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For the fact that Philadelphia has come to occupy space as a cultural capital of the U.S., it’s still often overlooked. Maybe it’s the plight of being a city best known for a cheese wiz-laden sandwich, or perhaps it’s just the cost of being two hours from New York City. Regardless, Philadelphia is really a destination that should be sought after for more than just a Phillies game and an American history lesson. Here’s how you can spend a food and culture-filled 24 hours in Philadelphia.
9 a.m.: Ever heard New Yorkers gush excitedly about Philly? It’s mainly because it has all of the things they like about New York, without all the things they hate. There are great restaurants, but with better-priced cocktails, more space, and fewer lines. In this spirit, breakfast will be at a coveted eatery that actually started in Philadelphia, and subsequently inspired a Manhattan spinoff. High Street on Market in Old City Philadelphia serves “pastries, Rival Bros. Coffee, and Philly’s favorite breakfast sandwiches.” It’s the perfect place to start your day.
10:30 a.m.: Because you’re already in Old City Philadelphia following breakfast at High Street on Market, the next stop is visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell is in Independence National Historical Park, and you can visit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week—or until 7 p.m. in the summer. The whole experience is unlikely to take more than 30 minutes—maybe 45 if you’re accounting for the crowds that come out to see this free attraction. After the Liberty Bell, touring Independence Hall will allow you to solidify your historical experience, particularly if you stop in the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.
12 p.m.: After a healthy dose of history, it’s time to head to south Philly for an equally important dose of Italian food. And the perfect place for that is the original Italian Market. Touted as “America’s oldest and continuously operating outdoor market,” the expansive list of vendors and ever-present smell of marinara sauce is enough to make your heart (or stomach) expand three sizes.
1 p.m.: While at the Italian Market, you of course have to partake in the classic Pat vs. Geno’s Philly cheesesteak face off. Both Pat’s and Geno’s have storefronts in the Italian Market, so you can grab a cheesesteak “whiz with” from each to compare and contrast. It’s a time-honored Philadelphia tradition. (P.S., if you have more than 24 hours in Philadelphia, it’s worth mentioning that some of the best sandwiches in the city can be found at Paesano’s, and that Tony Luke’s is also a crucial cheesesteak contender.)
2 p.m.: Ride across town for your afternoon, where you can first visit the stunning collection at the Barnes’ Foundation. Barnes’ has a world-class array of impressionist artwork and paintings from the subsequent post-impressionist and early modern periods. You’ll find work from Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, and Van Gogh among other sought-after artists.
4 p.m.: Once at the Barnes’ Foundation, you’re already by the Schuylkill River, so spend your golden hour walking along the Boardwalk and the surrounding park. The boardwalk is a 2,000-foot path along the waterfront, running from Locust to South Street. And it’s still fairly new—the project was completed in October 2014. It’s a gorgeous spot for locals and tourists alike to spend their summer afternoons.
6 p.m.: For a pre-dinner (or post-dinner) drink, head to Frankford Hall in Fishtown for the best beer garden experience in town. Frankford Hall has all the comforts of a traditional German biergarten, set in a modern-industrial space. It’s hard to go wrong with a stein of cold beer on their sprawling patio.
8 p.m.: Keep exploring Fishtown around dinner time, ending up at Fette Sau, home to Philly’s most-coveted whiskey selection. Alternately, if Center City Philadelphia is more appealing to you than the trek to Fishtown, you can skip Frankford Hall and Fette Sau and instead head to downtown Philadelphia from Schuylkill River Boardwalk. It’s much closer, and you can instead enjoy sumptuous Asian fusion at Sampan or an innovative tasting menu at celebrity chef Jose Garces’ restaurant, Volvér.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to end your evening in Center City, The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, is just a couple blocks from Sampan and Volvér. Or for a more boutique vibe, also right by Center City and Rittenhouse Square, try the five-star Rittenhouse Hotel, another American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property. They’re known for their exquisite service—and their high tea.