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


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 ).

house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living