Seven reasons to visit Philadelphia


By Nell McShane Wulfhart

Philadelphia-born travel writer, and New York Times columnist

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May 2018

Not just the birthplace of the nation, Philadelphia has a dynamic food culture, a booming arts scene and cool to spare. Philly native Nell McShane Wulfhart shares her insider guide.

Homegrown style and sips

Shopping in Philly runs the gamut from classic (at Macy’s in the historic Wanamaker building) to cutting-edge, with local fashionistas producing one-of-a-kind looks – bonus: clothes and shoes aren’t taxed. Check out Fishtown for boutiques like Toile, which sells clothes by up-and-coming Philly designers. The neighbourhood is home to remarkable local distilleries too. Skip the duty free, and instead pick up award-winning Bluecoat Gin at Philadelphia Distilling and micro-batch herbal liqueurs at Rowhouse Spirits.

Garden city

Fairmount Park, a sprawling series of woods and hiking trails, is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and makes a fabulous afternoon nature excursion for the whole family. There are gorgeous smaller green spaces too. Rittenhouse Square (known in summer as ‘Rittenhouse Beach’, thanks to the hordes who sun themselves on the grass) is right in the centre of town and hosts farmers’ markets and art fairs. Tiny ‘parklets’, stocked with just a few chairs and tables, are hidden all over town.

  • Take a relaxing stroll through Fairmount Park © Getty Images.

    Park life

    The park contains many quirky highlights, such as the stone arch bridge – a leftover from the Fairmount Park trolley line, and the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, where you can see the famous cherry blossom.£326 return

    Fly to Philadelphia

Foodie paradise

Philly’s food scene is booming, with over 2,500 restaurants to choose from and the likes of high-profile chefs such as Jose Garces building restaurant empires here. Head to his Amada restaurant for exquisite Andalusian tapas paired with adventurous Spanish wines, or try sophisticated modern Israeli food by Michael Solomonov at Zahav. Also look out for the city’s dozens of tiny BYOBs with sophisticated menus and affordable prices – book a table at Will, where chef Christopher Kearse sends out French-inspired seasonal plates including scallops with garlic flower buds and monkfish tail in a lobster bouillon.

Rittenhouse Square (known in summer as ‘Rittenhouse Beach’, thanks to the hordes who sun themselves on the grass) is right in the centre of town and hosts farmers’ markets and art fairs.

Go hard or go home

Philly fans are infamously passionate, and the city’s nine professional sports teams keep emotions keyed up year-round. Tailgating in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park or Lincoln Financial Field (the two South Philly stadiums) with portable barbecues and coolers crammed with beers before a big game is an unmissable part of the local sports experience, though cheering on the Eagles (American football) or the Phillies (baseball) with hyper-enthusiastic crowds isn’t bad either.

  • Catch a baseball game at the home of the Phillies, Citizens Bank Park © Alamy.

    Playing ball

    Take a tour of the ballpark Monday to Saturday at 10.30 (April-September) and Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10.30 (October-March).£451 pp

    Discover Philadelphia
  • Explore the crumbling ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary.

    Did you know…?

    Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prisons in the world and held inmates such as the infamous Al Capone.£488 pp

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  • Check in for a restful night’s sleep at The Logan.

    Relax and unwind with an Alpine Arnica deep tissue massage – voted best massage in 2017 by the Best of Philly Awards – at the hotel’s onsite spa.£554 pp

    Book a stay

Rock(y) on

Rocky is the quintessential Philly movie, but Trading Places, The Sixth Sense and many others were filmed here – not to mention National Treasure, which sees Nicholas Cage running around from City Hall to Reading Terminal Market. Check out the spots that made it onscreen with Philadelphia Movie Sites Tour, or stick with the hometown hero on a self-guided Rocky journey. The imposing and historic Eastern State Penitentiary offers tours, too – it was the asylum featured in Brad Pitt hit Twelve Monkeys.

Outside (and outsider) art

An extraordinary 3,600 murals and counting (including tributes to city history and beloved local groups like The Roots) have turned the city into an enormous, bright open-air gallery. More traditional work can be found in the two world-renowned museums on the Parkway: the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (snap a photo with the Rocky statue while you’re there), which give New York and Washington DC just one and two hours by train, respectively, a run for their money.

  • Dine on Andalusian-inspired tapas at Amada.

    Lights, camera, aperitif

    Amada’s speciality cocktails are named after films by Pedro Almodóvar, such as the Matador – Jim Beam Bourbon, Ginger, Elderflower, and Lemon.£488 pp

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Dream on

Bed down at the fresh-from-a-redesign Logan hotel, which has its own art collection and is just a 15-minute ride from the airport. The LEED-certified Courtyard Philadelphia South at the Navy Yard has a cool futuristic vibe, plus, it’s walking distance to the stadiums. And, there’s old-school glamour in abundance at the chic Warwick, which is surrounded by the city’s most luxurious shops.