Philadelphia is a big city, and it’d be nearly impossible to feature all of its highlights at one time. There are so many spots to try and love. This post is by no means exhaustive, as there are just so many noteworthy establishments here. I know I’ve missed a ton — there’s no way not to, with as many awesome spots as Philly has. I’ve tried to highlight my personal favorites, places where I find myself pretty regularly. I’d love if you add your favorite Philly hangs in the comments! We’ll compare notes, and if you visit from out of town, I’d love to hit any of these spots with you!
Dock Street Brewery is my go-to in my West Philly neighborhood. Besides their own micro brews, they serve well-executed and creative wood fired pizzas, and delicious burgers and calzones. Housed in an old firehouse, Dock Street is my favorite neighborhood spot for dinner, takeout, or a drink, especially in the summer when outdoor seating is available.
I’ve been known to request birthday brunch from Cafe La Maude in Northern Liberties. This French-Lebanese spot feels European and satisfies a range of palates. It’s on the smaller side and fills up quick on the weekends, but it’s totally worth the wait. Plus, there are macaroons.
I’m something of a mac and cheese aficionado, and Wedge & Fig serves one of my favorites in the city. I love sitting in the hidden patio behind the storefront, savoring every bite of my mac and cheese, writing in my journal, and pretending I’m in Europe. Be sure to check out their impressive cheese & dessert selection in the case out front.
Pizza Brain & Little Baby’s are neighbors in Fishtown, and even share a door so you can get your ice cream immediately after finishing your pizza. Pizza Brain also has the most pizza memorabilia in one spot, and thus is known as something of a pizza museum. Little Baby’s makes amazing dairy and nondairy ice creams with flavors ranging from Bourbon Bourbon Vanilla to Red Bean Rice Crisps and even Pizza. They often do collaborations with other local restaurants and organizations leading to interesting one-off flavors. I often find myself at the Little Baby’s West Philly location, even in the winter. It’s that good.
Reading Terminal Market is indoors and houses hundreds of vendors, including local honey, used books, restaurants, fresh seafood, cheeses, a winery, ice cream shops, bakeries… I could go on for a long time here, but you get the idea. I recommend not going on Sunday, because my favorite parts, the sections of Amish-Mennonite restaurants & vendors, are closed.
While you may consider Philly to be in New York’s shadow when it comes to art, the Philadelphia Art Museum is still one of the largest in the country, boasting many major works and a packed calendar of programming. Oh, and the steps outside might have been featured in some movie once, though there’s plenty of reason to visit without that.
Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic work is sprinkled throughout South Street and converges at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. It’s a truly magical space, where visitors wander through a maze-like area covered in the broken pieces of pottery, mirrors, china, bottles, bike spokes that make up the walls. Spend an afternoon here, and be sure to bring a camera.
The Italian Market boasts that it’s the oldest outdoor market in the country. It spans both sides of South 9th Street from Fitzwater to Wharton. Aside from the sidewalk stalls, the streets are lined with butchers, cheese shops, bakeries, coffee and candy shops. Fante’s Kitchen Shop is a particular favorite of mine.
Bartram’s Garden is technically within city limits, but once you’ve entered, you’d never know it. Its founder, John Bartram, was named the Royal Botanist by King George III and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Started before the Constitution was signed, it’s the country’s oldest botanical garden. It’s quiet and rife with history, nature, and delightful footpaths.
Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Museum, the Betsy Ross House, etc. As a local, I don’t frequent any of these places, but they’re worth a mention. Philly was the birthplace of the country, after all, and it really is filled with so much history. These attractions are all in Old City, quite close to each other, so it’s easy to plan a quick day trip around the historical sites.
Watering Holes (for both early mornings and late nights)
Johnny Brenda’s is something of a Philly staple, especially for live music fans. I like to take visitors here so they can have their pick of craft beer from local Philly and PA breweries. The draft list is always on point, the pub food is creative, delicious, and local, and there’s a music venue on the second level. Sold.
WIN/WIN is a brand new cooperatively owned and run cafe, bar, and kitchen that blew me away a few weeks ago. They focus on regionally sourced ingredients and supporting the local economy. I’m hoping to spend a ton more time there in the near future. I’m really excited about their nontraditional business structure, as well as their food and drink menu. Also, it’s beautiful.
I love spending time upstairs in the library at One Shot, a cafe in Northern Liberties. The best weekend mornings are made of sipping Stumptown, surrounded by books, while munching on whatever brunch special One Shot has dreamed up.
I’ve admittedly only been to Franklin Mortgage & Investment once or twice, but that’s OK, because this speakeasy is a pretty special-occasion type of place. Want to feel like you’ve been whisked back to Prohibition without the over the top tacky costumes and the actual bathtub booze? Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co serves delicious, carefully crafted cocktails in a really fun setting. It’s dark and swanky, and the service is amazing.
Menagerie is my favorite spot to caffeinate in Old City. The owners are lovely, the vibe is perfect for daydreaming or getting work done, and the coffee and tea are delicious.
Occasionette is a sweet little gift shop owned by Girls Can Tell’s Sara Selepouchin. It’s filled with everything you need to put together a really lovely gift. Occasionette carries a wide variety of stationery and gifts ranging from kitchen and garden to organization and crafts.
Another West Philly gem, VIX offers quality, locally made housewares, art, jewelry, and the like. They’re big on West Philly pride, and the owners organize several large craft sales elsewhere in the city throughout the year.
Jinxed may have more Instagram followers than anyone else on this list. This reasonably priced vintage/found/antique/estate resale shop has several locations throughout the city, but they’re known for posting special pieces on Instagram. Be the first caller to report your credit card number, and the piece is yours! I’ve accumulated some real gems here over the years. You’ll have to visit in person though, since they don’t deliver.
Moon & Arrow is a beautiful shop in Queen Village, a little bit off of South Street. I love wandering through and taking in the beautiful plants, handmade jewelry, and distictive vintage pieces they carry.
I’m a Philadelphia-based web developer and writer. I grew up on a dairy farm in the wilds of Central Pennsylvania, where I ate mostly meat, potatoes, macaroni & cheese, and pie. When I’m not working, I’m either traveling, planning my next trip, perfecting my pie crust, petting one of my cats, or reading a book. My favorite way to learn about myself and the world is by traveling, writing, and sharing my experiences along the way.