Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

City Slicker: Philadelphia - Philadelphia is urban America at its most friendly and relaxed. Sarah Donnelly offers ideas for new and returning visitors



Why go now?


If New York is the alluring but aloof acquaintance that you've never really got to know, Philadelphia is the amiable guy on the bus who slaps you on the back, recounts his life story, and offers you half of his cheesesteak sandwich.

Friendly, relaxed and easy to fall for, the City of Brotherly Love is much more than a stopover on the way to the Big Apple.

Philly has always squared up to its East Coast rivals when it comes to culture and the arts, but a recent spate of inaugurations on its already replete museum circuit has raised the city's profile yet again. Not to be outdone, Philadelphia will have the largest collection of Impressionist art on display outside Paris when the Barnes Foundation gallery opens in 2012.

A demographic shift has been the catalyst for further change since, unlike their predecessors, the baby boomers began retiring into the city. Shunning the suburbs in favour of diverse inner-city neighbourhoods, they demanded better services, more entertainment and top-class restaurants, and Philly has responded with enthusiasm.

Don't miss...

The Independence National Historical Park.

The most historic square mile in America contains many of Philly's most noteworthy attractions, including the Liberty Bell, the President's House (which includes a new Freedom and Slavery exhibition), and one of the oldest residential streets in America, Elfreth's Alley (nps.gov/inde).

A Segway tour

Getting to grips with a quirky two-wheel transporter puts a novelty spin on an absorbing tour that takes in Boathouse Row, the formidable art museum, and the famous "Rocky steps" immortalised by Sylvester Stallone (iglidetours.com).

A visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary

When Dickens visited America in 1842, he wanted to see two things: Niagara Falls and the Eastern State Penitentiary. A controversial experiment in prison reform, this Gothic fortress is now suspended in an eerie state of semi-decay (easternstate.org).

The Masonic Temple

One of the "great wonders of the Masonic world", the temple is an architectural marvel, inside and out. A guided tour through its labyrinthine corridors will leave you intrigued (pagrandlodge.org).

A trip to the Reading Terminal Market

This 19th-century market hall offers an eclectic profusion of flavours across 12 neon-lit aisles. Take a full wallet and an empty stomach for maximum indulgence (reading terminalmarket.org).

The chance to sample cocktails at the Four Seasons Hotel

End a trip around the Museum District in style in the luxurious Swann Lounge, with its marble table tops and grand piano (fourseasons.com).

What's new

Northern Liberties

Northern Liberties was once Philadelphia's work-hard, play-hard sister city. But, with the Delaware River hemming it in to the east and William Penn's fast-expanding metropolis encroaching from the south, it was inevitably swallowed up to become one of Philly's first suburbs. Now its decaying factories are being revamped, and smart new developments are springing up on its empty plots. Much of it has a "work in progress" vibe, but the boutiques, bars and restaurants around the Piazza at Schmidts – including design shop Millesime (millesime.us), Sonata Restaurant (sonatarestaurant.com), and Bar Ferdinand (barferdinand.com) – provide a glimpse of a promising future.

National Museum of American Jewish History

This is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to Jewish-American history and it's a modern masterpiece right in the heart of the old town. An engaging narrative charts a bittersweet journey from segregation to inclusion, demonstrating how the Jewish population was ultimately instrumental in shaping the cultural landscape of modern America. The exhibition spans four floors and 350 years, housed within an impressive glass and terracotta structure designed by the architect James Stewart Polshek.

Details: nmajh.org

Barbuzzo

The latest creation from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, an entrepreneurial couple whose six businesses along South 13th Street have transformed the area. Having successfully tackled Indian and Mexican cuisine, their new offering of small Mediterranean plates and pizzas has met rapturous acclaim from the likes of Frommer's travel guides, and has been nominated for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Foundation Awards (the foodie "Oscars").

Details: barbuzzo.com

The Graffiti Bar at Sampan

What was once a dull, empty courtyard behind Sampan restaurant (itself a relative newcomer) has been transformed into a happening open-air cocktail joint. Local street artists were hired to spray-paint every inch of wall, in a highly appropriate tribute to Philadelphia's reputation as the city of murals. In addition to its cocktail list, the Graffiti Bar serves cask ales and two-dollar Asian snacks at happy hour, created by the owner and celebrity chef Michael Schulson.

Details: sampanphilly.com

Sugarhouse Casino

This modern, angular construction is the first casino within Philadelphia's city limits. It is open all day, every day and is accessible via a regular, free trolley bus service from the city centre.

Details: sugarhousecasino.com

Insider Secret

Megan Scala, Management Consultant

"Check out the Museum of Art's special events on Friday evenings. I also love the cocktail bar at the Ritz. It is beautiful architecturally, but it's also great for food and wine...and celebrity spotting."

Compact Facts

How to get there

British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) offers return flights to Philadelphia from £420. Rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel (0800 917 8795; fourseasons.com/philadelphia) cost from £160 per night.

Further information

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (0844 880 6852; philadelphiausa.travel ).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on