Philadelphia Sights

Philadelphia continues on its upward trend of development in terms of new construction, a restaurant renaissance, and a cultural revival. The city rests its heels on an impressive past, and thanks to aggressive civic leadership and a close-knit local community, it continues to push toward an exciting future. And in many ways, it’s only started to realize its potential.

Philadelphia is a

place of contrasts: Grace Kelly and Rocky Balboa; Vetri—one of the nation's finest Italian haute-cuisine restaurants—and the fast-food heaven of Jim's Steaks; Independence Hall and the modest Mario Lanza Museum; 18th-century national icons with 21st-century–style skyscrapers soaring above them. The Philadelphia Orchestra performs in a stunning concert hall—the focal point of efforts to transform Broad Street into a multicultural Avenue of the Arts. Along the same street, 25,000 Mummers dressed in outrageous sequins and feathers historically have plucked their banjos and strutted their stuff in a parade every New Year's Day. City residents include descendants of the staid Quaker Founding Fathers, the self-possessed socialites of the Main Line, and the unrestrained sports fans, who are as vocal as they are loyal.

Philadelphia has a population of just over 1.5 million, but is known as a city of neighborhoods (some say there are 109). Shoppers haggle over the price of tomatoes in South Philly's Italian Market; families picnic in the parks of Germantown; street vendors hawk soft pretzels in Logan Circle; and all around the city vendors sell local produce and other goods at farmers' markets. There’s also a strong sense of neighborhood loyalty: ask a native where he's from and he'll tell you: Fairmount, Fishtown, or Frankford, rather than Philadelphia.

Today you can find Philadelphia's compact 5-square-mile downtown (William Penn's original city) between the Delaware and the Schuylkill (pronounced skoo-kull) rivers. Thanks to Penn's grid system of streets—laid out in 1681—the downtown area is a breeze to navigate. The traditional heart of the city is Broad and Market streets (Penn's Center Square), where City Hall now stands. Market Street divides the city north and south; 130 South 15th Street, for example, is in the second block south of Market Street. North–south streets are numbered, starting with Front (1st) Street, at the Delaware River, and increasing to the west. Broad Street is the equivalent of 14th Street. The diagonal Benjamin Franklin Parkway breaks the rigid grid pattern by leading from City Hall out of Center City into Fairmount Park, which straddles the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek for 10 miles.

Although Philadelphia is the sixth-largest city in the nation (about 1.5 million people live in the city, more than 6 million in the metropolitan area), it maintains a small-town feel. It's a cosmopolitan, exciting, but not overwhelming city, a town that's easy to explore on foot yet big enough to keep surprising even those most familiar with it.

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Old City 37

Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount 27

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Society Hill 14

Northwestern Philadelphia 12

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University City and West Philadelphia 6

City Line Avenue 2

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Philadelphia Sights

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A Love Letter To You

  • Public Art (Mural/Sculpture/Statue)

You don't have to walk very far to encounter one of Philadelphia's more than 3,000 public murals. But the best way to see what's perhaps...

Academy of Music

  • Arts/Performance Venue

The only surviving European-style opera house in America is the current home of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania...

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

  • Museum/Gallery

The dioramas of animals from around the world displayed in their natural habitats give this natural history museum an old-fashioned charm.

Adventure Aquarium

  • Zoo/Aquarium

This high-tech, hands-on science education center is the home of "Shark Realm," a 550,000-gallon tank stretching two stories high and...

African American Museum in Philadelphia

  • Museum/Gallery

The centerpiece of this museum is "Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776–1876," a permanent exhibit that uses video...

American-Swedish Historical Museum

  • Museum/Gallery

Near the sports complex in deep South Philly, this neoclassical building with big stone arches in FDR Park celebrates Swedish contributions...

Arch Street Meeting House

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Constructed in 1804 for the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, this building of simple lines is still used for that...

Arthur Ross Gallery

  • Museum/Gallery

Penn's official art gallery contains treasures from the university's collections and traveling exhibitions. The gallery shares its historic...

Athenaeum

  • Library/Archive

Housed in a national landmark Italianate brownstone dating from the mid-1800s and designed by John Notman, the Athenaeum is a research...

Avenue of the Arts

  • Neighborhood/Street

Broad Street, the city's main north–south thoroughfare, has been reinvented as a performing arts district. Although most of the cultural...

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