2 Days in Philadelphia : My Ultimate Guide
When I was planning my trip to the East Coast of USA people were advising that I would only need 2 days in Philadelphia, and this would be plenty of time to see all the tourist attractions in Philadelphia, but I think I could have spent more time in this city as there was still so much that I didn’t get to see.
However, what I did see was interesting and as usual I did the hop on bus tours to get an overview of the city and to get around. I also used the trollies and buses which were all easy to use. I didn’t realise there were so many museums and cool attractions to see in Philadelphia.
I stayed in a homestay just outside of the city which was easy to get to by public bus and a lot cheaper than staying directly in the city centre.
I loved the architecture of Philadelphia especially when driving down antique row. It just seemed so quaint and how I imagined old USA to look.
I found it interesting about how shutters were added to windows to avoid tax payments, so if the taxman could not see things he couldn’t make people pay tax on them so when the taxman was in town the shutters got closed. I like the architecture of all the places that I visited during my east coast trip.
What to see in Philadelphia
Before my visit to Philadelphia I knew very little about the city, I now know a bit more but could still do with another visit as there is still so much to discover.
I didn’t realise Rocky was filmed in Philadelphia I don’t think I have ever even seen the film all the way through, but I do now the scene where Stallone runs up the steps and this was filmed at the Museum of Art.
If you are looking for accommodation in Philadelphia use the search box below to find the best prices.
Now the Museum of Art seems to be more famous for this film rather than its Art which I also heard was good. There is a statue of Stallone that used to be at the top of the steps but apparently the art lovers of Philadelphia and the art Foundation said it was movie memorabilia and not art, so it had to be moved to the bottom of the steps.
It was funny watching people running up the steps having their pictures taking posing like Rocky. I didn’t see many people go into the museum though.
During my tour of Philadelphia tourist attractions, two names were mentioned a lot and these were Benjamin Franklin and William Penn. I have heard of both historic figures, but I was not aware of how much they actually did for the USA.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of America and did so much. He invented things such as Bifocals, he founded the first hospital in USA with Dr Thomas Bond and he founded the post office being the first post officer general in 1775 (this is the information I was given by tour guides I am not sure if is 100% legit so have included some links if you want more information)
You can visit Franklins grave in the Christ Church burial ground. It is said to be lucky to throw a penny on it, which raises over $3000 per year for the upkeep of the graveyard, that’s a lot of pennies.
William Penn is the founder of the state of Pennsylvania. Penns landing is more of a tourist attraction as this is not actually the place when Penn landed as it didn’t even exist back then.
Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia
There are so many things to see and do in Philadelphia as it plays such a big part in USA history.
I as usual started with the hop on bus tours as they give me a insight into the city I am visiting. It also took me to most of the main Philadelphia historical sites.
I then walked around Philadelphia on foot. I was really surprised at how much there was to see in Philadelphia, it was originally just a stop on the way to DC but it is actually one of my favourite places I have visited in the USA.
This is only a list of Philadelphia attractions that I managed to see during my trip, I need to visit again as there is so much that I just didnt have time to see in Philadelphia but I dont mind visiting again as I really enjoyed it.
I mainly stuck to the best things to do in Philadelphia but I would be keen to go off the beaten track next time and see some more unusual places in Philadelphia so if you have any tips for where to visit on my next trip please do get in touch.
Sightseeing buses in Philadelphia
I did two bus sightseeing tours during my trip to Philadelphia. This is because I had already purchased one from Groupon at a discounted rate and then I was given a complimentary Philly Pass which had a different company Hop on Bus ticket included. That was OK though as I love hop on buses and it meant I got to experience the difference between the two.
I preferred the sightseeing bus to the Big Bus as the tour guides were just more interesting and lively whereas on the big bus it sounded more scripted and there was no interaction with passengers.
Both companies have a shuttle that goes to the Zoo as bigger buses are no longer allowed. This was fun and as I had a zoo ticket included in the Philly Pass I did go out there. However, the shuttles were only every hour, so you could be out there for a while I luckily timed it right, so I could visit the zoo and then I only had to wait 10 minutes for the shuttle bus.
This shuttle bus however is not well advertised, and I didn’t know about it the first three times on the bus it wasn’t until the 4th time that a guide mentioned the shuttle, so I got off and used it. (Yes, I went on the buses 5 times, I needed to get my monies worth).
Summer 9.30 to 6pm Fall/spring 9.30 to 5pm Winter 10 to 4pm
1 day, 2 and 3 day passes available with the option of combo 1 and 2 day passes with the night tour. See website for up to date prices.
This route has 27 stops stopping at or near all the top attractions in Philadelphia. There is a courtesy shuttle service from city centre locations, all universities, all airport locations and 30th street station.
This is the first time I have seen a shuttle service to get you to the bus stop. I missed the bus twice at stop 6 and the lady rang the shuttle service for me to take me to stop 1 which was really appreciated.
Carriage tours *prices correct at time of writing but please check website for up to date prices
20 minutes covers independence national historic park $40 for 1-4 people $10 per extra person
30 mins covers independence national historic park and society hill $50 or 1-4 people $10 per extra person
60 mins covers independence national historic park society hill and old city $100 or 1-4 people $10 per extra person
Tickets sold at www.phillytour.com or ask big bus people reservations recommended
Philly by night : 8pm 90 minutes Daily April to Oct – Thursday Friday and Sat in Nov $30
South street – Liberty bell – Independence hall – Philadelphia Museum of Art – Waterfront – Ben Franklin Parkway – Avenue of Arts – China Town
Philadelphia Sightseeing bus tour
Night $30 8pm May to Oct
1, 2 and 3 day passes available
28 stops Bus frequency 20 to 30 mins April to Sept – 45 to 60 mins Oct to Mar
The Plash Bus is a downtown service every 15 minutes. It however wasn’t operating when I visited Philadelphia so check the website for latest information. It is $2 per journey or a day ticket costs $5 so is good value if it is running when you are visiting Philidelphia.
520 Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Independence Hall is a must see in Philadelphia. Entrance is free however a ticket is required. This needs to be collected from the Independence hall visitors centre available from 8.30am and at peak times they can all go by 1pm so best to get there early. If you want to avoid the risk of not getting a ticket you can pre-purchase on line or by phone for $1.50
The independence hall plays an important part in America’s history and it was very popular with tourists. Here you can see the room where the declaration of Independence and US constitution were signed.
The first floor of Independence Hall is accessible for those with mobility impairments. There is a photo album showing images of the upper floor for those not able to climb the stairs to the second floor. For those with hearing impairments, the “Birthplace of a Nation” pamphlet provides written information about the rooms shown on the tour. American Sign Language interpretation is available by request see website for more information
N 6th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
One of the most popular Philadelphia points of interest is the Liberty bell. The liberty bell centre is open 9am to 5pm most days, you can find out more details on the website.
Admission into the Liberty Bell centre is free, and no tickets are required however it is a first come first basis so if you do want to see the liberty bell go early.
I managed to glimpse the liberty bell whilst I was on the hop on bus as it managed to stop where I got a great view, so I never visited inside the centre but still got a great view. This is one of the places I would explore more on my second visit to Philadelphia.
3400 W Girard Ave Philadephia, PA 19104 215-243-1100
March to Oct 9.30am to 5pm Nov to Feb 9.30am to 4pm
Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest in the USA. Opening in 1874 with 1000 animals costing 25cents for the entrance fee. It has certainly grown since then and so has the price.
It is not the biggest zoo I have ever been too but in good weather it was an enjoyable experience. I did smell the animals before I saw them though.
There was a baby gorilla that was being an acrobat for the audience whilst his mother and father just sat and ate. I could have watched them for hours. I also loved the hippos and the giraffes were so cute.
I saw my first sloth bear and spent some time watching this hairy bear exploring his surroundings, it looked like he was after something in the long grass and kept jumping and sniffing.
There were plenty of squirrels in the zoo that were tame and came right up to people. I visited on a Thursday afternoon in the beginning of November and no food stalls were open.
One of the things about this zoo that I don’t see often was the 360 where the animals go overhead so if you look up you could spot a tiger walking overhead. I didn’t see anything, but it was fun looking out for the animals.
Philly from the top – One Liberty Observation Deck
1650 Market Street, Philadelphia PA
Fall/Winter Hours 10 AM — 8 PM *Last admission at 7:30 PM
Philly from the Top was included in the complimentary Philly Pass that I had been given. I don’t think I would have paid $14 to go up 57 stories to see the view over Philadelphia but this is mainly due to being limited on time and pennies.
However, if you want an excellent view over the city then it is necessary as it is currently the highest building in Philadelphia.
There was a vending machine with drinks and snacks, so I got some M&Ms and a bottle of water and had a sit down to look at the view. It is quite a nice place to sit. There were board games available to play so you could spend some time here. Also, there was a free bathroom so perfect for a toilet break.
There are many restaurants where you can also get good views of the city for more information see here.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
Open daily 10 to 5pm prices start at $14
I was disappointed that I didn’t get time to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary as I do find prisons very interesting and this historic site had some very interesting stories. Prisoners were kept locked up for 24 hours a day, often with only a bible so a lot of them went crazy.
Al Capone was a resident here and it was reported that he started seeing ghosts, but it turned out he had a sexually transmitted disease which was causing hallucinations.
Tours are available of the prison with an audio guide and the option of a guide led tour. If you are visiting near Halloween, then I would recommend the Terror behind the wall people who did this said it was amazing and quite scary there is even the option to take part in the Hex Challenger where you will get an interacted experience and I heard this was very scary I don’t think I would be brave enough to do it.
Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
If you are a fan of art, then the Museum of the Art is the place to visit with over 135,000 pieces to look at. There are a number of Art Museums in Philadelphia.
There is an accessible entrance please see website for more details : Access for 2 consecutive days to Museum’s main building, Perelman Building, Rodin Museum, and historic house Cedar Grove (April–December). Mount Pleasant closed for maintenance.
• Adults: $20
• Seniors (65 & over): $18
• Students (with valid ID): $14
• Youth (13–18): $14
• Children (12 & under): Free
• Members (Join): Free
Pay What You Wish Admission
First Sunday of the month 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and every Wednesday 5:00–8:45 p.m.
1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103, USA
I wanted to visit the Adventure Aquarium in Philadelphia as they have a hippo called Jenny and my mum loves hippos and my name is Jenni, so I wanted to get a picture. Unfortunately, it is over the river and the ferry stopped 2 days before my visit which did make it harder to get to. It is still possible to get to but because I was short of time and didn’t have any transport I went to the Zoo instead.
Franklin Museum Institute
222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
The Franklin Institute is a science museum and the centre of science education and research in Philadelphia. I heard so many good things about this and really wanted to go but time just ran away with me, so I didn’t get time. If you visit though I would suggest going after 3pm when the schools have visited as I went past a couple of times and there were coaches and coaches full of school children.
Philadelphia City Hall
1401 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA
The City Hall is something you must stop and look at as the architecture is beautiful. The city founder William Penn has a 37-ft. bronze statue at the top of the building. We were told that the News crews in Philadelphia do not film the city hall from a certain angle as Penn can look a little indecent.
You can walk through the City Hall which was nice, and you can even do a tour. There are also things going on outside the City Hall such as in summer they have a water park and in the winter, there is an ice rink. They also show free movies on a Friday night.
151 N Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
You can do a free self-guided 45-minute tour Monday – Friday of The Mint in Philadelphia if you want to find out more about how coins are made in the USA. I was told you leave with a bag of shredded money as a souvenir. The Mint in Philadelphia also makes the Purple Heart Medals. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Heart
The China Town in Philadelphia is the 3rd largest in the USA after San Francisco and New York. A great place to wander and maybe get some delicious Chinese food.
The Friendship gate over the entrance to China town was donated by sister city Tianjin in China. It has no nails and is put together like a jigsaw puzzle.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
The Barnes Foundation is an art collection worth over 33 billion dollars and is open Wednesdays to Mondays only. It is quite pricy at $30 but if you have a passion for art then this is the place to go.
2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
The Rodin Museum is a showcase of the work of Auguste Rodin’s it is open Wednesday to Mondays with the suggested entrance fee of $10
The outside of the museum is a popular place for newly weds to have their photo taken. There is a gated archway where they pose, and it is quite ironic as these are called the “Gates to Hell”.
19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm $18 You can save $2 on Monday and Tuesdays
The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia is a medical museum and sounds right up my street with abnormal exhibitions. It has specimens in jars, atomically correct models and a large collection of medical apparatus.
Betty Rose House
239 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
Betty Rose was famous for sewing the first American Flag. Self guded tours from $5 and audio tours $7 open daily 9am to 5pm please check website for up to date information.
Please Touch Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
It is not often you can touch things in a museum but The Please Touch Museum is just like its name and it is about touching the exhibitions they want people to explore what they are seeing so it is a great way to learn. The museum is near Fairmount park so combine both of these activities for a perfect few hours in Philadelphia.
Vietnam war memorial
Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
The Vietnam War Memorial contains 648 veteran names.
Korean war memorial
Philadelphia, PA 19106
“The memorial includes the names of more than 600 servicemen who were killed in action or listed as missing in action during the Korean War from Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Veterans Day and Memorial Day services are held annually at the site” (Source: Wikipedia)
Reservoir Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19119
I came across Fairmount Park by chance when I was on the hop on bus and I wish I had seen it earlier so I could have spent some time there as it looked a great place to sit and relax. People were in the park playing games. Check out their website as they do have lots of activities going on in the Park.
I was given a complimentary Philly Pass which saved me some pennies and if you are going to visit the attractions on it then you will save money as it currently costs $55 and alone these attractions would cost $98
It includes the Franklin institute, Big bus 1-day tour, One liberty observation deck and Adventure aquarium or the Philadelphia zoo. I had to do the Zoo as the ferry had stopped running to the aquarium 2 days before I arrived, and it was further out of the city, so I didn’t have time or transportation to get there.
Transport in Philadelphia
I found Philadelphia easy to get around using public transport. There was a lot of traffic on the roads so like any city I would avoid driving and use the public transport.
I used buses to get around and a underground trolley, there is also a large train station and coach depot. The buses were accessible and I saw a number of wheelchair users getting on and off the bus with no problems.
It is important to have the correct change as you put it in a slot when you get on the bus. For latest timetables and information check out the Philadelphia Transport Website.
Food in Philadelphia
The food in Philadelphia all sounded and smelt amazing I wish I was there more than 2 days so I could have eaten in a few more places. I definitely wanted to try their pizzas as people kept raving about them and of course would have been great to try a few more Philly cheesesteaks.
Reading terminal market
80 stalls worth a visit as they are selling everything from cheese steaks to candy. It was amazing I loved walking around and visited 3 times to get some lunch and then went back for some cake. If I was in Philadelphia longer I am sure I would have worked my way round more of the stalls.
Some of the stalls were so cheap I got some cold meats and fresh bread for lunch which worked out so much cheaper than going to a café or diner for a sandwich.
I also tried my one and only cheese steak here in a cool bar where I sat at the counter. It was so popular I was lucky that as I was walking past someone was leaving and I managed to grab that seat lots of people were queuing for tables, so it must have been good. I found my cheese steak was nice, but it had a strange cheese sauced on it and wasn’t what I was expecting but it must have been the type of cheese I ordered.
Apparently, no cheese steak in the city is the same as another so if I visit Philadelphia again I will try some more Philly cheesesteaks.
Old city Sonny’s is famous for its cheesesteaks and burgers. This was mentioned to me a few times for the best place to go for a cheesesteak in Philadelphia : 228 market street
Cheesesteak corner – Tourist place is cheesesteak corner and has Pats king of steak or Genos that are said to be in competition with each other. Apparently every cheesesteak in the city tastes different in some way. Although locals say this is more of a tourist place the queues say different
Hard rock cafe
1113-31 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Hard Rock cafes are always a fun place to eat I love all the rock memorabilia.
The Victor Cafe
1303 Dickinson St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This is an Italian restaurant where the waiters are opera singers and do live performances, what a cool way to have an evening meal. Every 20 minutes a bell rings and they burst into song.
Bassetts Ice Cream Parlour
45 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Bassett ice cream was the first vendor in the USA and today is still a popular place to get some creamy delight with all their amazing flavours. However their first flavour was yellow tomato so I am not sure I would have liked that one.
Where to stay in Philadelphia
I used Homestay.com when I visited Philadelphia and it was perfect for a solo traveller. I stayed just outside the city, about 10 minutes ride on a local bus and the lady I stayed with was a great host. I had my own space and bathroom and saved a few pennies.
However if you want to indulge The Rittenhouse Hotel has excellent reports on TripAdvisor although it is very expensive. It would be best to stay somewhere central so you can get the most out of your sightseeing if you only have 2 days.
Weather in Philadelphia
I visited Philadelphia in November and the weather was just starting to get very cold. I was told by locals that when it snows the city becomes gridlocked. It would be best to visit when the weather is slightly warmer if you want to sightsee unless you have some very good thermals. The warmest month is July when it reaches mid 20s.
What to do in Philadelphia at night
There are so many things to do in Philadelphia at night from seeing a show to gettting a great view over the city.
Watch a show
South Broad street is also known as the Avenue of the Arts. This is where you are going to find the west end shows and it has street lights at night so worth a visit.
This is where you will find the Bellevue Hotel which is the most expensive place to stay in Philadelphia and home to Tiffany’s.
This avenue also has a walk of fame where you can see some very famous names such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and Boyz 11 men lol sorry, but I am not a huge music buff, and these were some of the only names I recognised but you can find a full list here. http://www.philadelphiamusicalliance.org/walk-of-fame.php
I loved ghost tours and so gutted I never got to do one whilst I was in Philadelphia. For $17 you can do a candlelight tour every night from 7.30 reservations are required.
Movies filmed in Philadelphia
I love it when the guide points out places that have been featured in movies when I am touring I am not sure how factually these are, but it was fun to hear anyway.
There are many movies filmed in Philadelphia the most famous being Rocky which I have already mentioned. There was a scene from Ghostbusters where the Marshmallow man climbs up the building this was filmed here and when our guide pointed out the building I recognised it straight away. It was also a grey day so looked quite fitting.
- We went past a house which was the scene in the 6th sense when they go into the house after the funeral and he sees his first ghost.
- Macys is where mannequin was filmed
- Brown building trading places Dan Ackroyd
- Nicholas cage national treasure
- God father 2 on the ship it’s now a floating restaurant
- 12 Monkeys features the City Hall
Visit Philly is a great resource if you are planning a trip to Philadelphia for up to date information and itinerary ideas.
I had a great time visiting Philadelphia and I wish I had more time to explore and try some of the great food so hopefully I will go back one day.
If you like this article please share and pin for others to read. If I have missed anything please do get in contact with me below.
- Originally posted December 2017 updated June 2019