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Philadelphia/Center City East

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Philadelphia : Center City East
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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.


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 it's 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 [12] 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 [13] 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 [14] 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 [15] 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

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 [16] Regional Rail system. There are several entrances, but the main one is on 12th & Filbert Street.


  • 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 [17] shows works from past and present PAFA students and faculty, as well as regular special exhibits.


  • 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 [18] is a becoming more residential, but the main attractions include the Kimmel Center, Merriam Theatre, and the Academy of Music.


  • Giovanni's Room an LGBT bookstore. [19]


Washington Square West

  • Vetri, 1312 Spruce St., (215) 732-3478, [1]. 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, [2]. 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, [3]. 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, [4]. 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, [5]. 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, [6]. 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, [7]. 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, [8]. 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.


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.


  • Woody's - a gay bar with 3 different rooms to satisfy everyone. [20]
  • Sisters - a lesbian bar. [21]
  • Old City Coffee - one of the two branches is located inside the Reading Terminal Market serving good coffee. [22]
  • Spruce Street Espresso - services coffee specialties at 1101 Spruce Street.


City Hall

  • Residence Inn by Marriott Philadelphia Center City, One East Penn Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, +1 215 557-0005, [9].

Washington Square West

  • The Independent - Philadelphia, 1234 Locust Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, (215)772-1440, [23].‎
  • Alexander Inn, 12th and Spruce Streets, 877.ALEX.INN, [10]. In a bohemiam section of Washington Square West.

Chinatown/Convention Center

  • Marriott Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, 21 N Juniper Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, 215-496-3200, [11]. 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, [24].‎
  • Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market St, 215 625-2900, [25].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.


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