City Guide: Philadelphia

Philadelphia City Guide

Philadelphia native and Yowie store owner Shannon Maldonado can sell you on visiting her city in a matter of moments. “Philly is a hidden gem,” she says. “We have amazing restaurants, a live music scene, and some of the most beautiful historic architecture in the world.” Here, for our city guide series, she shares her favorite spots…

Shannon Maldonado Philadelphia City Guide

Shannon Maldonado: I was born and raised in South Philadelphia. My favorite thing about living here is the sense of community. I tell everyone that Philly is a small town dressed up as a city. You can’t go anywhere without running into someone! When I was a kid, that small community feeling is what drove me away, but as an adult, it’s what brought me back.


Philly City Guide

Shannon’s favorite matcha at Res Ipsa café

One of my favorite places in all of Philly is easily Res Ipsa in Rittenhouse Square. By day, Res Ipsa is a quiet café — the savory egg sandwich paired with iced matcha is my personal favorite. At night, it changes to a bustling restaurant serving handmade pasta and other unforgettable dishes. On the surface, it looks fancier than it is, but the staff is SO lovely and makes the experience feel warm and accessible. Michael, the head chef, practically chases you out the door with desserts. It’s BYOB, so grab your favorite bottle of Grüner or Pinot on the way! And if you’re visiting on a weekend, don’t forget to make a reservation.

K’Far — a new café from James Beard Award winner Camille Cogswell (also behind our beloved Israeli restaurant Zahav) — is a welcome addition to the Rittenhouse area. As soon as you open the door, you’re met with cotton-candy colored decor and the sweet, welcoming waitstaff. Follow the scents to find incredible baked goods, like Jerusalem bagels and chocolate rugelach. Get there early, as there’s usually a line out the door. Say hi to Yasmin, the general manager, for me!

Philadelphia City Guide

The scene at Mission Taqueria

If you’re in the mood for a fun time, check out the vibrant, plant-filled Mission Taqueria in Center City. I recommend the empanadas, as well as everything on their cocktail menu — their drinks are dangerously delicious. It’s also home to Taco Lab, a collaborative monthly event where chefs create one-of-a-kind menus, and Art at Mission, a rotating showcase of diverse local talent.

On a sunny corner in the Bella Vista neighborhood, you’ll find Ricci’s Hoagies, a family operated Italian sandwich shop that’s been slinging delicious hoagies since 1920. A chalkboard lists straightforward items like “Turkey”, “Italian” or “Cheese.” Order the basics, then move to the side to add your toppings: no muss, no fuss, but so delicious. I’m not a cheesesteak person (sorry, Philadelphia!), but I’d say a perfect hoagie on soft bread, a bag of salty chips and seltzer water is a must. Their turkey is sliced so thin, it hits the bread like a fluffy cloud. There’s nowhere to sit inside the shop, so take your sandwich to the one of the many nearby parks.


Philly City Guide

Rittenhouse Square Park

To me, Rittenhouse Square Park (and more specifically 18th between Walnut and Locust) is far and away the most romantic pocket in Philadelphia. I grew up hanging at this park, and now as an adult it’s still a place I return every week, even if it’s to sit and answer emails. Rittenhouse Square is one of our oldest parks, and also one of the most diverse: you’ll see ALL of the people of Philadelphia here, a genuine cross section of the city at large. I love sitting outside at nearby Joe Coffee and people watching, or grabbing a glass of wine at Parc, a beloved French bistro across from the park. For a moment, you get a taste of Paris in Philadelphia, and it’s magical.

The area around Rittenhouse Square is also home to Philadelphia’s largest shopping district, with shops big and small, as well as many restaurants, so it’s a great place to spend time exploring on foot.

On a breezy morning, you may catch my sister and me on a stretch of Schuylkill River Trail, where we’ll sometimes take weights to do workouts in the park. It manages to be both quiet and lively with people walking their dogs, jogging, riding bikes and commuting to work. The trail has beautiful views of the city and parkway, and they’re building it out more and more every year. On the weekends, it’s home to many picnics, gatherings and families exploring the city. You can also check out an exhibit at the nearby Philadelphia Museum of Art and then head here afterward for a little walk.


Yowie Philadelphia

Shannon’s shop, YOWIE

If you come to Philly, I hope you’ll make it to YOWIE. Our Queen Village shop carries artists’ works from near and far, including ceramics, books and graphic tees. The shop is located on a historic block of Philadelphia that used to be our garment district. When I was a child, I used to shop here for fabric with my mom, and I love that the neighborhood has a mix of old and new. YOWIE is highly curated — it has white walls and a white floor, and people often ask if it’s a gallery. But when you walk in, I’m usually the friendly face to greet you and talk your head off, and you’ll find it’s totally welcoming and inviting and accessible! A lot of customers wind up hanging out in the shop and just talking about pop culture, news, or whatever is on their mind. I like to think it’s more than just a place to shop, it’s a place to connect.

Philly City Guide

Lapstone & Hammer

With Lapstone & Hammer, locals Brian Nadav and Kate Rohe created hands-down the most beautiful sneaker store in Philadelphia. The gorgeous, bi-level space has nods to its art deco past; while browsing, you may find yourself taking many photos of the interior. They also carry everyday clothing staples and hard-to-find labels in sportswear, streetwear and jewelry.


Philly City Guide

The Deacon Hotel

I’m admittedly biased, as The Deacon was an interior design project I worked on, but I promise you, it is one of the most unique stays you can have in Philadelphia — or anywhere! Housed inside a 1906 Watson & Huckel designed church, The Deacon is a boutique hotel and event space. It was designed to be a place to gather, honoring the church’s original ethos of community. There are eight hotel rooms, each designed to look and feel different. My favorite is bedroom number seven, which has the most insane natural light and a reading nook, with lots of art books, including some I donated from my personal collection! And like all the rooms, it has a beautiful stained glass window right above the bed. It’s the kind of place where you notice something different every time you visit.

With three locations in Philadelphia, ROOST apartment hotels are a cozy reprieve. Instead of traditional hotel rooms, ROOST’s spaces are closer to apartments, each furnished with a full-size kitchen. I love the idea of picking up a local cookbook from Dizengoff, an Israeli-style hummus spot, and trying a dish or two. They also have walk-in rainfall showers and a coffee program, (including beans, a grinder, and a Chemex coffeemaker right in your room) with neighbors La Colombe, which got its start nearby.

Philly City Guide

A room at the Lokal Hotel

Lokal is Philadelphia’s first invisible service hotel — meaning there’s no concierge. Everything is self-serve, you just buzz in with your personal code, and walk up! Each room has a kitchenette stocked with local teas, and a huge booklet with suggestions of things to do. The experience feels very intimate and comfortable. Their first location is in Old City, one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful neighborhoods and a short walk from all of our historic activities like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. If you prefer staying in a more bustling area of town, they have a new location in Fishtown, an up-and-coming, eclectic neighborhood with tons of bars, restaurants and music spots.


Philadelphia is a small and walkable city, so pack comfortable shoes and don’t be afraid to explore on foot. That’s my favorite way to see the city, as it’s the best way to appreciate the architecture and smaller details you may miss in a car. However, it’s also easy to get around by bike or cab. I recommend visiting in early fall, when the leaves are changing but it’s not too cold yet, or in spring, when there are tons of cherry blossoms. (They look incredible when in bloom, and as the trees shed the petals, Philly’s abundance of cute alleyways are littered in pink.) At any time of year, Philly is the perfect place to go for a shorter getaway, because you can see a lot in just a few days.

Thank you so much, Shannon! We can’t wait to visit. If you’ve been to Philly or live there, what else would you add?

P.S. More city guides, and 14 great reader tips on travel.

(Res Ipsa, Lapstone & Hammer and Mission Taqueria photos by Marc Williams. K’Far photo courtesy of K’Far. Lokal Hotel and Deacon Hotel photos by Heidi’s Bridge. YOWIE photo by A. Rickets for Visit Philadelphia. Deacon Hotel room interior photo by Jillian Guyette. Philly skyline photo by Bradley Maule.)

  1. Isabelle says...

    My grandmother lives in a small town on the Main Line near Philly, so we’ve visited several times. I love the city! It’s true what Shannon says, it kind of feels like a small town. I love the historic neighbourhoods with beautiful architecture and the vibrant street life. This post didn’t really cover things to do in Philly outside shopping, but if you like art I’d highly recommend the Barnes Foundation gallery, which is a former private collection turned public gallery right near downtown. It feels like you’re walking through a grand house, but there happen to be Picassos and Matisses all over the walls! It’s also small enough to see it all in one afternoon. I also love Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, especially with kids. It really is magical and unique – – an outdoor space covered in mosaics and found objects.

  2. Maya says...

    So happy to see a post about Philly!!! (Not born but raised!) Here are some of my faves:

    Federal donuts- order the hot fresh donuts and you won’t be sorry!
    Dizengoff- the best hummus designed to be eaten as a meal. Don’t miss the frozen mint lemonade
    Jansen- an amazing restaurant in Chestnut Hill on the fancier side
    Zahav- amazing but you must make a reservation months in advance :(
    Suraya- Lebanese restaurant/cafe with amazing food and a beautiful interior
    Terakawa- delicious ramen that is well worth the wait

    The Franklin Institute- fun museum for kids. The new brain exhibit is really neat
    Smith playground- the coolest playground! Both classic and exciting
    PAFA- a small yet amazing art museum
    that is not as frequently touristed
    Blue Cross RiverRink- ice skating or roller blading depending on the season
    Mann- a beautiful outdoor music venue. They sometimes play a movie with a live orchestra playing the soundtrack. So fun!
    Magic garden- I second this one! Check out the other mural arts around the city.
    Philadelphia Art museum- great art. Take a stroll down boathouse row afterward, which is right around the corner

  3. If you like art, you can’t miss James Turrell’s Skyspace in Chestnut Hill. The Skyspace is a beautiful meditative experience in a welcoming community. Chestnut Hill is a cute downtown area with a lot to offer. If you want to make a day of it, I would recommend shopping around at the many antique shops in the area, trying one of the many amazing restaurants for dinner, and then heading to Skyspace for sunset.

  4. EW says...

    Hmm. Philly has lots of good food, as is abundantly clear from the comments, and some pretty cool things to do/see, which is nice for visitors. As a Philly resident, though, there are lots of issues. Also, this guide seemed focused on Center City, which I guess is reasonable if it’s meant for visitors, but I’m glad the comments have been much broader.

    But in the spirit of positivity, here are some places I like:

    For plant-lovers:
    – Chanticleer, about half an hour outside the city
    – Morris Arboretum, in Chestnut Hill
    – Longwood, an hour’s drive outside the city. Expensive, but amazing
    – Bartram’s garden, in SW Philly. Historic, and you can go boating on the Schuylkill
    – If you’re a Philly resident, look into the city-wide and neighborhood plant exchange groups on Facebook, and the multiple plant societies that meet in person :)

    Ice cream:
    – Franklin Fountain, in Old City. Expensive but worth it. They put the hot fudge both on top of and UNDER your ice cream, so you never have a fudge-less bite!
    – Custard and Cakes in Roxborough. Neighborhood classic!

    Other fun things:
    – So many murals
    – Mosaics around South Street, including but not limited to the Magic Garden
    – Mutter Museum, a medical museum. Fascinating if you don’t get grossed out easily
    – Ghost tour of Old City
    – Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount. A good haunted house, if you’re into that (I’m not), but also a really interesting self-guided tour
    – Chestnut Hill does a Harry Potter festival in October. I think it’s now called Witches & Wizards weekend or something similar due to Warner Bros’ interference, but still very fun. I also love the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop

  5. Katie says...

    I live in Bella Vista!! After your hoagie head to Jim’s Water Ice, brunch at Fitzwater cafe or Hungry Pigeon, and coffee at Good Karma or Shot Tower!! Washington West has a more relaxing and beautiful (IMO) park for picnics – grab a salad at Talulas Daily then hop on an indego bike to ride around the city.

  6. Jacquelyn says...

    I’m from the suburbs and love Philly! Scarpetta is such a delicious restaurant with homemade pasta. My husband surprised me with dinner there and a night at the adjoining hotel the night after our wedding. It was so romantic! I hope we go back every anniverary. Year 1 is coming up in October and we’re due with our first baby on Sunday!

  7. Aww this travel guide is cute and as a native Philadelphian and a former resident of the Rittenhouse area it makes me remember how much I loved living in that neighborhood!

  8. Emily says...

    moved to west philly in february, so i love seeing some of my favorites and new places to explore!

  9. Rebecca says...

    The timing of this post is PERFECT! I jet off to Philly for the Rock n’ Roll half marathon in three weeks, and now have fun things to look forward to doing after! Thank you Shannon, and I’ll be sure to pop into Yowie.

    • JRG says...

      that’s my favorite half! so jealous – have a blast :)

  10. Lily says...

    So happy to see Philly on CoJ! One place my husband and I love to go to for a more low-key evening is Food and Friends at 20th and Spruce. It’s an awesome local bottle shop/grocery store with great craft beers, tons of snack options, and a seating area. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house and have a beer or two without having to brave the Philly bar scene, I’d definitely recommend it!

  11. Rachel says...

    Joanna, didn’t you visit philly? I seem to remember a weekend post a while back about going to the please touch museum!

  12. Jen says...

    I’ve lived here for 4 years, but am moving to NYC next year and am already getting nostalgic even though I still live here. I have a love/hate relationship with this city, but this post really captures what’s great about it! Such a small town pretending to be a big city <3. It's also so interesting to me that almost everyone I work with and meet grew up here and has no intention of ever leaving. There is such a palpable sense of pride here that is really charming and novel to me as someone who grew up all over the place and doesn't have a strong regional identity. I also love Shannon's shop–it's so beautiful and always smells amazing. I buy a candle every time I'm there. She's so cool.

    This is my ideal Philly day:

    – Picking up breakfast @ Metropolitan Cafe or La Colombe and eating it in Rittenhouse Square
    – Yoga at Corepower or Three Queens
    – Middle Child for lunch (Shopsin Club 4ever)
    – Strolling through the art museum or the Barnes
    – Sate Kampar, Square Pie, Audrey Claire for dinner (all BYO, which rocks)
    – Bok Bar for rooftop ~vibez~ or PHS South Street beer garden for a summery drink
    – Live music @ Boot & Saddle or Johnny Brenda's
    – Trestle Inn (unreal GO GO bar) for dancing and whiskey sours

    Wow what a long comment. I'm emotional. GO BIRDS.

    • I love this comment! I’m in my fifth year in Philly, and moving out next spring—and I have a mix of the same feelings. As a non-native, it’s been hard breaking through the small-town clicques to feel at home here, but I love the Fishtown neighborhood where I live: great food and drink, cute stores, dog-friendly, and kind neighbors. (And best of all, cheap rent on beautiful places!). Bon Appetit recently did a great round-up of food in the neighborhood, if you want to get away from crowds in Center City and Rittenhouse:

  13. molly says...

    So excited to see my city featured! Proud South Philly resident here…a few of my favorite places…
    -Any restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue between Dickinson and McKean, you cannot go wrong! Wine and snacks at ITV, baked goods at Essen, pizza, pasta, and beers at Stogie Joe’s, amazing upscale Norwegian at Noord, really fantastic water ice and soft serve at D’Emilio’s, and more. You could spend an entire weekend eating on this stretch and barely scratch the surface.
    -The Italian Market – specifically Fante’s for kitchenwares and Anthony’s for the best coffee.
    -Little Fish – tiny seafood-focused BYOB in Queen Village, it’s my favorite restaurant in the city. Reservations absolutely required because it is so small.
    -Go to Talula’s Daily and get lunch or coffee to go and sit and enjoy in Washington Square Park. If you’re feeling fancier, have dinner next door at their full service restaurant, Talula’s Garden – so good!
    -If you’re in Old City, check out Franklin Square Park – especially with kids! Beautiful carousel, Philly-themed mini-golf, good playground, and burgers and shakes at SquareBurger, Philly’s version of ShakeShack.

    I’m not a native Philadelphian, but have lived here all of my adult life. My two year-old has picked up some fantastic South Philly-isms from daycare – I will never tire of him referring to me and his dad as “youse” :D

    Come visit our city – you’ll love it!

  14. Courtney says...

    I’m so excited to see Philly represented on CoJ!! These are fabulous recommendations, and you’ve added a few new-to-me suggestions to my list! Make sure to swing through Reading Terminal and check out the Barnes as well, and if you venture out of Center City, check out the beautiful Morris Arboretum in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood.

  15. Melissa says...

    K’far photos are by Michael Persico! @persicophoto

  16. Anonygirl says...

    I am bookmarking this for the future. I’m intrigued by all this talk of affordability. Living in San Diego is no joke financially.

    • molly says...

      It is SO affordable, as large cities go. You can get a cute 2-3 bedroom home in a nice neighborhood for the price of a 1/2 bedroom Manhattan apartment. You might miss the San Diego weather, though!

  17. Hayden says...

    OMG I live in West Philly and love the city. So proud to have it represented on CupofJo!!!

  18. Jenn says...

    Philadelphia Magic Gardens is incredible. I was in Philly about six years ago now and it’s still the thing that I remember most about my trip!

    • E says...

      Lived in Philly for 18 months, specifically Fishtown. Used to pay a homeless man to keep the meth addicts off our porch and our car was the only one on the block not broken into. Its cheap, with good food, but thanks anyway.

  19. K says...

    I need to get my hands on your speckled bowls, Shannon! I live in Philly burbs, I’ll visit soon

  20. What a great guide, Shannon! All the food looks amazing as well.. Though if I had a few days in Philly, I’d probably spend at least some of that time taking a “Rocky” tour :D


  21. Carolyn says...

    Just went to Square Pie on E. Passyunk Avenue and it was amazing!! Square pie only.

    • Jen says...

      BEST Pizza in Philly!! SRY Beddia!!

    • molly says...

      Square Pie is SO good, but I will be requesting Santucci’s as my last pizza meal! Unconventional, but so delicious.

  22. Miriam says...

    I went to Philadelphia last year on a choir tour – my first time in America ever! It was mid-afternoon and sweltering, and my boyfriend and I had been walking around for a while. We were passing through Logan square on the way back to a choir rehearsal, and its fountain, with turtle sculptures spewing water from all sides, caught my eye. I was really hot. I had to be in formal attire in half an hour. It was a twenty minute walk back to the rehearsal venue. I was only going to be in that city once. I was REALLY hot.

    ‘Hold my shoes,’ I said to my boyfriend.

    And plunged in.

    I can’t remember much of Philadelphia itself, but I will never forget the feeling of cold water and joy and childlikeness in that fountain on that day.

    • Nina says...

      I grew up in Philly and my mom would always take us to play in the fountains when we took the train downtown. Such good memories. Something so cool about lolling about with old statues that makes you feel ultra-cool.

  23. JFGS says...

    – Oyster House
    – Little Fish
    – Barbuzzo
    – Cafe Lutecia
    – Vestige
    – Vagabond

    • Maddie says...

      CAFE LUTECIA! What an absolute gem. You are truly in the know if you recommend that. Missing my tomato soup and quiche every Saturday and tapas night like none other since we moved to New Zealand.

  24. Cathy says...

    I used to live in Bella Vista and now live in Bryn Mawr. I work in Center City and spend a lot of time in town.

    For food:
    Porcini – byob Italian on Sansom
    Vedge & V-street – vegan
    Mama’s – excellent falafels
    Stock – Rittenhouse & Fishtown for pho
    Sansom Street Oyster House
    Dim Sum Garden
    Lee How Fook
    Kisso – excellent sushi
    Franklin Fountain – excellent ice cream, trust me
    La Columbe – still my favorite coffee shop

    For shopping:
    Vagabond – my favorite women’s boutique in Olde City
    The Geisha House – also Olde City
    Vestige – women’s + in Fishtown
    Field – Fishtown for plants and funky pots
    Downerss – Fishtown funky women’s clothing
    Joseph Fox bookstore
    Show of Hands
    Adornamente – beautiful jewelry

    To do:
    Mural tour
    Barnes along the Parkway but also worth visiting the building in Merion
    Love Park
    Philadelphia Museum is Art
    Chanticleer – ride outside of the city
    Morris Arboretum

  25. Es says...

    Dottie’s Donuts <3

  26. Yes, if you want to live in a city but aren’t a “city person,” go to Philadelphia! It absolutely does have that small town vibe — if you sit outside at a coffee shop, you are almost guaranteed to have someone you know walk past if you are there for more than half an hour. I loved that so much!

    I’d also recommend visiting Joseph Fox Bookshop on Sansom Street, which is a darling and very crowded little local bookstore. And if you’re there on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday evening, don’t miss the student recital series at the Curtis School of Music where you can see professional-caliber performances for absolutely free! My husband and I didn’t discover this gem until the final year we lived in Philadelphia, and I can’t believe how many years of amazing music we missed out on!

    • Chris says...

      Philly native here. I’m really surprised by all the “small town” comments. Philadelphia is the 6th largest city in the country and the largest poor city in America. It is an amazing city, but large swaths of people and places are being ignored to fit this small town BS.

    • Nina says...

      As a Philly native, I totally have always felt that Philly had a small-town vibe compared to so many of the other larger cities I’ve gone to – NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston. Now that buildings can be taller than City Hall it might feel more closed in but that is what stood out to me – more green than NYC (except for Central Park) but oh the overwhelming buildings there! LA ugh the traffic and smog. Chicago – again the buildings so close together and jam packed. With Philly -being able to walk anywhere. Not a super bustling night scene (except down on the pier). It’s a feeling people have Chris – maybe let them feel what they feel without trying to enforce your social code on them?

    • Chris, what I — and I think many other others — are commenting on isn’t the physical size of Philadelphia, which as you rightly pointed out is quite large. It’s more the feel of the city. Each area and neighborhood has such a distinct feel and culture, and my experience when I lived there was that I would run into people I knew around my neighborhood all the time. Definitely not what people expect when they think of living in a city! I wouldn’t call it BS at all, it was one of my favorite things about living there.

  27. Clare says...

    West Philly is delightful for slightly more working-class and hippie vibes. Many grad students, some young families, delightful local spots. (Honest Tom’s vegan burritos and tacos! Dock Street Brewing! Clarkville’s blistered long hots! Community yoga!)

  28. Cynthia says...

    Perfect timing. I am going to Philly in Sept to take a medical school board exam and making a long weekend of the trip

    • Anonygirl says...

      Good luck on your exam!

  29. Heidi says...

    I am a teacher in NYC and I have been seriously considering moving to Philadelphia because it has so much character and is actually affordable. It is my dream to be able to buy a home. Anyone make the move from NYC to Philly? Can you share your experience with me?

    • Jane says...

      Moved here from New York 4 years ago and also work in schools. Mostly happy with Philly, and happy to talk!

    • Bridget says...

      Born and raised in Philly, lived in NYC for close to 8 years, moved back home after I had my first child. I grew up in a not very walkable part of the city and was nervous about giving up the city lifestyle I grew so used to in NYC. Choosing the right neighborhood is key (I’m in Queen Village) but I honestly don’t feel too much of a difference between my NYC life and my current Philly life. I walk everywhere, have access to so many great restaurants and shops and do so all at a fraction of the cost of NYC. I do miss the NYC subway though – something I’d never thought I’d say when I was using it daily. Philly’s subway is definitely not the same!

    • B says...

      Born & raised in NYC, moved to Philly last year. Bought a house in a lovely, tree-lined, convenient neighborhood, which I could have never afforded to do in NYC. Philly has everything I want in a city but feels so much more manageable than NYC. No regrets!

    • Megan says...

      Yes! We moved here 2.5 years ago from NYC and never looked back. We live in Roxborough, which is kind of like the Queens of Philly :).

      Bought a 3-bedroom 1.5 bath home and our mortgage is less than half of what we were paying in rent for our upper Manhattan studio (an ~300 square feet apartment on the 5th floor of a walk-up). We live on a lovely tree-lined street walking distance from lots of restaurants and a bike-able commute to our jobs in Center City.

    • ML says...

      Hi Heidi! Moved from NYC to Philly 8 years ago, when I realized I wasn’t a NY lifer. Philly feels like a place that gives back whatever you put into it and I love living here. There’ss a new slate of progressive city council members, including education advocate Helen Gym. The city’s structures can be a little confusing to navigate at first and has its challenges, but once you show up, it has a neighborly and DIY spirit that makes it easy to get involved and make a difference in issues you care about. And home ownership is definitely more feasible for more people. Good luck figuring out what’s next for you, and happy to talk!

  30. Maggie says...

    Love seeing a Philly post! I moved to Philly last fall for a new job and my husband and I just bought a row home this spring! (I guess you could say this Midwesterner fell in love?)

    Here’s some favorites, in no particular order:
    – Hanging at the Schuykill River Trail and dog park
    – Farmers market at Rittenhouse on Saturdays (or Headhouse market in Society Hill on Sundays)
    – Nomad Pizza in Queen Village
    – Drinks & shareables at Double Knot
    – The Brisket Ramen at Cheu
    – Philly Style Bagels
    – Al fresco BYO dinner at Audrey Claire
    – No frills pho at Pho 75
    – Anything from Talulas’ Garden (or better yet, the fixed dinner menu at Talula’s Daily.. both spots are $$ but worth it!)
    – A brunch at Hungry Pigeon: get a side of the chicken breakfast sausage!
    – Yoga at Three Queens Yoga
    – Drinks from the pop-up PHS Beer Garden on South and 15th in the summer
    Dinner at Pizzeria Beddida
    – La Colombe, Elixer, Rival Bros.. so many great coffee shops!
    – Walk around Boathouse Row and the outside of the Art Museum (P.S. the inside of the museum is also great!)
    – Ice cream at Weckly’s (or cake squares from Cake Life – the best bday cakes!)

    I could go on for days! Team Philly over here ;)

    • shannon says...

      Maggie, same!! Born and raised in Ohio, now in love with Philly and planning to stay long term in the historic rowhome we bought and are busy restoring. Let me know if you’d like to connect, if so maybe CoJ can help us out with sharing emails.

    • Maggie says...

      Would love to connect, Shannon!

    • shannon says...

      YAY okay you can email thebluebobbin at gmail dot com and we’ll plan something!

  31. shannon says...

    Living in Philly for 2.5 years now and planning to stay long term! Love the locals chiming in on the comments! Exciting to have so much CoJxPhilly love.

    My two cents: Philly is much more than just Center City and South Philly. The northwestern neighborhoods have great small town vibes while still being in the city limits, with wonderful hiking in the Wissahickon and Schuylkill trail. Furthest north you have Chestnut Hill with its own adorable Main Street and gorgeous mansion-like estates.

    Staying anywhere along a subway line gets you easy access to downtown and beyond. With one east-west line and one north-south line, it is easy to navigate. Fare is just $2.50/ride. Center City is very walkable but the city extends far beyond that one area, so a bus or Uber is needed if you want to explore further.

    The architecture is a true delight anywhere you roam. Three and four story twins in West Philly, lovingly restored colonial rowhomes in Society Hill, City Hall! My favorite thing to do here is get coffee and wander around taking it all in.

    Re: Philly being “mean” – people here tend to be more forward and direct. There are fewer pleasantries, and often people jump into conversations with you as if they already know you. It takes some getting used to but we’ve found that our neighbors, people on the street, in shops, etc. are on average friendlier than anywhere else we’ve lived.

  32. Bets says...

    Check out The Bagel Place for an AMAZING breakfast or lunch, classes on bagel making, and fun events.

  33. Lena says...

    I’m voting for a Shannon “Week of Outfits” post on Cup of Jo. Pretty please!

    • Elizabeth says...

      I agree!!

  34. Lydia from PA says...

    Philly is well known for its museums and historic sites and I’d like to put in a plug for my favorite, The National Museum of American Jewish History, across the street from Independence Hall. Though not for the littlest kids, it’s all extremely well presented and the temporary exhibits have been wonderful. Coming up in October is one all about RBG! Should be great! (By the way, I’m not Jewish but it’s the story of the immigrant experience, so really for all of us.)

  35. Kirsten says...

    I grew up outside Philly and miss it so much!

    Some other great places to try include:
    Kaffa Crossing (West Philly Ethiopian restaurant)
    Pete’s Famous Pizza (Center City)
    Olympia Gyro in Reading Terminal Market (run by the kindest woman ever)

    and, honestly, Wawa.

    • Foree says...

      Yes to wawa always

  36. Katie says...

    So glad to see the Barnes and Mutter museums, as well as the Philly Zoo (it’s the oldest one in the country!) and the Aquarium in Camden across the riveraall represented in the comments. If you’re looking for something in the evening, check out a show at one of the regional theatres! The Wilma is great for new work and the Walnut Street Theatre (longest continuously running theatre in the US! It’s been open over 200 years!) is great for more traditional shows and musical theatre. I’ve never been to a show at the Arden but I’ve heard great things about that, too.

  37. Jessica says...

    Anther Fairmount person here, but no one’s really talked about spots in this area aside from the Barnes. There’s a lot of newer small businesses, as well as some places that have been open forever in this area

    For food:
    Pizzeria Vetri – no longer owned by Marc Vetri unfortunately, but still consistently good pizza
    Umai Umai – amazing sushi, if you’re more than 2 people call and make a reservation (still recommend doing that if you’re 2 people though since it’s a small place)
    Bar Hygge – great brunch and good place to go for drinks/upscale bar food
    A Mano – haven’t been but heard amazing things about it
    Osteria – great Italian food and their happy hour specials (drinks and food) are very well priced
    Sweet Nectar Dessert Kitchen – cupcakes :)

    Neighborhood Potters – pottery place that offers classes and is open on weekends for retail, great way to support a small business!
    Bookstores – Book Haven has been in the same spot for years, and Friends of the Free Library (now called Book Corner)
    Ali’s Wagon – “Philly” themed gifts that you won’t find elsewhere, kitchenware, kids clothes/toys/items

    To Do:
    Perelman Building – Annex of the Art Museum
    The Barnes, as mentioned by a lot of people :)
    Eastern State Penitentiary – in the fall they do a haunted house and that’s often what they are known for, but they also have events and speakers on topics such as prison reform that are very relevant today
    The Oval – the area across the street from the Art Museum, in the summer they have pop-up workouts, events, outdoor movie screenings, food trucks

    There’s a lot more in this neighborhood, hopefully this entices some people to visit it

    • Taylor says...

      Hi, fellow Fairmounter! Echoing everything you say, plus lots of green space and playgrounds (including Roberto Clemente Playground, which is where the opening credits of Fresh Prince was filmed . . . aka not actually West Philly!). And of course, the close-by Sabrina’s is worth the wait!

      Love our city :)

  38. Suzi says...

    Dim Sum Garden in Chinatown is the best for a cheap dinner, but get there early to beat the lines! Vedge and El Vez are personal favorites, and spruce street harbor park is a great place to hang out in the summer.

  39. L says...

    God, I love my city. And I’m secretly glad to see very few of my favorite places mentioned here. ;) I heartily recommend a mural tour via the Mural Arts Program for anyone visiting. They have trolley tours if kids are along and don’t feel like walking.

    • Maureen Fisher says...

      I’m reading all the comments today like a proud mom. I love Philly!

  40. Abigail says...

    Just moved here 6 weeks ago, but have spent significant time here for the past year! A couple more restaurants to toss in the mix of recommendations:
    – Suraya (echoing all of the above, SO GOOD)
    – Middle Child in Center City (the best sandwiches, the cutest atmosphere, my FAV)

    • Georgia says...

      Middle Child forever! :)

  41. The Cape on the corner says...

    I always recommend estia for some amazing Greek food and gorgeous ambiance, especially if we are heading to a show at the academy of music or the Kimmel center. Make sure you go downstairs and see their beautiful wine barrel room and legit the most beautiful restrooms lol. Another always recommendation is little nonnas for some of the best gnocchi you’ve ever tasted. Try and sit in their garden area, which is more charming than inside. For kids I always recommend max Brenner, a casual restaurant and chocolate seller. Everything on the menu has a little chocolate to it, even the onion rings!

  42. Lisa says...

    Lovely to see my home town in here! Born and raised in the Great Northeast Philly and went to college there too! Live in CT now but my extended family still live there and I miss it so.

  43. Alycia says...

    So nice to see this after the week of bad press we have been getting.
    I do wish Shannon mentioned public transit. Ragging on SEPTA is kind of a citywide team event but for the most part, it works, especially the trains and trolleys. It’s much better for everyone than being in a car. Also, get out of Center City! Go to West Philly, go to Port Richmond, go way south to FDR Park. You can do all of this on SEPTA!
    If you are traveling with kids, check out free events at the Free Library. There are 54 branches through out the city and almost all of them have something happening.
    Queen Village also has a few great independent book stores. Head House Books on 2nd St, Brickbat (across from Yowie!), Just Books-a giant used bookstore you could spend all day in.
    For food, I would add:
    Brauhaus Schmitz for fantastic German food/beer/ and soccer watching.
    Bottles and Bahn Mi for Vietnamese street food and fun drinks. (Next door to Brauhaus, both on South Street!)
    The Bourse Food Hall-the country’s oldest stock exchange now lovingly renovated into a fun food hall that is way less crowded and cleaner than Reading Terminal. Right across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Just please don’t get a cheese steak!
    Rangoon-wonderful Burmese place in Chinatown at 9th and Arch. Fun fact-the women who own this place make food for Burmese refugees when they first arrive in the city.
    Hardena-James Beard finalist Indonesian restaurant run by three sisters. Actual location is at 15th and Moore in Point Breeze and tiny, but they also have a spot in the new Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware. There are a lot of Indonesian restaurants in South Philly and all are good.

    • Elly says...

      I’d also recommend Frankford Hall in Fishtown for a really fun German beer garden atmosphere!

    • EW says...

      I love love love Rangoon!

  44. Brittany says...

    I’d love to visit with our three boys – ages 1, 3, and 5. Any ideas on what to do with them??

    • M says...

      The Philly zoo is huge and has a lot to see and do. It also has rides, games, shows, and decent food. The aquarium in Camden NJ is just over the river from Philly and maybe 5-10 minute drive depending where you are. If you’re a member of another aquarium you may be able to get a discount.

      There is also a Children’s Museum but I have never done that. The Barnes is a great museum but not sure if the kids will like it. I watched my nephews while their parents took a tour as I had been before. So many parks so spending a morning in a playground is also fun!

      Friends did a mural tour but it was 2 hours of walking and probably for older kids. I don’t live in Philly but visited with my nephews for a weekend so those are the things we did! It’s a walkable city so we walked everywhere and had a stroller for them. And they loved it!

    • Alycia says...

      The Free Library has lots of free programs for kids that are drop in.

      A really great spot is PlayArts, an indoor playspace in Fishtown. Fishtown also has a brand new rec center with a playground, splash zone, running track, etc. It’s really great and free.

      Another good park is Liberty Lands in Northern Liberties.

      There’s always the zoo and Please Touch Museum, which are close to each other in Fairmount Park (not far from where the last photo was taken), Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences (dinosaurs!), and the main branch of the Free Library (great children’s department on the lower level and a good spot for free clean bathrooms!). These three spots are all near Sister Cities Park, which kids really love.

      Bartram’s Gardens in West Philly is a great spot to run around and you can rent boats to take out onto the Schuylkill River. Spruce Street Harbor Park is on the Delaware River and also a lot of fun. And if you still need stuff to do, you can take the ferry over to Camden to the Adventure Aquarium, Children’s Garden, and Battleship New Jersey.

      Have fun!

    • Jessica says...

      The Please Touch Museum, The Franklin Institute, and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Kids may be a little young, but those are definitely kid-friendly. Please Touch moved out to Fairmount Park, but the other two are right near each other around Logan Square.

    • Julia says...

      I have two boys, ages 5 and 2. If they’re into dinosaurs check out the Academy of Natural Sciences. It’s small and certainly not on the level of the American Museum of Natural History, but for little ones it’s great. The zoo is wonderful for any animal-loving kid (or adult).

      If you’re visiting in the summer, the fountains that turn on at Dilworth Plaza are always a total hit with kids. Just remember a change of clothes. Rittenhouse Square is a good place to get some wiggles out and there are tons of restaurants nearby.

      Reading Terminal Market is also a great place to grab a bite to eat. Tip: many vendors are cash only.

      Happy visiting! I work in center city Philly but we live in the ‘burbs and my two love coming in to see “mommy’s city.”

    • Catherine says...

      The Please Touch museum and the Philadelphia Zoo are amazing :) Both you are your children will enjoy!

    • Alycia says...

      One more-take them for ice cream at Franklin Fountain! It’s on Market Street between Front and 2nd and it’s really great. Heads up-it’s cash only!

    • L says...

      We live here with our two boys, 7 and 5. Highly recommend Smith Memorial Playground and Fireman’s Hall Museum. Both are free.

    • karen says...

      The Free Library was already mentioned, but just wanted to say there is a free Family Friendly exhibit called ‘Our Five Senses’ on the third floor of Parkway Central Library in the Rare Book Department. It’s actually my exhibit and as a recovering children’s librarian I missed seeing kids after making the switch to Rare Books Librarian. We love seeing all the kids in a place you normally don’t see kids! It’s interactive & super kid friendly. we also created an activity booklet to take home.

    • Alycia says...

      Hey Karen, best children’s librarian ever! Listen to her!

    • molly says...

      Sister Cities Park is really fun! It’s a tiny little park at the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway, in the shadow of Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, and Logan Square. It’s like a little pocket of wilderness in the middle of Center City – there’s a little wading pool and a “trail” for kids to explore. There’s also a sprayground and a little cafe for snacks. The fountains at City Hall are also really fun!

      Penn’s Landing has Summerfest and Winterfest – both are carnival-esque and fun with kids!

      Definitely hit up the zoo.

      Finally, Philly is FILLED with awesome parks/playgrounds. There are three within walking distance of our house that we love – you can’t walk four blocks without hitting one. Pick a neighborhood, scope out the parks, and there will be plenty of great food along the way.

  45. M says...

    I love Philly! I would also recommend Amada, a Spanish restaurant. I have not had their food but it looked amazing. They have sangria (that is $5 at brunch) and it is the best sangria I have had in the States. It comes out of barrels. So I’m guessing the food is on point, too.

    Hardena, an Indonesian restaurant in South Philly is also a gem. Huge portions and excellent inexpensive Indonesian food. BYOB. I drove 1.5 hours once just for this food. Such good food in Philly.

    • joanne says...

      when traveling my husband and i really enjoy cheap eats unique to the area- not only is it easy on the wallet, but we find it’s a great way to remember what happened during our trip (“what did we do on our first day in philly again?”.. “Oh- we had those amazing pork sandwiches at the market” -lo and behold all the memories will effortlessly flood back)

      We were in philly for the first time early this year, and enjoyed exploring Reading terminal market- try dinic’s pork sandwich, a local favorite.
      for philly cheesesteaks- we had the ones at Jim’s on South St and they’re meaty, cheesy, truly one for the books. Lastly i had a tehina milkshake and falafel sandwich at Goldie- a chain of vegan falafel shops only found in Philly, and that shake is truly one of the reasons i’m dying to go back!

  46. Barbuzzo! Amazing spot in the Gayborhood. Actually, that whole stretch of 13th Street – sort of like a restaurant row – is bananas.

  47. Meg says...

    I fell deeply in love with Philadelphia while I was in college, and no matter how far I strayed (New York! D.C.! Seattle!), I found my way back. People say Philadelphians are mean, and yeah, sometimes they are. But they also very much want to discuss who makes the best roast pork sandwich (John’s, clearly), where you go down the Shore, and what you think the Eagles prospects are this year. Their love for their city only makes me love it more.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post; the Philly love in the comments made my day.

  48. Jess says...

    I grew up in Philly and my parents are still there. Lorenzo’s on 9th Street is the best for pizza and hoagies. I’ve been going there for 30 years.

  49. Cheryl says...

    Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was the most memorable part of my trip. Be sure to explore the surrounding streets and alleyways if you go because Isaiah Zagar installed mosaic murals throughout the neighborhood.

    • Olivia says...

      We recently went to Philadelphia for our babymoon and had a great time. Our AirBnB was in an area called Gayborhood and we had no clue until we went out to dinner close by one night. I’d read tons of reviews of the place and it seemed great. One mentioned something about it being gay friendly and I didn’t think much of it other than oh ok, cool. Fast forward to us walking in and instantly feeling very, very out of place as a hetero couple/8 months pregnant woman. Of course, the gentlemen were very welcoming but our server definitely gave preference to my husband (he ordered first, server forgot my drink), haha. Tables turned a bit!

  50. Julie says...

    My city! Philly has such a great food and drink culture, and we have amazing museums. My own recommendations:

    Baology: a Taiwanese spot serving dumplings, bao buns, ruen bings, boba tea, and homemade hot sauce
    Bud and Marilyns: a take on grandmom’s cooking, come for the fried chicken, fontina-stuffed meatloaf, fried cheese curds, and funfetti cake. Their brunch is also insane.
    Oyster House: $1 buck a shucks during happy hour
    V. Street: various street food, all vegetarian.
    Dalessandro’s: if you want the best cheesesteak
    Harper’s Garden: a pretty spot for small plates and cocktails outside
    Beer: The Khyber Pass Pub

    Mutter Museum: medical oddities, they have John Wilkes Booth’s thymus gland, a piece of Albert Einstein’s brain, skulls and skeletons, old timey instruments, and the soap lady.
    The Barnes: the most unbelievable private collection of art, featuring Matisse, Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, and Degas among others
    The Magic Gardens: an outdoor gallery of mosaics by Isaiah Zagar

    • riye says...

      YES! A visit to the Mutter Museum is totally on my bucket list. :-D

    • Lisa says...

      I remember visiting the Mutter Museum with my now deceased mom years ago when I would visit her and we would take the El from the Northeast to explore our awesome city. What a unique gem that was!

  51. Kelly says...

    I spied a boob/torso rug hanging in her shop, but they’re all sold out! Darn. Glad they’re popular. :) Super helpful, as I’ll likely be in Philadelphia this winter/spring (after not going since…2012?).

  52. Crystal says...

    Having lived in Philadelphia for nearly a decade (after having worked in Manhattan for a few years), this post makes my heart sing! Shannon really nailed it with her suggestions! I live very close to the Italian Market (9th Street between Bainbridge and Washington) and I love picking up fresh pastas, browsing the Farmer’s market, picking up fresh cheese and meats from DiBruno Bros. and grabbing an Italian iced coffee from Anthony’s. Moving to Philadelphia was the best decision I’ve ever made!

  53. Jane says...

    After close to 10 amazing years in and around Philadelphia, I moved away four years ago and still miss so much about the city.

    I recently wrote a note to a friend-of-a-friend who moved to the city about restaurants and here’s what I said:

    These are veggie-specific options I had sent to a colleague a while ago:
    – Vedge: Really amazing, a bit upscale. This one wins over carnivores easily. You can order food at the bar or get happy hour snacks in the bar area room without a reservation!
    – V Street: From the Vedge folks, spicy “street food.”
    – HipCityVeg: Quick, tasty, vegan “fast food.”
    – Govinda’s: My favorite veggie “chicken” cheesesteak.
    – Dizengoff: Not strictly veg, but AMAZING hummus!
    – Goldie’s: The falafel shop from the Dizengoff folks. Their vegan tehina milkshakes are amazing!

    Other amazing places:
    – South Philly Barbacoa
    – Ekta: My favorite Indian delivery of all time.
    – Four Rivers: Amazing, very affordable Szechuan in Chinatown.
    – Monks: For mussels and a Flemish Sour Ale.
    – Zahav: Maybe my favorite restaurant in Philly. Israeli. Order the salatim! Super hard to get reservations. Same owners as Dizengoff, Golide’s, and Federal Donuts, which is also super tasty.
    – Laurel: Another special place in Passyunk.
    – In the Valley (ITV): The cocktail/snack place next door to Laurel, which is very moody and wonderful, same chef.
    – Royal Boucherie: Same chef as Laurel and ITV, brasserie-style French.
    – Noord: Super tasty Scandinavian food with the nicest chef/owner.
    – Little Fish: Super cozy, fish-centric BYO.
    – High Street on Market: Open all day. They have the best bread, amaaazing sandwiches, and a fun date-night vibe for dinner.
    – Cheu: Jewish Ramen?!
    – Bing Bing Dim Sum: Same owners as Cheu. Fun, non-traditional dim sum.
    – Pub on Passyunk East (POPE): Amazing bar food, including lots of veggie options. Oddly, I still dream about their chicken tenders.
    – Hawthornes: Tasty brunch
    – Sabrina’s: Epic brunch, worth the wait.
    – Tria: Multiple options, the Wash West is my favorite though. Amazing wine selection, snacks, and cheese.

    • Courtney says...

      Yes! I’m not from Philadelphia but so glad to see someone metion Zahav and Federal Donuts. Zahav (and anything Michael Solomonov) is seriously can’t miss!

  54. becky says...

    Parc!!! IS. AMAZING!!! the first time I went it was raining and we had a window seat. It was dreamy to watch the droplets fall and the people walk by. For small moments I felt like I was in Paris. The food was awesome and the wallpaper in the women’s bathroom, gorgeous! We used to live right outside of Philly and could easily hop on the train.
    A little sad to see no mention of Manayunk, another neighborhood in Philly. It’s a little deceiving to say Philly is a walkable town. The downtown totally is, but you would need to catch a regional train or an uber to Manayunk (neighborhood), Laural Hill Cemetery where there is so much history, or to Chestnut hill (neighborhood). Philly is a city of neighborhoods. And the transportation is not the best. It’s too easy for visitors to see only the downtown.

    • Julie says...

      Heyo, I live in Roxborough and lived on Main St. in Manayunk for years :)

    • EW says...

      Another Roxborough resident here :)
      I agree, parts of Philly are walkable but lots aren’t, and none of the transportation options are good.

  55. Calla says...

    I have never lived in Philly but used to visit from DC and loved how much character the city had and what incredible architecture. Definitely a wonderful city for walking! I’d also like to suggest the Rosenbach, they have a wonderful collection of old books, as well as the mosaic garden (probably touristy but still beautiful). And it’s definitely not for everyone but I very much enjoyed my visit to the Mutter museum.

    Also barcade in fishtown. Kind of gimmicky perhaps but still loads of fun!

  56. Carly says...

    Philly is SUCH an underrated pizza city. I guess NYC, which is so close, steals most of the attention…but Nomad Pizza is probably the best I’ve ever had.

    • Maggie says...

      Omg Nomand is SO GOOD.

  57. Allison says...

    Phillayyyy!! My hometown, and I miss it so much, always and anywhere.

    Can’t talk about Philly food without Paesano’s — I grew up on hoagies and cheesesteaks, but pork & broccoli rabe is the most important sandwich of all time.

    And can’t talk about Philadelphia without talking about Philly coffee. Skip La Colombe; find Elixr and Ultimo (and Reanimator, Rival Brothers, Menagerie…).

    • Allison Wattenbarger says...

      Also omg Penn Book Center — amazing amazing bookstore, especially for theory & philosophy & 20th-century fiction.

      And even when I visit from Jerusalem, I get the falafel salad from the Goldie’s at the Penn “food court” (suuuuuper swanky; we did NOT have anything like that when I was at Penn!) around the corner from the Penn Book Center. So good. Ugh. Everybody move to Philly now; except don’t, because I want to be able to afford to move back!

  58. Martha L. says...

    If you are traveling with kids, the Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, the zoo, and the Please Touch Museum are awesome. There are loads of families who have decided to raise their kids downtown, so you will find it an incredibly child-friendly city. For eating with kids, most of the Stephen Starr restaurants (Parc, Jones, the Dandelion, the Continental, etc.) are surprisingly kid-friendly, particularly at lunch, so mom and dad can have a cocktail and a delicious meal while the kids stay happy.

    • Elly says...

      Came here to make sure someone recommended the Starr restaurants. The mac n’ cheese at Jones (and the funky 60s ski lodge theme) is to die for, and the Continental has amazing brunch, especially the huevos rancheros!

  59. World Cafe Live for jazz
    Barnes Foundation for impressionist art
    Chubbie’s for cheesesteaks (in Manayunk)
    And venture south to visit Longwood Gardens

  60. Marisa says...

    We traveled to Philly to get our wedding rings at Bario Neal (they also sell beautiful everyday jewelry, too!) in Queen Village and loved getting breakfast at the Hungry Pigeon nearby! Also, one word: BARBACOA. Every stop to Philly must be accompanied by a stop at South Philly Barbacoa. It’s magic.

  61. Annie says...

    I’m a near-lifelong Philly resident. Imagine my surprise when the best meal of my life was had in my own city! Get thee to Vedge restaurant. Mindblowingly good food. Between my husband and I we’ve had 11 of their dishes and every. single. one. has been incredible.

    • Lindsay says...

      I only visited Philly but must add my support in here! Vedge and Zahav were my best meals in the city and I would go back in a heartbeat!

  62. Jamie says...

    I’m moving to Philly with my husband and 15-month-old next month, so this is so timely! We’re moving from the West Coast, so the prospect of a cross-country move has been intimidating—along with the fact that I’ve never been to Philly, eek—but I’m excited to explore. I’ll definitely use this guide when we go home-hunting later this month!

    • Penny says...

      I’m so excited for you! Living in California, but having come from Philly, I can speak warm heartedly of my similar/reverse journey. I’ve always called Philadelphia a “bootcamp” town. It felt wicked and completely uneasy settling there.. but then something happens. You make it through bootcamp and the whole city and its people unfold for you in a way you couldn’t have imagined. It’s…a more personal New York! And the food and art and architecture and hidden gems and young families and old intellects and tough as nails locals who, maybe through a grunt, would stop at nothing to help another. (Understood this was just my personal experience and may be different for other readers). This piece, albeit lovely, only scratches the surface of the Philly soul; the sense of “home”. And I STILL wish Stock’s bakery would ship me a poundcake! (Are you listening?!) Best of luck-enjoy the ride!

    • Meg says...

      Welcome to Philly! We’re thrilled you’re moving here! (And might I recommend the Passyunk Square area of South Philly? It’s my forever home.)

    • We moved to Philly in early 2018 with our then almost-two-year-old. We had lived in NYC for many years but moved to Philly to have a slightly more quiet city life. Philly is super kid-friendly. We aren’t home owners – we rent a row home – but find rents really reasonable.

    • Jamie says...

      Thanks for the wonderful responses! I’d love any recommendations on the best neighborhoods for a family with a young kid! We’ve been focusing on Mt. Airy, but I’ll check out South Passayunk when we go next week! Great tip!

    • Taylor says...

      Definitely look in Fairmount! 20-min walk from Center City and has enough amenities you rarely have to leave. We are raising our 16-month-old and 5-year-old there and have lived here for 10 years!

    • Beth says...

      I need to give another Mt. Airy shout out for family living. You can walk to the Wissahickon from almost any part of Mt. Airy, east or west and from a pretty young age my kids were roaming little spits of the park alone with our dog.

      The only thing I disagree with in the post is that Philly is small. I have lived here for 15 years and one thing I love the most is that there is just so much to do and see. I still discover new places and neighborhoods to explore every year. If you are just visiting, you are going to probably stick to Center City and have plenty to do, but there is so much more to Philadelphia. If you are into history and want to stray beyond Old City, Germantown has a lot to see Probably my favorite place in Philadelphia is the Heinz Refuge. Not easy to get to by public transportation, but it is an incredible bird habitat just minutes from the airport.

      Others mentioned Eastern State Penitentiary, but the tour is amazing and is near tons of restaurants. In addition to getting to walk around a pretty creepy old building there is an excellent exhibit about mass incarceration and other stunning art installations connected to prison life in America.

    • Regina says...

      Welcome to Philly, Jamie! I am a Philly native and think Queen Village is one of the best neighborhoods for young families. I live in QV with my husband and two sons (3 and 5 years old). There are so many young families, playgrounds, great restaurants and fun things to do. We love it here!

    • Shannon Ryan says...

      I highly recommend Mt. Airy! We have great schools, tons of nature, and the community is super engaged. Good luck!

  63. Elizabeth says...

    I’ll be travelling to the Philly area for my brother’s college graduation in the spring- definitely saving this post for that trip! The last time I was there was for a high school trip ages ago- can’t wait to go back and explore all these places!!

    • Hannah says...

      If your brother’s at Penn or Drexel, then you’ll be in University City, which has their own off-shoots of some of these restaurants (Goldie’s, Federal Donuts, HipCityVeg, Sabrina’s) as well as the wonderful White Dog Cafe.

  64. Nia says...

    What a great read!
    Very curious to know the location of the last fall picture was taken.

    • Madeline D says...

      Probably near strawberry mansion hill?

    • Kristen says...

      Looks like the view from Fairmount Park if I had to guess!

    • Meredith says...

      I am almost positive it is Lemon Hill in Fairmount park

    • Julie says...

      I’m not positive, but that looks like Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park. Great views of the city.

    • L says...

      It is from Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park.

    • Nia says...

      Thank you so much :)

  65. LB says...

    When we lived in Boston, we spontaneously went to Philly to see a concert there for a weekend. We went back a year later just because we enjoyed it so much. I liked to joke (but actually I’m serious) that it’s like a friendly, more affordable Boston. Walkable, old architecture, tons of character, great bars and restaurants, good sports teams, Pennsylvania laid-backness.

    • Eloise says...

      Philly food is AMAZING! And Alma de Cuba is my favorite Starr restaurant, although the chocolate cake at Jones is sooooo good.

  66. Charlotte K says...

    THE best sandwich I ever had is the lamb sausage with mostarda at Paesano’s Philly Style. I used to go to them in the Italian section but I think they’ve moved (I don’t get to Philadelphia too often). These are the apex of human existence of sandwiches. Also, eat apple dumplings at the Dutch Eating Place in the Reading Terminal Market (and scrapple, if you fancy it).
    I like Isaac Zagar’s Magic Gardens. If you are lucky, you might even meet Isaac (I did–he showed me his new basement mosaics–now about 10 years ago)
    Great art museums, great food, history, architecture. And still some grit.

  67. I just returned from a small vacay in Philly. You’d remiss if you didn’t visit Wissahickon Park ( for a city hike. Get a meal at Talulas Garden ( Do some shopping/walking in Chestnut Hill.

  68. Caitlin says...

    Philly is the absolute best in my very biased opinion. You should walk the whole time – it’s a big grid so it’s hard to get lost and you see so much more of the city that way.

    For food, I love Murph’s in Fishtown (Irish dive bar serving great Italian food) then a stop a few blocks up for an ice cream sandwich at Weckerly’s. Goldie in Center City has tahini milkshakes that will make you a repeat customer. Saad’s in West Philly has the very best cheesesteaks and is run by the nicest man in the world.

    You should also hit up the Barnes (the art isn’t hung by artist or time period; it’s arranged the same way you’d do it in your own home – by what looks best together.) (Also, idk, maybe you’re an art snob and you do hang stuff by artistic period??) I love browsing any of the Jinxed stores around the city (fun curated antiques) and could spend an afternoon at Resource Exchange (up in Kensington but full of old movie and theater sets and weird art supplies. Super cheap and you always find something cool!) If you do head up to RE, you should also pop in New Liberty for a whiskey cocktail served up in an old stable.

  69. Stef says...

    Yayyy Philly! I would also add to where to eat: Cry Baby Pasta in Queen Village. It’s incredible and you can eat there after shopping at Yowie. You can also go for a hike in the nearby Wissahickon, catch a show at the Kimmel Center, hit up Spruce Street Harbor, and visit the Italian Market. Also, DiBruno Brothers for meats, cheeses, etc. is always tasty. There’s also Helium Comedy Club or Punch Line Philly if you want to catch a comedy show. is a good resource for things to do around Philly.

    Other great restaurants:
    – V Street
    – Hip City Veg
    – Wm. Mulherin’s Sons (A MUST)
    – Cadence
    – Suraya
    – Cheu Noodle Bar
    – Dim Sum Garden
    – Kanella
    – Dmitri’s
    – Tria
    – The Love

  70. AK says...

    I lived in Philadelphia for 7 years. I miss how walkable the city is and Fante’s Kitchen, Metropolitan Bakery and Reading Terminal are great stops for foodies. It’s a nice place to visit but I really hated living there. As a Caucasian woman married to a African American man I have never experienced so much racism as I have in that city. My husband refuses to ever go back.

    • Alycia says...

      I am sorry that happened to you. Some of us are trying to change this, but we do have a long way to go.
      Love that you mentioned Fante’s. I hate that it’s practically under the Rizzo mural but it is a cool store.

    • L says...

      That sucks and as a Philadelphian, I am sorry and I am seriously pissed off that that happened to you and your husband. (I would be curious to know where you lived.) That is not the Philadelphia I know and love and not something any Philadelphian I know would tolerate.

    • Jane says...

      Ugh. That sucks. It’s a complicated place, not just a low-rent Boston (which has its own racist past and present). That was friends’ experience in Center City and South Philly. (They are much happier in West Philly now, which has its issues but also its charms.)

    • Hilary says...

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. I was actually looking to see if anyone mentioned this. I have a close friend who is Taiwanese and lived in Philly for two years after grad school. Her experience was that it was hard to make friends since a lot of native born Philadelphians were socially closed off, and a subtle racism infused in a lot of her interactions. She’s an Ivy League educated, hilarious, adventurous woman – and no slouch at making friends – and she ended up mostly hanging out with her trainer from the gym. Her experience there definitely tainted my impressions. Curious to hear from any Philly folks about their take on this!

    • Alycia says...

      Hilary, I believe it that your friend has difficulty making friends in Philly. It used to very segregated by neighborhood and a lot of older natives still have this attitude. And they have passed this onto their children. Anyone who wants to argue otherwise just needs to log into their local Next Door or neighborhood Facebook page to see the racism and prejudice fly. Or hang out on 2 Street and start counting all the white kids dropping the N word. Some people are trying to move past this but it is going to take a long time.

      Also, schools are still extremely segregated by race and class. For years, people with any kind of money moved to the suburbs as soon as their kids were school aged. Now many are sticking around and moving to the three neighborhoods with the best schools. One school’s catchment lines are drawn around apartment buildings so the kids living there have to go elsewhere.

      One thing that is super integrated is these roving bike gangs. Boys between the ages of 10 to older teens roam around on bikes, doing wheelies and generally wreak havoc while going against traffic. People hate them but they are the most diverse groups of kids, at least in South Philly. So something’s working!

  71. MamNam says...

    Morris Arboretum
    U.S. Mint
    Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on South Street
    Fork/ High Street on Market
    The Continental in Old City
    National Liberty Museum

  72. Alexis says...

    Definitely Zahav – their salatim is amazing as is their tehina! We did our babymoon there 5 years ago and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. So I got the cookbook to hold us over.

  73. Native, lifelong Philadelphian here (Fairmount!) just to echo all of these authentic, solid recs and give a hearty round of applause! Shannon’s suggestions highlight the best bits of the city.

  74. Liz says...

    My husband and I went to Philly last year for a long weekend (we live in NYC). What a sweet place! We had incredible dinners at Harp & Crown (the tasting menu is HUGE) and Little Nonna’s (Sunday sauce blew our minds). We also had brunch at Talula’s Garden (get the corn muffins, you will not be disappointed). My husband got The Dude from Talula’s and raved about it (their version of a White Russian). We also grabbed cheesesteaks at Joe’s Steaks in Fishtown – really cute neighborhood with antique stores and restaurants. Very up and coming (a la Bushwick). Also took a stroll in the rail park which is very similar to the high line in NYC!

  75. Lisa says...

    I have never been to Philadelphia before, but after reading this post it is on my list of places to go. especially that church hotel. Thank you to Shannon for the comprehensive guide!

  76. Eloise says...

    I ❤️ Philly and wholeheartedly recommend Charley Was a Sinner, a vegan restaurant on 13th Street (walking distance from Rittenhouse Square) that even my decidely carnivore husband adores. I usually stay at La Reserve Bed & Breakfast, also walking distance to Rittenhouse Square.

    • Beth says...

      My heart rate and excitement went up seeing this article! Then reading everyone’s spot on recs was so wonderful, too. My husband and I lived in Philly (first rittenhouse square, then same black as Hawthorne’s) for 6 years and not a day goes by when I don’t miss it. Having grown up in Boston and lived in Manhattan for 11 years, it is still Philadelphia that has my heart for all the reasons Shannon mentions.

      With kids it is fabulous because of all of the many parks and playgrounds, big and small. Also the Magic Gardens and mosaics, murals and community art all over the city. Please touch museum, free library, Barnes collection, zoo, etc…

      For baked goods, I’ll second Metropolitan Bakery. It is my favorite local bakery ever!

      Philly sandwich culture is the best, and pork broccoli rabe the best of the best.

      My hubby and I love it so much that we often talk about buying an apartment now to retire to! Go to Philly often, but dont spread the word too far so that we can all keep sharing the best parts of the city without losing it’s soul!

    • L says...

      Philadelphian of twenty years married to a native (shout out to Fairmount). Philly will never lose its soul. Trust me on this.

  77. Sarah says...

    I moved to Philly 4 years ago after living up and down the East Coast and agree that the food cannot be beat. My favorite place to grab a drink and some snacks is Irwin’s, where you can watch the sunset from the rooftop of the Bok building. They have the best wine list in the city hands down and the fried olives are good enough that we always place a double order.

  78. Anna says...

    Perfect timing! We were just invited to a friend’s 40th birthday in Philly in early January- any tips on winter activities?

    • Crystal says...

      Blue Cross RiverRink has a fun and amazing Pop Up Winterfest that lasts through the season with ice skating, games, indoor beer garden, and outside lodges (cabanas) that you can rent with friends. Great for singles, couples or for families!

    • L says...

      A drink and/or meal at the upstairs bar at the Standard Tap next to a warm fire with their year round bubble Christmas lights on. Followed by a walk for drive through South Philly to see awesome Christmas lights. Cannot be beat.

  79. Ann says...

    I would add the Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle (center city) and Moore College of Art & Design galleries and The Barnes Foundation!