Self-Guided Driving & Walking Tours of Greater Philadelphia
How to do Philly your own way — and at your own pace...
Sometimes the best way to learn something new — or discover history that’s hidden in plain sight — is to explore on your own.
Take advantage of these self-guided driving and walking tours of Greater Philadelphia that put you in control of when and how you explore top attractions and important historical sites.
Great for solo excursions or small groups, these self-guided explorations (many of which are free!) are an excellent way to uncover interesting facts about Philadelphia — and encounter surprises along the way.
Here’s your chance to take your time while learning more about the region’s anti-slavery history , the encampment at Valley Forge National Historical Park and even the historic barns of Bucks County .
Looking for a little more interaction? Some experiences gamify history lessons with scavenger hunts that let players upload photos of their finds, while detailed maps clue users into what other fun things are nearby.
Check out our guide below for a list of great self-guided walking and driving tours to help you explore Philadelphia and the Countryside on your own.
The National Park Service’s free official app — newly updated for 2021 with info on more than 400 parks across America — offers a complete guide to what’s been dubbed the most historic square mile in the United States . Choose from one of five self-guided audio tours (on topics like civil rights and Benjamin Franklin) or use the interactive map to explore the 35 included sites at your own pace. Bonus: Kiddos can sign the Declaration of Independence, ring the Liberty Bell and more in a separate Junior Ranger app .
No battles were fought in Valley Forge , but the time the Continental Army encamped here in 1777 and 1778 went down as one of the Revolutionary War’s most trying periods. Take a deep dive into Valley Forge’s history at your own pace via the park’s official audio tour, available for purchase to stream or on CD . Drive through the park, accompanied by period music, while character voices help you envision the 18th-century encampment during a 60-minute tour.
Philadelphians were heavily involved in the abolitionist movement, and the Underground Railroad passed through the city, helping enslaved people find freedom here and north into Canada. Two free audio tours from The Philadelphia Inquirer guide people through Old City and Society Hill and around Northwest Philadelphia to visit anti-slavery landmarks like Congo Square (now Washington Square ), a convening space and burial ground for the Black community; and Germantown’s Johnson House Historic Site , which served as an Underground Railroad stop and may have hosted Harriet Tubman.
Explore the living history of Philadelphia starting from atop the iconic steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art via a free augmented reality app, OverTime . Created by public art and history studio Monument Lab , the app offers up self-guided tours of the space and art on and around the museum through three different tour options guided by Philadelphia poet-activist-heroine Ursula Rucker. Throughout the experience, tourgoers can answer the questions, “What has happened here? What can you see from here? What does this statue mean to you?” Through the app, Monument Lab will gather feedback and make it available online. The app is currently available here for iOS with an Android app in the works.
See how Philadelphia earned its “City of Murals” moniker on one of two free self-guided tours from Mural Arts Philadelphia . The Mural Mile tour guides users to 50 Center City murals mostly on or near Broad Street, while the Love Letter Market Frankford Trail Line follows 30 lovely West Philly murals that can be viewed from the elevated Market Frankford subway line or on foot. Or create your own tour using the site’s mobile-friendly interactive map (then learn more about specific artworks here ).
Known for their in-depth guided tours of Philly architecture, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia also offers free self-guided tours available online in the form of six mini-tours and three full guides. The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is so history-dense that separate full tours are needed to cover the east and west parts of the area. And don’t sleep on a walk through roomy Girard Estate in deep South Philly, complete with an engrossing story involving the richest man in America and a rare planned community in the city. The mini-tours cover Old City, Fairmount Park, Germantown (two parts!) and more.
Take a deep dive into one of the largest collections of public art in America on the Association for Public Art’s free self-guided tours. The biggie is the Museum Without Walls audio program, which offers expert insight into more than 75 outdoor artworks in Center City and Fairmount Park (available via mobile app , phone, audio download or online.) The organization has also compiled six smaller tours , focusing on works on Kelly Drive, around City Hall, around the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more.
This circa-1836 Northwest Philly cemetery with picturesque views of the Schuylkill River offers more than pleasant outdoor strolling. Download the cemetery’s free app and venture out on one of three themed tours — Art & Architecture; Pop Culture & Contemporary Stories; and Lore & Legends — to visit permanent residents like Sarah Josepha Hale (author of Mary Had a Little Lamb ) and former Philadelphia Phillies announcer Harry Kalas. Pair a visit with gorgeous bike- and pedestrian-friendly Kelly Drive via the park’s southwest entrance , or explore nearby East Falls’ dining offerings (like fried chicken from Foghorn or pizza from In Riva).
Seven free and enlightening self-guided walking tours of Philly await online, courtesy of the nonprofit Independence Hall Association. Each comprehensive tour shines a small light on sights both iconic (Independence Hall, LOVE Park) and sometimes overlooked ( American Street in Society Hill, Musical Fund Hall in Washington Square West) in Center City and Northwest Philly.
Learn more about the many historic sites throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District on this 75-minute, 1.25-mile self-guided walking tour from the folks behind the popular Constitutional walking tours . More than 20 attractions are included, from the iconic (Independence Hall) to the lesser-known (Old City Hall). The app costs $18.99 and is available for both Android and Apple .
Augment your reality on this futuristic tour of North Broad Street using nothing more than your smartphone. Look for QR codes placed on the sidewalk at five locations along a two-mile stretch of North Broad Street. Scan the code with your smartphone, install the free Lights of North Broad app and watch history come alive. Through the magic of augmented reality, your virtual tour guide — NBC10’s Aunyea Lachelle — appears in front of you to explain the past, present and future of some of North Broad’s most pivotal spaces. Current stops can be found at The Rail Park (an urban greenspace built atop a retired railway), the Divine Lorraine (a historic hotel first opened in 1892), Blue Horizon (a legendary boxing venue), Historic Progress Plaza (the first Black-owned shopping center in the U.S.) and the Uptown Theater (a storied theater currently slated for renovation).
Experience Philadelphia by retracing the steps of iconic fictional boxer Rocky Balboa. Stops on this self-guided tour include the Italian Market, Mickey’s gym, Adrian’s restaurant and the iconic “ Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art . Protip: The Rocky statue now rests at the bottom of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, so strike a pose and snap a picture before you run up those 72 stairs. Take the tour at your own pace, and feel free to provide your own soundtrack. Getting strong now!
Philadelphia’s newest attraction — the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center — opened in May 2021 right on Independence Mall. Coinciding with the opening is the launch of the Faith and Liberty Trail App , offering 13 themed trails that guide users to more than 80 historic sites in Philadelphia. Stops along the way range from major attractions like the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall to some of the nation’s early religious institutions like Arch Street Friends Meeting House, Congregation Mikveh Israel and Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The app is available for free download on Apple and Android devices, and is accompanied by a companion website .
Founded in 1768, Old Pine Church became known as “the Church of Patriots” during the Revolutionary War. Parishioners included John Adams and other prominent founding fathers who remained fiercely loyal to George Washington. Today, the church grounds serve as the final resting place for more than 200 veterans of the Revolutionary War. Visitors can download a free smartphone app to hear narrated stories about those who are buried at Old Pine and their enduring impact on our nation’s history.
Part walking tour, part high-tech scavenger hunt, Sweet Chariot empowers visitors to uncover history that is often hidden in plain sight. Using a map and a smartphone app, visitors search for murals, plaques and other landmarks to unlock immersive videos and clues as they trace hidden stories of the African American struggle for freedom in Philadelphia. The experience begins in Washington Square and ultimately leads to the final resting place of Amelia Brown, which was uncovered in an 18th century graveyard during a construction project in 2013.
Download this app from the iTunes or GooglePlay store for a walking introduction to Philadelphia. Concentrated in the Historic District and around City Hall, this two-hour tour provides a crash course on 13 top attractions. Use your mobile device as both a map and an audio guide for a two-mile walk to spots like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Reading Terminal Market.
For a comprehensive look at one of Philly’s most history-rich neighborhoods, check out the SelfTour of Historic Philadelphia (available for $5.99 for both Apple and Android ). Users embark on a two-and-a-half-mile journey to more than 50 sites, including stops at lesser-known spots like the Dolley Todd House and the site where Ben Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. Bonus: Hear a recreation of the sound of the Liberty Bell, last heard in 1846. Can’t do it all in one day? Maybe a stay in one of the district’s hotels is in order.
Charge up your mobile device (consider bringing a portable charger!) and put on your detective’s hat for this outdoor scavenger hunt that starts on Independence Mall. Great for solo adventure seekers or small groups, this 150-object hunt is a game, knowledge test and history lesson all rolled into one. Take photos of your finds to score points and complete the challenge.
Philadelphia’s history is rich with important moments involving the Black community , many of which aren’t tied to a specific attraction. Fortunately, historical markers around the city help preserve these legacies. This map from The Philadelphia Inquirer can help you wind your way through the city and learn more about 19th- and 20th-century painter Henry Ossawa Tanner; the Christian Street YMCA, where a young Wilt Chamberlain got his start; and Laura Wheeler Waring, who painted portraits of W.E.B. DuBois and Marian Anderson.
Philadelphia was the site of the country’s first major demonstration for LGBTQ rights, the Annual Reminders , in 1965. But the city’s history of equality activism long predates that and continues today, as evidenced by public art, historical markers and notable attractions. Historical markers recall the contributions of John Fryer , who helped declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, and Barbara Gittings , who edited the nation’s first lesbian magazine. Our guide to Philly’s LGBTQ history includes many more sites, including some that are in the public space or don’t require admission fees.
Charming covered bridges dot Chester County’s Brandywine Valley, located south and west of Philadelphia. Explore 14 of them — with one dating all the way back to 1850 — via this self-guided driving tour from our partners at the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau. Don’t forget your camera!
Have you checked out the historic barns of Bucks County? No? Well, you’re missing out. Our partners at Visit Bucks County have partnered with the Heritage Conservancy to create this self-guided driving tour of more than 15 historic barns, split between Upper and Central Bucks County. Look forward to rolling hills, pretty back roads and, as promised, cute barns.