Oh, Philadelphia, you’re so underrated.
Having lived in this city for the past seven years, I’ve gotten to know it like the back of my hand. To most, Philly isn’t the ideal location to visit, and it often gets a bad reputation as New York City’s ugly step-sister. I have to say, the rumors are far from true. Philadelphia is full of incredible restaurants of all kinds, unique cocktail and dive bars, beautiful architecture, and sights full of history. There’s so much to see and do here that I would recommend stopping for longer than a quick weekend. Also, do yourself a favor and visit when the weather warms up between April and September.
Check into the hip Hotel Monaco, a luxe boutique hotel just steps away from the major tourist attractions in Old City and Society Hill. The chic decor perfectly mixes the old and the new. Historical elements from the original building were kept intact while bold wallpapers, distinctive furniture, and striking colors were introduced to renew and brighten the renovated space. Besides being absolutely obsessed with the interior design here, I also love the daily wine hour, yoga mats provided in each room, and complimentary bikes. Want to continue that wine hour into a cocktail-filled evening? Head upstairs to the glamorous rooftop bar, Stratus Lounge, and get your drink on. P.S. The hotel is pet-friendly!
If you arrive early enough, head across the street to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Both are free to enter and explore. Elfreth’s Alley is also nearby and worth checking out. It is one of only three streetscapes in the United States that was preserved from the 1700s. Bonus points if you walk over to the Betsy Ross House and the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Everywhere you look you’ll notice the brick paved streets and colonial architecture, so if history isn’t really your thing just open your eyes. It’s pretty breathtaking.
If you have some extra time to explore, Old City is also home to tons of galleries and shops. If you’re a fan of art like me, stop by the Larry Becker Contemporary Art studio and the 3rd Street Gallery. As far as shopping goes, our favorites are Vagabond, Third Street Habit, The Geisha House, Erdon, and Art in the Age.
For dinner, make a reservation at Talula’s Garden. Tables in their whimsical garden are seated on a first come first served basis, so fingers crossed. The garden is just perfect. The elegant ivy crawling up the walls, wooden planters full of decadent florals, and glowing string lights create the most beautiful ambiance to dine in. The food here is just as incredible as the setting. First, set your eyes on Talula’s cheese menu. Yes, a full menu dedicated to their cheese collection. I always go with ‘Not Your Granny’s – Six New Takes on Tradition’ probably because it highlights my absolute favorite local cheese (Doe Run Farm’s Hickory on the Hill). Their dinner menu changes with the seasons to highlight the freshest ingredients from the area. You really can’t go wrong with anything you order, so let your knowledgeable server steer you in the best direction. Wash down your meal with one of the handcrafted cocktails and finish it all off with the ricotta doughnuts. I promise you won’t leave disappointed.
If you took my advice to visit Philly when its warm, wander over to Independence Beer Garden for a few drinks after dinner. Snag a spot at one of the reclaimed wood picnic tables and choose from one of forty beers on tap. Enjoy the rest of your evening playing corn hole, ping pong, Jenga, and shuffle board outside with the locals (they don’t bite, I promise).
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a quieter night, grab a cab to Hop Sing Laundromat – recently named one of the best cocktail bars in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. Finding this place may be a little difficult, but it’s totally worth it. Located in the heart of Chinatown, Hop Sing has no sign, no phone, and a somewhat sketchy doorman peeking through an iron gate waiting to ask “how many”. Upon entrance, you’ll be sat down to hear the rules – absolutely no phones or cameras, only adding to the mysterious and secretive feel of the place. The bar itself is dimly lit and has this historic romantic feel to it. You’ll most likely be overwhelmed at the cocktail list, since Hop Sing boasts one of the largest selections of spirits in the country, but I promise you’ll love any of the concoctions the highly skilled bartenders have to offer.
Good morning, beauties. Hope you’re not too hungover to enjoy a lovely Saturday exploring Center City. First stop, Parc. This lovely Parisian-themed bistro overlooks Rittenhouse Square and is the perfect spot for brunching. Munch on the croque madame and sip on a few mimosas while people-watching the locals and tourists wandering in the park across the street. After you eat, you’ll want to take a peek around at the weekly farmer’s market featuring local food and drink vendors.
There’s tons of shopping in this area if you’re up for it. Staples like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People, Intermix, and Lululemon are all obvious choices to stop along Walnut Street. However, you won’t want to miss local favorites like Boyd’s and Joan Shepp for more unique (but sometimes pricier) options. Make your way down Rittenhouse Row to take a quick peak at Love Park (photo op!) and the breathtaking Town Hall.
If you’re hungry after all that shopping and sightseeing, grab a quick afternoon snack and a glass of wine at Tria. My favorite thing to do is to order a few dishes to share. Split some cheese, sliced Italian meats, and their to die for pistachio herbed ricotta with lavender honey bruschetta.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be wishing for nap at this point. However, Philly’s up and coming Fishtown neighborhood is calling your name for a little pre-dinner fun at Frankford Hall. This indoor-outdoor German style beer garden has become a staple in the nightlife scene for a number of reasons. Giant mugs of the best craft beers, communal picnic tables, delicious sausages, Jenga, and ping pong will make it hard to leave. Once you’re ready, Fette Sau, Root, and Johnny Brenda’s are just a few steps away to continue the binge.
Finally ready for dinner? Make a reservation at one of the newest (and most anticipated) restaurants in the city, Wm. Mulherin Sons. It’s located just a couple blocks up from the bars in Fishtown, so you can walk straight to dinner. This wood-fired Italian restaurant is beginning to thrive in a recently restored whiskey blending and bottling facility from the 1800s. The rustic details of the building were carefully preserved and captured within. My favorite part? The incredible fireplace warming the back room complete with lovely antique couches. The food here might be even better than the setting. I recommend the cauliflower, hamachi, Vincenzo pizza, and messinesi pasta. Don’t miss out on their cocktail list, either. Currently drooling over the Clover Club just thinking about it.
Start your morning at High Street on Market, right in the heart of Old City and near your hotel. This chic meets rustic restaurant bakes all of its breads, pastries, and bagels on site. You can’t go wrong with the Hickory Town breakfast sandwich and a coffee to start your day.
Hail a cab, and head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Here you’ll find the famous Rocky steps and statue, so be sure to snap a few photos. The views at the top are pretty awesome as well, so make sure your battery is fully charged to take advantage. Adult admission to this incredible museum is typically $20, but on the first Sunday of every month it’s pay what you wish. Plan accordingly.
Spend the rest of your afternoon at my favorite spot in the city, Morgan’s Pier. This pretty river-side bar and restaurant is the perfect spot for day drinking and offers incredible views of the Ben Franklin bridge. Their beer list is legit, and so is the food. I’d go for a lobster roll and a Watermelon Ricky drink. Thank me later.
Did you really think I’d let you leave Philly without feasting on a cheese steak?! End your stay with a bang at the classic Pat’s Steaks. Double points if you stop at Geno’s right across the street and argue the whole trip home on which is the best. P.S. whiz wit is the way to go. Always.
Looking for more suggestions? Check out our Philadelphia directory here.