From its fascinating museums and vibrant parks to its national historic sites and famous (and delicious) food, Philadelphia offers plenty to see, do and taste. Here are just a few of the many great attractions to visit in the USA’s first World Heritage City:
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In this building in 1776, the Founding Fathers came together to sign the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the centrepiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours are available to visitors year-round. Free, timed tickets are required and can be picked up at the Independence Visitor Centre at 6th and Market Streets. Tours usually fill up before noon, so visitors are encouraged to plan accordingly.
Moved to its current location across from Independence Hall in 2003, the Bell was cast in 1753 in Philadelphia to adorn the State House. Originally used to call the Pennsylvania Assembly to meetings, it was later adopted by abolitionists, suffragists and Civil Rights advocates, and many use it as their symbol today. After almost a century of constant use, the Bell cracked while tolling for George Washington’s birthday in 1846. Visitors can tour the Liberty Bell Centre year-round
Philadelphia Museum of Art and the “Rocky Steps”
The Philadelphia Museum of Art was forever immortalized in the classic Rocky film franchise. While the “Rocky Steps” draw a slew of visitors who want to re-enact Stallone’s on-screen training regimen, the museum is even more impressive inside. The astounding art collection spans more than 2,000 years and includes sculpture, paintings, textiles, arms and armour, photography, prints and drawings.
This National Historic Landmark consists of 10 charming boathouses that sit on the banks of the Schuylkill River. These structures have been associated with rowing since the 19th century, and the boat clubs that occupy them serve as members of the Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia and have produced many Olympic champions. At night, the glittering lights that frame the buildings on Boathouse Row make for idyllic scenery as they reflect off of the river’s surface.
Located at the intersection of Market and Broad Streets, City Hall has been Philadelphia’s government headquarters for more than 100 years. Covering more than 14.5 acres, it’s the largest municipal building in the United States—and one of the most elaborate. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, visitors head to the observation deck, which sits just below the 37’ bronze statue of William Penn that tops the clock tower. The building is open to the public from Monday to Friday, and visitors can take either a four-person tower tour that leaves every 15 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. or a 12:30 p.m. two-hour public tour that highlights the art, architecture, the tower and history of the building. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first- served basis. Reservations can be made on the day of the tour. Broad & Market Streets, (215) 686-2840, phila.gov/virtualch
The Philly cheesesteak is inarguably the city’s most famous food. These savory sandwiches consist of chopped (or thinly sliced) steak and a choice of cheeses and/or fried onions on a hoagie roll. Those in the know know to order their cheesesteak with two words only: cheese selection (provolone, American or Whiz) and “wit” or “without” onions. The debate about which local spot cooks up the best sandwich may never end, but for an iconic Philly experience, locals visit the corner of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, where rivals Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks feed the masses.
South 9th Street Italian Market
Dating back to the 1880s, the South 9th Street Italian Market is the nation’s oldest, continuous outdoor market. The iconic curb stands line South 9th Street, highlighting fresh fruit and vegetables. In the shops, restaurants and taverns, visitors can find fourth and fifth generation merchants. While Italian immigrants originally dominated this shopping district, many of today’s business owners hail from all parts of the world.