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Philadelphia, colloquially known as Philly, is the largest city in Pennsylvania and the first UNESCO World Heritage City in the US. Its name is a Greek word that translates to ‘brotherly love,’ and this is apt because the city has a rich history rooted in inclusivity and liberty. There’s no better place to learn about the revolutionary past of the American people. Or try a classic Philly cheesesteak. Book your Philadelphia car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a stress-free trip.
Guide to Philadelphia
Once the capital of the United States, Philadelphia lies on both sides of the Delaware River, bordering New Jersey. Its biggest neighbor is New York City to the northwest.
Climate in Philadelphia
From June to September, Philadelphia experiences warm, humid summers with average temperatures floating around 77°F. Summer is when most of the city’s rainfall occurs. Winters, between December to March, bring average temperatures of 49°F. We’d suggest you visit in September, which is rainy enough to keep the weather pleasant but also has enough sunshine to allow outdoor activities.
For millennia, the Greater Philadelphia area was inhabited by native people of the Lenape nation. In 1682, the Quaker leader William Penn met with their chief, Tamanend, and negotiated the setting up of a new city. Over the next few decades, Philadelphia developed into a diverse cosmopolis. It was here that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were ratified, the country’s first independent black church was established, and the American working class held its first general strike.
Things to do in Philadelphia
Stroll around the city streets
There are plenty of interesting sights all around Philadelphia, most of which are easily accessible by foot. While you’re walking through the city’s streets, keep an eye out for statues of famous figures like Benjamin Franklin and William Penn. All in all, there are at least 1500 of them - and not all of them depict wealthy statesmen! See if you can find the statues of Joan of Arc, Mary Dyer, Chief Tamanend and Octavius Catto. Oh, and if you’re into old Hollywood films, you’ll be excited to find a statue of Rocky Balboa, the protagonist of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series.
Visit Elfreth’s Alley Museum
Talking of streets, Philadelphia is proud to have the oldest continuously inhabited street in America. Elfreth Alley, built in 1703, was originally a working-class neighborhood, though recent times have made it more tourism-centric. If you want to learn more about the area’s history, visit Elfreth’s Alley Museum, which has old photographs and stories to complement every single one of its houses.
Explore Fairmount Park
If you thought Central Park was huge, wait until you explore Fairmount Park! It’s one of the country’s largest park systems, spanning more than 2000 acres and encapsulating a number of scenic leisure spots. It has two main divisions: East Park and West Park, on either side of the Schuylkill River. To fully appreciate the park, spend at least a day hiking or cycling to places like Concourse Lake and Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.
Dive into history at the Independence National Historical Park
Next, head to the Independence National Historical Park, which houses many monuments from the early days of American independence. The Independence Hall, once Pennsylvania’s State House, is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were passed and George Washington became commander of the Continental Army. The Liberty Bell, situated just opposite, is a popular symbol of liberation, displaying an inscription of the biblical phrase “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” This part of the city was extremely significant to not only the Founding Fathers but also the suffragists and civil rights leaders after them.
Spend an afternoon with art & culture
Philadelphia boasts a number of cultural galleries, each of which you can soak in over the course of an afternoon. The Philadelphia Museum of Art displays over 240,000 objects, chief of which are impressionist works by artists like Pierre-Auguste Renoirs, Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt. Its older exhibits include suits of armor from medieval Germany, arrowheads from imperial China, and paintings by Picasso, Tagore and Rembrandt. Alternatively, you can learn about slavery, the civil rights movement, and their contributions to American culture at the African American Museum.
Eating out in Philadelphia
Franny Lou’s Porch is a homely little cafe dedicated to the memory of two black activists. Every drink and food item is named after a revolutionary thinker. If you want a bacon and egg sandwich, call for an Anti-Capitalist; if you’re looking to cool off on a hot afternoon, try an Angela Davis or Dorothy Stang! Located in Chinatown, Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House specializes in hand-drawn noodles, honoring a culinary tradition that originated in central Asia. You’ll love the oxtail noodle soup with a side of mushroom chicken dumplings. La Canasta Restaurant Grill, as its name suggests, makes excellent tacos de canasta, but don’t be afraid to try any of its other Mexican dishes! There are few places in Philadelphia that combine exotic spices and friendly catering the way this eatery does. Fork, which specializes in New American cuisine, is quite popular among the millennial population, which associates strongly with its sleek modernist aesthetic and ever-changing menu. All of the ingredients used in its dishes come from local farms.
Fly to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), located 7 miles from the city, then take a local train to reach your hotel. If you're starting from Washington DC or New York, you may enjoy covering the distance by road instead. Like most major cities in the US, Philly's also connected to the Greyhound and Amtrak networks.
Within Philadelphia, you can save a lot of money by traveling on buses, trolleys or regional trains. These are all managed by SEPTA, the local public transport agency. Buy a tourist pass on a Philadelphia PHLASH Downtown Loop bus to quickly visit major attractions. Rental cars are also a popular option among visitors who want to cover several cities in a short period of time or want extra comfort and flexibility.