Independence runs through almost every aspect of Philadelphia’s Old City. Whether that’s epitomized literally by historical sites linked to the Founding Fathers and the birth of America, or exhibited in a figurative way at innovative restaurants and galleries—Old City is pleasantly distinct.
We can’t lie; a lot of what makes Old City so special is its undeniable charm. A sundry collection of cobblestone streets, cozy cafes, creative restaurants, eclectic galleries, and world-class museums set the neighborhood aglow. Running from Vine Street to Walnut Street and 7th Street to the Delaware River, Old City is never short on entertainment and adventure.
History is a big part of what makes Old City so unique from other neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The Old City neighborhood, site to some of the nation’s colonial beginnings, has aged well and continues to offer a bevy of activities and events that everyone can enjoy.
HISTORIC PHILADELPHIA – Iconic historic sites like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Betsy Ross House sit in the heart of Old City. Visitors can also check out museums like the National Constitution Center, Benjamin Franklin Museum, and the African American Museum. For more information, check out our guide to historic Philadelphia.
PENN’S LANDING – The Delaware River Waterfront offers family-friendly events all year long. In the summer, grab some food or relax in a hammock at the Spruce Street Harbor Park. You can also head to Summerfest to lace up some roller skates or play mini golf. In the winter, there’s ice skating at Winterfest and a New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration. All year-round, visitors can explore the Independence Seaport Museum, which includes historic vessels and a maritime museum.
FRANKLIN SQUARE – One of the five public spaces laid out by William Penn in his original plan for the city, Franklin Square is a park that offers refreshing calm as well as activities in the middle of the city. On the eight-acre grounds you’ll find a mini golf course, classic carousel, a picnic area, and burger shop. Seasonal events like the Chinese Lantern Festival, Holiday Festival, and Halloween fun.
There are too many excellent dining locations in Old City to even come close to profiling them all. Here are some of our favorites that we think are worth trying.
THE CONTINENTAL – Since 1995 The Continental has been a cornerstone of the neighborhood. Now, the “diner-turned-martini-bar” with funky, 70’s style digs is the perfect place to grab a drink and creative dishes like calamari salad and lobster mashed potatoes.
CUBA LIBRE – A top spot for caribbean eats in Philadelphia, Cuba Libre is designed to resemble a 1940s street scene in Havana. In addition to the transporting decor, guests can expect exceptional mojitos, grilled seafood, and tapas. Stick around for salsa dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
HIGH STREET ON MARKET – This is one of our favorite brunch spots in town. But whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the casual High Street on Market offers top-notch New American eats for any time of day. Egg sandwiches, pastries, patas—comfort and creativity bring every dish together.
FRANKLIN FOUNTAIN – Another one of our favorite spots in Philadelphia, Franklin Fountain is an ice cream parlor and pop shop that takes visitors back in time. Besides the charming nostalgia, the locally-sourced ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes,phosphates, and floats are worth waiting on line for.
OLD CITY COFFEE – Enjoy the neighborhood’s local coffee at the local cafe. In addition to delicious coffee or tea, guests can nosh on light fare like pastries, quiches, or affogatos.
Old City’s charm is rooted in its historical ties, but an abundance of shops, galleries, and theaters solidify its status as a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Take a look at some of the shopping and art that the neighborhood has to offer.
ARDEN THEATER – Arden’s self-described mission is to tell “the greatest stories by the greatest stroytellers of all times.” The theater’s efforts culminate in an annual season that includes five mainstage productions and two children’s works. Classic works like Shakespeare are presented alongside contemporary shows by Michael Hollinger and Bruce Graham. In short—there’s always something exciting going on at the Arden.
PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENTS – One of many boutiques along 3rd Street, Philadelphia Independents is a go-to for visitors to the city. Hand-crafted, Philly-centric gifts line the store and offer the perfect purchase if you’re looking for a souvenir or Philly decoration. Jewelry, handbags, and housewares are just some of the items made by local artists.
FIRST FRIDAYS – A monthly, collaborative “open house,” First Fridays feature a network of galleries that are open for no cost. Art lovers line the streets and spill in and out of Old City’s 40-plus galleries. For more information, check our our guide to First Fridays.
Getting to Old City from the Independent Hotel is quick and convenient. The Independence Mall is a 15-minute walk from the hotel’s front doors. If you’re looking to do less walking take a 5-minute car ride or catch the PATCO subway line (take 12-13th station below hotel to 8th & Market stop).