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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  • 1. Academy of Music

    Rittenhouse Square | 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 Ballet...Read More

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  • 2. Barnes Foundation

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Museum/Gallery

    Nearly sequestered from public view for a century in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, this legendary collection of 19th- and 20th-century masterpieces...Read More

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  • 3. Boathouse Row

    Fairmount Park | Notable Building

    These architecturally varied 19th-century buildings—in Victorian Gothic, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles—are home to the rowing clubs...Read More

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  • 4. City Hall

    Center City East | Government Building

    Topped by a 37-foot bronze statue of William Penn, City Hall was Philadelphia's tallest building until 1987; you can study the trappings of...Read More

  • 5. Cliveden

    Germantown | Historic Home

    The grounds take up an entire block, and its unique history, impressive architecture, and the guides who spin a good yarn combine to make Cliveden...Read More

  • 6. Elfreth's Alley

    Old City | Historic District/Site

    This alley is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in America, dating back to 1702. Much of Colonial Philadelphia resembled this...Read More

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  • 7. Headhouse Square

    Society Hill | Plaza/Square

    This open-air Colonial marketplace, extending from Pine Street to Lombard Street, is a reminder of the days when people went to central outdoor...Read More

  • 8. Independence Hall

    Old City | Museum/Gallery

    The birthplace of the United States, this redbrick building with its clock tower and steeple is one of the nation's greatest icons. America...Read More

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  • 9. Italian Market

    Bella Vista | Market/Bazaar

    It's more Naples than Philadelphia: vendors crowd the sidewalks and spill out onto the streets; live crabs wait for the kill, while it's too...Read More

  • 10. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

    Rittenhouse Square | Arts/Performance Venue

    Intended to make a contemporary design statement, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts has some architectural oomph with its dramatic vaulted...Read More

  • 11. Liberty Bell Center

    Old City | Historic District/Site

    The bell fulfilled the words of its inscription when it rang to "proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,...Read More

  • 12. Macy's

    Center City East | Store/Mall

    The former John Wanamaker department store, this building is almost as prominent a Philadelphia landmark as the Liberty Bell. Wanamaker began...Read More

  • 13. National Constitution Center

    Old City | Museum/Gallery

    This 160,000-square-foot museum brings the U.S. Constitution alive through a series of highly interactive exhibits tracing the development and...Read More

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  • 14. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

    Center City West | Museum/Gallery

    This High Victorian Gothic structure is a work of art in itself. Designed in 1876 by the noted, and sometimes eccentric, Philadelphia architects...Read More

  • 15. Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Museum/Gallery

    The city's premier cultural attraction is one of the country's leading museums. One of the greatest treasures of the museum is the building...Read More

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  • 16. Reading Terminal Market

    Center City East | Market/Bazaar

    The market is nothing short of a historic treasure, and a food heaven to Philadelphians and visitors alike. One floor beneath the former Reading...Read More

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  • 17. Rittenhouse Square

    Rittenhouse Square | Plaza/Square

    Once grazing ground for cows and sheep, Philadelphia's most elegant square is reminiscent of a Parisian park. One of William Penn's original...Read More

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  • 18. Rodin Museum

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Museum/Gallery

    This jewel of a museum holds the biggest collection outside France of the work of sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Occupying a 20th-century...Read More

  • 19. Shofuso Japanese House

    Fairmount Park | Notable Building

    This replica of a 16th-century guesthouse was reassembled here in 1958 after being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The...Read More

  • 20. The Comcast Center

    Center City West | Notable Building

    Now Philadelphia's tallest building, the 975-foot Comcast Center is also one of its most eco-friendly: the 58-story design by Robert A.M. Stern...Read More

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