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. Arch Street Meeting House

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Constructed in 1804 for the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, this building of simple lines is still used for that purpose...Read More

  • 2. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

    Benjamin Franklin Parkway | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The basilica of the archdiocese of Philadelphia is the spiritual center for the Philadelphia area's 1.4 million Roman Catholics. Topped by a...Read More

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  • 3. Christ Church

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The Anglicans of the Church of England built a wooden church on this site in 1697. When they outgrew it, they erected a new church, the most...Read More

  • 4. Christ Church Burial Ground

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Weathered gravestones fill the resting place of five signers of the Declaration of Independence and other Colonial patriots. The best-known...Read More

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  • 5. Free Quaker Meeting House

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This was the house of worship for the Free "Fighting" Quakers, a group that broke away from the Society of Friends to take up arms against the...Read More

  • 6. Gloria Dei

    Queen Village | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    One of the few relics of the Swedes who settled Pennsylvania before William Penn, Gloria Dei, also known as Old Swedes' Church, was organized...Read More

  • 7. Mikveh Israel

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Nathan Levy, a Colonial merchant whose ship, the Myrtilla, brought the Liberty Bell to America, helped found this Jewish congregation in 1740...Read More

  • 8. Mikveh Israel Cemetery

    Old City | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    ...Read More

  • 9. Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

    Society Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Society Hill holds a notable landmark in the history of African Americans in the city. In 1787 Richard Allen led fellow blacks who left St....Read More

  • 10. Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church

    Society Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Designed by Robert Smith in 1768 as a simple brick Georgian-style building, Old Pine is the only remaining Colonial Presbyterian church and...Read More

  • 11. Old St. Joseph's Church

    Society Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    In 1733 a tiny chapel was established by Jesuits for Philadelphia's 11 Catholic families. It was one of the first places in the English-speaking...Read More

  • 12. Old St. Mary's Church

    Society Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The city's second-oldest Catholic church, circa 1763, became its first cathedral when the archdiocese was formed in 1810. A Gothic-style facade...Read More

  • 13. St. Peter's Episcopal Church

    Society Hill | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Founded by members of Christ Church in Old City who were living in newly settled Society Hill, St. Peter's has been in continuous use since...Read More

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