Four Days in Philadelphia: A Local’s Insider Guide to Philly

12

Sep

My college roommate, Stephanie, came to visit me in Philadelphia for Labor Day weekend, and we packed in as much as we could over four days! We went all over the city and ate a ton of amazing food, and I created an itinerary for four days in Philadelphia so you can see all the amazing things we did. You’ll notice that we didn’t visit any museums, and that was because the Made in America festival was going on and it was hard to get to the art museums (but I do have a Philadelphia Museum of Art post up). I definitely recommend going to any of the museums in Philadelphia though!

Also, the food pictures were taken with my phone, so I’m sorry for any low quality pictures! All the food was much better than my pictures show. And side note, Stephanie flew in on Thursday evening, so we walked the Schuylkill River Trail that night and it’s definitely worth walking it if you have the time.

Without further ado, here are some things to do in Philadelphia in four days!

Itinerary for four days in Philadelphia

FP Graphic

Day 1

Knead Bagels

Knead Bagels has a great aioli for their breakfast sandwiches and awesome combinations like lavender bagels and honey cream cheese! It’s also right near Washington Square, so you can get your breakfast and eat it in the park.

Independence Hall Tour

Tour of Independence Hall in the fall

If you’re ever visiting Philadelphia, you HAVE to do the historical tours. I know they can get busy with tourists, but the history is fascinating and Philadelphia is where our country was born! (Plus, the tours are free!) We reserved tickets for an early tour of Independence Hall on Friday morning (you don’t have to wait in a long line if you reserve tickets, but you have to make sure you pick them up 45 minutes before your tour time. Learn more about tickets here), and it wasn’t too busy. I figured a weekday would be less touristy than the weekend, and the earlier in the day, the better!

Our tour guide was a retired teacher, and he really knew his stuff. On the tour, you get to see the room where the Founding Fathers sat when they risked their lives to establish our country more than 200 years ago! And it’s also a spot where Nicholas Cage filmed for National Treasure if you’re a fan of those movies. You can read a lengthier review of our tour on my Independence Hall Tour post.

Liberty Bell

 

Liberty Bell with tulips in the spring

The Liberty Bell is right across the street from Independence Hall, and it’s free, too! Again, the earlier in the day you can go, the better. There were quite a few people there when we went, so we had to wait a little bit to get the perfect shot with no one in the background. You can about the history and my review of it on my Liberty Bell post.

Old City and Elfreth’s Alley

 

Elfreth's Alley in the spring

There’s a lot to see just walking around Old City, like Benjamin Franklin’s grave and the Betsy Ross house, and one of my favorite places is Elfreth’s Alley. Not many tourists know about it since Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are so famous, but Elfreth’s Alley is very historically important, too. It’s the oldest continuous residential street in the country, and you can explore around the whole street for free!

Christ Church

Christ Church Philadelphia

Many of the Founding Fathers sat in the pews at Christ Church, and they still have the same baptismal font used for Benjamin Franklin’s children. Like most of the historical sites, it’s free but they encourage donations.

Franklin Fountain

Franklin Fountain Philadelphia

Franklin Fountain is my favorite place to get ice cream in Philly! The sundaes are amazing, and they also have old-fashioned drinks, like rickeys and phosphates.

Shane Confectionery

Shane Confectionery Philadelphia

Right next to Franklin Fountain is Shane Confectionery! We didn’t get anything because we were so full from the sundae, but all the chocolates looked amazing.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market pretzels

Reading Terminal Market has tons of restaurants and shops, and we picked up a wedding present and pretzels from an Amish restaurant. Pretzels are a must if you visit Philly! You can get more information on my Reading Terminal Market post.

City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall with Christmas tree

I always say this, but City Hall is my favorite building in Philadelphia. It’s way bigger and more ornate than you see in pictures, too. All the tours to go to the top of City Hall were booked, but you can check out my pictures from the last time I went to the top on my The Top of Philadelphia post. It’s definitely worth it if you get the chance!

If you get to come to Philadelphia around Christmas, you should check out the Christmas village and market around City Hall and Dilworth Park.

Good Dog Bar

Good Dog Bar

Good Dog Bar is one of my favorite bars because they have good food and drinks, AND they have pictures of dogs covering all the walls! The Good Dog Bar burger is amazing and they fill the actual burger with cheese, and this time I tried their delicious macaroni-and-cheese.

Bob and Barbara’s

Later, we went to Bob and Barbara’s, Matt’s favorite bar, for live jazz music! They have a band play every Friday and Saturday, and it’s always a lot of fun (it’s also the home of the citywide special).

Day 1 Recap

Miles walked: 13.2 (THIRTEEN!!!)
As you can see, we walked a TON on the first day. It was totally worth it with everything we were able to see though! I definitely recommend doing the more touristy spots on a week day and early in the day if you can. It’s also helpful to have your busiest day on the first day so you don’t get too tired later in your trip and decide to miss some sights.

Day 2

Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market is every Saturday and Tuesday, and I definitely need to go back for more produce! The variety there was pretty great.

The Dandelion

The Dandelion Philadelphia

Thanks to Stephanie for this photo!

We went to The Dandelion, an awesome British pub, for brunch, and I was so hungry that I ate all my food before getting a picture, whoops. I always get the brioche French toast, and it’s AMAZING and very filling.

One Liberty Observation Deck

Aerial view of Philadelphia

Since we weren’t able to go to the top of Philadelphia, we went to the One Liberty Observation Deck. Some of the pros of that tour were the observation deck was a lot bigger, there isn’t a time limit, and you get to see City Hall. Some of the cons were the price was more expensive and since it’s next to bigger buildings, they block some of the view, like the art museum. I enjoyed both tours, so you should do them both if you get the chance!

Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens

I used to live a couple of blocks from Magic Gardens but actually never went inside! It’s only $10, and all the mosaic work is really incredible. There is usually a line to get in, so the earlier you go the better. You can read a lengthier review of our tour on my Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens post.

Shopping at Open House

Philadelphia has quite a few artsy stores that are great for gifts. I recommend Open House if you want any souvenirs or Philly-themed items because they’re high quality and not your typical cheap souvenirs.

Mass at St. Patrick’s

Philadelphia has a lot of beautiful churches, and St. Patrick’s is one of my favorites. It has Saturday and Sunday masses and the times change depending on the season, so make sure you double check before you go.

Tria

Tria Philadelphia

Sorry for the bad picture! The food was amazing, even if it doesn’t show in this picture

Tria is one of my favorite restaurants in Philly! There are multiple locations around the city, and the wine and cheese is to die for. They also have small plates to share, and we got the fennel sausage, figs, and homemade rosemary chips. Their cheese menu is always changing, and I’ve never gotten a cheese I didn’t like!

PHS Pop Up Garden

Beer gardens are one of my favorite things in the summer, and my favorite is PHS Pop Up Garden on South Street. It’s a fun environment, and they have a lot of great summery drinks!

Day 2 Recap

Miles walked: 7
We had a slower day since the first day was so busy and were able to relax some in the afternoon. It’s also nice to leave some wiggle room in your itinerary because we weren’t originally planning on going to One Liberty Observation Deck, but decided to go since we weren’t able to visit City Hall. 

Day 3

Little Spoon

Little Spoon Philadelphia

South St. has a ton of brunch places, and Little Spoon is one of my favorites. It has a variety of menu items, and the inside is really cute and hipstery.

***Sadly, Little Spoon recently closed! If you’re looking for a brunch place in that area, I recommend Hawthorne’s, Honey’s, Miles Table, and Rex 1516.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge

Valley Forge isn’t technically in Philadelphia, but it’s only a 30 minute drive if you have a car. It’s a great piece of history to explore, and the park is huge with a lot of walking trails. It’s really beautiful and green if you need an escape from city life! You can read more about this beautiful, historic area on my Valley Forge post.

Triangle Tavern

We went to Triangle Tavern for lunch and drinks, and their “adult water ice” is the best thing you will ever drink. They have great food and a lot of vegetarian and vegan options!

Pat’s King of Steaks and the Italian Market

Philadelphia cheesesteaks

I know, Pat’s and Geno’s are tourist traps (but still worth experiencing). The place we wanted to go for cheesesteaks (because you HAVE to get a cheesesteak if you visit Philly) was closed for Labor Day, so we ended up going to Pat’s. It worked out though because we got to walk through the Italian Market on the way back. If you don’t want Pat’s and Geno’s, the best cheesesteak place in Philly is Cleaver’s near Rittenhouse Squre!

More Than Just Ice Cream

More Than Just Ice Cream Philadelphia

We stopped for ice cream on our way to Penn’s Landing. More Than Just Ice Cream (or as Matt and I call it for their graphic design sign blooper, Justice Cream) has a variety of flavors and the inside is pretty art deco and artsy. And, of course, they do have more than just ice cream.

Penn’s Landing and Spruce St. Harbor Park

Ben Franklin Bridge

Penn’s Landing is one of my favorite places to walk around, and Spruce St. Harbor Park is a lot of fun at night. They have hammocks, colorful lights hanging from the trees, and lots of food! We got Chickie and Pete’s crab fries so Stephanie could have the true Philly experience.

Day 3 Recap

Miles walked: 11.1
We walked quite a bit again! I wouldn’t suggest going to Spruce St. Harbor Park on a holiday weekend because it was packed more than usual. I also highly recommend walking around Valley Forge (Annika loved it!) if you get the chance! I love living in Philadelphia, but it’s nice to get out of the city every once in a while.

Day 4

Spread Bagelry

Spread Bagelry

I absolutely love bagels and Spread Bagelry is one of my favorite bagel places in the city. They make Montreal style wood oven bagels, so they taste a little different from your typical bagel and they’re amazing!

Walking around Center City and the Wanamaker Building

Wanamaker Building

Thanks to Stephanie for this photo!

Not many places were open on Labor Day, so we walked around Center City to see some of the buildings. We went into the Wanamaker Building (which is now Macy’s) to see its famous organ – one of the largest pipe organs in the world. Fun fact: the Wanamaker Building was dedicated by President Taft in 1911!

Moriarty’s Pub

It took a while to find a restaurant open on Labor Day (even Reading Terminal Market was closed!), but Moriarty’s Pub was open, thankfully. If you haven’t been there yet, I recommend the buffalo wings because they’re HUGE and really good. I couldn’t finish mine the first time I went!

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

I hadn’t been to the Eastern State Penitentiary before, and it was pretty interesting. Also, Steve Buscemi narrates the audio tour, so random! It was really neat to see such a different piece of history, and I definitely want to go back for a Halloween tour now. You can read a lengthier review of our tour and get more information on my Eastern State Penitentiary post.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita's Philadelphia

We ended the day with Rita’s Italian Ice (or water ice if you live in Philly). Rita’s is a classic, but if you get the chance to go to South Philly, John’s Water Ice is the best in the city.

Day 4 Recap

Miles walked: 8.9
If you visit Philadelphia on a holiday weekend, make sure the places you want to go are open! I wasn’t expecting so many places to be closed. It was also fun just walking around the city and seeing all the different buildings. Philadelphia has such a variety of sights that you could easily just walk around all day taking pictures of buildings!

Even though we covered a lot of ground in four days, there’s still so much we didn’t get to see. There are so many things to do in Philadelphia and I’m already planning for Stephanie’s next trip!

Here are a few other things I recommend if you’re looking for more to do in Philadelphia:

The Barnes Foundation
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Rodin Museum
Navy Yard
Rosenbach Museum
Longwood Gardens
American Swedish Museum
Philadelphia Zoo
Mutter Museum
National Constitution Center
Museum of the American Revolution
The Franklin Institute
Yards Brewery Tour
Visit the LOVE statue
Walking around Society Hill

Let me know if I’ve missed anything on my list! If you’ve visited (or live in) Philadelphia, comment below with your favorite thing to see here! 🙂

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  1. Erin says:

    I’ve only been to Philly once and only made it to the Liberty Bell and Reading Terminal market. It looks like I’ll have to go back and see everything else!

  2. Exciting post. Brings back memories of my visit to Philadelphia in 2011. I loved visiting many of the monuments and attractions you mentioned above. Also managed to visit one museum and realised that Phily’s museums need entire days to do them justice. We’ll definitely bookmark this for guidance on places to eat when next we visit Philadelphia. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Silvia says:

    I’m from Boston but have actually never been to Philadelphia! I’d love to go next time I’m in the US.

  4. I lived in NYC for two years and never made it to Philly! I know! I’m the worst. It’s somewhere I’d really love to see, though!

  5. Kathi says:

    So much to do – thanks for the round up! Will definitely come in handy when I finally make it back to the States 🙂

  6. Cassy says:

    Awwww this is perfect. I actually met a guy from Philly when I was in Nicaragua last month. This is awesome! Everything I need in case I jump on that plane ticket to say Hi again 🙂 Thanks for a great post!

  7. Brooke says:

    Gosh, bagels and ice cream – thanks to you I’ve got a good impression of Philly already!

  8. Gabriela says:

    I’ve never been in Philadelphia. Maybe one day! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  9. The Old City looks so cute! I would love to see that. And I would 1000% go to Shane’s Confectionery haha. I want to do an east coast road trip, so I’ll definitely be back to this.

  10. Naomi Liz says:

    Awesome post–so many great spots! I’ve lived outside of Philly since starting college (14 years ago!) and there is always something new for me to discover. You got some of my favorites–Reading Terminal Market can’t be missed, Valley Forge is great, Penn’s Landing, Rita’s (because water ice.)…and you gave me some new ones to check out! (And of course, cheese steaks. My husband and I have a tradition that whenever one of us flies somewhere solo, that when we get picked up from PHL coming back, we go out for cheese steaks. We seem to always forget the cash and have to pull it out from the ATM nearby.)

  11. Elizabeth says:

    do you recommend any hotels?

  12. Ray says:

    You left out a Phillies game for a future excursion! C’mon, baseball is highly entertaining. 😉

  13. Kirsty says:

    I already wanted to go to Philadelphia before reading your post, but now I want to go even more! x

  14. Mike Mavilia says:

    Hey Julia, I’m loving this post! I didn’t realize how many well-known historical sites were in Philly. Definitely bookmarking it for my 5-day trip to Philly this March. Great photos of Old City and the bridge.

  15. Lola says:

    Such great picks! Pinned this post to my Philly City Guide board 🙂 I’m so glad you stopped by my church (Christ Church) — if you ever want to come to a service with me, let me know!

  16. Ahhh, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Philly and I really want to go to some of these places. I took City Hall for granted when I was there and only went to Eastern State for the Halloween haunted house (definitely recommend this, BTW). Loving the colors you captured in the alley way. Reading Terminal Market is just a treasure trove of exotic foods. Have you ever been to DiBruno Brothers on Chestnut? Highly recommend their cheese selection!

    Alyse (J.X.L.) | Lumière & Lens

    • Julia says:

      Thanks! 🙂 I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground in Philly, but there’s still a ton of stuff I still need to do! I definitely want to go back to Eastern State for Halloween! I’ve only been in DiBruno once briefly, so I need to go back for some cheese!

  17. Jen says:

    I love this post! This really makes me want to go and try everything and fall back in love with my home! I’m from right outside Philly. I haven’t tried some of the eateries you mentioned yet but am eager too now! thanks for taking the time and do a write-up!
    Jen

  18. Priyanka says:

    Julia, what a great recap of fun things to do in the city! I have to check out some of those restaurants now – I’m a huge fan of bagels too and I’m always looking for fun flavors!

    • Julia says:

      Thanks! Yeah Philly has so many amazing restaurants!

    • Rose says:

      Wow, what a great post and great photos! I have been scouring the web for information on Philadelphia and this is by far one of the best posts I’ve read. I love that you have everything on here from food, to pubs, to historical sites outside of the city to a penitentiary and church mass times.. Amazing post! I will definitely be using your suggestion to create my Philadelphia itinerary!

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