I’ve been living in Philadelphia for almost three years now, and figured it was due time for me share all of my top recommendations in a travel guide. I have two types of travel blog posts that I share— travel diaries and travel guides. Travel diaries entail recounting the diary of a certain trip to a place (for instance my travel diary of a long weekend trip in Virginia or my travel diary of my trip to Peru), and my travel guides are more in-depth guides to a particular place that I know very well and have most likely lived in (like my travel guide to Long Beach Island, NJ).
Since I’ve had the chance to really get to know Philly in my time living here so far, I wanted to share a travel guide to the city so that I could really cover everything in detail!
Thus, I’ve been working on putting together this guide, full of my favorite places to stay, places to eat, and activities around the city.
Philadelphia Travel Guide
You’ll find that most of my recommendations are in/around Rittenhouse Square, which is one of the main squares/parks in the city. I live right around there, and usually only walk places when I’m in the city (as I drive so much for work), so I tend to stick to places that are walkable from my apartment! Many of the most frequented and recommended spots are in this area though, so I would say it’s still a pretty good reflection of my recommendations for the city at large. ????
Philly has been the ideal post-grad city for me to live in, and I seriously couldn’t love it any more. It’s much more quaint, charming, and homey than you might expect, and therefore it quickly became the place where I feel most at ease and happy. The history is unparalleled, and there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.
Now I’m going to take you along with me to some of my tried-and-true favorite recommendations…
WHERE TO STAY
This happens to be my dad’s favorite hotel ever. Ever! It’s located right on Rittenhouse Square Park (right by where I live in the city) and is a gorgeous boutique hotel. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want to walk to a plethora of phenomenal restaurants around the square and do all the shopping on Walnut St! I would also highly recommend their spa and stopping in for drinks at their swanky bar, The Library (which you can do if you’re not staying there as well!).
One of my best friends from work, Katie, and her fiancé LOVE the Hotel Palomar. They opt to stay there whenever they’re in the city (they live on the Mainline) and rave about it. It’s a boutique Kimpton property that’s located a block from the Rittenhouse Square park– the ideal location if you want to visit most of the spots I recommend in this post.
Of course you can never go wrong with the Ritz Carlton, which is located in a historic building in Center City. It would be an ideal place to stay if you want to be closer to City Hall and the sights of Old City.
This just recently opened a few months ago and though I haven’t visited yet, I’ve heard rave reviews. It’s located in the city’s tallest tower, the Comcast Center, and has a stunning spa and infinity pool that overlook the skyline. On the 59th and 60th floors there are four new restaurants/bars to enjoy food and beverages, and they look like the fanciest spot for a date night. ????
WHERE TO EAT
You know I have to kick off my restaurant recommendations with pizza… and this is such a great spot to grab a true Italian pizza and glass of vino… + a scoop of gelato to finish it off!
Philly is known for having a bunch of BYOB restaurants, and this one is a local favorite! Bring a bottle of wine and enjoy their fresh mediterranean food— it’s delish!
This is such a cozy spot to enjoy a sandwich, latte, and plenty of baked goods. They source many of their ingredients locally, which makes it an even more personalized experience.
This is the epitome of good mediterranean comfort food! It’s tapas style and a fun place to go with a date or a few friends and split a few small plates. Ive been here a few times (both for brunch and dinner) and would recommend that you order the pan seared gnocchi, brussel sprouts, and salted caramel budino for dessert— trust! ????
If you’re a meat lover, then I’d definitely recommend the Butcher Bar. You cannot go wrong with a burger or any of the meat dishes on their menu. I’ve been a few times and also especially love their soft pretzels and monkey bread for appetizers! Definitely a good spot to bring your man (but you can still eat as light as you want and have a fun cocktail if that’s more your speed!).
This is our equivalent to a diner in Rittenhouse, and is such an easy spot for a hungover brunch or to take your girlfriends for a drink on their roof! I love their salads and BLT… it’s all so good! Tip: The Continental is part of the Steven Starr restaurant group which are all phenomenal restaurants that you cannot go wrong with (many of which you’ll see in this post!).
If you’re looking for a nicer brunch spot to go to with a date, your parents, your girlfriends, etc. then I would definitely recommend the Dandelion! It’s a British pub-style restaurant with shabby chic decor and the yummiest options. There is also The Love, which is right down the street and is another nicer brunch option with American cuisine. I haven’t been yet, but it’s been on my list as I’ve heard the best things about it!
This is a two-floor restaurant that includes coffee/cocktails on the second floor and modern Japanese dishes on the first floor (sushi included!). It’s a fun and delicious spot to go with a date and split a bunch of smaller dishes! I’ve been with my dad before and he LOVED it.
I frequent Di Bruno Brothers often (probably too much), because it’s just addicting. It’s a high end marketplace, where you can find prepared foods, fresh produce, and an outstanding selection of olives, cheeses, and crackers. It’s the ideal spot to go if you’re going to pick up an appetizer or just want to heat up a fresh dinner from their prepared meals sections. Oh, their dessert options are also insane. So many decorative and DELISH pastries! They also recently opened a wine bar on their second floor, which is a lovely place to have a glass and get some work done (I’ve brought my laptop there before and had a glass of wine and it was divine). Their coffee/smoothie bar is also a hit with Johnny and I whenever he’s visiting on the weekends.
This is another great brunch option or spot to meet for drinks with someone. I’ve had a few of their seafood dishes before, as well as their eggs benedict, and have always loved it! I believe that they do half priced bottles of wine on Sundays, which is another major draw…
This is my favorite spot to go with a big group of girls, order a ton of chips and salsa, and split a few pitchers of blood orange margaritas. It’s a lively place (with a big bar area) and is always a good time (and cures my cravings for guac!).
I may have had the best salmon I’ve ever eaten before at this restaurant. Johnny took me for my birthday dinner this past June and we had the BEST meal. It’s such a cool spot to go for a romantic dinner (the décor is absolutely gorgeous and it almost feels like you’re stepping back in time…) and I still dream about that salmon! Now I just have to go back asap… next date night?!
This has the same owners as Giuseppe & Sons (see above) and is another favorite of mine that I’ve gone back to time and time again. Their wood fired pizzas are DELISH and I always get the Ruby Slippers cocktail— it’s pink! ????This is another fun spot to go to with your girlfriends and split a bunch of things— it looks like a chic old warehouse inside and the food is always SO GOOD and filling.
I feel like Harper’s Garden is the ideal place to meet someone for a glass of rosé when it’s nice out (I’ve proved this theory right multiple times). They have it set up so you can eat outside in the warmer months, and it has the prettiest atmosphere of natural wooden décor and twinkle lights.
You may recognize La Calombe coffee from seeing it all over the country, but it’s first location was actually in Rittenhouse, and therefore Philly people can’t get enough of it (not to mention how smooth & rich it tastes!). Definitely pop into one of their Philadelphia locations the next time you’re needing a caffeine pick-me-up while you’re walking around!
This is an absolutely delicious BYOB Italian spot that I’ve been to with my girlfriends before. It’s a tiny restaurant, so make sure you make a reservation and come ready to talk loudly (above everyone else) while you eat and drink! It’s such a fun little spot– and I’d recommend any of the pasta dishes on their menu… YUM.
Home-made macaroni and cheese… they crumble up potato chips and put them on top. Enough said. It originally started as a food truck and was served out of styrofoam cups, but the demand for it was so wild that they opened up a storefront right off of Rittenhouse Square. It’s so good that we had their catering at our apartment’s Christmas party two years ago, ha!
I’ve gone here a few times and think it’s such a perfect spot for a cheeseboard and drinks! The atmosphere is snug (it’s set in an adorable brownstone building) and charming, and the bar is never overly crowded (omg how old do I sound writing that sentence?! ????). The menu is all contemporary American food as well!
Ah! This is always my #1 recommendation whenever someone asks me for a restaurant or drink spot around Rittenhouse. It’s a gorgeous French restaurant and quintessential staple of the area. They’re known for their French onion soup, seafood towers, and people watching. ????Ask for a table outside (under the heaters) and enjoy a glass of wine and a cup of soup on a cool evening… my kind of heaven!
Walking into the Reading Terminal Market is like going back in time, to the best of the best local and authentic eateries that represent all of the flavors of Philly/Pennsylvania! It’s a huge indoor marketplace that’s composed of dozens of stalls of all different types of foods— from ice cream, homemade donuts, cheesesteaks, smoothies, whoopee pies, candy, pies, you name it. Johnny’s favorite vendor is Tommy DiNic’s— trust me when I say to get the roast pork sandwich… it’s famous and has been crowned the Travel Channel’s “Best Sandwich in America.” Oh, yes.
I do some of my local grocery shopping at Rittenhouse Market (when I’m not shopping from Amazon Prime Fresh or Thrive Market), and it’s the cutest little spot where I can pick up fresh produce, snacks, drinks, etc. They also have the BEST chicken salad, which I get often!
Johnny and I LOVE to go out for Mexican food together (I would say that it’s our favorite right behind Italian food) and this spot has such delicious margaritas, chips & guac, and tacos! I heard that they also have karaoke nights too… Let’s go?!
My girlfriends and I have found ourselves in Rouge quite a few times for a boujee cocktail, and love the glam atmosphere it provides (their scalloped bar top is to die for!). It’s also a good spot for a romantic date as well because of its intimate atmosphere— definitely get their crispy brussel sprouts! (And yes, I realize that this is the second time I’ve recommended brussel sprouts in this post… I need to start liking another vegetable).
Johnny and I would eat at Sampan once a week if we could. ???? Their Asian fusion small plates are unreal and we have opted for their tasting menu before so we could make sure to get a taste of everything! Definitely make sure you get the tuna rice crackers and their homemade soft serve ice cream for dessert!
What’s a trip to Philadelphia without a cheesesteak?! Two of the most famous places to go are Pat’s and Geno’s (both of which I’ve had and loved), but my personal favorite is Steve’s Prince of Steaks, which has a location in Rittenhouse. Also, I am team cheese whiz on my steaks… you?
This is a nicer, beautiful farmhouse-style restaurant located in Old City. It’s the perfect spot for a nice date or dinner with your parents. The atmosphere is magical (especially in the summertime when you can sit outside!), and you cannot go wrong with any of the creative American cuisine dishes on their menu.
This is a newer Italian spot that has the cutest bright interior and an awesome menu of comfort food! Their brunch menu looks insane as well– and it would be the ideal place to have an Aperol Spritz (which are my sister’s favorite!).
If you’re in the mood for really, really good carbs then Zavino is your spot. The mushroom toast, the cheese tasting board, and the wood fired pizzas are all phenomenal! So delicious to have while enjoying a glass of their wine… I’m now realizing that I started my food recommendations with pizza and ended them with pizza. I like what I like. ????
WHAT TO DO
See the skyline from the One Liberty Observation Deck
This indoor glass observation deck is a fairly quick and fun activity to get an awesome overview of the city and it’s surroundings. It’s the highest vantage point of Philadelphia, and I’ve brought friends to see it before so they can get a great scope of what the city looks like from above!
Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art
So many of my suggested activities involve being outside, but if you face a rainy day in the city, then I’d highly recommend wandering around the city’s art museum. They have Monet, Ansel Adams, and Picasso work on display (+ many more!).
Tour the science exhibits at the Franklin Institute
Last spring, I had the honor of attending a dinner in the Franklin Institute, the city’s science museum, and that happened to be my first experience in the absolutely stunning building. It’s home to the city’s science museum, the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, and (as of most recently) the Marvel superhero exhibit they currently have open!
Walk down Elfreth’s Alley
This is the oldest residential street in AMERICA. Meaning that it’s the oldest street in the country in which people are still living on– wild! It’s probably the cutest little street I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ve visited multiple times because I just can’t get enough! I would highly recommend attending for their “Deck the Alley” event, in which the tiny homes are opened to the public (this only happens twice a year!). Tip: I went last year and it was the most festive event of my holiday season– there are carolers, Santa Claus, hot cider, the works! And the whole alley is decked out in its Christmas best. ????
Tour Betsy Ross’s House
If you’re looking for a charming day of history, I would start at the Betsy Ross House for a quick tour, then walk past the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and then make your way to Elfreth’s Alley for a few photos! I’ve (weirdly) always been a huge fan of Betsy Ross, and really loved getting to learn more about her and tour her darling little home. ????Odd fact: she never received credit for making the first American flag until after she died #JusticeForBetsyRoss?!
Peruse the Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday (from 10am-2pm), all year round, there’s a farmer’s market in Rittenhouse Square. It’s filled with a variety of local vendors, who sell things like fresh cheeses, local produce, homemade baked goods, and lots of flowers. There’s an Amish flower truck that’s always on the corner of 18th and Walnut St, and they have the sweetest selection of the prettiest flowers! It’s a perfect place to walk around with a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.
Go shopping on Walnut St
Walnut Street is the shopping capital of Philadelphia and literally has every major retailer you can think of. H&M, Loft, J. Crew, Madewell, Free People, Stuart Weitzman, Club Monaco, Lululemon… it’s the perfect spot to get the majority of your retail shopping in! There’s also an absolutely STUNNING Anthropologie flagship store right off of Rittenhouse Square, that is four floors of pure magic. It’s a cannot-miss if you’re doing any shopping in the city at all!
Relax at the Rescue Spa
I recently had a Microdermabrasion facial at Rescue Spa, because I had heard so many good things about it from my co-workers. It really lived up to the hype and was the most luxurious experience. I had the technician Christine, who was such a delight and worked wonders on my skin! I couldn’t recommend it more for a facial or massage.
Visit the Liberty Bell
This is definitely the largest tourist attraction in Philadelphia, but is really worth visiting if you haven’t seen it before. It’s located in Old City, right outside of Independence Hall, so you can see both at once and check off a lot of the history!
Go on the Holiday Lights Trolley Tour
I heard about the Founding Footstep’s holiday lights trolley tour over a year ago, and quickly learned how fast it sells out. So this past spring I reached out to them via email and told them that I had 16 girlfriends (which would fill up half a trolley) and that we wanted to reserve spots for their famous holiday lights tour. It ended up working out perfectly, and they reserved a trolley for me as soon as they went on sale. We all went (and joined a bunch of other people who were on the trolley as well) and it was THE BEST TIME.
It’s BYOB— so we all brought our own wine and champs, dressed up in our MOST festive attire, and sang our way through the trolley tour around Philly. Even better? There’s live music on the trolley, which makes it all the more fun. Definitely a must-have experience if you finagle the tickets and get a spot reserved on a trolley! Tip: I would recommend emailing them in the spring and expect to reserve your tickets in October.
During the holiday season, they set up a huge ice skating rink at Dilworth Park (outside of city hall) and it really transforms into a festive winter wonderland! Tip: Philly is a city that gets really festive for Christmas (almost to the level of Prague and Vienna, both of which I’ve been in at Christmastime before!), so if you’re debating a time to visit, then I’d highly recommend November-December.
Walk through the Christmas Village markets
A bunch of adorable Christmas markets pop up around Dilworth Park and Love Park at Christmastime, and they’re so much fun to walk through and stop at for a soft pretzel or mulled wine! The shopping isn’t all that great at them, but it’s more of the experience and festiveness of it all that makes them so special. ????
I hope that my Philadelphia recommendations help to spark some new places that you want to try if you live here, or prompt you to add Philly to your bucket list if it wasn’t on there already.
It really is such a historic and charming place, that’s composed of some of the best sightseeing and restaurants in the country. As I mentioned at the start of this post, it’s the perfect city to live in right out of college, and I honestly could not recommend it any more!
I hope this post makes that obvious ????. xx