In early July, cities and towns throughout the nation celebrate the nation’s birth with parades, picnics, and fireworks. Celebrate America all year round in Philadelphia, the city where it all began and home to some of the country’s most historic destinations. Take a trip down history’s cobblestoned lane with our Philadelphia travel guide filled with can’t-miss activities, attractions, eateries, and stays.
Things to Do in Old City, Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly Love is home to 68 national historical landmarks in what’s called the nation’s “most historic square mile.” While there are many storied destinations in Philadelphia, these are the must-see attractions and must-do activities when spending a weekend in America’s birthplace.
Independence Visitor Center: Start your journey through history at the Independence Visitor Center for an introduction to all that Independence Hall National Park has to offer with trip planning advice from the center’s friendly staff. Enjoy free amenities, interactive activities, and ticket sales for more than 100 attractions and tours in Philadelphia’s Historic District and throughout the region. Plan your stay with their brand-new, 42-foot digital Philly Welcome Wall.
Liberty Bell: Cross the street to wend your way through the President’s House Site that illustrates the paradox of liberty and enslavement found in a single home, then make your way to the iconic Liberty Bell. A symbol of freedom for centuries, the bell used to hang in the steeple of Independence Hall, but now rests near ground level. The Liberty Bell Center is open daily and admission is free to all.
Independence Hall: In the background of the Liberty Bell, you can’t miss the sight of Independence Hall where in 1776 our nation was born. Voted as a “top place to visit in 2021” by Frommer’s, you can tour the hall to see where the U.S. Constitution was debated and adopted, and the Declaration of Independence was signed. You must reserve free, timed tickets for the tour.
Once Upon A Nation: Stroll the scenic grounds of Independence Hall National Park and imagine what life was like in the 18th century. Listen to history experts from Once Upon A Nation, an award-winning storytelling program, as they relate behind-the-scenes stories and untold secrets from our nation’s past from six Storytelling Benches located at various sites throughout the area.
Faith and Liberty Discovery Center: Be sure to explore one of Philadelphia’s relatively new historical attractions — the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. Opened in 2021, this interactive museum takes you along a self-guided exploration of the story of “liberty and justice for all” in America through eye-catching, mixed-media exhibits.
Elfreth’s Alley: Widely recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited street in the U.S., be transported back in time as you walk along the cobblestones of Elfreth’s Alley. In addition to its historical significance, the street serves as an Instagram-worthy backdrop. Dive deeper into the past and present of the alley on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by taking a guided tour led by staff from the Elfreth’s Alley Museum. Tickets can be purchased at the museum or on their website.
National Constitution Center: Role play at the National Constitution Center, the first and only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution, alongside 42 life-sized, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers in Signers’ Hall. Watch as the Constitution is brought to life through interactive exhibits, rare artifacts, and live theater as you learn the story of “We the People.” You must reserve a timed ticket online.
Betsy Ross House: Tour the Betsy Ross House to learn more about America’s most iconic seamstress and upholsterer. Dive into the details of how our nation’s flag was created and hear from the perspective of Betsy Ross herself as you stroll through this interactive museum. Purchase your general admission ticket on the house’s website.
Museum of the American Revolution: Learn about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government at the Museum of the American Revolution. Schedule and purchase your visit on their website.
Carpenters’ Hall: Recently celebrating its “grand reopening” on July 3rd, Carpenters’ Hall invites you to experience the site of the First Continental Congress in 1774, Franklin's Library Company, The American Philosophical Society, and the First and Second Banks of the United States. Admission has been complimentary since 1857, when it became the first privately owned American building to be opened as a historic monument. The Library Company was the first lending library in the country and the nation’s first Library of Congress.
Best Places to Eat Near Old City
Absorbing so much rich history will have you working up an appetite. When hungry, stop at one of these celebrated spots throughout the city.
The Bourse: Grab a bite at The Bourse for lunch or dinner just steps away from Independence Hall National Park. Located in a 123-year-old building that was home to the first commodities exchange market in the country, choose from a variety of vendors offering a range of cuisines from tacos to the iconic Philly cheesesteak at this well-known, artisanal food hall.
Reading Terminal Market: A National Historic Landmark and once again in the running for one of USA Today’s Readers Chose 10 Best awards, you could spend all day and then some eating your way through the Reading Terminal Market. Located near City Hall, it’s home to some Philadelphia foodie staples such as the roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s, doughnuts from Beiler’s Bakery, and soft pretzels from Miller’s Twist. Bassetts Ice Cream, the oldest ice cream company in America founded in 1861, was the first tenant of Reading Terminal in 1892.
Fork: After walking in the footsteps of America’s Founding Fathers, feast on an award-winning meal in the Old City neighborhood at Fork. Voted as one of the “100 Restaurants America Can’t Afford To Lose” by Esquire Magazine, James Beard award-winning chef Ellen Yin serves up seasonal, contemporary American cuisine paired with an exceptional wine list.
Pat’s King of Cheesesteaks: Not only is Philadelphia the birthplace of our nation, but it’s also home to an American food classic — the cheesesteak. Open 24/7, stop by where the first ever cheesesteak was created in South Philadelphia at Pat’s King of Cheesesteaks and munch on this Philly favorite.
Places to Stay Near Old City
There’s no shortage of great places to stay in and around the historic district, including these spectacular picks near Independence Hall.
The Guild House Hotel: The origin of the Guild House Hotel lies in the 1880s and the New Century Guild, the first-ever organization of its kind supporting working women by offering trade classes and providing a beautiful gathering space for rest, meals, entertainment, and activism. Voted one of the “Best New Hotels in the World in 2022” by Travel + Leisure, the hotel boasts 12 luxurious rooms and suites all named after prominent women of the past.
Independence Park Hotel: Originally built as a doll manufacturing plant in 1856, the Independence Park Hotel is now a National Historic Landmark offering guests old-time charm with the bonus perk of a complimentary breakfast. Conveniently located just steps away from Independence Hall, enjoy the hotel’s rich architecture, high ceilings, grand palladium windows, a fireside lobby, and an inviting interior courtyard. You can even still see the original granite storefront on the building’s façade!
Kimpton Hotel Monaco: Located in the heart of Old City, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is proud to be located within the country’s most historic mile. Take advantage of the array of amenities including their stunning ballroom, rooftop lounge, and attached restaurant, the Red Owl Tavern.
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