When I originally planned my 10 day east coast USA adventure, I knew I wanted to stop by Philadelphia for a couple of days so I could finally see the Liberty Bell. It wasn’t somewhere high on my list but more of a “quick stop in between”. I ended up spending 2 days in Philadelphia, which was my shortest stop, and subsequently ended up falling in love with the city (more so than anywhere else!)
I knew very little about Philadelphia, except that it had lots of history, and I had little idea what that history was. I aways had the impression that Philadelphia was full of crime, unsafe and dirty. I think that’s partially why I only planned two days here.
My biggest regret? I didn’t stay longer!
Whatever I thought I knew about Philadelphia was wrong, oh so wrong. In just 2 days, Philadelphia became my favourite city in the United States. Yes, it’s that awesome. It’s like a mini New York, except better, cheaper, cleaner and safer.
That’s right, Philadelphia ended up being one of the cleanest places I’ve been in the U.S and I didn’t feel unsafe there once. And for a big major city – affordable!
Philadelphia has such a rich history attached to it too – Founded in 1682, Philadelphia is home to the first U.S. library, hospital, medical school, national capital, stock exchange, zoo and business school.
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Essential Links For Booking Your Trip To Philadelphia
Top Philadelphia Tours & Attractions:
- Philadelphia Hop on Hop off Sightseeing Tour
- Eastern State Penitentiary Admission
- Founding Fathers Historical Walking Tour
- Flavors of Philly Food Tour
Best Places to Stay in Philadelphia:
2 Days In Philadelphia Itinerary
If you’re planning a trip to Philadelphia in the summer, I would recommend going on the weekdays as it does get busy on the weekends. I spent the weekend in Philadelphia (Friday – Sunday) and I was thankful I planned my visit in advance! (Having said that, it was still quiet for me!)
Wondering what to see and do in Philadelphia? This 2 day Philadelphia itinerary will help plan your time so you can see all of the best spots in Philadelphia.
Whether you’re spending 1 day or 4 days in Philadelphia, this itinerary can be amended to suit your needs!
How To Get To Philadelphia
There are several ways to get to Philadelphia. If you’re planning to fly the main airport that services the city of Philadelphia is Philadelphia International Airport. The Airport is a 25 minute car ride to Philadelphia Centre City.
If you are looking for the cheapest way to get from Philadelphia International Airport, then take the SEPTA Airport Line. You can purchase a one-way ticket for $8 that will take you to Jefferson Station which is directly in the Center City. The train takes approximately 35 minutes and i serviced 7 days a week from 5:00am to Midnight.
I arrived in Philadelphia via the greyhound bus. I missed my bus from Washington DC to Philadelphia, so had to wait a few more hours before I could get on the next one. I didn’t prebook anything for my arrival day for this very reason. The Greyhound ticket was $18 one way for a 2.5 hour bus ride and drops off on Filbert Street, which is a 5 minute walk to Center City.
It’s possible to take the AMTRAK into Philadelphia but since this usually costs more than a flight I wouldn’t recommend it. The 30th Street Station is where most AMTRAK trains will arrive, but you can then hop onto a SEPTA train and get to wherever your hotel is from there.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend visiting by car, but as a lot of people will be doing a road trip along the east cost of the USA, it may be the most convenient for your situation. Overnight parking rates will cost you around $30 – $40 per night for most hotels and parking garages in the Center City. Depending on where you visiting from this may also be the cheapest way. Philadelphia is in close proximity to New Jersey and New York, which makes a weekend trip to Philadelphia by car even easier.
How To Get Around In Philadelphia
I’v already mentioned that Philadelphia reminded me of a smaller version of New York, but Philadelphia is much more compact. The other nice thing about Philadelphia? It’s far more quiet and pedestrian friendly! Which means walking is one of the best ways to get around Philadelphia.
With our hotel being in center city Philadelphia, we were able to walk to certain attractions within 2 – 10 minutes. Philadelphia is continuously rated as one of the best walking cities in the USA.
If you’re feeling tired on your trip there are other options to get around including public transport. SEPTA is the best way to get around the city via public transport. Buses, trains and trolleys will get you to most places.
Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop is another option for sightseeing in Philadelphia. For $5 you can access this sightseeing bus all day long. Service times vary throughout the year so check before your visit. Tourist stops include Penn’s Landing, Independence Mall and Philadelphia Zoo among others.
Uber & Lyft are another option. I used Uber twice during my trip. I used it to get to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and that was the furthest area I went to. Everything else I walked to.
Where To Stay In Philadelphia
Finding a hotel in Philadelphia shouldn’t be hard, there are a range of budgets available. As always I like to book as far in advance as I can so I get the best deals. I also book via booking.com because it’s easier to find a reservation with free cancellation (so if you see a cheaper price, you can cancel and rebook!)
I looked at several hotels for my visit and eventually settled on the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. This hotel is incredibly central and will allow you to walk to all the downtown Philadelphia attractions!
This hotel couldn’t have been in a better location. It was a 5 minute walk from the Greyhound Bus Station (or 2 minutes in a car because I had heavy luggage, please don’t judge me!). It’s also a 2-minute walk from Reading Terminal Station (hello late night snacks!) and City Hall and China Town (or late night Chinese? Mmm)
Our hotel had such a great location that we were within a 2 minutes walk to most of the attractions in Philadelphia Center City.
I have nothing bad to say about this hotel. The room was huge (for a city) and had two queen beds and our TV even said “Welcome Rachael” As if I wasn’t excited enough to see Philadelphia, my TV was welcoming me!
Check-in was a little slow, but we were checking in on a Friday. I did spend a few minutes in the bar by the lobby too – great for a late night cocktail or snack!
Other Hotels you may like to consider:
- DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City
- Penn’s View Hotel Philadelphia
- Loews Philadelphia Hotel
- Inn on Camac
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Philadelphia Downtown
Day 1 In Philadelphia
Your first day of this 2 days in Philadelphia itinerary will be hitting all the top historical sights in Philadelphia. If you’re not from the United States (and if you are!), Philadelphia is a really cool place to learn about it’s beginnings, Philadelphia was after all the birth place of the USA.
Reading Terminal Market
Head to Reading Terminal Market to grab some breakfast! Reading Terminal Market has been going since 1893, originally opening under the train shed of the Reading Railroad Company (hence it’s name!)
Reading Terminal Market is the place to come for all your food cravings. Be it breakfast sandwiches, pastries, cookies, artisan cheeses or maybe you just really want some fresh AF seafood? Reading Terminal Market has it. If you’d really like to get a more in depth guide to the food scene in Philly, consider taking a food tour.
This place is comparable to New York’s Greenwich Market or Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market (This place is still my all time fave) I came here several times during my stay in Philadelphia. This place really is a staple and a must do in Philadelphia.
Make sure you stop by and see Philbert the pig, his snout is said to be a good luck charm. All the money Philbert the piggy bank raises goes to a different charity each month.
Take A Tour Of Independence Hall
Independence Hall is one of the most important places in Philadelphia and an important part of U.S. history. Originally the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall was the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress, and the Declaration of Independence was signed here on July 4th 1776.
Booking a tour of Independence Hall is a must do on any list of things to do in Philadelphia. The tour itself will take you into the very hall where the founding fathers met and the desk where the Declaration was signed.
Tours of Independence Hall are free but I would recommend booking in advance. To book in advance you can do so via the official government website and the booking fee is $1.00 per person.
During the summer everyone wants to see Independence Hall. You can try your luck and line up at the visitor centre for tickets but why waste valuable time you could be spending elsewhere?
Tip: If you do decide to book tour tickets online, just keep in mind that you will need to PICK THEM UP at the visitor centre prior to entering the Independence Hall vicinity. This is all listed on the tour confirmation, which you should take with you to pick up your physical tickets. Of course, I didn’t read this… so I entered without my tickets and the tour guide was kind enough to let me in. However, this is not guaranteed and if you don’t pick up your tickets in person, they could get given to someone else!
The Liberty Bell Visitor Center
The Liberty Bell is quite possibly the most iconic symbol of United States Independence. The Liberty Bell was originally placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) and was previously known at the Old State House Bell.
The bell is instantly recognisable by the crack that sits down the middle. The cracked occurred not long after it’s arrival into Philadelphia, when it was rung for the first time. It was recast a further two times.
The bell was used mostly for public meetings and proclamations. It now sits on display just across from Independence Hall in the Liberty Bell Centre. The bell is free to visit, no tickets are required.
As the Liberty Bell is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Philadelphia, there is usually a long line to see it. I didn’t think the line was that long really, it definitely looked longer than it was. Maybe between 20-30 minutes. But this was also on a Saturday during the summer.
Did you know? The Liberty Bell was cast at the White Chapel Bell Foundry in London? The same place as London’s Big Ben!
See Where The First American Flag Was Made
The Betsy Ross House is a must see in Philadelphia. This is a small quaint little house that sits on Arch St.
Why is the Betsy Ross House so important? This is the location where the very first design of the United States flag was sewn, by upholsterer Betsy Ross. George Washington first approached Betsy in this house with a sketch of the original design. When asked if she could sew the flag she replied “I do not know but I will try”.
I took a tour of the Betsy Ross house and during the tour you’ll encounter actors teaching the beginnings of the American Flag. One of the things that I found really interesting was the suggestion Betsy made to George Washington of the stars being 5 points instead of 6. This was partly to save time since she had an easy shortcut to make them.
Wander Down The Oldest Street In The United States
After touring the Betsy Ross house, head to Elfreth’s Alley. Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the United States with houses dating back to 1728.
I really enjoyed exploring Elfreth’s Alley. There are small alleyways hidden behind some of the houses, and when I visited there were storytellers entertaining kids.
If you’d like to visit the Elfreth’s Alley Museum, it’s located at #124 & #126 and will cost $3
Step Back In Time At The Franklin Fountain
The Franklin Fountain is a nostalgic soda fountain, serving up some of the best ice cream sundaes, complete with a cherry on top! They also serve milkshakes, traditional ice cream cones and a multitude of soda flavours straight from an old-fashioned soda fountain.
This place is so authentic, it still uses a brass cash register. Make sure you bring cash as there’s no card machines here. The lines do get long during the summer but the experience is more than worth it!
Christchurch Burial Ground
Christchurch Burial Ground is worth checking out during your time in Philadelphia. Christchurch Burial Ground is an early-american cemetery. It is the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin along with four other signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Rush, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes and George Ross.
Admission to tour the grounds is $5 at the gate.
One Liberty Observation Deck
The One Liberty Observation Deck in Phiadelphia is one of the best things to do in Philadelphia at night.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you may already know that I love observation decks. I’m not sure what it is, but I love looking at different cities from above! They’re skylines are all so different and tell so much about a city.
I entered the observation deck at sunset (my favourite time of day!) and it was a Friday evening. There were no lines, we walked straight up to the ticket desk and were the only ones in the elevator. I really like how they’ve incorporated Philadelphia native Benjamin Franklin into the building!
The One Liberty Observation Deck sits on the 57th floor and there are interactive digital maps that you can play around with to find out which building is which. I really like that this feature is free since the observation decks in New York all charge for this privilege!
Dinner On 13th Street
Explore the 13th Street neighbourhood for some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. We came here for dinner at a place called Barbuzzo on a Friday night. 13th Street seemed to be where most of the locals head to. It was a lively and fun area of Philadelphia.
If you’re looking for places to eat in Philadelphia but aren’t sure where, make your way to 13th Street because its lined with independent boutique style restaurants. Everything from Italian to Mediterranean and even ice cream shops are open till late.
Grab Drinks In The Old Town
End your first night in Philadelphia with cocktails in the Old City. The Old City has some really cool places for drinks including the Stratus Rooftop Lounge for amazing views with your alcoholic beverage and Jolly’s Duelling Piano Bar.
Day 2 In Philadelphia
Day 2 of this Philadelphia travel itinerary is a little more relaxing than day 1. Day 2 takes you to some of Philadelphia’s unique attractions and public parks.
Officially known as John. F. Kennedy Park, the LOVE park is famous for it’s LOVE statue (who’d have guessed?) designed by artist Robert Indiana. The park is located in Center City Philadelphia and is a nice stop in between attractions to rest your feet. The big attraction here is naturally the LOVE sign but there are tables and chairs with a place to grab a quick coffee.
I really liked this park, it was very quiet when I visited so had a relaxed atmosphere. The fountains make for good photo opportunities too, as they line up perfectly with the Philadelphia Museum of Art along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Start your day with a tour through one of the most unique attractions in Philadelphia. The Eastern State Penitentiary was in operation from 1829 until 1971. Famous for housing criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton, the prison is now an abandoned building that tells the story of it’s past history.
Tours at Eastern State Penitentiary run 7 days a week, year-round. An audio guide is included with every admission price or you can join a guided tour at select times throughout the day. Audio tours last approximate 35 minutes but you can easily spend 2 hours here.
The Rocky Steps
Is anything more iconic in the film industry than that famous scene in Rocky? Even if you aren’t into Boxing or have never seen the movies, everyone knows that scene.
Before you make your iconic run up the museum steps, take a photo with the Rocky Statue which is located just to the right.
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
You’ve ran to the top of the Rock Steps, now head into the amazing building in front of you to explore the Philadelphia museum of art.
This is one of the best museums in Philadelphia and even if you are short on time, you should try to see at least a few of the exhibitions.
Philadelphia City Hall
Grab a Lyft or Uber and head back into Center City Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia City Hall is the most iconic of Philadelphia landmarks and one of the top things to see in Philadelphia. It’s one of the most recognised and important buildings in the city. It was once the tallest building in Philadelphia, and while it may no longer be the tallest, it sure is the most beautiful.
This building had me staring in awe whenever we passed it. It was stunning at every point during the day, whether it be morning, night or sunset.
You can explore inside the building through a guided tour and head to the open observation deck for a panoramic view of the city.
There are two tours available:
The Tower Tour, which takes guest in an elevator to the top of the building and observation deck.
The Interior tour is offered once a day and is a two-hour tour exploring the building rich history. During this tour you will get access to some of the rooms inside the building, and overview of it’s history and access to the observation deck.
You can book both tours via the Visitor Centre Website here.
Philadelphia China Town
China Town is always a must when visiting any city. Philadelphia’s China Town is a no exception.
Meander through China Town’s vibrant streets and sample some of the food offerings here. If you’re new to Asian cuisine or just can’t decide from the many eateries on offer, you can opt to take a food tour.
Check out China Town for all your souvenir and fridge magnet needs.
Franklin Square is one of the five main squares in Philadelphia originally laid out by William Penn in 1682.
There are many squares that you can visit in Philadelphia. There was a reason I decided to head to Franklin Square though, it features in the opening scenes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which is one of my favourite TV shows.
This area is really nice, especially in the summer. If you are visiting with kids, this is a great place to bring them. The park features a carousel and a train that circles the park.
The fountain has recently been renovated and now showcases a dancing fountain show. Show times are every 30 minutes. Check out showtimes here for seasonal time changes.
If you’d like to visit a different park in Philadelphia, both Washington Square and Rittenhouse Square are highly recommended.
Penn’s landing is on the waterfront of the Delaware River. Spruce Street Harbor Park opens during the summer months and features everything from a beer garden, food stands, lily pad lounges and colourful hammocks.
If you’d like to take a ride across the Delaware River towards New Jersey, the Riverbank Ferry takes approximately 12 minutes. General admission is $9
If you’re looking for places to eat along the riverfront The Deck Philly is a restaurant on board a Tall Ship.
Geno’s Or Pat’s?
The best way to end your Philadelphia trip is with a late night Philly cheese steak.
So, where is the best place to get a Philly cheese steak? There is a somewhat rivalry in Philadelphia, Pat’s and Geno’s both compete for the best cheesesteak in the city. If you’re travelling with a friend – get one at each! Split them in half and try both!
When you order your Philly cheesesteak, you can choose to have it “wit” or “witout” onions, then whether or not you’d like cheese and which cheese you’d like.
Since both Pat and Geno’s are open 24 hours, you can stop by any time of day!
Other Suggested Places Near Philadelphia To Visit
I never imagined I would find so many fun things to do in Philadelphia. But with only two days in Philadelphia it’s hard to fit everything in. If you happen to be staying longer or are on a return trip to Philadelphia and want to check out somewhere different, these are a few more recommendations that were on my list of things to see:
- Edgar Allen Poe Historical Site
- Philadelphia Magic Gardens
- Rodin Museum
- Museum of The American Revolution
- The Franklin Institute
- Philadelphia Zoo
Is 2 Days In Philadelphia Enough?
I hope you fall in love with Philadelphia as easily as I did. It often gets overlooked when people are planning their east coast adventure. And Philadelphia is more than just a quick stopover. While you may not need one week in Philadelphia, 3 to 5 days in Philadelphia would be a perfect amount of time to see the main sights. With a few more days in the city you can venture further out and see other attractions near Philadelphia.
Is it possible to visit Philadelphia in one day? While I personally wouldn’t recommend just 1 day in Philadelphia it is definitely possible! With all the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia being so close together, seeing them in a day is pretty easy. From my experience I would stick to 2 days minimum. If you end up liking Philadelphia as much as I did, you’ll regret not spending longer here! But if one day is all you can manage, definitely go for it.
I love this city, the food and drink is awesome, the people are awesome, it’s clean, full of history, and for a major city, affordable! There’s no reason not to visit Philadelphia. I can’t wait to return.
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