The 10 Most Essential Things to Do on Your (First) Visit to Philly
The can’t-miss experiences in the first World Heritage City in the United States...
There’s never a shortage of awesome things to do in Philadelphia, but there are some things youse just gotta do — especially if you’ve never been to our fair city before.
Whether it’s running like Rocky up those magnificent museum steps; refueling with a cheesesteak (an absolute mandatory); or bowing down to the history made at Independence Hall , devouring a roast pork sandwich (our other favorite sandwich) at Reading Terminal Market , and visiting one of the many mighty museums along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway , these are the experiences that make Philly so gloriously Philly.
Read on for the 10 most essential experiences to be had in the City of Brotherly Love.
Snap a photo in front of the Liberty Bell
Dramatic home of the internationally known symbol of freedom...
It doesn’t make a sound, but the Liberty Bell ’s message rings loud and clear: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” This inscription on the cracked but mighty Bell is one reason it became a symbol to abolitionists, suffragists and other freedom-seekers around the world. The Bell draws people from around the world to snag a photo in front of it and its dramatic backdrop: Independence Hall . The Liberty Bell Center is free to visit year-round with no tickets required. Learn more about visiting in our guide to the Liberty Bell .
Pose with the Rocky Statue & run up the "Rocky Steps"
Two of the most famous tourist attractions in Philadelphia...
Since Rocky’s first triumphant onscreen run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1976, the 72 steps have become an international destination. Travelers from around the world embark on their own trek up the stairs , pumping their fists in the air as they cherish the spectacular view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the city skyline. Cheesey? Definitely. Fun? Absolutely! To finish off the experience, head to the bottom of the stairs and snap a photo with the bronze statue of Rocky , originally created for Rocky III . (Then, venture inside one of the country’s most magnificent art museums . We promise it won’t disappoint.)
Where: Rocky Statue and Rocky Steps outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Enjoy an authentic Philly cheesesteak
You have to eat one — or more — on your first visit to Philadelphia...
The Philly cheesesteak is inarguably the city’s most famous food. So put your diet on hold for the day, and indulge in a hoagie roll filled with chopped (or thinly sliced) steak and your choice of cheese and/or fried onions. Those in the know order their cheesesteak with two words only: cheese selection (provolone, American or Whiz) and “wit” or “without” onions. The debate about which local spot cooks up the best sandwich won’t ever end, but for an iconic Philly experience, visit the intersection of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, where rivals Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks feed the masses daily, and do your very own taste test. (Pro tip: Make time to all of Philly’s iconic foods , including roast pork sandwiches , hoagies , pretzels and water ice .)
Tour Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States
Where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where the U.S. Constitution was created...
While historical attractions abound in Philly, Independence Hall is where the nation was founded. In 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in the building’s Assembly Room. Just 11 years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, the goosebumps-inducing UNESCO World Heritage Site is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours of this bucket-list gem are available year-round. Free tours of the Hall are available via timed tickets. Learn more about how to obtain tickets in our guide to Independence Hall .
Visit the famous LOVE sculpture
An iconic work of art by Robert Indiana...
The City of Brotherly Love is filled with love — literally. One of best-known landmarks is LOVE itself — the Robert Indiana sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza (or LOVE Park , as it’s affectionately called by most) that’s a prized photo op for couples, families and friends eager to show the world how they feel about one another. The sculpture was restored and repainted in 2018, and the park was entirely redesigned to add more green areas and a high-tech water feature. A small visitor center kiosk was added in 2021. Another LOVE statue sits just west of Center City on the University of Pennsylvania campus near 36th and Locust streets. And because love comes in all languages in Philadelphia, there’s an AMOR sculpture — a Spanish edition of the LOVE sculpture — on display at Sister Cities Park , a six-minute walk from LOVE Park.
Chow down on food from dozens of vendors at Reading Terminal Market
One of America's oldest farmers market and current food paradise...
Set below a former railroad terminal, Center City’s 127-year-old Reading Terminal Market serves as both a dazzling tourist destination and a trusted source for fresh produce, seafood, meats and cheese for locals. The public space also provides open seating where customers can enjoy a world of cuisines from dozens of restaurants, including Pennsylvania Dutch vendors and sandwich slingers like the acclaimed DiNic’s, serving up hot roast pork sandwiches that rival the city’s much-lauded cheesesteaks. Retail merchants sell housewares, jewelry, linens and more.
Visit the awesome museums on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philly's most artistic mile...
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway , modeled after the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, is called Philadelphia’s most artistic mile for good reason. Some of the city’s most important cultural institutions are housed here, including the Barnes Foundation , The Franklin Institute (how can you not love that giant heart?), The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and its crown jewel, the Philadelphia Museum of Art . (Another super-popular attraction, former prison Eastern State Penitentiary , is just a 15-minute walk from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)
Amble through the world-renowned Longwood Gardens
One of the world’s premier horticultural display gardens...
It’s not in Philadelphia proper, but the horticultural legend that is Longwood Gardens is well worth the 50-minute drive from Center City Philadelphia to Kennett Square . Spectacular, epic, brilliant, breathtaking — all of these adjectives adequately describe the Chester County mega garden and its 1,000-plus acres filled with 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens, 11,000 different types of plants, dancing fountains and meandering meadows and woodlands. The colorful oasis also hosts hundreds of events each year, including flower shows, gardening demonstrations, educational programs, children’s activities, concerts and musical theater.
Explore Philly's hip waterfront
Philly's ever-evolving waterfront features loads to do in all seasons...
Once made up of undeveloped piers and underutilized public spaces, the Delaware River waterfront has become one of the most activated spaces in Philadelphia in the 21st century. That’s thanks to the opening of a number of exciting attractions and parks — Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier as well as seasonal spots like Spruce Street Harbor Park , Blue Cross RiverRink and Liberty Point — and diverse and well-attended events throughout the year. Those gorgeous views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge — which connects Philadelphia to New Jersey — don’t hurt, either.
Dine at a critically acclaimed restaurant (or two, or three...)
Philly does good food right...
There’s no way around it: Philly’s dining scene is special. Travel + Leisure recently wrote that Philly “might be one of the best food cities on the East Coast,” and Philly restaurants regularly make ”best of” lists from The New York Times , Bon Appétit , Condé Nast Traveler and more. Some of the latest critically acclaimed spots: Gabriella’s Vietnam in South Philly and Andiario in West Chester (America’s Best Restaurants 2022, The New York Times ); Her Place Supper Club in Rittenhouse Square and Korshak Bagels in South Philly (The 50 Best New Restaurants of 2022, Bon Appétit ); and South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico from chef Cristina Martínez ( Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region , James Beard Awards, 2022).
Bonus: More Things to Do in Greater Philadelphia
Award-winning food, dynamic neighborhoods and history-making attractions await...
Looking for even more great things to do in Greater Philadelphia? Of course you are! And in Greater Philadelphia, there is so much to explore, discover or rediscover. We’ve got ideas for:
- perfect things to do on your second trip to Philly
- 12 essential Philly eats from appetizers to desserts
- the city’s best hidden gems you probably don’t know about
- secret bars and restaurants , and
- dozens of day-trip ideas out into Philadelphia’s Countryside.
Find more ideas right this way for your next exploration — then book a stay at one of the city’s great hotels.
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