Philadelphia sits only an hour and 20 minutes from Manhattan by train, making a weekend trip to Philadelphia the perfect getaway from New York City.
Often called the “Birthplace of America,” Philly is home to loads of history, a diverse food scene and charming neighborhoods. The best part is that you can experience all of this and more with two days in Philadelphia. Still need convincing? Here are a few more reasons why Philly is worth the trip.
- It’s less crowded and way more affordable than NYC
- It’s very easy to get around
- You can tour the rooms in which the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were written and signed
- It’s time to get yourself a proper Philly cheesesteak
- All of the street art
- The Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, in which you can score a ton of perks like free hotel parking, restaurant gift cards, and tickets for summer festivals along with your hotel stay; book it here
Below, find out how to spend two history- and food-packed days in Philadelphia.
My Weekend Trip To Philadelphia
There’s no better way to get to know a city than to eat your way through it. Philadelphia delivers a fantastic dining experience at a relatively affordable price, especially if you’re visiting from New York. There are a number of worthy restaurants sprinkled within my Philadelphia itinerary—so make sure you come ready to eat!
On Friday, do this:
You’ll probably arrive to Philadelphia late in the afternoon, and why not start your trip off with a bang by having dinner at Israeli hit Zahav? Make sure to make a reservation ahead of time! It’s one of the most popular restaurants in the city and well worth the hype. Don’t skip out on the hummus and lamb — which needs to be pre-ordered.
If you’d like a post-dinner drink, head to one of the many nearby bars in the Old City neighborhood.
On Saturday, do this:
Good morning, Philadelphia! Get an early start and head over to Elfreth’s Alley: the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, with homes dating back to the 1700s.
The cobblestone street has been beautifully maintained and the homes don’t look their age — the only hint to its historic past is how narrow the street is, probably too small for a modern-day car to pass.
Now head over to High Street on Market for a quick breakfast; ask for a seat in the communal table and you’ll be seated right away.
Next, hit up Independence Hall for a tour of the building where the Declaration of Independence was written and signed. Make sure to book your *free* tickets ahead of time to snag a morning time slot. You can still get tickets the day of, but the morning slots usually run out quickly. To avoid the hassle, just book them online here and make sure to pick them up at the Independence Visitor Center 45 minutes before your tour, or they’ll be given away.
The tour only lasts about 30 minutes, and then you’re left to roam the grounds.
After, walk over to the Liberty Bell in the same plaza. There’s usually a long line to get in, so if you’re pressed for time, you can catch a glimpse of the bell in its glass casing from the outside of the building.
For lunch, walk through Chinatown and over to Reading Terminal Market, a big indoor food hall home to dozens of Philadelphia favorites. From Philly cheesesteaks and corndogs to fruit juices and ice cream, the market has a varied spectrum of food to choose from.
My favorites were the the slow-roasted pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone sandwich — a Philly classic — at DiNic’s; a massive hot apple dumpling from Dutch Eating Place; and the mint lemonade known as lemonana from Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties.
It’s been a long day, so if you’d like to head back to your hotel or Airbnb to freshen up, now’s the time do so!
In the afternoon, catch an Uber to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is where you’ll find the famed steps featured in the boxing film “Rocky.” If you’re a fan of museums, $20 will get you in.
Boathouse Row sits nearby, a historic site housing 15 boathouses, but I found it a bit underwhelming. It’s a rather nice walk along the river, though, depending on how hot it is.
Next, it’s time to head to a new neighborhood: Fishtown. Fishtown is the up and coming edgy and artsy neighborhood that every big city has, like the Philadelphia equivalent to Bushwick in NYC or Wynwood in Miami. As such, it’s home to tons of hip bars and restaurants, one of those being Frankford Hall, a big bar with an outdoor patio and industrial decor, plus ping-pong and other games. There are some fun beer cocktails here, as well as bar snacks like German sausages.
Take your time and stroll around the neighborhood, and perhaps grab a coffee at Philadelphia-grown coffee roaster La Colombe.
For dinner, head to Pizzeria Beddia for a delicious pizza topped with fun ingredients like corn, bacon and cherry tomatoes. They also have a fantastic wine selection, including a refreshing orange.
At this point I’d call it a night — but if you still have some energy left, check out one of the city’s top cocktail bars.
On Sunday, do this:
Today we’re hitting some cult classics, starting with Federal Donuts, which is owned by the same team behind Zahav. The move here is to get the hot and fresh doughnuts and the fried chicken sandwich (probably one of the best I’ve ever had). FYI: The restaurant actually doesn’t start serving the sandwich until 11 a.m.
If you need somewhere to go in the meantime, head over to Avenue of the Arts for a picture-worthy view of Philadelphia’s City Hall building.
Next, walk over to Rittenhouse Square; it’s a beautifully lush park in the middle of the city. Grab a seat on a bench and take in the local life happening around you.
If you’ve worked up an appetite again, or just want another treat, Israeli bakery and cafe K’Far is worth a visit. It’s another spot from the Zahav team, though this one’s brand new.
I realize this itinerary is quite food-heavy — so let’s walk some of it off! It’s just over a mile to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens from the bakery, and the walk will take you through Philly’s charming residential streets. The “gardens” are more like a gallery maze made up of mosaicked art pieces; it’s a big tourist attraction in the city.
Once your tour is over, take a walk or an Uber down Ninth Street into the Italian Market, a ten-block neighborhood home to several food vendors selling vegetables, fish, meats and spices alongside gourmet shops and restaurants.
This is where you’ll find the iconic Pat’s and Geno’s Philly cheesesteak shops, which stand right across from each other, as well as acclaimed taco palace South Philly Barbacoa
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of debate around which Philly shop sells the best version of the cheesesteak. I tried both Pat’s and Jim’s on South Street and ordered the meaty sandwich topped with gooey Cheez Whiz. DO IT. Both were worthy renditions, though Jim’s was my favorite. Prepare for lines!
By now it’s probably later in the afternoon, and if you’re based in NYC like me, you have a bus or train to catch. I hope you enjoy your stay in Philly as much as I did — and don’t forget to check out Visit Philly’s overnight package for special hotel deals and other perks throughout the city!
And for some photo inspiration, check out my hashtag #PhillybyCarla on Instagram.
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