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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Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount 30

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Philadelphia Sights

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Boathouse Row

  • Scenic Drive/Tour

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

Fairmount Waterworks

  • Building/Architectural Site

Designed by Frederick Graff, this National Historic Engineering Landmark built in 1815 was the first steam-pumping station of its kind...

Liberty Place One and Two

  • Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

One Liberty Place is the 945-foot office building designed by Helmut Jahn that propelled Philadelphia into the "ultra-high" skyscraper...

Masonic Temple

  • Building/Architectural Site

The temple is one of the city's architectural jewels, but it remains a hidden treasure even to many Philadelphians. Historically, Freemasons...

Philadelphia Merchant's Exchange

  • Building/Architectural Site

Designed by the well-known Philadelphia architect William Strickland and built in 1832, this impressive Greek Revival building served...

Philosophical Hall

  • Building/Architectural Site

This is the headquarters of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote "useful knowledge." The...

Shofuso Japanese House

  • Building/Architectural Site

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

Sir John Temple Heritage Center at the Union League of Philadelphia

  • Building/Architectural Site

An elegant double staircase sweeps from Broad Street up to the entrance of this 1865 French Renaissance–style building, which was added...

The Comcast Center

  • Building/Architectural Site

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

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