6 Unique Philadelphia Neighborhoods to Explore on Vacation

These neighborhoods pack in as much history and culture as Philly's popular colonial-era attractions.

U.S. News & World Report

6 Unique Philadelphia Neighborhoods to Explore on Vacation

Rittenhouse Square, a Philadelphia landmark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Rittenhouse Square is located just a few blocks southwest of Center City and Philadelphia City Hall.(Getty Images)

The tendency when visiting a city packed with history like Philadelphia is to stick to the popular attractions – Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center, and either Pat's or Geno's for a cheesesteak. Visitors to the City of Brotherly Love wouldn't be wrong to hit those top-rated stops, but there's still a lot to see in the neighborhoods tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Center City and other touristy areas.

Once you're done exploring the popular sites and sounds of Philadelphia, hop on a SEPTA bus or the subway and venture out to these six hopping neighborhoods, as recommended by local experts.

Rittenhouse

One of the more upscale neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Rittenhouse offers a combination of fine dining, great shopping and unique sightseeing.

"If you're looking for architecture ... [there are] huge mansions down there," says James Portner, chief concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia. "I always send people on little walks around that area if they want to see some of the grand homes in Philadelphia."

Located just a few blocks southwest of Center City and Philadelphia City Hall, Rittenhouse Square also offers some great people-watching, Portner says.

Fairmount Park and Parkway Museums District

Travel north of Rittenhouse, and you'll bump into the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This area of town, which includes the southern tip of the Fairmount neighborhood, is known locally as the Parkway Museums District. The parkway, which extends from Philadelphia City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, hosts the Budweiser Made in America Festival each year and will be the site of the 2017 NFL draft in April.

But this area is known as the Museum District for a reason. Along the parkway, visitors will find some of the best-known museums in the city, including the Rodin Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, The Franklin Institute and, of course, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Roshid Milledge, concierge at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, says the neighborhood’s eclectic mix of restaurants, museums and private homes makes it unique.

Old City

Elfreth's Alley(Ann Broder)

The oldest section of Philadelphia, Old City runs along the Delaware River and stretches from Walnut Street to Spring Garden Street. It was one of the first areas settled by William Penn and Quaker settlers. The neighborhood is a popular destination for tourists – and for good reason.

"It's a neighborhood, but it's a historic neighborhood," Milledge says.

That history is encapsulated in popular Old City attractions like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center and the National Constitution Center. Additionally, visitors can take a stroll down Elfreth's Alley – the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the U.S. – and frequent a number of colonial-era pubs.

Society Hill

Another historic area along the Delaware River, Society Hill neighbors Old City and runs down to vibrant South Street. Though mainly a residential area, Society Hill boasts some of the finest architecture in Philadelphia, according to several local experts.

After walking along historic Dock Street, visitors can venture down to South Street, which is lined with restaurants, or take a stroll through Washington Square and see various historic memorial sites.

Fishtown

One of the fastest-growing sections of Philadelphia, Fishtown is a popular spot for millennials looking to move into the city and a great spot for visitors to experience a night on the town.

"There are just very different cutting-edge, contemporary-style offices going up in that area," says Frank Marandino, chief concierge at The Rittenhouse Hotel. "Homes are being rehabilitated, there's new housing going up, there's a train line that services that area directly to Center City, so a lot of millennials are calling that home and making the trek into Center City to work and play, or simply to enjoy nightlife."

Top stops in the area include Frankford Hall beer garden, Penn Treaty Park and SugarHouse Casino.

West Philadelphia

Philadelphia Zoo(Courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo)

West Philadelphia has a reputation as a tough place – thanks, in part, to the theme song for the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" – but it offers visitors a very unique Philly experience. Located west of the Schuylkill River, this large area encompasses West Fairmount Park down to University City where the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University spill into one another.

"Once people hit the Schuylkill, they take it back into Center City, but West Philly is loaded with options," says Damien Infantino, event services manager at The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel. "West Philly is unique in the sense that it has a different vibe. We're very quirky out here, a little eccentric. People with those types of ideologies tend to gravitate out here, and it just fits right in with the West Philly lifestyle."

Popular stops in this part of town include a couple of historic sports venues on Penn's campus – The Palestra and Franklin Field – as well as the Philadelphia Zoo, the first zoo in the U.S. And don't forget to take a stroll through massive Fairmount Park.

To experience more of what Philadelphia has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Rob Stott, Contributor

Rob Stott a contributor to U.S. News & World Report. He is a sports and tech junkie, and is ...  Read more

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