Neighborhoods to walk around in, in Center City (Philadelphia, Reading: best neighborhoods, city hall)
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What are some of the best neighborhoods to take a stroll in, in Center City? Anywhere architecturally significant or historical and that really conveys the historic Philadelphia look is ideal (ie row houses, other historical buildings). Or just anywhere that is really nice and scenic in general. Specific streets would also be nice.
Also, what are the main shopping streets? And any suggestions of good restaurants, with a reasonable price range (no more than $30 for a meal for one person) would be appreciated.
Last edited by Redrum237; 05-15-2010 at 05:13 PM..
Location: Expatriate Philadelphian in Northern Virginia
7,652 posts, read 11,023,252 times
Of course, the Historic District (roughly between 3rd and 5th Streets heading west as well as Arch and Chestnut heading south) would be a good place to start. The history of America and all that jazz can be found in this area. Elfreth's Alley - the oldest street in the county - is a little east of that.
Further south is Society Hill. As you walk (or trip over ) the cobblestone streets, you can admire all of the stately seven-figure rowhomes and be amazed that this was an run-down area just forty years ago.
Philly is a city of older, often historic homes. Some of the nicer walks I've enjoyed are on the 1000 block of Clinton Street in Washington Square West and IIRC the 1700-2000 blocks of Delancey Street in Rittenhouse Square.
While I've yet to visit Europe, the diagonal Ben Franklin Parkway has an "international" feel too it, especially as you pass the flags on the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Running up the steps Rocky-style is optional.
Main shopping streets: assuming you're looking for mid-to-upscale merchandise then Walnut Street - particularly between the 1400 and 1800 blocks - is where you want to be.
South Street, below Society Hill, is hanging onto vestiges of its former bohemian glory. If you can avoid (or embrace) the Gap and Starbucks, you may also enjoy the moderately trendy shops including some "tastefully naughty" establishments for clothing, marital aids and such. East of 6th Street would be the most interesting. You may like Headhouse Square on 2nd Street between Lombard and South.
If you have a few days, take the Chestnut Hill West train to the terminal station in the NW corner of the city. There's more cobblestone for you to negotiate and more quaint shops. While this area was once a "streetcar suburb", it's hard for some to believe this neighborhood is actually in the city.
That's all I got. I'll leave the restaurant suggestions to the resident foodies.
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Tone has given you excellent information. Center City is very walkable and each section offers something different and interesting. One restaurant I would suggest is Matyson. It's a BYOB on 19th Street between Chestnut and Market (in the Rittenhouse Square area).
Philly is chock-a-block full of good restaurants. Vetri is rated as one of the best Italian restaurants in all of America.
And yes, Delancey Street between about 17th Street and 21st or 22nd St is pretty and charming; a lot of movies have been shot along those blocks...in fact, one starring Robert DeNiro was just being shot there a few weeks ago if I recall correctly.
Washington Square is a good stroll with those tall and leafy sycamore trees and all that history right there. Really, several streets going east-west, just south of Washington Square are pretty, with nice tree canopies and lots of red brick rowhomes.
Just do Google's street view to check out some of those streets to get some idea...
Just a bit south of Society Hill (the area south of Washington Square and also south of Old City liked above) is Queen Village/Bella Vista. That area starts at South Street and goes south from there for many blocks. Lovely area, and rapidly growing and also gentrifying, but you can check it out for yourself at:
Buddakan in Old City is great Thai/Asian Fusion place.
Jones in Old City is awesome American comfort food.
Vetri near 13th and Spruce St in Washington West area is one of the top Italian
Reading Terminal Market on Arch St and 12th St is a huge indoor market with multiple great and reasonably-priced foodie lover's options. One of the best such spots in any city in America, comparable to Pike Place Market in Seattle or Quincy Market in Boston. I think it's a must-see on any Philly tour.
Tria is an awesome wateringhole with a few locations around town.
There are lots of other places, just google for top philly restaurants...
As a former-Philadelphian-now-New-Yorker on a neverending campaign to show my New York friends that Philly is so much better than NYC, some of the places I take them when I go back to visit include:
1) Benjamin Frankin's House and print shop on the south side of Market between 3rd and 4th. It's sort of a mini musuem with alot of history and it's completely free.
2) Just north of here and over on 2nd are a bunch of art galleries you can pass on you're way to Elfreth's Alley.
Moving on from Old City to Center City:
3) Shopping - there's a jewelry store called Halloween at 1329 Pine that is a truly unique experience. I'm pretty sure even most Philadelphian's don't know about this one. You would walk right by it if you weren't looking specifically for it. But if you're looking you'll see a tiny business card in the front window that let's you know you're at the right place. You have to ring the doorbell. Then you'll enter what can only be described as a cave with unique hand crafted jewelry dangling from every inch. The jeweler is often there to chat with too. (Careful, the hours are tricky and I think it's closed on Sunday. They have the hours on their voicemail...you can google the number and call.)
4) While you are near Halloween, walk north to McGillian's and grab a beer. It's a prohibition era Irish pub on a back alley called Drury between Chestnut and Samson. And, although it's a semi-cliche typical tourist stop, it's a great place for a beer and it's fun to sit at the bar and watch the food come up through the old dumb waiter behind the bar.
5) Walk a little further north and walk thru the old Wanamaker's, now Macy's. Literally just enter on Chestnut and walk straight thru. When you get to the women's shoe section (unless they've rearranged) turn around and look up and you'll see an enormous beautiful organ. (The musical instrument, that is. Not a liver or gallbladder or anything.)
6) Continue walking thru and exit Macy's onto Market. Look left, you're at City Hall. It's nice to walk thru. And/or go one block right and you're at the afore-mentioned Reading Terminal (try to go on a Saturday as opposed to Sunday because there are a number of great Amish vendors that aren't there on Sunday).
7) On the north side of city hall is the Masonic Temple. Amazing. The tour is definitely worth it if you have an hour to kill. But just the outside is breath-taking.
8) From here you can walk thru Love Park and take that international Ben Franklin walk that Tone wrote about up to the Art Museum. Waterworks behind the Art Museum is another completely free mini museum and quite fascinating.
for one of the best and cheap brunch/breakfast while you are in the Washington Square (west) neighborhood, check out the 10th St Pour House...it is a small place in a great neighborhood-- not even a lot of locals outside of that neighborhood might know about it.
Market East, the Gallery and the Convention Center is one contiguous area that is an architectural black hole. That's really the only part of Center City that's an embarrassment.
For people who really want to experience a great cross section of Philadelphia in a day, I tell them to explore Old City and Society Hill then take Spruce or Pine over to 10th St., follow 10th St. south to Christian, cut over to 9th, walk the Italian Market down to Passyunk Ave. and follow Passyunk down to Broad. Then get on the subway back to where you started your day.
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