Philadelphia, USA: information about the city and its attractions

Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the United States, Pennsylvania and is located on the East Coast between New York City (140km) and Washington, DC (200km) . According to many, Philadelphia represents all facets of city life – booming food establishments, music and art scenes, neighborhoods each with its own character, expansive parks and, just as importantly, relatively inexpensive real estate.

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Highlights

One of the most appealing aspects of America is that this Pennsylvanian city, which occupies such an important place in U.S. history, appears to be the butt of jokes all over the country. Above all, Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love, chosen by William Penn as a model of religious freedom and colonial enterprise, and where Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson championed the cause of independence. But it is also a quiet, sedate city, unflatteringly praised by comedian William Claude Fields as his epitaph on his tombstone: “Better than playing Philadelphia,” and where master of horror storytelling Edgar Allan Poe composed his famous poem “The Raven.”

Although the modern city is diverse in its Jewish and Italian communities, it has Anglo-Saxon roots at its core, which gives it a certain swagger. As Mark Twain said, “In Boston they ask, ‘What does he know?’; in New York, ‘What is he worth?’; in Philadelphia, ‘Who were his parents?'”

History

Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by a group of Quakers led by William Penn on the site of an old Swedish settlement of 1636. The name Philadelphia means “brotherly friendship” in Greek, which corresponds to the idealistic aspirations of the Quakers, who called themselves “friends” or “brothers.” Two years after its founding, there were more than 2,500 residents, mostly Quakers. The city became the final destination of many immigrants of different denominations from Europe. Philadelphia received city status in 1701, by that time its population was more than 10 thousand people.

Philadelphia was one of the first American cities to be built on a single plan. By 1775 it was the largest city of the North American colonies, and many social organizations, including the American Philosophical Society, were founded there.

For a time the second largest city in the British Empire (after London), Philadelphia became the center of opposition to British colonial policy. At the beginning of the War of Independence and after its end, until 1790, when Washington came to power, Philadelphia was the capital of the young nation. By the nineteenth century, New York City had overtaken Philadelphia as the center of culture, commerce, and industry. Despite the fact that the reconstruction of the city goes on for decades, some parts of it, formerly inhabited by proletarians, ruined and incomparable to the historic district around the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall – there are carefully manicured lawns and numerous parking lots.

The preserved old buildings in Philadelphia’s historic district offer a glimpse of what gridiron colonial American cities once looked like, with wide streets and public squares.

Sightseeing in Philadelphia

Getting around Philadelphia is not difficult. It is easy to navigate between most attractions and hotels on foot or with a short bus ride. Streets running east to west have names; those running north to south are numbered, except for Broad St and Front St .

The Independence National Historic Preserve in the heart of Philadelphia encompasses all the significant buildings where the early American government sat, and has been called “the most historic piece of American soil.” In Independence Hall, in the huge red-brick Georgian building (5th and Chestnut Street), you can see the place where America’s founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and later the United States Constitution. Nearby, in the Assembly Hall, state representatives signed the Bill of Rights, which required the state to protect, not infringe upon, human liberty. The Liberty Bell Center on Market Street, between 5th and 6th streets, displays the famous Liberty Bell in a glass pavilion.

It was shipped from England to Philadelphia in 1752 and cracked when it was first struck; it was repaired to ring from the Independence Hall tower on July 4, 1776, and in the 19th century the bell cracked again and has not rung since.

The same foundry commissioned the exact same bell for the 1976 celebration, which now hangs in the Liberty Bell Center, adorned with the inscription, “To the People of the United States of America from the People of Britain. July 4, 1976. let freedom ring.”

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Visit the magnificent City Hall (City Hall; Market and Broad streets) . It is modeled on the Louvre in Paris and, as the citizens like to repeat, is even larger than Washington’s Capitol. The building is crowned by a statue of William Penn.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (26th and Parkway; tel: 215-763-81-00; www.philamuseum.org) is very large, holding an extensive collection of American art and selected Impressionist (Van Gogh’s Sunflowers) and Post-Impressionist paintings. There are also special exhibitions. The home of Edgar Allan Poe (532 North 7th Street) is now the literary museum of the writer, who lived here with his young wife. The Rodin Museum (22nd and Parkway) has the largest collection of works by a French sculptor after Paris. The Franklin Institute (20th and Parkway; tel: 215-448-12-00; www2.fi.edu) is a great science museum whose rooms feature astronomy, computer science, electronics, railroads, aeronautics, geology, meteorology, biology and Franklin’s experiments with electricity. There is also an IMAX theater.

Philadelphia neighborhoods

Old City

Old City, an area bounded by Walnut St, Vine St, Front St and 6th St, begins where Independence National Historical Park ends. Along with the Society Hill neighborhood, Old Town belongs to Philadelphia’s oldest city. In the 1970s there was a revitalization, with many warehouses converted to housing, galleries, and small business space. Today, Old Town is a pleasant place to walk.

Saucy Hill

Bordered on the east and west by Front St and 8th St, and on the north and south by Walnut St and Lombard St, Philadelphia’s beautiful residential community Society Hill is dominated by 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Beyond the cobblestone streets you’ll find rows of mostly eighteenth- and nineteenth-century brick houses juxtaposed with the occasional modern high-rise like the Society Hill Towers designed by IM Pei. Wash-Square was part of William Penn’s original city plan: you can take a break between sightseeing.

Downtown, Rittenhouse Square and the surrounding area

The center of creativity, commerce, culture, etc., is the heart of the city. It is home to Philadelphia’s tallest buildings, the Financial District, major hotels, museums, concert halls, stores, and restaurants.

The most famous of the city’s squares is Rittenhouse Square, full of greenery, with a wading pool and beautiful statues.

Benjamin Franklin Boulevard and Museum District

Modeled after the Champs Elysées of Paris, Benjamin Franklin Boulevard is a hub of museums and other Philadelphia attractions. We recommend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Franklin Institute Museum of Science, the Academy of Natural Sciences Museum, and the Rodin Museum.

South Street

Something like Philadelphia’s Greenwich Village, South Street is where people go in search of music stores, artist supply stores, tiny cheap eateries and student favorite shops selling smoking pipes and incense, t-shirts and everything for teenage goths.

Chinatown

Philadelphia’s Chayanatown has existed since the 1860s and is the fourth largest Chinese neighborhood in the United States. Chinese immigrants engaged in building the transcontinental American railroads moved westward and settled there. Today’s Chinatown remains an immigration center, but many of its residents came not only from different provinces of China, but also from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Despite the small number of permanent residents, Chinatown is completely dominated by the spirit of commerce.

Penn’s Landing

Once in its heyday, Penn’s Landing, a waterfront neighborhood near the Delaware River between Market St. and Lombard St., was a bustling port area. Eventually that role was taken over by the more southerly area down the Delaware River, and today the main attractions in the former area are boat rides like the Riverboat Queen (Tel: 215-923-2628; www.riverboatqueenfleet.com; tours from $15) or the Spirit of Philadelphia (Tel: 866-394-8439; www.spiritcruises.com; tours $40), which can take a boozy cruise, or simple walks along the river. The Benjamin Franklin Bridge, 2.9 km long, is the world’s largest suspension bridge and was completed in 1926. It allows you to cross the Delaware River and is a notable part of the local landscape.

University City

Schuylkill River separates the city from the Philadelphia metropolitan area and feels like one big college town, thanks to Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, also known as “U-Penn” since 1740 and an Ivy League institution. Full of greenery, the lively campus beckons for a pleasant afternoon stroll, and there are two museums that are definitely worth a visit.

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Fairmount Park.

The winding Schuylkill River divides this 3,792-square-meter park, actually the largest in the country and larger than New York’s Central Park, in two. Beginning in early spring, every corner of the park fills with people actively playing ball, jogging, and picnicking. Joggers will love the tree-lined paths that wind along the riverbank from 3 to 32 kilometers long. The park’s paths are also great for cycling. To rent a bike or for more information, stop by Fairmount Bicycles (Tel: 267-507-9370; www.fairmountbicycles.com; 2015 Fairmount Ave) (full-day/half-day $18/30) .

Menyunk

A small residential village northwest of town with steep hills and rows of Victorian houses, Manayunk, whose name comes from a Native American expression meaning “where we go to drink,” is a great place to spend the day and evening. Just don’t forget that thousands of people will have the same plans for the weekend: then this usually quiet settlement on the banks of the Schuylkill River becomes the site of a rowdy party of “golden youth.” Guests are allowed not only to drink, but also to eat and store. Parking is nearly impossible to find on weekends, so it’s better to come here by bicycle – there’s a pedestrian road alongside the village, along the river.

Germantown and Chestnut Hill

An odd mix of ruined and preserved luxury, the historic Germantown District is within a twenty-minute drive north on Septa 23 from downtown Philadelphia’s business district. It’s full of little museums and noteworthy homes worth looking at.

Festivals and Events

Mummers’ Parade

Held on New Year’s Day (January 1), the parade is a display of elaborate costumes in true Philadelphia spirit.

Manayunk Arts Festival

The largest arts and crafts show in the Delaware Valley, drawing more than 250 artists from around the country every June.

Philadelphia Performance Art Festival.

Explore the latest trends in the arts at this cutting-edge performance every September.

Accommodations

While most venues are located in and around downtown, options can be found in other areas. There is no shortage of places to stay, but most are national chains or bed and breakfasts. Lowes, Sofitel, and Westin hotels can be recommended. Keep in mind that there are parking lots near most hotels, and a parking space costs about $20 to $45 per day.

Food and Drink

Philadelphia is deservedly famous for its cheesesteaks (not to be confused with cheesecakes) . The city’s restaurant scene has grown exponentially, thanks in part to the Starr and Garces groups, who have added many quality establishments with cuisines from different countries. Due to Pennsylvania’s complicated liquor laws, many restaurants require you to bring your own booze.

Tourist Information

Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp (www.visitphilly.com; 6th St, near Market St) – A very well-established non-profit tourist assistance office ready to provide comprehensive information. Near its center is the NPS (National Park Service) center.

Independence Visitor Center (Tel: 800-537-7676; www.independencevisitorcenter.com; 6th St, near Market St; 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) – NPS-run center distributes useful guides and maps, sells tickets for various official tours departing from nearby locations.

City transportation.

The flat rate for a cab from the airport to Central City is $25. The airport is also served by local Septa flights using the R1 line route. It will take you to Union City ($7) , you can get off at various stops in Center City.

The distances in the business part allow you to get around most of the attractions on foot, and those further afield can be reached relatively easily by train, bus, or cab.

Septa (www.septa.org) operates Philadelphia’s city buses, as well as two subway lines and trolley buses. The extensive and reliable network of bus routes (120 routes run over 412 square miles) is hard to figure out. The cost of a one-way trip is $2 in most cases, and you’ll need an exact amount or a token to pay. Many subway stations and transit stores sell discounted sets of two tokens for $3.10.

Cabs, especially downtown, are easy to catch. The initial charge is $2.70, then $2.30 for each mile or part thereof. All licensed cabs have GPS, and most can be paid by credit card.

The Phlash shuttle bus (www. phillyphlash.com; 9:30-18:00) is like an old-fashioned trolleybus and runs between Penn’s Landing and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (one-way/all-day $2/5) . It runs about every 15 minutes.

Directions there and back

Planes

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL; www.phl.org; 8000 Essington Ave) , 11 km south of downtown (Center City), serves direct international flights; there are domestic flights to more than 100 different U.S. cities.

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Buses

Greyhound (www.greyhound.com; 1001 Filbert St) and Peter Pan Bus Lines (www. peterpanbus.com; 1001 Filbert St) are major bus carriers; Bolt Bus (www.boltbus.com) and Mega Bus (www.us.megabus.com) are rivals, both have comfortable buses. Greyhound owns flights connecting Philadelphia to various cities across the country, while Peter Pan and others focus on flights to the Northeast. If you book online, a trip to and from New York City can cost as little as $18 (2.5 hours one way), to Atlantic City $20 (1.5 hours), and to Washington DC $28 (4.5 hours) . NJ Transit (www.njtransit.com) will take you from Philadelphia to many cities in New Jersey.

Cars

There are several interstate highways in and around Philadelphia. In the north-south direction, I-95 (Delaware Expressway – Delaware Expwy) runs near the eastern edge of the city near the Delaware River with several exits to Central City. I-276 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) heads east across the north side of town and the river to connect with the New Jersey Turnpike.

Philadelphia’s 25 Top Sights

Philadelphia was founded by members of the Christian Quaker movement on the site of an old Swedish settlement. In the city’s early years, immigrants from all over Europe came here. In 100 years already the city had become one of the largest North American colonies.

Philadelphia is known across the world for being the place where the United States of America declared its independence in 1776. The main landmarks are connected with this monumental event: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center. The whole history of the city is steeped in the spirit of freedom, democracy, and civil society.

Philadelphia is also home to museums and galleries that exhibit valuable works of art. Their rich collections attract many tourists each year.

What to see and do in Philadelphia?

The most interesting and beautiful places to walk. Photos and a brief description.

Independence Hall

The Declaration of Independence was signed in Independence Hall in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Today the building is part of the historic park, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure was built in 1753 by E. Woolley and E. Hamilton in the Gregorian style. After the reconstruction in 1820 Independence Hall acquired features of classicism, but in 1950 it was returned to its historical appearance.

Independence Hall.

Liberty Bell

One of the main symbols of the struggle for freedom. In 1776, the sound of the bell summoned the citizens of Philadelphia to the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence. The total weight of the bell is about 950 kg and its diameter is 3.7 meters. Since 1976 it is housed in a specially built pavilion (previously the bell was in one of the halls of Independence Hall). Each year on the Fourth of July, Independence Day, the bell is struck 13 times.

Liberty Bell.

Philadelphia City Hall

The city hall was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by D. MacArthur Jr. in the architectural style of the Second Empire. It was planned to be the largest building in the world, but while still under construction it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower. The town hall is topped with an 11-meter statue of the city’s founder W. Penn. The structure is ranked as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Philadelphia City Hall.

Eastern State Penitentiary

The prison existed from 1829 to 1969. It housed many notorious criminals. Until 1993 the prison buildings stood in disrepair, in 1994 a museum was opened on the territory, which today is visited by several tens of thousands of people a year. In 1929, the famous gangster Al Capone was imprisoned here. Tourists can tour his cell, elegantly furnished with wooden furniture.

Eastern State Penitentiary.

The Magic Gardens of Philadelphia.

The romantic name “Magic Gardens” is an unusual house located on a city street. Its walls are completely covered with pieces of tile and glass, and the courtyard is a whimsical maze of staircases, grottos, and terraces. Avant-garde artist I. Zagar, who lived in Latin America for a long time, had a hand in creating this amazing place.

The Magic Gardens of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The gallery was founded in 1876. Its opening was timed to coincide with the World’s Fair, the date of which coincided with the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1928, the museum has been housed in a monumental classical building on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Its collection contains more than 200,000 works of art brought from different continents. The museum has research laboratories and a library.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Franklin Institute

Politician and leader of the American War of Independence B. Franklin was also a pretty good inventor. It was his work that formed the basis of the Franklin Institute’s museum collection. Inventions of scientists of XVIII-XX centuries and innovative technologies of modern times are also presented here. The museum has a planetarium and the Hall of Dinosaurs, which will be especially interesting for visitors with children.

Franklin Institute.

Barnes Foundation

The foundation is a museum and art school. It was founded in 1922 by collector and inventor A. C. Barnes in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion. In the 1990s, the foundation was moved downtown because the original location proved unsuccessful. The museum displays a collection of 19th- and 20th-century French paintings, including works by Matisse, Cézanne and Renoir. There are also ancient artifacts and decorative arts from America and Europe.

Barnes Foundation.

Rodin Museum

The museum’s collection is devoted to the work of French sculptor O. Rodin, who made an invaluable contribution to world art. Besides the works of the master, engravings, letters and books are exhibited in the gallery. The idea to found the museum belonged to philanthropist J. Mastbaum, who collected works by Rodin and wanted to donate his collection to the city. Unfortunately, he never lived to see it open in 1929.

Rodin Museum.

Mütter Museum of Medical History

A natural science museum dedicated to medical pathologies, located at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. In addition to biological exhibits (preserved organs and tissues), vintage equipment and wax models are on display here. The collection was created for scientific purposes, but has since evolved into a museum open to the public.

Mütter Museum of Medical History.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The museum’s collection consists of artifacts that were found during archaeological expeditions in the early 20th century. Scientists have visited Africa, Mesopotamia, Latin America and East Asia, from where they brought a lot of interesting artifacts: mummies, Indian cult objects, musical instruments, ancient coins and other antiquities. In total, there were about 400 such expeditions.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, where the local symphony orchestra performs. The building was constructed in 2001 by the American architect R. Viñoly. The center consists of two halls: the first holds 2,500 spectators, the second – 650. The main architectural element of the building is an impressive glass dome, consisting of several dozen arches fastened together.

Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

The Academy was founded in 1805 to promote and support the arts by a group of Pennsylvania patrons and painters. In 1810, painting classes began operating, and in 1811 the museum organized its first exhibition. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the academy moved into a two-story mansion built in luxurious Victorian style. Today this institution is considered one of the best in the field of art.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

University of Pennsylvania

The university was founded in the mid-18th century as a charity school even before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Its first head was Benjamin Franklin himself. The names of many political figures, who played an important role in the history of the United States, are associated with this educational institution. Some of its departments and laboratories are housed in beautiful Gothic and Victorian buildings.

University of Pennsylvania.

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul

The church was built in 1846, modeled on Lombard Church of St. Charles, which is located in Rome. The building has clear classical style features: a number of Corinthian columns on the central facade, a triangular gable and a round central dome. The interior decoration is notable for luxury and variety: the ceiling is covered with mosaics, the dome above the altar is made of Italian marble, the pews for the parishioners are made of walnut.

Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Philadelphia Masonic Temple.

The headquarters and main temple of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Pennsylvania, which receives thousands of visitors each year. Regular meetings of this order are held here. The building was built in 1873, designed by H. D. Norman in the Neo-Renaissance style. The unusual architecture and rich interior make the Masonic Temple one of the most picturesque in Pennsylvania. Moreover, it is a National Historic Landmark.

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Philadelphia Masonic Temple.

Christ Church

The church was erected in the 18th century in the Gregorian style, modeled on London churches. Even during the colonial era, it became an important spiritual center for the state, as it was frequently visited by prominent political figures such as D. Washington, B. Franklin, T. Jefferson, and the 15 patriots and revolutionaries who later signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In the church cemetery is the grave of B. Franklin.

Christ Church.

National Constitution Center

A museum devoted entirely to the American Constitution. Its collection consists of photographs, texts, and presentations about the history of the document and its importance to the entire nation. The museum halls are imbued with a spirit of patriotism that is easily picked up even by foreign tourists. After viewing the collection, it becomes clear why Americans are instilled with active citizenship from childhood.

National Constitution Center.

The House of Betsy Ross

It is believed that Betsy Ross was the author of the American flag (its first version, where 13 stars symbolizing the states are arranged in a circle). Although many historians doubt that it was Betsy who came up with the design of the flag, no one officially refutes this version. There is a museum named after this woman in a town house near the historic park. Her grave is located in a courtyard under a large elm tree.

Betsy Ross House.

Elfret’s Alley.

One of the oldest streets in the United States, which was built between 1728 and 1836. It is also home to the old train station building. Each building is unique in its own way and together they create the atmosphere of past centuries and send the tourist back in time: to the colonial era, the first years of independence, as well as the hard period of the Great Depression. Elfret Alley is a National Historic Landmark.

Elfret's Alley.

Philadelphia Railroad Station.

Pennsylvania’s largest and busiest station, receiving dozens of trains daily from various U.S. cities. The architecture of the building has some features of the classical style, but overall the construction looks grandiose and quite concise. The station was erected in the 1930s. He became the last train station, which was designed in such a monumental manner.

Philadelphia Train Station.

Reading Terminal Market

A large indoor market where you can buy a variety of farm products and prepared foods. There is also a large selection of seafood and delicacies produced by the religious Amish community. The market was once the site of a train station building, so not only can you have a delicious lunch here, but you can also admire the historic interiors. Even if shopping is not part of the plan, the market is just nice to wander around.

Reading Terminal Market.

Citizens Bank Park

The baseball stadium where the Philadelphia Phillies play. The arena was built to replace the old Veterans Stadium, which closed in 2004. The grandstands at Citizens Bank Park hold about 44,000 spectators. Next to the stadium are athletic fields for American soccer, basketball and baseball. There is ample parking space and convenient driveways for visitors.

Citizens Bank Park.

Morris Arboretum.

A 92-acre park with exotic and rare plants. Its area is divided into four zones: rose garden, Japanese garden, English garden and swan lake. The park’s landscape design is created in the Victorian style. The Morris Arboretum is perfect for quiet walks with family or friends. To enjoy the beauty of nature, you must set aside a few hours to visit the park.

Morris Arboretum.

Philadelphia Zoo

The City Zoo is considered the oldest zoo in the United States – it was created in the early 19th century. It is home to dozens of animal species from around the world: pandas, polar bears, polar lions and other rare specimens. In total, there are over 2,000 animals living here. The animals are placed in spacious enclosures, so they feel quite free. The zoo has a comfortable infrastructure for visitors.

Philadelphia Zoo.

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