Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The story of this city is the story of how the United States were born. But this place is by no means stuck in the past. It is a vibrant destination and a melting pot of different cultures in the truest sense. There is really a lot to see and many things to do in one day in Philadelphia, so if you’re here for one day you’ll need a plan. With a good itinerary, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the flow of this city and see everything that makes it special.
Plan your trip
1. What’s the best time to visit Philadelphia?
2. A few facts about Philadelphia
3. One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
3.1. Start your day from Washington Square
3.2. Visit Independence Hall
3.3. Explore the Reading Terminal Market
3.4. See the Rocky steps
3.5. Philadelphia nightlife
4. Where to stay in Philadelphia?
5. Day trips from Philadelphia
6. Extra tips for visiting Philadelphia
If you’re not sure when to visit Philadelphia, keep in mind that the middle of the summer here is fairly hot with a lot of humidity, while temperatures often drop below the freezing point in winter. So, the period between April and June is the best time to visit, not just because of the weather but because of reasonable accommodation prices. Due to the city’s immense historical importance, the place is crowded during the summer. To avoid that, and if a spring trip is out of the question for you, September is also a great time to visit Philly.
As for the events, the Juneteenth Parade is big here every year, the Philadelphia Folk Festival has been going on for more than 60 years, and Old City Fest really brings this part of the city alive. These are just some of the events you can hope to encounter in this great city, but one thing’s for sure – you’ll never be bored!
The city was founded in 1682 by William Penn but is probably most famous for its role in the American Revolution. This is where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, which marked the separation of the United States from Great Britain.
Philadelphia was actually the capital of the US before Washington, D.C., and during that period (more precisely, in 1787) the US Constitution was created here, too.
Today, this is one of the most popular destinations for college and university students from all over the country. Movie fans will surely know it as the city which is home to Silvester Stallone’s Rocky.
Welcome to Philly, the city of the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and, of course, Rocky Balboa! It is a wonderful metropolis that mixes its incredible past with modern times offering a unique cocktail of experiences to every visitor. To make the most of all that during your one day in Philadelphia, follow this itinerary and you will discover the top sights and things to do while here. Enjoy!
Washington Square is a great starting point for your tour, since most of the sites you will want to see are located in the city’s downtown area, also known as Center City. A beautiful and well-kept park stretching over more than six acres is a great place to relax or enjoy some recreation. As a matter of fact, this part of Philadelphia is full of beautiful parks, so you can always find a place to stop and simply chill out a bit.
Here you can also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. A piece of the nation’s history and with an eternal flame in front of it, this is the only monument dedicated to all those unnamed soldiers who gave their lives in the war. From there, it’s just a short walk up the 6th Street to the most important place in the city.
When you visit Philly, a visit to Independence Hall is certainly a must. Certainly, one of the most significant buildings in all of the US, this is where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were made official.
In front of the hall, you won’t want to miss the chance to check out the famous Liberty Bell, a symbol of the country’s independence. You may want to plan ahead for this one, though, as there is often a line for both of these attractions, but you usually only have to wait about twenty minutes. The good news is that for both of these sites the tickets are completely free.
After soaking up all that history, you will surely want to grab something to eat. The best way to do that and keep experiencing Philly at the same time is to visit the Reading Terminal Market. It’s just a few blocks north-west from the Independence Hall and all kinds of food from all over the world can be found there, and the place is constantly bustling with life and activity.
A variety of donuts, numerous baked goods and tons of different kinds of meat can be bought there. Of course, don’t forget about the famous Philly cheesesteaks, the sandwiches that put this city on the map!
As mentioned earlier, this is Rocky’s city. And if you want to see or maybe even recreate the famous scene of the boxer climbing up the steps, you need to come to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Not only is it located in a modern and fairly easy-going neighborhood, but the collection it houses has something for everyone. Rare documents and books are accompanied by an incredible array of works of art ranging from Monet and Cezanne to Asian authors.
It’s good to remember that every Wednesday night is Pay What You Wish night, so you can get a bargain deal on the tickets. Of course, the “Rocky steps” are just in front.
Go to the Philadelphia Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo is an awesome place to visit, especially if you have kids along with you. The place has developed a unique system of paths that allow animals to walk around the zoo and explore. So, don’t be surprised if you see a tiger just casually strolling above your head.
Yes, there are some amazing animals in here, too – from big cats and primates to some really fascinating rare animals you can learn a whole lot about. And thanks to that system of pathways, you can enjoy a completely different zoo experience here.
A wonderful way for both kids and adults to spend their afternoon during their one day in Philadelphia.
So, you’re done sightseeing and now want to relax a bit. What are the things to do in Philadelphia at night? Well, there are loads of restaurants, bars and live shows in downtown Philly, but if you move out of that area to, for example, University City, you can still find some very interesting places.
However, Centre City remains the main hub of Philadelphia’s nightlife, primarily the area around the Reading Market. No matter if you like fine dining, rooftop bars or simply want to hear some live jazz, you are guaranteed to find a perfect place for yourself. And if you can’t decide, simply join a bar tour and hop from pub to pub until you taste everything there is to taste.
The Rittenhouse Hotel
210 West Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107
If you really want to pamper yourself during your one day in Philadelphia, stay at The Rittenhouse Hotel. This five-star boasts an excellent location, with plenty of sights and museums very close by. Then there are things like the heated indoor pool, the award-winning restaurant, and the sun terrace that really bring the experience of staying here to a whole new level. The cherry on top of this magnificent hotel cake is the exquisite tea room where you can come and sit down for a drink. Luxury at its very finest!
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
1200 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
A modern high-class hotel, Loews Philadelphia Hotel is located at the very core of Philadelphia’s Centre City. Therefore, it is perfect for everyone who wants to explore all the historic sites around here and really feel the pulse of this fascinating city. Indoor pool, sauna and a steam room are among the hotel’s features, and you can enjoy your drinks and meals in the hotel’s exquisite Bank & Bourbon Restaurant where they age their own bourbon and use it to create unique drinks.
Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Centre City
1100 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia is another hotel with an excellent location, just a minute’s walk from the Reading Market. You have a huge variety of dining options in the vicinity and can reach all the sites very easily. Additionally, there is a subway stop nearby if you wish to travel outside Centre City. The hotel features an indoor heated pool and a fitness centre, and their Garden Grill & Bar serves cooked-to-order breakfast.
Apple Hostel Philadelphia
32 South Bank Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Looking for a hostel in Philadelphia? Apple Hostel Philadelphia is the best choice in the city! There are plenty of things to choose from when it comes to having fun here (foosball table, pool table, video games…), and a complementray dinner is also included. The fact that it’s close to so many important sights only adds to the hostel’s allure, and the metro is close by, too. Add to that free coffee and tea, and clean and comfortable rooms, and you’ve got yourself a winner!
If you ever run out of things to do here, you can always plan an exciting day trip from Philadelphia. The city is surrounded by interesting places ideal for this kind of activity, so you really have a variety of options. Here are some of the most popular suggestions.
New York City
It may surprise you that Philadelphia is just an hour and a half away from New York City by train. As a matter of fact, the train will drop you off in the middle of Manhattan, so you will be able to explore the Big Apple thoroughly in one day even if you don’t have a car. Hop on a bus tour, check out the sites on your own or simply grab a slice of the famous New York pizza, the choice is yours.
If you want something completely opposite of New York, head west of Philadelphia towards Lancaster County, also known as Amish Country or Dutch Country. Go back in time, choose one of the available tours and see how people lived almost 200 years ago. This is an excellent place to relax and enjoy a stress-free day. Try some of delicious Dutch specialties in the restaurants here, too!
History-lovers won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. on their day trip from Philadelphia. It’s a journey you can make in about two hours, and once again you have loads of tours to help you get around and visit the most important places. Congress and the White House are a must, but you can also check out many museums, including the Smithsonian complex.
Located just 45 minutes away from Philadelphia, Doylestown is an ideal place if you’re up for a slow-paced day trip sprinkled with a bit of everything. The historic buildings there will make you feel you’re in Europe, and the town’s incredibly charming center will provide you with plenty of quaint places to eat and wonderful shops to visit. Rest, relax and do some sightseeing, you just can’t go wrong here!
– Philly PHLASH is a great and cheap way to get around town. For just 5$, you can get a pass which will allow you to ride these buses all day (for a single ride, the ticket is two dollars). The buses are purple, so you can easily notice them, they operate every 15 minute and cover all the most important sites
– A unique way to learn about the city’s past is to listen to a story from various storytellers scattered all over the historic area, all completely free!
– Many restaurants do not serve drinks, but you can bring your own if you want; just check ahead of time and then visit a liquor store to buy the beverage you like.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).