We couldn’t believe our eyes when we visited Philadelphia for the first time. There is just so much history and beauty in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is known as the “city of brotherly love” and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Philadelphia is such a beautiful city with so much history, we had a hard time fitting everything into a day! For our first time in Philadelphia, we definitely did a lot! We fit everything to see and do all in one day, like we always do. If you’re only visiting Philadelphia for a short time, its easy to make your way around the city. We only spent 24 hours in Philadelphia, but we definitely saw it all! Here’s how to have a jam-packed, successful first trip to Philadelphia. Hopefully our Philadelphia travel guide will help you navigate around when you only have 24 hours in Philadelphia.
Things to Know About Philadelphia
- Philly is the real birthplace of American history- there is no other state with as much American history packed in as Philadelphia
- Downtown Philadelphia is not called “downtown”, it’s called “center-city”
- Philadelphia loves their sports- a trip to watch the Phillys, the Eagles, or the Flyers is a must when visiting Philly.
- Many restaurants are actually BYOB (bring your own beer) because of the crazy liquor laws
- Even with so much history to see in Philadelphia, there are lots of places to visit in Philadelphia for free.
Getting Around Philadelphia
All the best sites are located within walking distance and therefore this post will make the perfect walking route through Philadelphia. Besides walking, Philadelphia has a great public transit system, the SEPTA. The SEPTA is easy to use and quick. We bought a one day ticket, which includes regional rail travel, for $12. If you don’t want to walk through Center City, or you’re tired, there are plenty of other options. Hop on the Philly Phlash, the downtown bus loop will take you to all the key destinations in the Center City and runs daily from May 1-September 4. Philadelphia also has great bike sharing service, which makes getting around center city super easy!
We recommend starting at 30th street train station, located right along the Schuylkill River. 30th street train station is one of the last remaining grand train stations in the United States. 30th street station services Amtrak and SEPTA, the local and regional train. It’s the perfect spot to start your walking tour of Philadelphia. If you are coming from outside Center City, take the SEPTA to 30th street train station and you’ll be right in the mix of it.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Art Museum
The Philadelphia Art Museum is the first stop after arriving at 30th street station. Its located at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, right off the Schuylkill River. With gorgeous architecture, it’s infamous for its role in the Rocky films, thanks in part to the “Rocky steps” located near the east entrance. We didn’t tour the museum but we had to partake in the Rocky run, with every other visitor to the steps. There is also a Rocky statue located outside the museum. The Philadelphia Art Museum is the third largest art museum in the country. This is a great place to see the Philadelphia skyline (except that our view was blocked due to an event they were sitting up for).
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Price: $20 for adults, gives you 2 consecutive days access to Museum’s main building, Perelman Building, Rodin Museum, and historic house Cedar Grove (April–December).
**The first Sunday of the month, and every Wednesday from 5pm-8:45pm the cost is “pay what you wish”
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Wednesday and Friday open until 8:45pm
The Rodin Museum is the largest museum of Auguste Rodin’s work outside of Paris. The best-known of Rodin’s work is “The thinker” sits outside the museum. You’ll find more than 120 of Rodin’s sculptures in the museum. Outside the museum is a gorgeous formal garden and reflecting pool, along with some sculptures. Even if you don’t want to go inside the museum, visiting the grounds is worth it.
Hours: Wednesday–Monday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Price: $10, or included in the price of your Art museum ticket.
Eat Breakfast at Sabrina’s Cafe
Sabrina’s Cafe was named one of the best places to eat breakfast in the United States according to the NY Post. Delicious breakfast served all day from massive omelets, to cream-cheese stuffed French toast, and BYOB! Plenty of vegetarian and vegan options
Address: 1804 Callowhill Street Philadelphia, PA 19130
Hours: 8am-4pm (open later on Tuesday-Saturday)
The Franklin Institute is the oldest and possibly the best science museum in the nation. The Franklin Institute is the perfect distraction if you’re visiting Philadelphia with kids, or if you’re into the science of things. The Franklin Institute showcases science in everyday life, including space and sports.
Price: Adults $20 Kids (under 12) $16
Hours: Open daily 9:30am-5pm
The Love Statue
You can’t visit the city of brotherly love without some proof of the love statue. The “Love” statue, the best known landmark of the city of brother love is located at Love Park. The love statue was unfortunately under remodel, so I guess we don’t have proof of being there! The “amor” statue, which means love in Spanish is located at Sisters Cities park, a short walk from Love Park.
Philadelphia City Hall
If you new to Philadelphia and need some maps, souvenirs or just want to head to the coolest building, go to to City Hall. The city hall is the largest municipal building in the United States (even larger than the nation’s capital) with 14.5 acres of space and has gorgeous architecture. The city hall tower tour provides a panoramic view of the city from 548 feet above ground.
Hours: The Philadelphia city hall hours vary for the tower and for inside
- For the Tower Tour- Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:15pm, Select Sundays 11am-4pm
- For the Inside Tour- Tours only available 12:30pm Monday-Friday
Price: Tickets can be bought for just the tower tour ($8) or combination of the tower tour and the inside tour ($15)
Eat Lunch at Reading Terminal Market
A must-do for your first time in Philadelphia, especially if you love food! The Reading terminal market is a famous indoor food market with everything from Philly cheesesteaks to cheeses and desserts. Its the nation’s oldest operating farmers market. When you visit, prepare for chaos. There are a lot of people and a lot of various cuisines available. Make you sure you allow plenty of time to stroll up and down the aisle to take in all the amazing food that is available.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8-6, Sunday 9-5
Grab a Beer at Independence Beer Garden
While you’re waiting for your tour of the Independence Hall, grab a beer and some food at the beer garden. American favorites and over 40 taps of local and regional craft beers available.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11:30am-12:00am
The Liberty Bell
The liberty bell used to be in the Independence Hall and was rung to let the people know of important meetings. The historic bell is now across from the Independence Hall with larger than life historic documents and facts. The liberty bell hall includes exhibit rooms discussing important facts about the bell. Entrance is free and no tickets are needed, however it can get busy during the middle of the day.
Tip: If you don’t want to wait in line, you can take a photo of the bell from outside if its after sunset.
Hours: The liberty bell hours are open daily 9am-5pm
The Independence Hall is home to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. A guided tour by National Park Rangers is available every day. You can’t come to Philadelphia and NOT see the birthplace of the declaration. Walk where George Washington and the other founding fathers. Everything is arranged just as it was on the day of the signing. A quick but extremely educational tour!
Hours: The independence hall hours vary, but open every day (except Christmas)
Tickets: Free tickets are available at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of your visit. To guarantee a ticket and avoid waiting in line, you can reserve one in advance for $1.50.
Take a walk down our nations oldest residential alley. In 1706, two real estate owners combined their property to accommodate the quickly growing population of artists and tradesmen in Philadelphia. Elfreths Alley is home to the 18th century artisans and tradespeople of early Philadelphia. During the 18th century when most people were working out of their homes, they began to work out of the first floor of their homes on Elfreths Alley. There are 32 houses that were built between 1728 and 1836. The houses have been continuously inhabited. This was one of our favorite places to visit in Philadelphia.
Price: Elfreths Alley Museum Tour is $5
Hours: Museum is open Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm
Penn’s landing and Spruce St. Harbor Park
Just past Old City, is Penn’s landing. The Delaware River waterfront has beautiful views of the boats and the water, and an awesome view of Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Spruce St. Harbor Park includes cute hammocks, floating markets, beautiful lights, and delicious food and beer. There is plenty to see and do along the waterfront.
End the Day Exploring South Street
South Street is one of Philly’s most famous streets, and also one of the busiest streets, regardless of day or time. Home to 400 restaurants, taverns, salons, theaters, art galleries, including Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Head to South Street for the most eclectic and diverse mix of food and drink of anywhere in Philly. If you’re looking for a night out, find a bar on South Street.
For food on south street, check out Me n Mo Meatballs or Bridget Foys
Where to Stay in Philadelphia
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia– Rated one of the top hotels in the US for 2016, located right in the middle of the historic center city. Every room is pet-friendly.
Hotel Aloft Philadelphia– A beautiful hotel in an old bank building. Located close to the Reading Terminal Market, City Hall, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell.
Club Quarters Hotel– Located in the middle of Center City, its the perfect location for history, food, and culture.
Best time to visit Philadelphia
The winter can be cold and icy, and the summer can be very hot and crowded. May and October seem to be the best weather wise, in terms of being able to do some site-seeing around Philadelphia. The lines to places like the Independence Hall and the Liberty bell are longer during the summer.
Trying to explore Philadelphia in 24 hours was definitely not enough, but we made the most of the day and saw everything we wanted to! It was a busy day, and ended up walking over 10 miles in one day, but thats how you stay in shape while traveling! To this day, Philadelphia is one of our favorite cities in the United States, besides Portland of course. If youre visiting Philly for the first time, make sure to bring your walking shoes and empty stomach, as there is a lot to see and tons of delicious food! We cannot wait to go back and explore more of Philadelphia’s gems when we have more time.
For those of you who have been to Philadelphia, whats your favorite part of center city? What’s one thing you would add to this list of things to do in Philadelphia?
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