back and sunbathe, roll out a yoga mat, have a spot for lunch, or take your furry best friend on a walk, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this gorgeous public park.
Pro tip: head to Rittenhouse Park in the evening after dinner; the fountain looks especially magical when lit up at night!
Race Street Pier
Yearning for a trail where you can stretch your legs or get in a quick mid-trip jog? Head to the Race Street Pier along the waterfront for a workout with a view!
Not wanting to work out on your vacation? We can’t say we blame you! Alongside the waterfront promenade, there’s also a gorgeous stretch of manicured lawn where you can sit back and enjoy the expansive views of the river and bridges.
In summer, be sure to get down to Race Street Pier early as it’s a popular spot for sunbathing and picnicking. Stake out your spot and set up for the day!
Looking for a city park that’s got something to suit the entire family? Look no further than Franklin Square, one of the five original Philadelphian parks and a place where play is the order of the day!
Filled to the brim, Franklin Square is home to a beautiful fountain, a carousel, a mini-golf course, and a legendary burger shack called SquareBurger. With so much going on, you could easily spend all day here.
While the park is completely free to enter and hang out in, some attractions have extra fees; check that out before you visit.
In need of a natural escape? Head to the largest municipal park in the city, Fairmount Park. Technically, it’s two parks—East Park and West Park—separated by the Schuylkill River.
As the park is home to the breathtaking Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported far away from Philly. The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden includes waterfalls, a koi pond, a house that was brought over from Japan in 1957, and cherry blossoms in the spring.
If you’re into your rowing, head to Boathouse Row on the eastern side of Fairmount Park. Along Boathouse Row, you’ll find numerous boathouses all next to each other. Each one is home to a different rowing club, whose patrons you’ll commonly see out on the river.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Hunting for more art and culture during your stay in Philadelphia? There’s no better place to get your fill than the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Initially opened for the 1876 Centennial Exposition, this cultural institution has a long history and is one of the largest art museums in the nation. You can spend hours scouring its halls, modeled after an ancient Greek temple. If you visit on the first Sunday of the month or Friday night after 5 pm, you can benefit from paying what you want for admission.
If you’re not a fan of the arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is also home to the famous Rocky steps; don’t be surprised to see a lot of similar poses outside the entrance!
Independence National Historical Park
Looking to learn something fascinating in Philadelphia? The Independence National Historical Park should be on your list of things to do in Philadelphia.
The Independence National Historical Park encompasses a few legendary Philly sights that are historically protected including The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and more.
Most of these sights are free to enter and help educate you all about American independence and the country’s rich history. Head to the city on July 4th for some truly spectacular and historic events!
Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History
There are plenty of amazing museums and art galleries in Philly, but the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. With over 20,000 artifacts detailing the American Jewish experience, it’s easy to spend all day in this five-story institution.
The museum’s artifacts span the past 300 years and include famous pieces like Irving Berlin’s piano and Alfred Einstein’s pipe. The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is truly a culturally enriching experience for the whole family.
The ground floor is completely free to visit. You do, however, have to pay to access the other four floors, which include the rotating exhibits.
Got a passion for science and technology? The Franklin Institute is one of the most celebrated and beloved museums in the entire country, dedicated to the pursuit of science.
With interactive exhibits bound to enchant both adults and kids alike, and rotating collections that keep people coming back year after year, the Franklin Insititute is the perfect way to spend a day in Philadelphia. Alternatively, check out the museum after dark for a unique cultural experience.
Right now, they even have an exhibition behind the magic of Harry Potter. It really does have something for everyone!
Schuylkill River Trail
Wanting to enjoy some time by the water, away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Then the Schuylkill River Trail might just be the escape that you’re looking for.
Although the Schuylkill River Trail isn’t complete yet, it partially opened in 2018. When it’s finished, it’ll stretch a whopping 140 miles. At the moment, it spans 30 miles, giving you plenty of opportunities to walk, run, or cycle along the river.
To easiest way to access the Schuylkill River Trail is at Center City in the West and South of the city.
Into biology or just have a bit of a morbid fascination with the human body? Take a walk on the weird side with a visit to the Mütter Museum. Although a tad odd, the museum is one of the most interesting places to see in Philadelphia.
Dedicated to the study of pathology and medical practices throughout the years, this museum is not for the squeamish. If you can handle it, the Mütter Museum is home to some amazing artifacts, including Einstein’s brain. (Yep, you read that right!)
As the Mütter Museum is part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, there’s a reduced entry rate for students; keep this in mind if you’re eligible.
Betsy Ross House
It’s no secret that Philly is a paradise for lovers of American history. But if you want to step away from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, head to the Betsy Ross House for something a tad different.
Betsy Ross is, of course, famous for creating the first American flag, and this house in Philadelphia’s Old City is apparently where she lived and sewed the flag. It’s now a living museum with actors playing Betsy. The inside has been restored to be as close to as it would’ve been back in the day.
It’s quite a small museum, so you don’t need tons of time to visit. Nonetheless, Betsy Ross House offers a cool way to see a more feminine side to the American independence narrative.
Recommended places to stay in Philadelphia for sightseeing
For most first-time travelers, the best places to stay in Philadelphia fall within the city center. To make the most of your sightseeing adventure, narrow your accommodations search to Center City, Old City, Rittenhouse Square, and Logan Square. The central areas are home to many of the city’s top hotels.
Located in the heart of the Old City, this boutique hotel offers the perfect accommodations for historical sightseeing. After a day of tackling all the top points of interest in Philadelphia, chill out with a glass of vino at the hotel’s on-site wine cellar and a delicious meal at the a-la-carte restaurant.
Get charmed by the modern elegance of this popular mid-range luxury hotel, just steps away from Independence Hall. Before retiring to cheery and sophisticated room, enjoy a craft cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop bar with the twinkling lights of the city as your backdrop.
Modern luxury and historical charm collide in this luxurious Center City hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The accommodations fuse a striking 1920s style with modern amenities, including a fitness center and on-site tapas restaurant.