old city philadelphia

Take a stroll through Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images)


History Meets Contemporary Cool in Old City Philadelphia

Since Philadelphia is the birthplace of America, and home to such revolutionary moments as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s fitting that most attractions in Old City are focused on our nation’s history. But not everything in Old City is old.

The Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel perfectly captures the vibe of Old City, using elegantly contemporary elements to celebrate the neighborhood’s historic significance. The hotel is within walking distance of the city’s most popular sites, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but look beyond Old City’s historic charm and you’re guaranteed to find something new and unexpected.

Whether you’re looking to dine at one of Philadelphia’s many innovative restaurants or lounge in a waterfront hammock, the hotel’s Navigator — a twist on a traditional hotel concierge — can personalize recommendations to hidden gems that help guests uncover the soul of a neighborhood, like these suggestions below:

Franklin Fountain

old city philadelphia
Cool off at Franklin Fountain. (Photo: Franklin Fountain)

Philadelphia has a long history with ice cream. The sweet dessert wasn’t invented here, but innovations made in this city, like the hand-cranked ice-cream maker and the recipe for Philadelphia-style ice cream (made by churning milk, cream, sugar and flavors), helped popularize this summertime treat.

Franklin Fountain is an old-timey ice-cream parlor and soda fountain serving up classic sundaes and ice cream flavors like Hydrox Cookie, Rocky Road and Teaberry Gum (a local flavor that’s popular in Northern and Central Pennsylvania). The décor is certainly a throwback, but the high quality ice cream these bow-tie wearing soda jerks are slinging is not a novelty.

Shane Confectionery

Only a few doors down from Franklin Fountain on Market Street is another must-see spot for sugar lovers. Shane Confectionery is America’s oldest continuously operating candy store. Established in 1863, Shane’s has not only been selling candy, but making classic confectionery treats in the Philadelphia tradition.

Aside from their house-made chocolates, the shop’s most popular item is their Clear Toy Candy, which still uses Victorian molds. Treats are made seasonally, using local ingredients whenever they can, including honey collected from hives on their roof and salts harvested from the nearby Jersey Shore.

Royal Boucherie

old city philadelphia
Grab tasty bites in a trendy space. (Photo: Royal Boucherie)

Two-dollar martini lunch special, anyone? That’s right! Royal Boucherie, whose menu features incredible French-inspired dishes developed by award-winning chef, Nicholas Elmi, offers a $2 martini with any entrée for lunch.

Sip your martini in a posh booth or pull up a seat at the beautifully ornate bar for lunch. With prices that are very fair and high-quality food that is pure indulgence, Royal Boucherie is the perfect spot to grab a bite while exploring Old City.

The National Museum of American Jewish History

old city philadelphia
Get a history fix in the city. (Photo: National Museum of American Jewish History)

Located on Independence Mall in view of Independence Hall is the National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian affiliate museum dedicated to sharing the history of Jews in America.

Their exhibits and wide range of programming educates, celebrates and helps to preserve the many contributions the Jewish people have made to American history. Of the 30,000 objects housed here, guests should take a look at Steven Spielberg’s very first camera, Irving Berlin’s piano and Albert Einstein’s pipe.

Museum of the American Revolution

Philadelphia is considered to be the birthplace of America, as it was one of the centers of the American Revolutionary War. Independence Hall is one of the most visited places in Philadelphia because of its historical significance, but the Museum of the American Revolution offers up a new way to tell this old story.

The museum houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts that takes guests through the nuanced history of the Revolutionary period. With exhibits that explore the stories of enslaved and free Africans, Native Americans and women, as well as manuscripts that document the uncertainty of the times, you’ll see this chapter of American history like you’ve never seen it before.

Cherry Street Pier

New to Philadelphia’s Delaware River Waterfront is Cherry Street Pier, a century-old pier that has been transformed into a public space.

Open year-round, the pier is a meeting spot for locals who want to grab a bite to eat or a beer at one of the pier’s food trucks, a space for farmers markets and craft fairs, and a place for exhibitions, workshops and more.

The indoor/outdoor construction of the pier protects against the elements, making it an inviting and comfortable environment for all seasons.

Spruce Street Harbor Park

old city philadelphia
Take a load off your feet at Spruce Harbor Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

A few blocks south of the Cherry Street Pier is the vibrant and festive Spruce Street Harbor Park. There’s plenty to do at this waterfront park.

Lounge in one of more than 50 hammocks scattered throughout, float on the oasis and enjoy the view of the floating gardens, or take a stroll along the park’s boardwalk where you can play games, grab a bite to eat or relax with a local beer. The nearby RiverRink offers more fun with pay-as-you-go roller skating, mini-golf, games and even rides.

Franklin Square Park

When William Penn laid out the original plans for the city of Philadelphia, he made room for five public squares in hopes of providing residents with calming, green spaces. Renamed to honor Benjamin Franklin in 1825, Franklin Square Park is one of the city’s original parks.

Its Philly-themed mini-golf course, classic carousel and beautiful water fountain make Franklin Square Park the most family-friendly and fun square in the city. After playing putt-putt and spinning a few rounds on the carousel, grab a bite from SquareBurger, which offers a variety of sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, mac and cheese and their signature Cake Shake milkshakes.

Headhouse Square

old city philadelphia
Find fresh veggies at the Headhouse Square farmers market. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dining alfresco along the cobblestone streets of Headhouse Square is only one of the main draws of this historic yet hip destination. The centerpiece of Headhouse Square is the Shambles, where weekend farmers markets and the monthly Shambles Supper Club dinners take place. The charming square is where South Street meets Society Hill, so there are plenty of eclectic and independently owned shops and diverse restaurants to explore.

Silk City

Will Smith might have lived in West Philadelphia, but for the opening scene in his music video “Welcome to Miami,” Smith, along with his friends, is seen taking refuge from the winter in Northern Liberty’s Silk City.

Silk City is more than just a funky diner with an eclectic vibe — it’s a bar, lounge and beer garden, and on weekend nights, DJs turn up the music, turning this neighborhood favorite into a dance club. The food and drinks are just as exciting as the party, so get ready to dance the night away.

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