Philadelphia: A World Heritage City full of surprises

  • Updated: Aug 08, 2016 14:05 IST

The city of Philadelphia is a rich blend of both history and modernity. Though it is famously known for being the birthplace of American democracy, it also offers much to learn about the tradition of freedom and innovation as you explore its diverse communities, vibrant museums, and exciting sports and cultural attractions.

It’s friendly, walkable and beautiful with world-class culture, food, entertainment and parks. Always changing and ever exciting, Philadelphia, the first World Heritage City in the U.S., is a favourite for visitors from around the globe.

Getting here and around

Conveniently located in the Northeast United States, Philadelphia is just 90 minutes from New York City and two hours from Washington, D.C. by train, making it easy and affordable to get there.

Philadelphia International Airport serves more than 120 cities worldwide with 1,000 daily flights, including 100 international flights. There is also a daily non-stop service from Mumbai and Delhi to Newark (EWR) which is just an hour away from Philadelphia Center City by Amtrak train.

Not only is Philadelphia perfectly situated on the East Coast, it is also one of the world’s most walkable cities. In fact, there are hotels and restaurants at every price point in the heart of Center City, plus a top-rated public transit system and plenty of taxis to take you around.

Metro routes for your American adventure.

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Tax-free shopping

With more than 2,000 retailers in Center City alone, Philadelphia is a shopper’s paradise. Whether you are looking for upscale goods, brand-name bargains, or that perfect vintage item, you will not be disappointed. And with no tax on clothing and shoes, bargain hunters can save a bundle.

Explore the city’s specialty retail districts like Jewellers’ Row, the nation’s oldest diamond district, or Antiques Row to pick up a piece of Americana. Or head to Rittenhouse Row, home to exclusive boutiques and big brand-name stores along Walnut Street.

Rittenhouse Square is the perfect place to rest your feet after a long day of shopping. Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, founded in Philadelphia, are nearby. Century 21 and Nordstrom Rack are also popular spots for shoppers looking for deals.

International visitors won’t want to miss Macy’s Center City in the lavish Wanamaker Building which was home to Philadelphia’s first modern department store. Show your passport at the Macy’s visitor center to receive discounts.

For other famous brand-name stores, take a short drive outside Philadelphia to the King of Prussia Mall featuring more than 400 stores, the Philadelphia Premium Outlets, or Philadelphia Mills where you can find deep discounts on top brands.

Family-friendly attractions

For visitors travelling with kids or for those who are kids at heart, Franklin Square is the perfect spot to enjoy a sunny city day. Visitors will enjoy riding the Liberty Carousel or playing a round of miniature golf on a Philadelphia-themed course, which is one of William Penn’s original parks.

At The Franklin Institute, the entire family can walk through a larger-than-life heart, learn from Benjamin Franklin’s early electricity experiments, and view IMAX® movies on a four-storey domed theater. Only a few blocks away, dinosaurs loom overhead and butterflies roam free at The Academy of Natural Sciences where four floors of exhibits and interactive activities focus on the environment.

Wildlife enthusiasts will love the Philadelphia Zoo America’s first zoo, which houses various animal species from around the world. And just across the Delaware River more than 1,500 species of fabulous fish and marine life get up close at Adventure Aquarium.

Youngsters can also explore the Please Touch Museum which promotes hands-on learning and parent-child interaction. Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should not be missed – it is where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

World-class arts and culture

Philadelphia was ranked America’s No. 1 city for culture by Travel + Leisure magazine. From ballet to theater to the orchestra and beyond, it offers a plethora of cultural activities to indulge in.

Philadelphia’s vast collection of art museums is located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, also dubbed ‘Museum Mile’. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the third-largest art museum in the United States, is situated on the west side of the avenue modelled after the Champs-Élysées. The striking, neoclassical building is an oasis of beauty featuring more than 2,000 years of human creativity in paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and architectural settings from Europe, Asia and the Americas.

A few steps away, The Rodin Museum houses the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. ‘The Thinker’ sits in front of the museum contemplating two of the many masterpieces within the intimate museum’s gates, ‘The Burghers of Calais’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’.

Another not-to-miss museum along the Parkway is The Barnes Foundation where visitors will find the world’s largest private collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces. This extraordinary collection featuring masterpieces by Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse is definitely worth viewing. It provides a depth of work by these artists unavailable elsewhere. Works by Picasso, Seurat, Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine, Monet, Manet and Degas complement Native American pottery, Pennsylvania German decorative furniture and various ceramics and metalwork as well as sculpture and art from Mexico, China, Africa, early Greece and Rome.

Those with an edgier bent will enjoy the work of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Started as an anti-graffiti initiative, the program has morphed into an ambitious effort that has beautified thousands of blank walls around the city. There are almost 4,000 murals around the city. One can explore these spaces by joining tours that are as varied as the murals. Visitors can choose tours based on theme, neighbourhood, or transportation mode.

The Avenue of the Arts (Broad Street) is home to more than 20 major educational and performing arts facilities, including venues for opera, ballet, jazz and orchestral music plus classic drama and musical theater. The three mile long avenue which passes through the heart of the city and intersects City Hall is the site of the Academy of Music, the world-class Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and the Wilma Theatre.

The magnificent glass-domed Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts blends technical excellence with architectural beauty. The Center houses the 2,500-seat Verizon Hall especially designed for The Philadelphia Orchestra as well as a 650-seat Perelman Theater for a variety of smaller performances.

The Academy of Music, built in 1857, is the oldest opera house in the U.S. and a national historic landmark. The opulent hall is home to the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Opera Company of Philadelphia and a full season of performances by various artists.

Skyline from South Street Bridge. (Paul Loftland for PHLCVB)

Dining and nightlife

Philadelphia’s renowned dining scene is endlessly diverse, offering authentic ethnic cuisines, famed regional fare and modern culinary creations. The city is filled with upscale restaurants, quaint bistros and more than 250 outdoor cafés, ranging from sophisticated and grandiose chef-owned eateries to intimate cafés in historic buildings to venues with river and skyline views.

Menus offer contemporary and classic options that make for unforgettable meals. Many restaurants offer a wide selection of specialty beers, some brewed right there in Philadelphia. If you’re looking for something different, visit one of the many food trucks that head to LOVE Park and the campuses of the Ivy-league University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University during peak hours serving from casual eats to specialty ethnic cuisine. There are many Indian and vegetarian restaurants throughout the city ready to welcome visitors from around the world.

Whether you’re looking to dance into the night or catch a live show, Philadelphia has something for everyone. From small venues that showcase local indie bands to sold-out blockbuster shows at the Wells Fargo Center for more than 20,000, Philadelphia won’t disappoint.

For those looking for a more spirited evening out, visit one of the city’s bowling alleys or dance clubs, or laugh the night away taking in a comedy show. If you’d rather try your luck, check out SugarHouse Casino or one of the other nearby casinos in Philadelphia’s suburbs. No matter what you choose, nightlife throughout the city is alive and vibrant into the late hours.

Sports and outdoors

Philadelphia is one of the greatest American sports cities offering four seasons of athletic excitement. Philadelphia boasts of professional Baseball, American Football, Soccer, Basketball and Ice Hockey teams plus a full calendar of special sporting events, from regattas and Dragon Boat races along the Schuylkill River to running races through the streets of the city and an annual marathon.

Visitors looking for physical activity can explore the city’s network of paths, parks, trails and public playing fields. Fairmount Park offers 215 miles (346 km) of trails including the paved 11.5 miles (18.5 km) of the Schuylkill River Trail. Rent bicycles or in-line skates along Boathouse Row or take a guided bicycle or Segway tour of the park’s highlights.

With its range of attractions, the fifth most populous city of the U.S. and the largest city of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia demands a good share of any American holiday. Not only does it have something to offer for everyone but it also promises a unique cultural experience.

For more information on Philadelphia or to plan your next trip, visit

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