It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get myself back to Philadelphia. After all, a visit to the City of Brotherly Love was long overdue. My first and only time in the city was over a decade ago and it was composed of a quick drive around in my uncle’s car. This time, I took my time and visited some of the city’s most important sights and discovered why Philadelphia isn’t quite like any other urban town in the United States. Here are the top reasons to visit Philadelphia.
Top Reasons to Visit Philadelphia
The Birthplace of the United States of America
Philadelphia will always be the associated with the birth of the United States. It was at Independence Hall where the first meetings between the founders of this country occurred and where the United States’ most important legal documents were signed and adopted. Explore the expansive Independence National Historical Park and read about the history of how the government of the United States was formed and what life was like around that time in Philadelphia. Admire the wonderfully restored Federalist-style buildings of Congress Hall and the Old City Hall or pay a visit to one of the smaller museums within.
Underrated Culinary City
When travelers think about great culinary cities in the United States, most people think of New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. Though Philadelphia has consistently won accolades for their sandwiches, most people still only associate it with casual, comfort food. Which is a shame because the city’s culinary scene has expanded to include new and innovative cuisine with the likes of Zahav, a modern Israeli restaurant, and Laurel, a French American bistro, coming to the dining scene. If you ask any local now what are the top reasons to visit Philadelphia, he or she will tell you “food.”
If you want to splurge a little, bring your own beverage (BYOB) restaurants like Fiorino (Italian), Conchon (French bistro), or Pumpkin (American) offer a cozy ambiance and table service without paying New York or Miami prices. You can also check out City Tavern for a unique drinking and dining experience.
Let’s be honest, however. The table service and experimental restaurants might be great but in order to truly enjoy food in Philadelphia, you’ll have to eat cheap and get sloppy. One thing the city has done well for years is sandwiches. You might be tempted to just eat a cheesesteak, but convince yourself to look beyond it and dig a bit deeper into the city’s cultural and artistic roots. The Giardina at Paesano’s on Ninth Street South or roast pork at DiNic’s inside Reading Terminal Market are always good bets but if you insist on a cheesesteak, get it at D’Alessandro’s. The city also has a growing mixture of cultures so if noodles are more your type, try Pho 75 on Washington Avenue or Nan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles in Chinatown. Just make sure you bring cash.
The city is also known for its outdoor markets, particularly the Italian Market in South Philly and Reading Terminal Market near City Hall. These two markets are great places to find cheap produce and specialty stores like DiBruno’s. They also are favorite gathering places for both locals and tourists staying in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is also an artist haven. Whether you’re a struggling musician, painter, or writer, you’ll find yourself a home here. The city leads the country in urban art projects such as the Mural Art Program where artists choose random walls in the city that can needs a bit of color and uses it as their canvass. Another leading art program is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a non-profit organization that encourages the use of junk into wonderful works of art. Music is also one of the top reasons to visit Philadelphia. The city has produced some of the industry’s most recognized names from the duo of Hall & Oates to Taylor Swift. Finally, Philadelphia also has literature roots. Legend says that Bram Stoker got rid of his writer’s block while in Philadelphia and used the city as inspiration for his most famous novel, Dracula, while Edgar Allan Poe was inspired by the haunting stories within the city enough to base two of his most popular stories there.
It Has Character
Last but not least, what makes “real” Philadelphia a must place to visit is its character. The people living in the city are passionate and edgy. They speak their mind and could care less about what people think. You’ll always know where you stand with a Philadelphian. It is a city where characteristics such as creativity, curiosity, and loyalty are equally rewarded.