Philadelphia

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. Athenaeum

    Society Hill | Library/Archive

    Housed in a national landmark Italianate brownstone dating from the mid-1800s and designed by John Notman, the Athenaeum is a research library...Read More

  • 2. Fisher Fine Arts Library

    University City | Library/Archive

    One of the finest examples remaining of the work of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, this was the most innovative library building in the...Read More

  • 3. Free Library of Philadelphia

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Library/Archive

    Philadelphia calls its vast public-library system the Fabulous Freebie. Founded in 1891, the central library has more than 1 million volumes...Read More

  • 4. Historical Society of Pennsylvania

    Center City West | Library/Archive

    Following a merger with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in 2002 and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania in 2006, this superlative...Read More

  • 5. Library Company of Philadelphia

    Center City West | Library/Archive

    Founded in 1731, this is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the United States and the only major Colonial American library that has...Read More

  • 6. Library Hall

    Old City | Library/Archive

    This 20th-century building is a reconstruction of Franklin's Library Company of Philadelphia, the first public library in the colonies. The...Read More

  • 7. Rosenbach Museum and Library

    Rittenhouse Square | Library/Archive

    This 1863 three-floor town house and an adjoining building are filled with Persian rugs and 18th-century British, French, and American antiques...Read More

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