October 1, 2020

A Day in and around Center City, Philadelphia

Singing Fountain, East Passyunk Avenue. Photo by K. Kelly, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

City Center is the heart of Philadelphia, full of museums, outdoor experiences, and top-notch eateries. This one day driving and walking tour in and around the neighborhood will take you to some of the city’s best museums, for delicious bites, a stroll along the river, and boutique-hopping. To see where visitors and locals alike are going, use #OurTurnToTourist.

To help combat the spread of Covid-19, some venues below may be closed or by appointment or reservation only. Note that masks are required in all venues except when you’re eating.

Things are changing rapidly. We do our best to update openings, closures, and hours. All information published below was correct at the time of writing.
High Street Philly. Photo courtesy of High Street Philly

If it’s a weekend, go to High Street Philly from 9am for a breakfast sandwich on their chewy house-made bread, or go savoury with a sourdough pie topped with lancaster county corn, arugula, goat cheese, and lemon. Eat outdoors, or get takeaway and walk four blocks to leafy Washington Square.

Bower Café. Photo courtesy of Bower Café

If you’ve breakfasted but need (more) coffee, order a fine cup at Bower Cafe. Afterwards, visit a museum or two; there are a few within 10 minutes’ walk.

Museum of the American Revolution. Film courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
  • History buffs will geek out at the thoroughly modern Museum of the American Revolution, a place that’s particularly engaging during a time of political and racial injustice reckoning across the US.
    The African American Museum in Philadelphia. Film courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
  • The African American Museum in Philadelphia showcases the rich history of Philadelphia’s Black residents, among them Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a noted and prolific poet and activist. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Photo by B. Krist, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
  • The collection at PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts) encompasses 16,000 pieces, from 18th-century masters to Kehinde Wiley, who painted a portrait of President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The museum does a fantastic job of showcasing the work of female artists, those in the LQBTQ+ community, artists of color, and artists outside of major American art hubs. The Barnes Foundation. Photo by Sean Murray, courtesy of the Barnes Foundation
  • Modern European paintings, beautiful Navajo jewelry and Zuni water jars, and carved masks from Côte d'Ivoire and copper sculptures from Benin are just a few of the striking pieces in the Barnes Foundation’s extensive collection.
The Bourse. Photo by Neal Santos, courtesy of The Bourse

After or in between museum hopping, go for lunch at The Bourse, a vibrant food hall in a handsome 1891 Beaux Arts building and former stock, maritime, and grain exchange. Tuck into sliders from Baby Buns (think Taiwanese fried chicken on a brioche bun) or heaving tacos at Rebel Taco.

Pizzeria Stella. Photo courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

If vendors in The Bourse are closed, head south to Pizzeria Stella in Society Hill for toothsome wood-fired oven pizzas.

From here, it’s decision time: do you want to continue strolling in nature, or peruse Philly’s independent boutiques? Depending on the time, you might be able to do both.

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. Film courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

If it’s greenery you’re after, hit the Schuylkill River Trail and walk the two miles from Azalea Garden to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. Stop at one of four scenic overlooks for a postcard-perfect view of the Philadelphia skyline.

Mostly Books. Photo courtesy of Mostly Books

If you’re more inclined toward shopping, here are a few places to go:

  • Atomic City Comics: Graphic novels, manga, new and back-issue comics, and toys and games fill the shelves at this Society Hill favorite. Atomic is surrounded by other bookstores, and bibliophiles will be in heaven. Visit Wooden Shoe Books, Mostly Books, Garland of Letters, Black and Noble, Brickbat Books, and Headhouse Books. Drive 10 or walk 20 minutes from Center City. Brickbat Books. Photo courtesy of Brickbat Books
  • The Sable Collective: Women’s jewelry, clothing, accessories, home goods, beauty and wellness products, and books are on offer here, from a straw fan made in Bolgatanga, Ghana to cowrie shell cuffs in brass. In Center City
  • Damari Savile: Made-to-measure suits that’ll have you looking ultra dapper. Right on Washington Sq. Walk 10 minutes from Center City.
  • Blue Sole Shoes: Find footwear to go with your smart new suit at this Rittenhouse Square shop. Drive 10 minutes or walk 23.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Photo by R. Kennedy, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

While you’re down at the bookstores, visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (book in advance), a non-profit immersive mixed media space made of mosaics. Isaiah Zagar’s living gallery is covered in bottles, bike wheels, folk art, and handmade tiles, spanning two indoor galleries and a sculpture garden.

Midtown Village. Photo by J. Fusco, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Dine tonight in Midtown Village, a vibrant neighborhood centered around S. 13th and Sansom Sts., within Center City.

James Oliver Gallery. Photo by Ryan Hicks, courtesy of James Oliver Gallery

Depending on the time, you may be able to fit in a few neighborhood galleries, like James Oliver Gallery, Gross McLeaf Gallery, and Space 1026.

Chatayee Thai. Photo courtesy of Chatayee Thai

There are tons of dinner options here, including a four-course prix fixe at lauded modern Italian restaurant Vetri Cucina, and Chatayee Thai, which has vegan versions of many of its excellent pan-Thai dishes.

Roost Rittenhouse. Photo by Tablet

Where to Stay:

Roost Rittenhouse: Roost is a collection of three stylish, modernist-inspired extended-stay boutique hotels in Philly. Stay for a night, a week, or a month. It’s meant to feel homey and indeed, the spaces do, with real plants, patterned rugs, and contemporary artwork. Each of the 27 apartments is furnished with modern pieces from Design Within Reach and kitted out with Apple TVs and REVO stereos. There’s a bike share program, a library...you might just want to move in.

Going to New York? Visit Long Island or the Hudson Valley.

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Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. The hotel experts at the MICHELIN Guide since 2018, Tablet has hotels to meet every taste and budget, and makes booking them a joy.

Hero image: Schuylkill River and the Center City skyline with Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Elevated Angles, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®