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. Cliveden

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    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

  • 2. Bishop White House

    Old City | House/Mansion/Villa

    Built in 1786, this restored upper-class house embodies Colonial and Federal elegance. It was the home of Bishop William White (1748–1836),...Read More

  • 3. Cedar Grove

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    Five styles of furniture—Jacobean, William and Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Federal—reflect the accumulations of five generations of the...Read More

  • 4. Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    Philadelphia's only mid-19th-century house-museum is a Victorian Gothic extravaganza of elongated windows and arches. This gorgeous 1859 suburban...Read More

  • 5. Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

    Northern Liberties | House/Mansion/Villa

    One of America's most original writers, Edgar Allan Poe (1809–49), lived here from 1843 to 1844; it's the only one of his Philadelphia residences...Read More

  • 6. Germantown White House

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    Formerly called the Deshler-Morris House, the Germantown home was where President Washington lived and held cabinet meetings during the yellow...Read More

  • 7. Grumblethorpe

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    The blood of General James Agnew, who died after being struck by musket balls during the Battle of Germantown, stains the floor in the parlor...Read More

  • 8. Johnson House

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    After bringing visitors through the hidden back entrance of this 1768 home, guides retrace the experience of slaves who found a haven here when...Read More

  • 9. Laurel Hill

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    Built around 1767, this Georgian house on a laurel-covered hill overlooking the Schuylkill River once belonged to Dr. Philip Syng Physick (also...Read More

  • 10. Lemon Hill

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    An impressive example of a Federal-style country house, Lemon Hill was built in 1800 on a 350-acre farm. Its most distinctive features are oval...Read More

  • 11. Mt. Pleasant

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    Built in 1761 by John Macpherson, a Scottish sea captain, Mt. Pleasant is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country...Read More

  • 12. Physick House

    Society Hill | House/Mansion/Villa

    Built in 1786, this is one of two remaining freestanding houses from this era in Society Hill (you will see plenty of the famous Philadelphia...Read More

  • 13. Powel House

    Society Hill | House/Mansion/Villa

    The 1765 brick Georgian house purchased by Samuel Powel in 1769 remains one of the most elegant homes in Philadelphia. Powel—the "Patriot Mayor...Read More

  • 14. Stenton

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    James Logan may not be a household name, but he was a seminal figure in pre-Revolutionary America. He was secretary to William Penn and managed...Read More

  • 15. Strawberry Mansion

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    The largest of the Fairmount Park Historic Mansions underwent major structural repairs in 2012, including restoration of the original windows...Read More

  • 16. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial

    Society Hill | House/Mansion/Villa

    A Polish general who later became a national hero in his homeland, Kosciuszko came to the United States in 1776 to help fight in the Revolution...Read More

  • 17. Todd House

    Old City | House/Mansion/Villa

    Built in 1775 by John Dilworth, Todd House has been restored to its 1790s appearance, when its best-known resident, Dolley Payne Todd (1768...Read More

  • 18. Woodford

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    The Naomi Wood collection of antique household goods, including Colonial furniture, unusual clocks, and English delftware, and designated her...Read More

  • 19. Wyck

    Germantown | House/Mansion/Villa

    Between the 1690s and 1973, Wyck sheltered nine generations of the Wistar-Haines family. Their accumulated furnishings are on display, along...Read More

  • 20. Sweetbriar

    Fairmount Park | House/Mansion/Villa

    This three-story Federal mansion dating from 1797 was the first year-round residence in what is now Fairmount Park. It was built by Samuel and...Read More

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