Philadelphia is practically in my backyard – it takes me just over an hour to drive to the city center from my home in New Jersey. It is home to a number of top-notch museums and attractions. An infrequent visitor to the American Northeast will likely go for New York City first and foremost, but for people who live in the Northeast Corridor, the smaller and less hectic Philadelphia is a viable alternative for arts and culture.
Over the years, I have made numerous day trips to the city, while almost never staying overnight. This article may not be a true Travelog visit summary, but rather an attempt to enumerate the worthy sights that Philadelphia has on offer.
No student of American history can miss the Independence Hall ♥♥, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and signed. The historical impact of those events is much greater than the visual impact of touring the place, but the guide commentary is always informative and the time investment is always worthwhile.
Nearby is the Liberty Bell Center ♥, holding the iconic symbol of American independence. The entrance is free and the line to get in usually moves at a good clip.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is ostensibly the headline art gallery of the city, housed in an imposing neo-Classical building. I have no doubt that its permanent collection is well worth seeing, although I have only spent time here on special exhibitions.
Barnes Foundation ♥♥♥ is among my favorite art museums in the entire world, on the strength of owning nearly 200 Renoirs to which I am especially partial. There are a number of other painters well represented in the magnificent collection.
A fantastic popular science museum, Franklin Institute ♥♥ will appeal to children and adults alike, but it is most certainly a place to take inquisitive young minds to.
A different and quirky delight for all ages is Magic Gardens ♥, a house and garden impressively decorated by mosaic art.
Other top museums to consider in town are the Rodin Museum and the National Museum of American Jewish History. The City Hall may be worth seeing, together with getting to the top of its tower.
If you are simply looking to enjoy the city atmosphere, there are plenty of impressive architectural edifices and pleasant streets and squares in the city center. I am particularly fond of Rittenhouse Square ♥♥ and the surrounding area.
The wall murals, found on random buildings, are a surprise and a delight every time you come upon one.
For foodies, Reading Terminal Market ♥ is a must to browse. It is a bit cramped and can get really crowded, but the variety of offerings is worth the visit.
For the photographically inclined, greeting the sunrise from the middle of the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway ♥ offers a superb panoramic view of the city. Another popular photogenic viewpoint is across the Schuylkill River from Boathouse Row. And the Rocky Statue near the steps to the Museum of Art is always a hit with visitors.
A couple of places worthy of recommendation: Parc Brasserie (on Rittenhouse Square), giving you a real taste of France in the heart of America; and Amada (on Chestnut Street a few blocks from Independence Mall), a great modern take on tapas.