Philadelphia

Generally speaking, you can break down Philly's central nightlife hubs into four distinct areas.

Traditionally, South Street is “where all the hippies meet,” according to the 1963 hit by Philly’s own The Orlons. The area has become a little less artsy in recent years, with tourist-friendly attraction taking over for some independent businesses, but there’s still so much to see and do, particularly along the eastern half of the river-to-river street—packed bars and restaurants, tattoo parlors, sneaker stores, cafés, erotica shops, and more.

Home to the majority of Philadelphia’s historical attractions, Old City is equally popular with party people come nightfall. Like South Street, it can get packed on the weekends, with various clubs, bars, and restaurants serving as draws. The crowd is a mix of tourists and locals, with the latter group heavy on “bridge-and-tunnel” types visiting from New Jersey and nearby suburbs. Columbus Boulevard, in particular, features a high concentration of club destinations.

North of Old City lie Northern Liberties and Fishtown. Both neighborhoods have long been associated with Philly’s bohemian crowd, a target for edgy artists, chefs, and musicians. More recently, however, both enclaves and the areas surrounding them have come into their own as legitimate cultural contenders citywide with great bars and breweries.

Finally, Rittenhouse Square, in the heart of Center City, is the premier hangout for Philly’s moneyed crowd, with a slew of high-profile bars, restaurants, and clubs joining a scattering of under-the-radar gems both old-school and new-school.

Other neighborhoods of interest are University City, with all the standard (and not-so-standard) college-age bars and clubs, plus unique international options in greater West Philly; East Passyunk, a hot strip featuring hip bars and restaurants commingling with South Philly’s old-school Italian population; and Manayunk, a nightlife-heavy area to the northwest particularly popular with college kids and recent grads.

Bars and clubs can sometimes close, change hands, or turn over with very short notice, so stay abreast of the latest by following the entertainment pages and respective websites of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News (philly.com); the Philadelphia Weekly (phillyweekly.com); the Philadelphia Gay News (epgn.com); and Philadelphia magazine (phillymag.com).

In Philadelphia, last call for bars and clubs is 2 am, though there are a handful of places with special licenses that allow for legal after-hours service. Cover charges can range from free to about $12. While Philly tends toward the casual in many of its nightlife venues, there are dress codes enforced in some clubs. Best to check online to make certain if you're venturing into new territory.

People from outside the city might be surprised to see just how popular dancing is here. The persuasive DJ culture has permeated the city, especially in Old City, Northern Liberties/Fishtown, and on South Street.

Philadelphia has a rich jazz and blues heritage that includes such greats as the late, legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and current players like Grover Washington Jr. That legacy continues today in clubs around town.

Though a number of Philly rock/pop venues are owned by Live Nation, a good variety of touring bands is still represented on a nightly basis. And with the advent of the Fishtown live-music scene at venues such as Johnny Brenda's and Kung Fu Necktie, as well as the popular Union Transfer on Spring Garden, there is a greater variety of live music available than ever before.

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  • 1. World Cafe Live

    University City | Live Music

    A musical flagship in West Philly, WCL's building also houses the radio station WXPN-FM, which emphasizes acoustic, independent, and world-beat...Read More

  • 2. Chris' Jazz Café

    Center City West | Live Music

    This intimate hangout off the Avenue of the Arts (aka Broad Street), Chris' showcases top talent Monday through Saturday. The jazz club stays...Read More

  • 3. Electric Factory

    Northern Liberties | Live Music

    Named in honor of the original Electric Factory, which opened in 1968 and hosted acts ranging from Jimi Hendrix to the Grateful Dead, this current...Read More

  • 4. Kung Fu Necktie

    Fishtown | Live Music

    A block removed from the major intersection of Frankford and Girard, KFN hosts indie music acts in a small, moody barroom hidden underneath...Read More

  • 5. Mermaid Inn

    Chestnut Hill | Live Music

    Head to the Mermaid, as the Northwest Philly locals do, to hear excellent live music (folk, blues, rock, jazz) and drink from an interesting...Read More

  • 6. MilkBoy

    Center City East | Live Music

    The city outpost of the coffee house and recording studio in Ardmore, MilkBoy Philly features a down-to-earth café and bar on the street level...Read More

  • 7. Ortlieb's Lounge

    Northern Liberties | Live Music

    Back open and humming after a series of ownership changes, this out-of-the-way venue in NoLibs has expanded its musical scope well beyond the...Read More

  • 8. The Fillmore Philadelphia

    Fishtown | Live Music

    One of Philadelphia's newest venues for live music, the 25,000-square-foot Fillmore capitalizes on the rising relevance of the Fishtown neighborhood...Read More

  • 9. Theatre of Living Arts

    South Philadelphia | Live Music

    The TLA, a former independent movie house, is a South Street institution that helped launch the careers of many indie filmmakers, in addition...Read More

  • 10. Time

    Center City East | Live Music

    A rocking big-city club from the same owners of the nearby Vintage Wine Bar, Time features three concepts in one—a whiskey-heavy cocktail bar...Read More

  • 11. Tin Angel Acoustic Café

    Old City | Live Music

    Local and national musicians hold forth at a 115-seat acoustic cabaret above the Serrano restaurant (patrons get preferred seating). You can...Read More

  • 12. Trocadero

    Chinatown | Live Music

    This spacious rock-and-roll club in Chinatown occupies a former vaudeville theater and burlesque house where W. C. Fields and Mae West performed...Read More

  • 13. Union Transfer

    Northern Liberties | Live Music

    A former train station and restaurant converted into a haven for live music, Union Transfer might be Philly's best pound-for-pound place to...Read More

  • 14. Warmdaddy's

    South Philadelphia | Live Music

    This rustic, down-home blues club and restaurant right near the Delaware River serves up live blues and soulful Southern cuisine every night...Read More

  • 15. North Star Bar & Restaurant

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Live Music

    Deceptively good-sized, the North Star lights up the Art Museum neighborhood with a diverse and satisfying line-up of local and nationally touring...Read More

  • 16. The Grape Room

    Manayunk | Live Music

    Taking up the mantle for the late, lamented Grape Street Pub, this is the spot to hang out, drink cheap beer, and listen to loud music. There...Read More

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