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Philadelphia/Center City East

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City Center East is the most dense section of Philadelphia, home to City Hall, the Convention Center, Chinatown, Washington Square West, and Gayborhood.

Understand[edit]

Gayborhood is located within Center City East. It is a square, taking up from about Broad and Walnut about 11th and Pine. Gayborhood is comprised of bars, restaurants and has a bookstore with its very own history: Giovanni's Room (James Baldwin wrote a book with this title; he based it on the bookstore). Some places that attract large crowds are Woody's (Wednesday is college night), Pure and 12th Street Gym.

Chinatown is also located within Center City East, just blocks away from the Convention Center and Reading Terminal. Compared to the Chinatown of other cities, Philadelphia's is fairly small. An important landmark to the town is the Friendship Gate, located at 10th and Arch streets. Chinatown is filled with restaurants, bakeries and gift shops. Some restaurants include Penang, Sang Kee, Banana Leaf and Tai Lake. Bakeries include Asia Bakery, Hong Kong Bakery, Mong Kok Station Bakery and KC Pastries. Many goods include milk tea, bubble tea (also known as boba tea) egg tarts, pork buns, steamed buns, chicken buns and pineapple buns.

Washington Square West is also located within Center City East: 7th to Broad Street, Chestnut to South Street, squished in between Rittenhouse Square and Old City/Society Hill. Home of Antique Row and Mid-Town Village, two great shopping districts. Historic cobbled streets, theaters, restaurants and more.


  • Washington Square is composed of several distinct neighborhoods and is convenient to America's most historic square mile. Washington Square West is a lively neighborhood, while east of the park is a bit more sedate. Antique Row, Pine Street between about 13th and 9th Streets, is full of interesting shops, not all of them antiques-oriented. Washington Square itself is worth a visit to see the tomb of the unknown Revolutionary War soldier. This neighborhood is a good place to see Philadelphia's native style of house, the "trinity" -- two, three, or four floors, one room per floor, connected by spiral stairs. The small streets above Pine, such as Quince Street, are lined with trinities. WalkPhiladelphia [1] offers several interesting tours of Wash West.
  • The Gayborhood is Philadelphia's gay-friendly area overlapping the officially designated Washington Square West neighborhood. The Gayborhood [2] is most strongly associated with 12th and 13th streets, especially from Pine in the south to Walnut in the north, but spills out to the surrounding areas. Most straight-owned Gayborhood businesses, are friendly to queer and straight alike regardless of orientation.
  • The Philadelphia City Hall is unofficially the center of Center City at Broad and Market Street. The building is topped by a 36 feet, 4 inches, bronze statue of William Penn. Under a gentleman's agreement, City Hall [3] remained the tallest building in the city until 1987.
  • Chinatown extends from approximately 8th Street to 11th Street east-west, and Vine Street to Market Street north-south. Despite the name, Philadelphia's Chinatown [4] has a variety of Asian ethnicities and has recently become one of the most popular neighborhoods for young people. The streets of are dominated by homes, restaurants, and boutique stores. Chinatown's symbol is its "Friendship Arch", an ornate paifang in the heart of the neighborhood. Though it is commonly found in many North American Chinatowns, the Arch Street incarnation is more elaborately rendered than most.

Get in[edit]

Market East Station is an underground station that is on Market Street between 9th and 12th Sts. It is one of three core Center City stations on the SEPTA [5] Regional Rail system. There are several entrances, but the main one is on 12th & Filbert Sts.

See[edit][add listing]

  • The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St, +1 215 574-0380, [6]. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su Noon-5PM. Built to preserve, interpret, and exhibit achievements of African Americans. $10 adults, $8 children/seniors.  edit
  • Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History, 15 S 7th St, +1 215 685-4830, [7]. Closed for renovations until Fall 2010. This museum, "where history inspires the future," is located just around the corner from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, features a hands-on and comprehensive history of America's "birthplace" and founding city. Unique to the museum is a "walkable" map of the region on the floor of the museum. In minutes, you can walk between suburban Montgomery County and the heart of Philadelphia in Center City! $5 adults, $3 seniors/children, free for children under 12.  edit
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), 128 N Broad St, +1 215 972-7600‎, [8]. A school that has had an impressive roster of artist alumni in the past 200 years, including some of the best-known names in American art. Its museum shows works from past and present PAFA students and faculty, as well as regular special exhibits.  edit
  • Wanamaker Organ, 1300 Market St (inside the Macy's store), [9]. The largest operational musical instrument in the world is played twice a day in the store, six days each week.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

The Avenue of the Arts [10] is on Broad Street containing many of the city's cultural institutions, especially the theater and arts area south of City Hall. The Avenue is a becoming more residential, but the main attractions include the Kimmel Center, Merriam Theatre, and the Academy of Music.

  • Kimmel Center, 260 S Broad St, +1 215 893-1999, [11]. Showcases a variety of performing arts from chamber music, dance, drama, orchestral, jazz & pop.  edit
  • The Philadelphia Orchestra, [12]. Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the most famous and widely traveled orchestras in the world. Performs in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.  edit
  • Academy of Music, 1420 Locust St, +1 215 893-1935‎, [13]. The Academy is the oldest grand opera house in the United States still being used for its original purpose. The Academy also provides the Philadelphia area with interesting and popular concerts, ballets, Broadway shows, and other events. Tours of the Academy, focusing on its inspiring history and current renovations, are available by contacting the manager's office.  edit

Theater and music[edit]

There are a number of venues for theater and music not on the Avenue of the Arts.

  • The Mask and Wig Club, 310 S Quince St (between 11th and 12th Sts, at Spruce St), [14]. Mask and Wig has presented comedy, music, and dancing to the University of Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia and to audiences across the country since 1889 and is a legend amongst Philadelphia theatre-goers. Each spring, Mask and Wig performs a full-length musical comedy at its historic Clubhouse.  edit
  • The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St, [15]. Typically features indie/alternative acts and local acts.  edit
  • Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St, +1 215 574-3550, [16]. America's oldest theatre celebrated its 200th anniversary season in 2009. Shows regularly sell out, and travelers are advised to buy in advance. The theater is a self-producing, non-profit regional theater.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • The Gallery at Market East Located at 8th and Market Streets and atop a major transit hub, this oh-so-dated urban shopping mall in urgent need of renovation - or maybe just demolition - is a master class in bad urban planning. A place to be avoided.
  • Reading Terminal Market, [17]. The Reading Terminal Market is home to many of Pennsylvania's Amish merchants who sell their goods. Here, you can find some of the best baked goods and the freshest organic produce in the region. Additionally, the market features cheesesteaks and other non-Amish restaurants and shops.  edit
  • Antique Row Pine street between 9th and 13th is home to a mix of antique stores and local gift and craft boutiques. Visit the Foodery at 10th and Pine for a selection of hundreds of by-the-bottle beers from around the world, or a few blocks down, ring the bell at Halloween (1329 Pine) for an incredible jewelry store experience that can accommodate any budget.
  • Chinatown, [18]. East of Broad St, "East meets West". Philadelphia's Chinatown is an ethnic section of the city that can't be missed. Why settle for Chinese buffets when you can get the authentic stuff right here? There's no need to. Chinatown is located north of The Gallery at Market East and close to the Reading Terminal Market.  edit
  • Giovanni's Room an LGBT bookstore. [19]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Washington Square West[edit]

  • Effie's, 1127 Pine St, +1 215 592-8333, [20]. Effie's is one of two well-known Greek restaurants east of Broad St., though it's more unassuming than Kanella and looks like part of an ordinary rowhouse. Inside, a bright but cozy atmosphere awaits either inside or outside on the courtyard patio in back. While the food isn't particularly inventive, it wins points for making basic Greek dishes excellent. BYOB. $$.  edit
  • El Fuego, 723 Walnut St. The best advertisement for this hip burrito shop is the long line that develops inside every weekday at lunchtime.
  • Kanella, 1001 Spruce St, +1 215 922-1773, [21]. It's hard not to see Kanella coming a mile away, what with its bright blue exterior and white Greek lettering. Yes, the food is Cypriot-Greek, and unlike most Greek places, you can eat three meals a day there if you're so inclined. Which you may very well be after eating dinner once. Semi-casual, spare, elegant decor and friendly service. BYOB. Entrees $18-24.  edit
  • Lolita, 106 S 13th St, +1 215 546-2100, [22]. The sexy little Lolita has won heaps of praise since it opened, including Best Margaritas in Philadelphia, which is saying a lot for a BYOB (you bring the bottle of tequila, they do the rest). The menu is "nuevo-Mexican," which is to say, a very elegant twist on south-of-the-border fare. Prices are good for food this delicious, and everyone else in Philadelphia knows it too, so be prepared for a wait on Friday or Saturday (no reservations accepted then). Mains $18-24.  edit
  • Naked Chocolate, 1317 Walnut St, +1 215 735-7310, [23]. Apparently a full-fledged member of the international artisan chocolate movement, Naked Chocolate is a welcome addition to this area of Center City. On offer are all things chocolate, including chocolate drinks and cupcakes. A few non-chocolate delicacies are also available for the cocoa-averse.  edit
  • Vetri, 1312 Spruce St, +1 215 732-3478, [24]. Bon Appetit magazine has said that this small, very upscale place is "probably the best Italian restaurant in America." 'Nuff said. But in case you need to hear it from the locals, the Philadelphia Inquirer has named it one of the top 5 restaurants in the city, along with Le Bec Fin and a few others. Entrees $19-48; tasting menu $115.  edit
  • Zinc, 246 S 11th St, +1 215 351-9901, [25]. Closed Monday. The word "charming" is not nearly enough to describe Zinc, which strives to recreate the kind of neighborhood eatery found in the Marais district of Paris to a T. Food is classic French, of course, as is the decor, which includes a 1919 zinc bar that chef and owner Olivier Desaintmartin had shipped from France. Drinks include many hard-to-find French wines and liqueurs, and the staff are warm and personable. In 2007, Zinc won Best Restaurant of the Year from Philadelphia Magazine. Entrees $15-22.  edit

Chinatown/Convention Center[edit]

  • David's Mai Lai Wah, 1001 Race St, +1 215 627-2610. Su-Th 11:30AM-3AM, F-Sa 11:30AM-4AM. Excellent Chinese food. Open late, and a very nice staff.  edit
  • Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch Sts, [26]. M-Sa 8AM-6PM, Su 9AM-5PM. America's oldest farmer's market is a bustling indoor public market hall, with produce markets, bakeries, arts and crafts, a beer garden, and virtually every type of cuisine present. Be sure to make some time to stroll around and sample as much as you can. Despite the market's stated hours, individual vendors operate their own schedules; some restaurants will be open for dinner, and some, particular the Pennsylvania Dutch shops, are closed on Sundays.  edit
  • Bassett's Ice Cream, [27]. A local ice cream brand that has operated the same store at the same location in Reading Terminal Market since it opened in 1893, and has the distinction of being America's oldest ice cream company. While Bassett's is available at many other restaurants and supermarkets, this is the only retail outlet carrying the Bassett's name. The ice cream itself is rich, creamy and delicious. $3-$5.  edit
  • Spataro's Cheesesteaks, +1 215-925-6833. One of the best cheesesteaks at the market. Long lines, especially around lunch. $9-$11.  edit
  • Sang Kee Peking Duck, 238 N 9th St, +1 215 925-7532, [28]. One of the best places to eat in Chinatown. The Peking duck is, obviously, what Sang Kee is famous for, but other delights abound, like wonton noodle soup and pork spare ribs. Unpretentious, casual surroundings and brisk service. Great for big groups. Entrees $8.50-25.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Yakitori Boy, 211 N 11th St (at Race St in Chinatown), +1 215 923-8088, [29]. Daily 5PM-2AM. A Japanese restaurant, with a karaoke bar and lounge upstairs. You can either rent private rooms, which are pricey but worth it with a large group of friends, or if you're brave enough, get your drink on and then sign up to sing publicly at the bar.  edit

Washington Square West[edit]

  • Dirty Frank's, 13th and Pine Sts, +1 215 732-5010. One of the contenders for best dive bar in the city. Everything you could want: an eclectic, scruffy crowd both old and young, pinball, darts, random crap stuck up all over the bar, wisecracking bartender, cheap drinks.  edit

Other[edit]

  • Old City Coffee - one of the two branches is located inside the Reading Terminal Market serving good coffee. [30]
  • Sisters - a lesbian bar. [31]
  • Spruce Street Espresso, 1101 Spruce St.
  • Woody's - a gay bar with 3 different rooms to satisfy everyone. [32]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

City Hall[edit]

  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Center City, 237 S Broad St (at Locust), +1 215 893-1600, [33]. $165 average.  edit
  • Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Midtown, 1305-11 Walnut St, +1 215 735-9300, [34]. checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM.  edit
  • Park Hyatt Philadelphia, 200 Broad St, +1 215 893-1234, [35].  edit
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Philadelphia Center City, 1 E Penn Sq, +1 215 557-0005, [36].  edit
  • Rodeway Inn Center City, 1208 Walnut St, +1 215 546-7000, [37]. $120 average.  edit

Washington Square West[edit]

  • Alexander Inn, 12th and Spruce Sts, +1 215 923-3535 (toll free: +1 877 253-9466, , fax: +1 215 923-1004), [38]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. In a bohemian section of Washington Square West. $119+.  edit
  • The Independent Hotel Philadelphia, 1234 Locust St, +1 215 772-1440, [39]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. $169+.  edit

Chinatown/Convention Center[edit]

  • Hampton Inn - Center City Philadelphia, 1301 Race St, +1 215 665-9100, [40].  edit
  • Marriott Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, 21 N Juniper St, +1 215 496-3200, [41]. Re-opened after a grand $75 million restoration. This 18-story, 498-room Philadelphia hotel opened in 1926 and is listed on the "National Register of Historic Places". The hotel now integrates state-of-the-art systems with unique architectural details like coffered plaster, stunning bronze work and striking marble finishes.  edit
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market St, +1 215 625-2900, [42]. Adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and 8 blocks from Independence Hall, this Center City Philadelphia hotel is located near dining, shopping, business, & cultural attractions.  edit

Contact[edit]

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