The Birthplace of America
Yet onto another of our day trips from Baltimore, the second main base in the trip so far. While the day before we enjoyed a great escape to Washington DC, the capital of the nation, today we would do so at the city that is referred to as “the birthplace of America”, Philadelphia. For me it’s the second time here, but luckily in this occasion the time spent was way longer than back in the 2012 trip where I was only for just around 4 hours, and even so, still managed to visit almost everything. Running yes, rushing for sure, not the nicest way. Now it was a different story.
While I totally refrain from copying anything from the internet directly into my blog, I must say that the following text given in Wikipedia best describe some of the key facts of the city: “I was founded the city in 1682 to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Thereafter played an instrumental role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 at the Second Continental Congress, and the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Other events occurred during the Revolutionary War including the First Continental Congress, the preservation of the Liberty Bell, the Battle of Germantown and the Siege of Fort Mifflin. Philadelphia was one of the nation’s capitals during the revolution and served as temporary U.S. capital while Washington D.C. was under construction.
Summarising some of the nation’s first, then by yearly order would be the first Library in 1731, the first hospital in 1751, the first medical school back in 1765; of course as mentioned before, the first national capital in 1774 until Washington DC was built. The first stock exchange was created in 1790, the first zoo in 1874, followed by the Centennial Exposition in 1876 which was in turn, the first official World’s Fair in the United States. Lastly, in 1881 the creation of the first business school.
About its urbanism, it is one of the first planned cities in the country, where in 1682 upon requests of William Penn, the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, wrote to British surveyor Thomas Holme for planning and mapping the city and the colony itself. He traced broad avenues and streets in between both rivers, the Delaware and Schuylkill. That became to be known as Center City. The traditional and typical home of Philadelphia has always been the row house, and it is the fact that was introduced to the rest of the United States via Philadelphia in the early 19th century, and commonly known as the “Philadelphia rows” in other cities.
That gives you a brief idea on what you are expecting to see when visiting the city. Philly, together with Boston are probably the most historically important cities in the nation, and one of the most beautiful and elegant without doubt. The blend of architectural styles from some of the oldest constructions to the shiny new towers surrounding the historic core is one of its strengths. Gladly almost all of the heritage listed buildings are still there intact, perfectly restored to their former glory. The area is known as the Independence National Historical Park, and follows a very easy to navigate route from one to the next point. It is this reason why a day is well enough to completely enjoy all the sights both through the historic area and the new ones, and what is best, everything is quite near each other meaning it’s walking distance almost everywhere.
As for food, you cannot leave Philly without getting the famous Cheesesteak. This is a sheet steak and cheese in a fresh baguette with mushrooms and onion. Incredibly tasty, but fatty. Does not matter, if you like beef, then do not hesitate in having it. You can find street shops selling them around the city or in the train station at one of the coffee places. for example. As a snack, Philadelphia is famous for its soft salted pretzel. You don’t need to search for them, you will see them everywhere.
For more information about Philadephia check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The United States of America currency is the Dollar (USD, $). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
How to plan the best way to visit the city in one day
Likewise I did for the guide of Washington DC, I will be doing the same in here, listing in order the sights rather than describing these by areas. It’s a perfect city for doing most of it on foot, therefore you will only need to take the public transport once or twice. Then let’s start at your likely point of arrival in the city, 30th Street Railway Station. Admire it inside and out, it is an impressive art-deco jewel, literally everything from walls, lighting, statues, to the benches or litter bins. From the outside you get a great view of the skyline rising few meters behind you, east across the Schuylkill River.
From the station, I would recommend you to take the subway Blue Line to the 2nd Street in order to reach the farthest point in Centre City and start your tour from there making your way back on foot, and getting back on the subway or a bus for the last part to return to the train station if that’s where you need to return. Almost next to the 2nd St. subway station in Market Street, you have one of the city’s famous cheesesteak, Sonny’s Steaks. Might be worth to take a look if hungry. And few meters ahead eastwards, you have the Delaware River overlooking towards New Jersey.
A block and a half north either along 2nd Street or Front Street you have the nation’s oldest street dating from 1702, the famous Elfreth’s Alley with buildings ranging from 1728 through 1836. In total 32 listed houses. Meters southwest along Arch Street you will find Betsy Ross House. Unfortunately the original building is long gone, however it is this place where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag in 1776.
Continuing West along Arch Street you have the Arch Street Meeting House, and farther west a block, the Independence Mall. Here from north towards south are the US Mint and the National Constitution Center at the north side. At the next 2 blocks south, the glorious UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, right by the 5th Street subway station.
Heading east along the Independence Mall, encased in between Chestnut Street at the north and Walnut Street at the south is the Old City Hall, American Philosophical Society, Thomas Jefferson Garden and the Second Bank of the US.
Then towards the last block of the Mall, the New Hall (and north behind it, the Benjamin Flanklin Museum, where Benjamin lived), then east, the Carpenter’s Historic Hall; the First Bank of the US, a beautiful row of townhouses along Walnut Street and the Merchant Exchange Building.
Now back at 2nd Street, you can walk west towards the City Hall Square, or for speeding up and saving your feet, take the subway, change lines and get off at Lombard South Station, or Walnut-Locust. Here you come out directly on to Broad Street. This is, although not the main avenue, the most elegant in the city. The main street is Market St. Broad Street is aligned with great Art Deco and classical buildings, and it leads to the marvellous City Hall (15th Street), a true icon of the city, together with Independence Hall. It’s huge. Circle it around as you will get great views of the building itself and the surrounding ones. Most noticeable is the Masonic Temple on one of the sides.
If you want to see the first International style skyscraper constructed in the United States, then along the east side of the City Hall on Market Street, just a block ahead you will see it. The former PSFS Building, now known as the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.
From here and only if you haven’t got more time, you can say your visit is concluded. Either take the metro to the 30th Street Train Station if you are coming back somewhere else instead of staying overnight in Philadelphia, as we did back to Baltimore, or continue enjoying the city around. All is left are nice buildings and nice streets, noteworthy the Comcast Centre and the Liberty Place Towers. Here, at One Liberty you can access the observation deck for 360 panoramic views of the city from above.
Philadelphia International Airport is the main gateway to the city not only across the nation, but across the globe with plenty of flights everywhere. Adding to this, not far you could eventually count with Baltimore and Washington DC airports, and in truth, New York City’s Newark-Liberty is little over an hour away. From the airport you have the SEPTA R1 Regional Rail Line with stops at 30th Street Station, Suburban Station and Market East Station.
Coming by train is your best option if you happen to be along the east coast. The Northeast Corridor Regional links Washington DC with New York City 24 hours a day. In the other hand for a faster journey, however seriously more expensive, you have the Acela Express trains along the same corridor. Other convenient routes are these to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and these towards other states such as Vermont, Virginia, Charlotte, and overnight service to Florida and New Orleans.
Within the city, everywhere and every district is well covered either by bus, trams and by subway. The most tourist friendly would be the subway, noteworthy the Blue Line which will possibly be the only public transport you would ever need while visiting the city. It costs 2.50$ per ride, cheaper if buying tickets on a block (remember, as of September 2018).
On the bright side, Philadelphia is the perfect kind of city you can (and should) do on foot. Almost all the tourists attractions within the historical area are near each others, with beautiful streets and nicely landscaped.
While being the second time in Philadelphia, none of the occasions required us to book a hotel here. Back in 2012 this was done in a day trip from New York City, and in this occasion, from our base at nearby Baltimore. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. For all the information about hotels in Baltimore check that respective guide.
Album from the summer 2018
Album from the summer 2011