12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is one of America's most important historical cities. At Independence Hall on July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted and in September 1787 the Constitution was drafted.
A century earlier, William Penn, a prominent Quaker, was the catalyst of the cataclysmic changes which transformed these British colonies into an independent nation. He founded Philadelphia, meaning "city of brotherly love" in Greek. The city became a battleground during the ensuing Revolutionary War, and afterwards became the unifying center of the newly independent states.
Today, modern office towers and streets exist side-by-side with narrow cobblestone streets. Independence Historic National Park is a highly concentrated strip of early buildings and sights, including the Liberty Bell, Franklin Court and Independence Hall. To the south lies Society Hill, the city's original residential area. Many of the eighteenth-century buildings have been handsomely restored. Similarly, Germantown in northwest Philadelphia, is another old residential section, first inhabited by Germans and the Dutch. To the west, along Schuylkill River, lies Fairmount Park, a vast belt of greenland containing numerous Federal-style mansions as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum. Just south of that lies the museum district, including the Franklin Institute of Science Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences.
The first settlers on the site of Philadelphia, in 1640, were Swedes and Finns, later followed by Dutch and British settlers. In 1681 Charles II granted possession of this territory to William Penn (1644-1718), leader of a Quaker colony, who then founded Philadelphia in 1682 as a place of religious freedom. This freedom attracted German Mennonites to settle in the town. In 1683 Penn made a treaty with the Delaware Indians which preserved the town from Indian attacks. In 1701 he granted Philadelphia, which then had a population of 4500, its charter as a town. A fresh impulse was given to the development of the town by Benjamin Franklin, who came to live here in 1723, published a newspaper and was instrumental in founding the University of Pennsylvania. In the liberal climate of Philadelphia the idea of separation from the mother country was first formulated, and on September 5th 1774 the Continental Congress met in Carpenters' Hall. During its second session in Independence Hall the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th 1776. In 1787 the Constitutional Congress met in Philadelphia. Until 1799 it was capital of Pennsylvania, and from 1790 to 1800 was also capital of the United States. In 1848, following the revolutions in Europe, large numbers of Germans settled in the town. The North's rejection of slavery also brought many blacks from the South.
1 Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historic Park is home to Philadelphia's most important and historic tourist attractions, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Congress Hall. Numerous historic buildings line the cobbled streets and provide insight into some of America's early history.
2 Liberty Bell Pavilion
The liberty bell has long been a symbol of freedom and independence in the United States. It went on tour around the country in the late 19th C in an effort to inspire a sense of freedom and conquer divisions left by the Civil War. The bell completed its journey in Philadelphia in 1915, where it has remained.
3 Independence Hall
Independence Hall has seen some of America's most important historical moments and hosted some of its most famous fathers. It stood witness to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and the creation of the United States Constitution in 1787.
4 Philadelphia Museum of Art
5 Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 with the aim of rehabilitating criminals through solitary confinement. At the time of its opening, it was considered the world's most expensive and high-tech prison. Willie Sutton and Al Capone were some of the prison's notable "guests". It closed in 1971. Today it is open to the public as a museum with tours of the facility showing some sections which remain much the same as they were during its operational years.
6 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum
This Fine Arts Museum features a strong collection of American Art from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries, including works by early American artists right through to Andy Warhol. The academy is also known for being the oldest of its kind in the United States.
7 City Center
The Philadelphia City Center is home to some interesting areas and sites, both old and new. The main attractions are the landmark City Hall with its outstanding Gothic tower, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum, along with a modest Chinatown and numerous other architectural delights.
8 Society Hill Historic District
This interesting neighborhood is an unique blend of 18th Century buildings, restored warehouses, new homes, colonial homes, and apartments. Some of these are occupied by galleries and other tourist friendly retail. Additional highlights include the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library.
9 Rodin Museum
10 Franklin Institute Science Museum
This creative museum is a tribute to scientist, Benjamin Franklin, complete with a huge marble statue of a seated Franklin located in one of the large halls. In addition to the museum, which offers an array of displays featuring all kinds of experiments including some of those designed by Franklin, the center is also home to an IMAX Theater and a Planetarium.
11 Fairmount Park
This lovely park along the Schuykill River and Wissahickon Creek is home to the Philadelphia Zoo, the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Japanese House and Garden, along with numerous other attractions. The park also offers a variety of recreational opportunities with pools, courts, walking paths, and open spaces.
12 Fort Mifflin
Near the junction of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers is Fort Mifflin, the sight of a Revolutionary War battle. It was built by the British in 1772. During the War of Independence it fell into the hands of the American patriots and defended Philadelphia against British attacks. Both Fort Mifflin and the hospital that is on the grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.