Philly’s Phinest: These Are the City of Brotherly Love’s Must-See NeighborhoodsBy Jenny Willden
Philadelphia may be America’s sixth biggest city, but from cheesesteak-slinging South Philly to the hipster haven of Fishtown, its vibrant, diverse neighborhoods give every area a distinct feel and charm.
Use this guide to navigate the City of Brotherly Love’s vast network of neighborhoods and find the iconic sights, food and drink that make them each worth a visit.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Called “America’s Most Historic Square Mile,” Old City’s cobblestone streets are home to many Revolutionary relics: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Christ Church — complete with Colonial reenactors! — just to name a few.
Stretching from 7th Street to the Delaware River, Old City is known as much for its historic sites as for its chic shops, buzzed-about restaurants, outdoor beer gardens and eclectic art galleries.
Head to heralded Fork for innovative New American cuisine with Mid-Atlantic flair, or visit City Tavern for a true Colonial-style feast — complete with period costumes and beers crafted using Thomas Jefferson’s own recipe.
Washington Square West and Midtown Village
Welcoming Washington Square West is a thriving three-in-one enclave, home to the Gayborhood, the historical home of Philly’s LGBTQ community, and Midtown Village, a bustling restaurant and bar hot spot in its own right. Washington Square — one of Philly’s five original squares — ties the neighborhood together as a communal gathering hub.
Find some of the city’s best sushi and robatayaki at subterranean Double Knot, or sip on fishbowl cocktails behind a darkened alley at Graffiti Bar.
Shop ’til you drop in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia’s high-end retail haven named for its one-square-block park. Spanning east to west from Broad Street to the Schuylkill Riverbanks, the neighborhood is the pinnacle of urban living and is home to swanky hotels, boutiques and alfresco dining on the square in summer months.
Owning a restaurant in this neighborhood means you’ve “arrived” as a chef in the city, but it’s not all glitz and glam. Fast casual faves Dizengoff and Goldie serve up tasty hummus plates and falafel. Parc is THE destination best representing this neighborhood’s soul, but don’t neglect revived favorite Friday Saturday Sunday artisan cocktails and eats.
Society Hill & Queen Village
Walk where the nation’s Founding Fathers did in Society Hill, one of Philadelphia’s most desirable neighborhoods — and once the stomping grounds of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
While primarily residential, this community also boasts homey cafes, award-winning restaurants and peaceful green spaces. Headhouse Square hosts the city’s oldest farmer’s market and is surrounded by vibrant bars and newcomer cafés like Bloomsday.
Adjacent Queen Village is Philadelphia’s only neighborhood to predate the city itself, but it isn’t as old fashioned as Her Majesty. Come for the wild art mosaics of Magic Gardens, the quirky shops of South Street and the unique boutiques and eats of Fabric Row.
Recently named James Beard’s Best Restaurant in America, Society Hill’s Zahav dishes up traditional and modern takes on Israeli cuisine — if you can get a reservation. Expect coal-cooked fish and meats with fresh, dazzling dips and sides. For drinks, try the Z&T, a fresh gin and za’atar-spiced combination.
Find a classic Philly cheesesteak at 80-year-old Jim’s Steaks, a South Street institution where you’ll order your sandwich “wit” or “widdout” onions and topped with Cheez Whiz for the most authentic experience.
South Philly (East/West Passyunk Avenue)
Red gravy Italian, Cheez Whiz–topped cheesesteaks and happy hours galore make East Passyunk one of America’s best food streets. Here, tourist favorites Pat’s and Geno’s battle over who makes the best cheesesteak, and the street’s unique diagonal direction bisects the city’s grid system, creating a walkable block for food and fun centered around the beautiful Singing Fountain.
Find the best South Philly views from Bok Bar, a seasonal rooftop terrace on top of the old Bok Vocational High School. For East Passyunk eats, try a roving meal: London-style pies at Stargazy or Asian-inspired cocktails and apps at Bing Bing Dim Sum.
Fishtown & NoLibs
Dilapidated warehouses rise again in this old industrial neighborhood turned hip hangout. Found northeast of Center City, Fishtown has been named America’s best neighborhood, and its epicenter is bustling Frankford Avenue.
Nearby, Pizzeria Beddia is an upgraded revival of America’s Best Pizza, once a tiny shop turned full sit-down eatery. Over in Northern Liberties, pop by the Piazza Pod Park for outdoor cocktails and food truck eats in refashioned shipping containers.
Fast-revitalizing Market East is set to become the city’s newest shopping and dining destination with the opening of the Fashion District. New breweries, restaurants and a shopping market are some of the first spaces to land, but the redevelopment will also house popular retailers like H&M, Sketchers, Forever 21 and more.
Popular northeast brewer Iron Hill recently opened its first Philadelphia location in Market East. Come to sip on the Philly Special, an IPA brewed with flaked oats and wheat with pine and fruit flavors, or the rotating selection of fresh draft brews. While in the area, pop into Reading Terminal Market for a cornucopia of local eats.
The museum mile is ideal for art lovers because of its proximity to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Franklin Institute, Rodin Museum and Barnes Foundation, along with the imposing Eastern State Penitentiary — a prison-turned-historic-landmark. Beyond the hustle and bustle, you’ll find young people and families visiting for its green space and food scene.
Find a brunch crowd at Sabrina’s, jazz lovers at SOUTH and local craft brews in a cozy space at Bar Hygge. Stop for excellent pizza at the original Pizzeria Vetri at the center of the museum district.
Just west of Center City, a college crowd keeps U-City feeling fresh and fun, but this academic area isn’t just for students at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.
You’ll find a vibrant street food scene and businesses catering to the young (and young at heart) who live, work and play here. Explore archaeological history at Penn Museum, catch Shakespeare in the park and travel from 30th Street Station — a gateway to exploring the northeast.
For variety on a budget, dine at Franklin’s Table in the heart of Penn’s campus. This food hall is no sad food court and is home to outposts of favorite Philly restaurants like Double Knot and High Street. Find local Evil Genius beer and arcade games tucked in a parking garage at The Post.
This revitalized Navy Yard-turned-riverfront-business-district today features offices for 150+ companies where more than 13,500 people are employed. Take a free bus from Center City and walk the grounds to see preserved military buildings, dry-docked boats and murals canvassing the complex. Continued redevelopment will one day bring residential living to this bustling space.
Food options cater to Navy Yard employees and locals, with food trucks lining up for the lunch hour and cafés like Shop 543 serving up fresh salads, soups and sushi with views of the USS John F. Kennedy on the Delaware River.
Beyond the City
Escape Philly for a country adventure rife with Revolutionary War history in Valley Forge. See General George Washington’s preserved war encampment, dine on farm-fresh cuisine and explore the Main Streets of neighboring towns.
Find the social suburbs of Philadelphia on the Main Line, so named for its location along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s once impressive Main Line route. Be wowed by the grand colonial mansions of Devon and Villanova, and find the fun along Devon’s Lancaster Avenue and near Villanova’s sprawling campus.
Discover more of Philadelphia this summer and get up to 20% off our best available rates.