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Philadelphia/Center City

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Center City is in Philadelphia.

Get in

Center City is the "downtown" section of Philadelphia. It is bounded by South Street to the south, the Delaware River to the east, the Schuylkill River to the west, and Vine Street to the north. The 2005 Center City population, at approximately 90,000, makes it one of the more populated central business districts in the United States.

The Market East Station is an underground station that is on Market Street between 9th and 12th Streets. It is one of three core Center City stations on the SEPTA [1] Regional Rail system. There are several entrances, but the main one is on 12th & Filbert Street.

See

  • 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 [2] 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.
  • The Fitler Square neighborhood has some good restaurants and pretty tree-lined streets. The charming 2400 block of Panama, supposedly, has been re-created on a Hollywood lot for the show "Cold Case." Fitler Square [3] itself doesn't show up on MapQuest, but it's at 23rd and Pine. A Saturday morning farmers' market runs spring-fall.
  • Society Hill A posh residential area south of Old City. Other than the stately row-houses and gleaming condominiums, there are some quality drinking and dining establishments, two of the artsy Ritz movie theaters, and a seasonally open market.
  • 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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6] remained the tallest building in the city until 1987.
  • Penn's Landing is the waterfront area popular all year-round with an ice skating rink, concerts, and various city events. There are also many restaurants, hotels, and even a museum. Penn's Landing [7]
  • Old City is filled with art galleries, restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges. It is between Front and Fourth Streets to the east and west, and generally bounded by Race Street to the north and Walnut Street to the south. Old City [8] is easily where Philadelphia goes to party.

Do

Parks

  • Fairmount Park is Philadelphia's park system [9] consisting of 63 regional and neighborhood parks. When you want to get away from the city's hustle and bustle, there is always somewhere green to go.
  • Rittenhouse Square Rittenhouse Square [10] is as close to a central park as one can get in Philadelphia. Only 4 blocks west of Broad St and the main business areas, it is an oasis in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by tall buildings, and there are many nice restaurants in the area. Summer concert schedules are listed in the park.
  • Schuylkill River Park. The newest of the city's parks, but already becoming one of the most popular. For a century, Philadelphia's waterfronts were cut off from its residents by industry and an extensive system of railroads. Now gone for decades, the waterfront is a kaleidoscope of residential development, recreation, and good living. Center City's ongoing Renaissance is being charged by new amenities such as this urban river-side park [11], which carves its way deep into the city, culminating in South Philly.

Arts

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art. 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, [12]. Regular special exhibitions, and an impressive permanent collection that's especially strong in Asian and medieval art, impressionist paintings, and furniture. The museum [13] sits on a hill overlooking the Schuylkill River at the end of The Ben Franklin Parkway, which was modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. There's an impressive view back toward City Hall from the top of the "Rocky steps."
  • Rodin Museum. 22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 568-6026, [14]. Displays the largest collection of Rodin's work outside of Paris.
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 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 [15] shows works from past and present PAFA students and faculty, as well as regular special exhibits.
  • Barnes Foundation. A few miles outside Center City, a few hundred people a week get to see a one-of-a-kind collection of art ranging from the primitive to the post-Impressionist, arranged together in a mansion in the middle of a 12-acre arboretum. Many works here, although by famous artists, have almost never been exhibited elsewhere. The Foundation [16] is only open to the public 3 days a week, and advance reservations are required. Depending on the time of year, reservations can fill up weeks or months in advance.
  • The Avenue of the Arts is on Broad Street containing many of the city's cultural institutions, especially the theater and arts area south of City Hall. The Avenue [17] is a becoming more residential, but the main attractions include the Kimmel Center, Merriam Theatre, and the Academy of Music.

Museums

  • Mutter Museum, 19 S. 22nd Street, (215) 563-3737, [18]. Open 10AM to 5PM everyday except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Originally open only to medical students, this collection of medial oddities is quickly becoming one of the city's most popular attractions. Not for the faint of heart, this museum includes lots of items in formaldhyde, lots of skeletons, and one of the only men to ever decompose into soap. $12 General admission, $8 for children 6-18, senior citizens, and college students.
  • The Please Touch Museum, 210 N. 21st Street, (215) 963-0667, [19]. Open 9AM to 4:30PM daily, closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. A fantastic place to take young children. As the name says, everyone is encouraged to touch the exhibits. Admission $9.95.
  • The Franklin Institute Science Museum, 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, [20]. Open daily 9:30AM. to 5PM, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve & Day, and New Year's Day. This museum attracts some of the top scientific exhibits in the world. Be sure to walk through the giant-sized human heart, a favorite with kids. This museum is incredibly popular with as a field trip destination for local schools, so be advised that mornings and early afternoons on weekdays may be crowded with schoolchildren. Base admission $13.75 for adults, $11 for children 4-11 years old and senior citizens.

Buy

  • Walnut Street starts near Rittenhouse Square (at 18th St) and extends eastward to Broad St. It is known as an upscale shopping district featuring a variety of world class shopping and dining destinations.
  • Giovanni's Room an LGBT bookstore. [21]
  • The Shops at Liberty Place, on 16th and Chestnut, is an elegant shopping center with stores like Nine West, J.Crew, and Express. Many professionals stop by to get a bite to eat at its large food court and some quick shopping during the lunch hour. [22]

Eat

Because of a quirk in Pennsylvania's complicated liquor laws, it is very expensive and inconvenient for a restaurant to get a liquor license in Philadelphia. Therefore, many of the smaller restaurants in Philadelphia, which include many of the best, are BYOB, that is, Bring Your Own Bottle. It's a charming oddity of Philadelphia restaurants that you will grow to love. So head over to your local convenience store and pick something up, or dust off that bottle you've always been meaning to open, and have a wonderful dining experience downtown.

Rittenhouse Square

  • Alma de Cuba, 1623 Walnut St, +1 215 988-1799, [23]. M-Th 5PM-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-12AM, Su 5PM-10PM; happy hour M-F 5PM-7PM. $50 (entrees at $25).
  • Friday Saturday Sunday (FriSatSun), 261 South 21st St, +1 215 546-4232, [24]. M-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. A good neighborhood restaurant with regularly updated menu and good, reasonably priced wine list. The decor is dreamily intimate, with strings of twinkly white lights framing the room and, oddly enough, a huge aquarium that backs the bar upstairs and lights up the faces of the bar patrons with a faint glow. A great place for a romantic adventure or a date with an old friend. FriSatSun was a a key contributor to Philly's 'restaurant renaissance' in the 70's, and is still going strong. Reservations recommended. Entrees $20-29.
  • Le Castagne Ristorante, 1920 Chestnut St, [25]. A sophisticated Northern Italian Restaurant owned by the Sena Family.
  • Los Catrines & Tequilas Restaurant, 1602 Locust St, +1 215 546-0181, [26]. Featuring over 100 tequilas. Entrees $20-26.
  • Mama Palma's Gourmet Pizza, 2229 Spruce St (at 23rd), +1 215 735-7357. M 4PM-10PM; Tu-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 2PM-10PM. A cozy neighborhood gourmet pizzeria. This casual restaurant serves delicious pizza concoctions from the wood-fired brick oven.
  • Matyson, 37 S.19th St, [27]. Entrees $18-26, Tasting menu $45.
  • Barclay Prime, 237 S 18th St, [28]. Luxury boutique steakhouse.
  • Le Bec Fin, 1523 Walnut St, +1 215 751-9913, [29]. 5-star French restaurant. A fine dining experience to rival anything New York has to offer.
  • Capogiro, 13th and Spruce; 20th and Sansom, [30]. Artisanal gelato that reflects seasonal and local ingredients. Sample flavors: La Colombe cappuccino, Campari and grapefruit, muscat grape, hot pepper.
  • Scoop DeVille, at the corner of 18th and Chestnut. a wonderful ice cream and sweets shop.

Washington Square West

  • Vetri, 1312 Spruce St., (215) 732-3478, [31]. 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. Dress up, and be prepared to pay for excellence. Entrees $19-48; tasting menu $115.
  • Lolita, 106 S. 13th St., (215) 546-2100, [32]. 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). Entrees $18-24.
  • Zinc, 246 S. 11th Street, 19107, (215) 351-9901, [33]. 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.
  • Effie's, 1127 Pine Street, 19107, (215) 592-8333, [34]. 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. $$.
  • Kanella, 1001 Spruce St., 19107, (215) 922-1773, [35]. 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.
  • Naked Chocolate, 1317 Walnut Street, 19107, (215) 735-7310, [36]. Apparently a full-fledged member of the international artisanal 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.

Chinatown/Convention Center

  • Reading Terminal Market, [37]. America's oldest farmer's market on 12th and Arch with virtually every type of cuisine present. Be sure to make some time to stroll around and sample as much as you can.
  • David's Mai Lai Wah, 1001 Race St, (215) 627-2610. Excellent Chinese food, voted "Best of Philadelphia - Chinese Food" in 2000. Open late, and a very nice staff. Highly recommended stop. $.
  • Sang Kee Peking Duck, 238 N. 9th Street, 19107, (215) 925-7532, [38]. 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.

Art Museum Area

Drink

Rittenhouse Square

  • Monk's, 264 S. 16th Street, (215) 545-7005, [39]. One of two of the best places to drink beer in Center City (the other one is Eulogy Tavern in Old City). Monk's has one of the largest beer varieties in the area, especially Belgian beer, with the right food to go with it (the burgers and mussels are standouts). Check their website to see the newest featured beer.
  • Bob & Barbara's, 1509 South Street, 19146, (215) 545-4511, [40]. Classic dive bar atmosphere with PBR paraphernalia all over the place. Used to be known for the weekly drag show on Thursday nights (a must-see) but has added other events like a live band on weekends, ping-pong night, and Quizzo.

Washington Square West

  • Dirty Frank's, Corner of 13th and Pine, (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.

Chinatown/Convention Center

Art Museum Area

  • Woody's - a gay bar with 3 different rooms to satisfy everyone. [41]
  • Sisters - a lesbian bar. [42]
  • Denim - one of Center City's most popular lounge with great DJs and a fashionable crowd. [43]
  • Old City Coffee - one of the two branches is located inside the Reading Terminal Market serving good coffee. [44]
  • Spruce Street Espresso - services coffee specialties at 1101 Spruce Street.

Sleep

Rittenhouse Square

  • The Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, [45]. A luxury 5-Diamond rated hotel in the heart of Philadelphia in Rittenhouse Square.
  • Crowne Plaza - Center City, 1800 Market St, 215 561-7500, [46]. In the heart of the Philadelphia downtown business district - within minutes of shopping and entertainment, and just seven miles from Philadelphia Airport.
  • Rittenhouse 1715 - A Boutique Hotel, 1715 Rittenhouse Square, (Center City), 877-791-6500, fax: 215 546-8787, [47]. Newly renovated boutique hotel. Seasonal and Couples Specials are available.
  • Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia, 1701 Locust St # 411, tel. (215) 735-6000

City Hall

  • Residence Inn by Marriott Philadelphia Center City, One East Penn Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, +1 215 557-0005, [48].

Washington Square West

  • The Independent - Philadelphia, 1234 Locust Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, (215)772-1440, [49].‎

Chinatown/Convention Center

  • Marriott Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, 21 N Juniper Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, 215-496-3200, [50]. The Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown hotel 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.
  • Hampton Inn - Center City Philadelphia, 1301 Race Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, (215)665-9100, [51].‎
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market St, 215 625-2900, [52].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.

Art Museum Area

  • Sheraton Philadelphia City Center, 17th & Race Streets, [53]. Just four blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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