If a city has “love” in its name, then it’s inevitable that it will be an awesome place. Philadelphia isn’t technically spelled “Love-adelphia” or “Philade-love-ia,” but this town’s name is derived from Greek words meaning “the city of brotherly love.” Anyway, if you’re planning a trip to the largest city in Pennsylvania, look no further for a comprehensive rundown on the best things to do in Philadelphia. We’re sharing lots of great info on the best restaurants in Philadelphia, Philadelphia museums, and even things to do in Philadelphia this weekend. Hey, sharing is caring, after all! And at Stay Alfred we care about making your visit as wonderful as possible, which is why we set up shop at Stay Alfred at City Center, Stay Alfred at Rittenhouse Square, Stay Alfred at The Broderick, and Stay Alfred at The Granary.
While the US of A might not be home to ancient ruins or centuries-old landmarks like are found in Europe, but if you’re looking for some good ol’ American history, Philly is the place to be. This city was settled by Europeans way back in the early 1600s, making it one of the first American towns. The early Philadelphia leaders were dedicated to making it a place where tolerance reigned supreme, and their friendly attitudes made it a place where businesses prospered and people wanted to live, quickly making it the most vibrant place in the colonies. And those early residents might be surprised - and pleased - to know that their cozy Elfreth’s Alley is now the oldest continually inhabited street in all 50 states.
Without sounding too much like a history textbook, much of Philadelphia’s charming character comes from its storied past. The brick buildings, 19th-century row houses, and tree-lined streets remain quite unchanged since Benjamin Franklin’s era, though today there are a few more electric car charging stations, sushi restaurants, sports arenas, and cafes serving avocado toast too. Philly has managed to keep hold of its position as a major business center, cultural hub, and tourist destination throughout the decades, and it’s a fantastic place to visit for foodies, sports fans, beer nuts, outdoorsy types, and kids alike.
And if you’re visiting with family, friends, coworkers, or long-lost high school classmates (why not?), Stay Alfred’s stylish travel apartments make the perfect home base for adventures in the Birthplace of America. Philly is also nicknamed “The City of Neighborhoods,” so we’ve got places in three of the best ‘hoods that let you live like a local. In Midtown Village, find Stay Alfred on E Chestnut Street in a stately Renaissance Revival building. Our high-end digs in Rittenhouse Row, Stay Alfred on W Chestnut Street, feature a rooftop patio. And there’s Stay Alfred at The Granary, an art lover’s paradise, surrounded by renowned institutions like the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation. Wherever you choose to stay, our friendly guest service team will ensure you have a seamless experience.
See history come to life at Philadelphia’s iconic landmarks
Even if history wasn’t your favorite subject in school, you just might find yourself intrigued by the stories and characters of Philadelphia’s past. Whether you go all-out and hit up every museum in town, or if you prefer to wander through town itinerary-free, you’re sure to leave with a better understanding of the early United States and some Insta-worthy shots.
The most famous of Philadelphia’s many landmarks is unquestionably Independence National Historical Park, home of the well-known symbol of freedom: the Liberty Bell. While no one knows for sure how this remarkable ringer received its distinctive crack, we’re certain that it’s one of the best free things to do in Philadelphia, since it’s not every day that you can witness the world’s most famous bell! This massive park spans several city blocks and contains a variety of monuments and sites, like Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Also found in the park are the Museum of the American Revolution, the buildings that housed both the first and second banks in the country, and the National Constitution Center, a museum dedicated to all things related to the famous American document. The Constitution itself is located in Washington, D.C., but this museum is so jam-packed with great information and fascinating exhibits, that you won’t even miss it.
For some classic architecture, don’t miss paying a visit to Philadelphia City Hall, one of the city’s most recognizable buildings due to its clock tower and massive statue of William Penn. It’s completely free to go inside and wander the halls lined with artwork and city memorabilia. And while this building’s famous resident is more well known that the house itself, the Betsy Ross House is a must-see for history buffs. Not only do you learn all about the country’s notable seamstress who created the first American flag, but the house is like a time capsule from the 18th century, filled with centuries-old household artifacts.
Speaking of things that are old, why not take a stroll down the country’s oldest residential street? Philadelphia residents have called Elfreth's Alley home since the early 1700s, and its cobblestone streets and quaint facades will transport you right back to the colonial days. If an Elfreth’s Alley inhabitant found themselves in trouble with the law, or any Philly resident, for that matter, they would likely be shipped off to the Eastern State Penitentiary, which is one of the country’s most famous prisons. Notorious criminals like Al Capone spent time here, and a highlight of this prison museum is the cell that Scarface himself lived in during his stint. After learning about the daily life of a 18th or 19th-century prisoner, let’s just say you’ll never complain about airplane food again.
Peruse the masterpieces of Philadelphia’s impressive arts scene
In a city with as much history as Philly, it only makes sense that you’d find world-renowned art and top-notch performing arts talent here too. Is it because they’ve had centuries to build their collections or practice their craft? Why don’t you decide for yourself after visiting these spectacular museums and venues. If there’s one place an art enthusiast absolutely must visit, it’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art This Grand Dame of the Philly museum scene is one of the largest art museums in the world, holding an astounding quarter-million pieces from around the globe, some over 2,000 years old. Even movie buffs will enjoy this one, because the steps leading up to the museum were made famous by Rocky. In fact, the flight of 72 stairs is now known as the “Rocky Steps.”
If you’re visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you might as well hang around the neighborhood and pop into two other notable collections, the Barnes Foundation and the Rodin Museum. Both are just a couple blocks from Stay Alfred at The Granary, so you can take a break at your stylish travel apartment in between galleries. If you’re a fan of Rodin, you’ll be thrilled to know Philly is home to the largest collection of Rodin paintings outside of France, housed at the aptly named Rodin Museum. And the Philly art museum circuit isn’t complete without a visit to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. PAFA is the oldest art museum in the country, established in 1805, and it’s been educating budding artists for just as long.
But who says art has to be confined to museum walls? Philadelphia boasts the largest collection of public art of any city in the US, including an incredible collection of murals. Bring a camera for a street art tour of Philly, and be sure to stop by the iconic LOVE statue at Love Park in the heart of Center City. Murals are found on nearly every street, so a directionless meandering through town will surely lead you to some stunning works, but if you prefer to have an agenda, we recommend taking a self-guided street art walking tour.
Laugh, cry, or be dazzled by a live show at one of Philadelphia’s performing arts venues
If you’ve caught on to the pattern of Philadelphia being home to the oldest buildings, attractions, and landmarks in the country, the performing arts scene is no exception. Philly is home to not only the oldest theatre in the country, but also the oldest continually running theatre in the English-speaking world. The ornate Walnut Street Theatre, near Stay Alfred at City Center, opened in 1809 and hasn’t stopped putting on incredible plays, musicals, and concerts since. And who would have guessed that the oldest opera house in the US is just down the street?! Philly’s own Academy of Music opened in the 1850s and is still home to the Opera Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet.
And Philadelphia’s “Avenue of the Arts” in Center City isn’t only home to historic venues; the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts opened in the early 90s (1990s, that is) and now hosts the Philadelphia Orchestra and a packed schedule of concerts of all genres. The award-winning Wilma Theater is also a relatively recent addition to the Philly arts scene, where thespians can watch dramas, ballets, and musicals put on by talented local actors and dancers.
Looking for something to *Phil* up your hungry belly? Look no further than Philly’s best cheap eats
Visiting Philadelphia without sinking your teeth into a Philly cheesesteak is like visiting New York City without eating a bagel or Chicago without trying deep dish - you just can’t do it! To ensure you really have no excuse not to try this gooey, messy, meaty sandwich, there are several top-notch cheesesteak slingers around town. We won’t take sides, but some locals certainly will, and they’ll tell you that either Pat's King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks serves the best in the City of Brotherly Love. Both of these classics are located just south of Center City in Passyunk Square, a quick 10-minute drive that is 100% worth it. And an honorable mention goes to Jim's Steaks, a nice 20-minute walk from Stay Alfred at City Center.
And if a steak sandwich doesn’t sound appetizing (or maybe if you’ve already eaten several), head to the cult favorite WaWa for a different type of handheld meal. Yes, WaWa is a convenience store, but their sandwiches definitely don’t taste like your average gas station grub. Swing by one of the dozens of WaWas in the Philly metro for a turkey hoagie and you’ll blend right in with the locals.
Speaking of cheap eats, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big slice of pizza, and at Alice Pizza, you can find just that. This pizza is seriously authentic - the pizzeria is actually a chain from Rome, so they know their stuff. And it’s just a 10-minute walk from Stay Alfred at City Center. For more of the best pizza in Philadelphia, check out Lorenzo and Sons (known for massive slices) or Pizzeria Vetri (steps from Stay Alfred at The Granary). Or take pizza to sophisticated new heights at Pizzeria Stella, where you can dig into a truffle-topped Tartufo pizza.
Or maybe you’re hungry but can’t decide what to eat? Hey, it happens to the best of us, and analysis paralysis is not fun when you’re getting a little hangry! We have a solution for you: make a beeline to the Italian Market and eat your way through the vendors selling fresh bread, thin-sliced meats, tasty cheeses, homemade pasta, rich coffee, creamy gelato, and more.
Craving something besides a cheesesteak? Pull up a chair at the top restaurants in Philadelphia
There’s no shame in eating pizza for the entirety of your time in the City of Brotherly Love, but sometimes a date night or an important business meeting compels you to change out of those gym clothes, take a shower, and make a reservation at one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. And lucky for you, there are some top-notch eateries that would impress even the most discerning gourmand.
Many of the city’s most creative culinary darlings are within walking distance of our Philadelphia Stay Alfred travel apartments, so you can finish doing your hair and makeup right up until the very last minute. Popping up on Philly food radar lately is Vernick Food & Drink, just a 5-minute walk from Stay Alfred at Rittenhouse Square and known for their cozy brownstone setting and high-quality ingredients. Order a few small plates to share so you can try everything! And for some veggie-forward haute cuisine, try Charlie was a sinner (also famous for their cocktails) or Vedge, both steps from Stay Alfred at City Center.
Looking for prime steaks and white tablecloths? Head to the trendy Butcher and Singer, a modern take on the classic steakhouse, where the service is just as excellent as the cuts of meat. And the stuffed hash browns. And the baked Alaska. We could go on and on. The steaks are also impeccable at Barclay Prime, where you can take your pick of filets, strips, ribeyes, and more from the best farms in the world, including extraordinary Wagyu beef from Japan.
And Mario & Luigi might be an iconic duo, but they’ve got nothin’ on the Southern Italian cuisine served at Dante & Luigi's. Here you’ll find osso bucco, lasagna, and gnocchi the way Nonna would make it. Paired with a nice glass of chianti, there’s nothing better. Buon appetito!
Stock up on souvenirs with the best shopping in Philadelphia
If there’s one thing Philadelphians like as much as history, it’s shopping. Maybe it’s because the city has been an important trading center for centuries - but whatever the reason, there are plenty of fabulous spots to get your retail therapy fix.
As they say, go big or go home, and Philadelphia’s King of Prussia Mall goes big. It’s the second-largest mall in North America and the largest in the US, boasting over 400 stores spanning nearly 3 million square feet (so make sure to wear your Fitbit!). Anchor stores include Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Bloomingdales, and inside, you can find pretty much every brand you can think of. And retail isn’t the only highlight here; King of Prussia Mall is also home to yummy eateries like Shake Shack and True Food Kitchen so you can fuel up in between shopping sprints.
But you don’t even need to leave Center City to score some spectacular finds. Between The Shops at Liberty Place and Market Place East, Downtown has plenty of shopping options. And for some unique made-in-Philly souvenirs, head to the independent boutiques in the Old City, like Scarlett Alley and Philadelphia Independents. These quaint shops, as well as the sprawling Reading Terminal Market, are where you’ll find local artwork, jewelry, homemade baked goods, and kitschy souvenirs that are way more meaningful than the “I went to Philadelphia and all I got you was this boring T-shirt” stuff you’ll find in the airport.
Searching for things to do in Philadelphia while your travel companions shop? Watch a sports game!
In the historic City of Brotherly Love, it’s only fitting that a Philly sports team was part of the first televised game. Yes, that’s right, folks, the Philadelphia Eagles were the stars of the first sports game shown on NBC, which aired back in 1939. Sadly, they lost, but they went on to win many more games throughout the years. Today spectators can watch the Eagles - who just won the 2018 Super Bowl - live at Lincoln Financial Field, which holds over 67,000 people.
If football isn’t your thing, Philadelphia is also home to the Phillies baseball team, the 76ers basketball team, and the Flyers hockey team. Watch the Phillies score some runs at Citizens Bank Park, and the 76ers and Flyers both play at the Wells Fargo Center - though not at the same time! The indoor arena at the Wells Fargo Center also hosts the local lacrosse team, the Philadelphia Wings, and an arena football team, the Philadelphia Soul.
Do you prefer watching the game with a cold beer in hand and on a comfortable barstool? Head to one of Philly’s raucous sports bars for some game day fun. O'Neals Pub serves up Irish pub classics, and it’s still a hopping place to be even when no games are showing since they have dart boards and trivia nights. Another Downtown favorite is Founding Fathers Sports Bar & Grill, known not only for their spirited fans but also their impressive lineup of craft beers on tap.
Things to do in Philadelphia with kids
A trip to Philly with kids doesn’t need to feel like one long history class. In fact, though the storied landmarks are definite must-sees for visitors of any age, there are plenty of modern, exciting things to do in Philadelphia with kids.
Any animal lover or budding zoologist would be thrilled to visit the Philadelphia Zoo, a 42-acre swath of outdoor exhibits featuring over 1200 animals from around the world. And, you guessed it, it was the first zoo in the United States. The Adventure Aquarium is also worth a visit with the kiddos, especially kiddos who like the idea of walking through a shark tunnel. And while it’s actually across state lines (in the New Jersey border city of Camden), it’s only a 12-minute drive from Center City.
Searching for some more hands-on fun and learning? Check out Philly’s Franklin Institute, the city’s premier science museum which also boasts a planetarium, friendly staff members, and an ever-changing collection of interactive exhibits. It’s right next to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, another top-notch science museum - both within walking distance of Stay Alfred at The Granary. Speaking of interactive installations, there’s no better place than the Please Touch Museum to engage in some kinesthetic learning. This family-friendly institution is designed especially for little ones, with exhibits like a miniature supermarket and a carousel. And for some architecture education, a history lesson, and truly jaw-dropping views, head up to the 57th-floor One Liberty Observation Deck for panoramic Philly views.
After a packed day of sightseeing, there’s no better way to treat the young’uns than with something sweet from one of Philadelphia’s favorite bakeries. For Italian goodies like cannolis or donut sandwiches stuffed with cannoli cream (yes, it exists), head straight to Frangelli's Bakery in South Philly. Or maybe the sugar craving strikes just as you’re leaving Independence National Historical Park, then make a beeline for Beiler's Bakery, specializing of donuts of all flavors, including maple bacon. And no kid is going to turn town ice cream, especially when it’s curled into icy rolls of deliciousness at Ice Land, the preparation of which is almost as fun to watch as it is to devour.
One of our favorite free things to do in Philadelphia is a walk in the park
Literally! The best way to experience the natural splendor of Philly’s surrounds is to talk a walk through one of the lush city parks. The most famous green space is likely Love Park, home to Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE Statue, but there are also many more sights to see in Philly’s great outdoors.
Amid the hustle and bustle of Downtown Philadelphia, it’s sometimes nice to escape to a lush garden of tranquility like Rittenhouse Square, a tree-lined haven with a plethora of park benches and picnic spots. This park is over two centuries old, but it still tops the list of locals’ favorite places in town. How about some river views? Head to Spruce Street Harbor Park, on the banks of the Delaware River, where you can stroll along the boardwalk or take a nap in a hammock during Philly’s sunny summers. Just north of Downtown lies another riverfront green, Penn Treaty Park, which hosts concerts on its outdoor stage and offers stunning views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Searching for some larger green space? Spend a few hours in the city’s largest, Fairmount Park, which spans both the east and west sides of the Schuylkill River. This natural paradise is home to miles and miles of trails, the picturesque Centennial Arboretum, and several historic sites and monuments. Also found on the park grounds is the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, an authentic collection of Japanese buildings and gardens, including a tea house and a waterfall.
And one more notable mention is Philadelphia's Magic Gardens; while it’s not free, the eclectic works of outdoor art found here are absolutely worth the admission price. This community-run attraction contains sculptures and a funky labyrinth that will enthrall both the young and the young at heart. Not to mention some fantastic photo spots. And unlike a regular museum that’s filled with “don’t touch!” signs, many of the installations at the Magic Gardens are interactive and engaging.
Finding where to stay in Philadelphia is easy with Stay Alfred’s centrally located travel apartments
Whether you’re heading to the City of Brotherly Love for an important meeting, the kids’ spring break, or a bachelorette party, you’re probably wondering where to stay in Philadelphia. And with so many Philadelphia hotels and vacation rentals, you have a lot to choose from. But what if you don’t want to splurge on a cramped Philadelphia hotel room or settle for sharing a space with strangers in a questionable vacation rental? Here at Stay Alfred, we’re all about giving you your own place in the city - with plenty of privacy, high-end amenities, and more square footage than your average guestroom. And since we couldn’t just pick one favorite building in downtown Philadelphia, we’ve got three to choose from.
Featuring a sophisticated Renaissance Revival facade, Stay Alfred at City Center puts you in the perfect position to enjoy the best of Midtown Village. This neighborhood is just about as centrally located as you can get - smack-dab in the middle of Center City - and boasts some of the town’s best nightlife spots. Each sunny travel apartment features lots of natural light, a full kitchen with upscale appliances, and nature-inspired artwork. And the building amenities are pretty sweet too, featuring lots of lounge areas and a fitness center open 24/7.
Also on Chestnut Street, in the upmarket Rittenhouse Row area, Stay Alfred at Rittenhouse Square is the ultimate urban oasis. If rooftop views and floor-to-ceiling windows are your style, then you’ll feel right at home in this modern building. Every apartment here has all the bells and whistles, like full kitchens with granite countertops and convenient in-unit laundry, and the decor looks like it jumped right off the pages of a classy interior design magazine. Not to mention the spectacular rooftop terrace, complete with outdoor fireplaces and a barbecue grill. Sunset burgers and beers, anyone?
And if visiting renowned museums is on the top of your Philly bucket list, Stay Alfred at The Granary is right up your alley. Within walking distance of the city’s top art, science, and history institutions, this luxurious building could be considered a work of art itself. The units feature sparkling wood floors, modern furnishings, and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, so the whole place glimmers with sunlight. Searching for more sun? Head up to The Granary’s rooftop terrace or cozy up in the window-lined music room. You can even tickle the ivories on the building’s own piano.
But wait there's even more ways to stay and explore Philadelphia. Stay Alfred at The Broderick has large rooms complimented by huge windows offering pristine views of the city. This gorgeous property is located in Old City, steps away from Philly's historic sights like Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, and a number of great markets, eateries, and shopping.
Whenever you choose to visit Philadelphia, and for whatever reason brings you here, rest assured that you will be living in style at one of our Philadelphia vacation rentals and we take pride in our professional management, so you can look forward to checking into an apartment that looks the same (if not better!) than it does online. After all, we’re here to make your place in the city a highlight of your visit to Philadelphia.