By Lauren Jarvis | October 2017 | 7 minute read
Just two hours from Washington D.C. and 90 minutes from New York, Philadelphia’s iconic historical landmarks, world-class museums and street art, plus a diverse range of attractions just outside of the city, make it an appealing choice for people visiting the U.S. east coast.
“Philadelphia is a great walking city, with diverse neighbourhoods and a compact centre which are all easily navigated with the help of plenty of signposts and friendly locals”
GRAEME EVANS, GLOBAL PRODUCT MANAGER, TRAVELPACK
Hit the Bell: Head to Independence National Historical Park for a free viewing of one of America’s greatest symbols of freedom, the Liberty Bell
Reach for the top: Get a 360-degree view of Philadelphia from the One Liberty Observation Deck which soars 57 stories above the city
Paint the town: Discover some of the world’s best street art on a walking tour led by the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Programme
Enjoy a stately shop: An easy drive from the city, The King of Prussia Mall features over 400 stores where you can take advantage of Philadelphia’s tax-free shopping bonus on clothes and shoes
Camp out with Washington: Visit the site of George Washington’s stronghold at Valley Forge National Historical Park, a key landmark of the American Revolution
Get on board for brekkie: Crammed with foodie delights and artisan goods, head to the historic Reading Terminal Market for breakfast or lunch
Step back in time: Sign up for a Constitutional Walking Tour and explore some of the buildings, parks and streets of Philadelphia where American history was made
Stage a revolt: Take a march through history at the new Museum of the American Revolution. Witness the struggle for independence and stand centre stage in a battle
Escape to the country: Longwood Gardens offers a tranquil retreat outside the city and glasshouses bursting with spectacular displays
Get a taste of history: Tuck into 18th-century cuisine with a modern twist at TV chef Walter Staib’s City Tavern, a Philly landmark since the 1770s when it hosted the country’s founding fathers
‘Philly’ was the first UNESCO World Heritage city in the U.S. and much of the sightseeing centres around the Independence National Historical Park.
A walking tour is a great way to learn about Philadelphia’s important role in the founding of the nation, taking in the halls where the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written, the site of the first President’s house, and the iconic Liberty Bell. The new Museum of the American Revolution brings the city’s story to life, too.
There’s a lot of life squeezed in to the city’s 30 blocks, sandwiched like its own infamous ‘Philly Cheesesteak’ between the Schuylkill River to the east and the Delaware River to the west, beyond which lies New Jersey, accessed by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
The leafy Parkway Museum District includes the excellent Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky pounded the steps, and The Barnes Foundation, home to one of the world’s finest collections of French modern and post-impressionist paintings.
Buzzy Rittenhouse Square’s brownstone-lined streets have fantastic al fresco restaurants and bars, while the vibrant ‘Gayborhood’ has been a hub for the LGBT community since the 80s.
Beyond the city limits
“For anyone with more time on their hands, Philadelphia’s countryside is well worth a visit,” says Evans. “The lush, green landscape is decorated with small homely towns and plush estates, including the spectacular Longwood Gardens, which spans over 1,000 acres and offers incredible illuminated fountain displays set to music.”
Art trails lead visitors through independent studios in the creative, country community of Ambler, while the Brandywine River Museum of Art at Chadds Ford houses a collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century works in a tranquil, waterside space. And for those who prefer to master the art of shopping, there’s the vast King of Prussia Mall just outside the city.
The streets of Philadelphia
A deconstructed, full-sized Cold War plane plunges into a plaza, and just metres away a 50-foot sculpture of a paintbrush stands guard.
A giant, Pop Art ‘AMOR’ sign greets visitors to a park, while a bronze statue of Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, surveys his domain from the top of City Hall. And on the edge of the old city, as sirens scream and steamy trolleys roll by, monumental murals reveal stories of triumph over adversity, and herald stars from a golden age, soaring skyward; illuminating this gritty, urban jungle with beauty, colour and light.
Philadelphia is home to some of the world’s finest galleries and museums but you’ll see incredible art by simply stepping onto the sidewalk and looking up. There are over 4,000 pieces on display in the street-art capital of the USA. Many are funded by Mural Arts Philadelphia, which pairs established graffiti and mural artists with local communities, working collectively to develop inspiring art reflecting local icons and interests.
Investing in 50-100 projects a year, the public- and privately-funded Mural Arts offers young people training in painting as well as life skills like money management.
On a Mural Arts walking tour, I see striking tributes to local heroes and legendary singers; colossal celebrations of music, poetry and the human soul which make my own spirits soar.
Philadelphia may be known for its history, but from I am standing, its future looks just as bright.
What the experts say
“The U.K. is the largest overseas market for Philadelphia, and we expect to see continued growth in visitation as we welcome new flights from the U.K. and Ireland beginning next year.
“Philadelphia is well-known for its historic role in the founding of the country, and this April the Museum of the American Revolution opened to tell the story of the Revolutionary War.
“The city plays host to various annual events, including the largest outdoor free concert in the nation, Welcome America, which takes place along Philadelphia’s famed Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This fall, the Parkway will host a series of special celebrations for its 100th anniversary.
“With its convenient east-coast location, Philadelphia is a gateway city that can be easily combined with trips to other major U.S. destinations. We encourage UK visitors to come and discover Philadelphia."
JULIE COKER GRAHAM, PRESIDENT & CEO, PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
Accommodation: The 179-room Aloft Hotel by Starwood opened its doors in August in the historic, renovated Liberty Title and Trust Building. Starwood’s dual-branded 295-room W and 460-room Element Hotels property will open in 2018 in a 51-storey tower.
Marriott’s Fairfield Inn and Suites in Downtown will open in December 2017 with 121 rooms.
Early 2018 will see the opening of the 223-room Choice Hotels’ Cambria Hotel & Suites Philadelphia Downtown.
Opening in 2018, the new Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia will occupy the top floors of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, the tallest tower in Philadelphia.
New ‘invisible service’ concept hotel, Lokal offers six apartment-style suites and no front desk in a renovated historical building.
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia has launched its Shop Like A Local Volume 4 guide, in conjunction with Kimpton Perks retail discounts.
Flights: British Airways will be increasing its weekly flight schedule from Heathrow to Philadelphia from seven to 10 flights per week in spring 2018.
Philadelphia International Airport is currently undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation.
Attractions: Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia will open in downtown in Spring 2018 with 800,000-sqare-feet of retail, dining and entertainment space.
John F. Kennedy Plaza also known as ‘Love Park’ after its emblematic sign, reopened this summer after extensive renovations.
A new LEGOLAND Discovery Centre opened at the Plymouth Meeting Hall this summer.
Where to book it
Premier Holidays’ Philadelphia Highlights package costs from £749pp, including three nights at the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown and return flights and transfers.
America As You Like It offers three nights at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel and four nights at the Embassy Suites Philadelphia Valley Forge from £968pp, including return flights and car hire.