Philadelphia City Guide:
Neighborhoods & Things to Do


Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is the sixth biggest city in the United States (in population) and one of the most historic. Due to its colonial roots as a key strategic location during the American Revolution, the “Spirit of 1776” lives on in this culturally rich and diverse city. Philadelphia is the home of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s first capital. (Some claim the first capital was York, Pennsylvania or even New York City, but Philly is where it all started.) Because of Philadelphia’s revolutionary past, it’s a great town to learn about American history. Philly also has its own culture that has developed over the centuries. Whether you love fresh-baked soft Philly pretzels, cheese steaks, Scrapple, hoagies or arguably better thin-crust pizza than New York, Philadelphia wins in terms of local flavor. Philadelphia sits on the banks of the Delaware River, but also has the Schuylkill River running through it. (Schuylkill River is pronounced somewhat like “school-kill.”) With its close location to New Jersey, proximity to Atlantic City and just a short train-ride from New York City, Philadelphia has lots to see and do, not just inside the city but nearby. Take a break and go to the Jersey shore or spend the weekend lapping up Philly’s rich cultural heritage. Do you need to find an apartment for rent in Philadelphia? Our Philadelphia city guide can show the way, with our top picks for the best Philly neighborhoods below.

Philadelphia city highlights

There are lots of things to see and do in Philly. Our Philadelphia city guide recommends you check out these famous locations in Philadelphia at least once. Take a break from looking for your new Philadelphia apartment to enjoy some of the cultural enrichment Philadelphia has to offer.

  • The Liberty Bell: What’s a visit to Philadelphia without seeing the beloved Liberty Bell? The bell has an iconic crack in it that occurred when it was first rung in Philadelphia in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall.
  • Independence Hall: Located on Chestnut Street, Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. It’s also where the United States Constitution was signed.
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Philadelphia Museum of Art is most famous for the scene in the film Rocky, where Sylvester Stallone makes his triumphant run up the impressive front steps. It’s also a great place to see world-class art and special exhibits.
  • Reading Terminal Market: Since 1893, the Reading Terminal Market is the place to go for fresh products, local meats, fresh baked goods and other fabulous foods. It’s one of the biggest and longest lasting public markets in the country, as well as a National Historic Landmark.
  • The Franklin Institute: This science museum is a fun place to bring the kids. One of the most popular and enduring attractions at the Franklin Institute is the Giant Heart, which has been there for more than 50 years. This massive replica of a heart can be walked through, and its famous ever-present heartbeat has been updated to adjust to mimic a real heart’s changing sound as you go through the different heart chambers.

Philadelphia city guide to the best neighborhoods for renters

Philadelphia is a great place to live, and our Philadelphia city guide will get you started by sharing some of the top neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Whether you want to live in a high-rise apartment or a classic Philly rowhome, you can find a lot of excellent apartments for rent in Philadelphia.

Center City

Center City is the heart of Philadelphia. Sandwiched between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, Center City is where to live if you want that downtown experience. Iconic parts of Center City include the famous LOVE sculpture in John F. Kennedy Park, Rittenhouse Square and the massive Wanamaker Organ (now owned by Macy’s as sadly Wanamaker department stores are no more). It’s also a great place to live if you are a foodie with so many world-class restaurants.

West Philadelphia

West Philly is on the other side of the Schuylkill river from Center City, which is easily accessible via public transportation, including streetcar trollies and taxi service. West Philadelphia is a hub for universities and includes the University City neighborhood (see below). With great ethnic food, community gardens and entertainment, West Philly will keep you engaged and enjoying life.

South Philadelphia

This area between the two rivers (Delaware and Schuylkill) and south of South Street is actually home to 31 distinct neighborhoods. It also has its own accent, though the “Mid-Atlantic dialect” is not exclusive to South Philly and variants of it extend into South Jersey and beyond. The accent may be lessening in modern life, but South Philadelphia’s immigrant and working-class roots still live on in the fabulous food and culture here. Best cheese steaks in Philly, so they say.

Rittenhouse Square

Part of Center City, Rittenhouse Square refers to both the popular public park and the neighborhood surrounding it. This highly popular “town square” in the middle of Philly has many great shops, restaurants and other attractions.

University City

In the easternmost part of West Philadelphia, you will find University City, named after its proximity to three great universities: the University of Pennsylvania, University of the Sciences and Drexel University. Obviously, this is a great place to live for students.

Southwest Philadelphia

Southwest Philadelphia used to be a separate hamlet called Kingsessing Township. It’s where the Philadelphia International Airport is, along with other neighborhoods such as Angora, Bartram Village, Elmwood Park and Penrose.

Fishtown

Situated northeast of Center City, Fishtown started out as a working-class neighborhood connected to the shad-fishing industry. Fishtown is now a hip and trendy area with quaint rowhomes, small businesses, music venues and art galleries.

Old City

Known as “America’s most historic square mile,” Old City Philadelphia is filled with beautiful old brick row houses as well as restaurant, pubs, boutiques and art galleries. In fact, Old City is known as a thriving arts district with over 30 art galleries as well as artsy home furnishing showrooms.

Chestnut Hill

Known as Philadelphia’s Garden District, Chestnut Hill is a charming neighborhood with boutiques, antique shops, yoga studios and fabulous outdoor dining. Chestnut Hill was named “one of the top seven urban enclaves in the country” by Forbes.com.

Roxborough

Roxborough is located southwest of Wissahickon Valley Park. Founded in 1682, Roxborough originally housed stately plantations. It has been the site of actual battles, including a massacre on December 19, 1777, after the capture of Philadelphia in September by British General Sir William Howe. This historic, friendly neighborhood has many great local shops and businesses, as well as many comfortable apartments for rent.

Overbrook

Overbrook is located on the west end of Philadelphia next to Saint Joseph University. It encompasses Morris Park, a 147-acre park with an easy to intermediate 2.12-mile hiking trail. The park was originally donated to the city of Philadelphia by Wister Morris, a prominent Quaker, in 1891.

Passyunk Square

Passyunk Square is a South Philadelphia neighborhood known for great shopping and delicious restaurants. This neighborhood is home to the famous Geno’s Steaks, one of the oldest and for some the best purveyor of authentic cheese steaks in Philly.

Queen Village

This quaint residential neighborhood is located on the east side of Philadelphia. Queen Village was originally part of Philly’s first suburb, Southwark and is now the oldest residential neighborhood in the metropolis. You can find many historic homes here, including the Nathaniel Irish House on South Front Street and the George Mifflin House on Pemberton Street.

Society Hill

Another historic neighborhood in Center City, Society Hill is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Philadelphia due to its restored Federal- and Georgian-style brick row houses. (That said, you can still find some reasonable-priced rentals.) In fact, this area contains the most 18th and 19th century buildings in the entire country. If you love old fashioned streetlamps, cobblestone streets and majestic old buildings, this neighborhood might just be for you.

Manayunk

Part of Lower Northwest Philadelphia and next to Roxborough, Manayunk sits on the Schuylkill River. It was the home of the first (but uncompleted) canal in the United States. This previously working-class community has since undergone “gentrification” and is a haven for young professionals. It is also known for its rousing nightlife.


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