A Historic Walk through Philadelphia's Old City
Touring through Old City, the neighborhood that encompasses the majority of Philly’s Historic Downtown, doesn’t have to begin and end with the Liberty Bell. Rely on this walk to make sure you hit all the highlights—and some under-the-radar locations as well.
A Jumping-off Point
Start off with a stop at the Independence Visitor Center, where you can get your bearings, talk to park rangers and concierges, and take in two short films chronicling Philadelphia's Revolutionary War history. The Center also has a café, public restrooms, and free Wi-Fi.
Independence National Historic Park and Vicinity
From here, it’s off to the Liberty Bell Center, which is close by. Admission to lay eyes upon this gargantuan beacon of American freedom is free, but it’s also very popular, so expect lines. You should also anticipate consistent crowds at Independence Hall, though there’s quite a bit more to this portion of the Independence National Historical Park than the one-and-done Bell. Timed tours of the birthplace of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are available free of charge; the most popular times are available on a first-come, first-served basis, though you can also reserve tickets over the phone for a small fee. Don’t miss the other features of the park complex, including Carpenter’s Hall (site of the First Continental Congress); and Franklin Court, Benjamin Franklin’s former residence, featuring a mix of original architecture and restored features, including a fully operational post office.
Walk just a few blocks east down Market Street and you’ll find the Christ Church, the beautifully maintained circa-1695 house of worship that also happens to be Franklin’s final resting place. One block from here: the National Constitution Center, a gorgeous modern structure dedicated to celebration and analysis of America’s most important political document. Three blocks northeast of the church sits Elfreth’s Alley, considered one of the oldest residential blocks in America. Two adjoined houses in the alley, which featured mostly hybrid businesses/residences in its heyday, serve as a museum and gift shop. Around the holidays, current residents host “Deck The Alley,” an open-house fund-raiser with food, drink, and costumed revelry.
Beyond the Biggies
There are plenty of other draws worthy of your attention besides the "big five." The National Museum of American Jewish History, the National Liberty Museum, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Betsy Ross House, the Independence Seaport Museum, and the Fireman's Hall Museum are but a few of the historic/academic draws in the neighborhood. Attractions like Race Street Pier, Morgan's Pier, and Spruce Street Harbor Park allow visitors to enjoy a view of the Delaware River.
Old City also has a number of well-regarded, award-winning bars, restaurants, and cafés enjoyed by locals; look for High Street on Market, Zahav, Amada, or Olde Bar.
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