Get that Philadelphia feeling

By Jenny Boden, a Travel Professional

Read more on Philadelphia.

Overall rating:4.0 out of 5 (based on 3 votes)
Recommended for:
Cultural, Food and Drink, Short Break, Expensive, Mid-range

Often overshadowed by the bright lights and baritone of New York’s Broadway just a 90-minute train ride away, Philadelphia’s own impressive musical legacy goes largely overlooked

Philadelphia: A City with Soul

The Sounds of Philadelphia

Often overshadowed by the bright lights and baritone of New York’s Broadway just a 90-minute train ride away, Philadelphia’s own impressive musical legacy goes largely overlooked.

Upon arrival in the city, however, it is unavoidable. The vast Kimmel Center towers over South Broad Street and boasts the resident Philadelphia Orchestra. If you ask politely, staff are happy to give you a personal, guided tour of the building, which features a colossal mahogany theatre, finished with a cello shaped ceiling and walls that morph to compliment the acoustics of the musical talent.

A stroll across the road will land you at the door of Philadelphia International Records, the architects of ‘Philly Soul’; a stone’s throw but a musical world away from its neighbour. Its impressive wall of fame displays the platinum records hailing from that very studio, by legends including The Jackson 5, Dusty Springfield and Patti LaBelle.

The Birthplace of America

Philadelphia is attributed with the ‘birthplace of America’ for good reason. Within the Old City lies Independence Hall, the site at which the Constitution of the United States was written and the Declaration of Independence signed. Guided tours are on offer, and despite required upkeep, the hall itself is pretty much as founding father Thomas Jefferson left it in 1776, table and all. Adjacent to the Hall the flawed Liberty Bell is housed.

Soul Food

On a Sunday morning in Philly, the only place to be is brunching at Warmdaddy’s on South Columbus Boulevard. With live gospel compositions, the whole joint is singing, swaying, clapping and shouting impromptu ‘hallelujahs’ by 12pm. The Deep South food is some of the best I have come across, particularly the cornbread (sugared and served warm in a skillet with butter), the world famous chicken and waffles (deep fried chicken on a bed of waffles with a glug of syrup, as enthusiastically endorsed by Snoop Dogg) and the creamy shrimp grits.

The World Café Live is a platform for live music. Featuring a tiered music hall, a café and a radio station, the venue is located close to the University and frequented by students. The food is good, American fare (try the eggplant fries and the Philadelphia crab cakes) and the cocktails are lethal.

If you eat only a single meal whilst in Philadelphia, it must be a Philly Cheesesteak; a produce of which Philadelphians are animatedly proud. Pat’s King of Steaks on 9th and Wharton is where the steak sandwich was born. The recipe was developed in 1930 by Pat Olivieri, and people including legendary Humphery Bogart and Tony Bennett have come from far and wide to sample it since.

The Eye of the Tiger

After a decent dose of Philly Soul has successfully infiltrated everything from your sightseeing to your food, escape to some hushed quiet. The celebrated Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must-see not only for its renowned collection, but because it is home to the epitome of discipline and triumph. I am talking of course, of the Rocky Steps. The 72 beckoning steps lead to what the Italian Stallion called the divide between the working-man’s dock and the cultural elite. I recommend blasting Eye of the Tiger on your iPod and going for it! Atop the steps, the breathtaking view stretching down the flagged Benjamin Franklin Parkway and into the city is worth the celebration alone.

Before you Drop

Girls, I am going to let you in on a secret: Smak Parlour on Market Street. Owners Abby and Katie are just about the coolest people on the planet, and they handpick or design and make everything in store. From one-off bohemian maxi dresses to kitsch cuckoo wallclocks, everything is distinctly Philadelphian.

In Downtown Philadelphia, Antique Row is dotted with art galleries, antiques and vintage stores. The cobbled Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest street in America, is also located a short block away.

The century-old Reading Terminal Market is a great place to buy foodstuffs. From fudges to cheeses, spices and coffee, the farmer’s market is a beehive of fresh, quality produce and bustling shoppers in an almost carnival atmosphere.

Rest your Head

For a dose of state-side sumptuousness, The Rittenhouse hotel has been applauded with a plethora of awards. Boasting spacious, beautifully appointed rooms and one of the world’s top restaurants, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, the five diamond hotel is the most prestigious in Philadelphia.

On the Avenue of the Arts, the grand Ritz-Carlton hotel takes centrepiece. Tall, Georgian-marble pillars flank the entrance to the former bank, where the vault has been renovated into a gentleman’s bar. Make time to visit for afternoon tea even if you do not stay here.

The Holiday Inn in the Historic District is an also an ideal option. Within easy reach of the shops and restaurants of Market Street, and yet very competitively priced, the hotel also features a rooftop pool.

Claim to Fame

In West Philadelphia born and raised was Will Smith, in a playground, spending most of his days. Grace Kelly also started life in America’s sixth largest city, and was commended with Kelly Avenue, located just behind the Museum of Arts.

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Jenny Boden
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
Average: 4 (3 votes)
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First uploaded:
9 October 2009
Last updated:
5 years 30 weeks 2 days 22 hours 15 min 26 sec ago
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Budget level:
Mid-range, Expensive

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Community comments (3)

2 of 2 people found the following comment helpful.

Excellent guide. Having had the pleasure of working there for a couple of weeks I can vouch for your recommendations. I'd add McGillin’s Old Ale house to your list. The oldest bar in the city (you can pretend you're there for historical reasons!) with a great atmosphere, well worth a visit for a good night out with friendly locals. From memory Tuesday night was "wings night" where the substantial buffalo wings were 25 cents each. Maybe not an ideal first date food but very tasty!

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Really like this guide - thanks! And could have done with it when I visited Philly. Mmm...philly cheesesteak sandwich...

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2 of 2 people found the following comment helpful.

Thanks Jenny - lots of good, solid information (and humour) here as well as insider tips. Thanks too for all the photos. I'm looking forward to a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich!

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