The city of Philadelphia has one of the most celebrated histories of any city in America. Visitors will love exploring America’s past through the numerous museums and historical buildings. The city also has much to offer in the way of art, gardens, and markets.

Here’s a few our favorites things to do in Philadelphia:

1. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in the United States, and it resides in a beautiful Greco-Roman building on a hill at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Go for the wonderful collection of art, or go to reenact the scene from Rocky on the front steps. The museum is comprised of the main building, the Perelman Building, the Rodin Museum, plus a few others. Together, they hold more than 227,000 works of art are housed in over 200 galleries. Plan to spend at least a few hours here. Open late on Fridays with music and drinks – read more here (Photo by cometstarmoon)

2. Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market is the place to go when you’re hungry and in Philadelphia – the enclosed public market has over one hundred merchants selling food, produce, pottery, crafts, and more. The market originally opened in 1859 as part of the new train station and was located under the train platform. It was one of the first facilities in the country to feature refrigerated storage. The building is no longer used as a train station, but the market lives on. Food merchants include: Beiler’s Bakery (Dutch Amish baked goods), The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies and Cheesesteaks,  DiNic’s Roast Beef and PorkKamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties, and Bassetts Ice Cream. Tours are available – read more here (Photo by Jeremy Thompson)

3. Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Independence Hall is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s historic Independence National Park. The building was the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress, and it was where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted. It was designed by Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Woolley and constructed between 1732 and 1753, and , at the time, it was the most ambitious building project in colonial America. Abraham Lincoln made a speech at the Hall on the way to his inauguration in 1861. In 1865, after his assassination, his body lay in state in the Hall as his funeral train made its way from DC to Springfield, Illinois, where he was laid to rest. Tour tickets are free and can be reserved online or picked up at the Visitors Center – read more here (Photo by Pablo Sanchez)

4. The Barnes Foundation

Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is a renowned art museum with a collection includes 181 paintings by artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Soutine, Rousseau, Modigliani, Degas, Van Gogh, and Seurat. The collection is one of the best collections of Impressionist art in the world and is estimated to be worth about $25 billion. The museum was originally founded in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, a chemist who collected art after amassing wealth by co-developing an early anti-gonorrhea drug. The museum recently endured some controversy when it was decided to move the museum and its collection from the suburb of Merion to the Center City’s museum district. The new building is a modern, 93,000-square-foot, glass and limestone architectural wonder with a glass canopy that glows at night – read more here (Photo by Naquib Hossain)

5. Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum

Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum holds the largest collection of the sculptor’s works outside of Paris. Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor who lived from 1840 to 1917 and is considered by many to be the father of modern sculpture. The museum originally opened in the late 1920’s and recently underwent a renovation that was completed in 2012. The collection at the Museum includes a cast of his most famous work, The Thinker, which sits in the courtyard just outside the museum. About 28 monumental-sized bronze casts of the sculpture exist around the world. Other well-know works at the museum include The Gates of Hell, which used to be used for the entryway, The Kiss, and The Burghers of Calais. The Gates of Hell took 37 years to complete, and many of Rodin’s famous sculptures originates as pieces on The Gates of Hell. Admission to the Museum is included with tickets to the Philadelphia Museum of Art – read more here (Photo by bobistraveling)

6. Liberty Bell Center

Liberty Bell Center

The Liberty Bell has resided in a glass pavilion near Independence Hall since 2003. It dates back to 1753, when it was originally hung in the belfry of Independence Hall. The bell cracked upon its first use and was recast twice in unsuccessful repair attempts. It cracked again in 1846 when it was rang in honor of the birthday of George Washington. In order to avoid further cracking, the decision was made to stop ringing it and to move it indoors to avoid exposure to the weather. In 2003, it was moved to its current location. The Liberty Bell weighs 2,080 pounds and is 70% copper and 25% tin, plus a smattering of other metals. It was cast by the London firm of Lester and Pack in 1752. The yolk is made from American elm and is believed to be the original yolk. It was not called the Liberty Bell until a group trying to outlaw slavery adopted the Bell as a symbol of their cause. The Center offers video presentation and exhibits explaining the history of the bell. There is no admission fee – read more here (Photo by Shinya Suzuki)

7. Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary operated from 1829 to 1971 and considered to be one of the world’s most famous prisons. It is also considered to be the country’s first true penitentiary. The prison was inspired by the local Quaker buildings and was designed to resemble a church. The building was noteworthy for its innovative wagon wheel design, and it was revolutionary in that it emphasized separate incarceration for prisoners and reform over punishment.  To that end, each cell contained a Bible and a skylight, which was meant to represent the “eye of God.” Eastern was the first prison to use solitary confinement, with the idea that isolation would lead to reflection and rehabilitation. Notable residents included Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton. The Penitentiary features beautiful architecture, crumbling cellblocks, and empty guard towers. A variety of tours are available, and the main tour is narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. In the Fall, “Terror Behind the Walls” tours take place at night and feature 6 Hollywood sets and 200 actors – read more here (Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka)

8. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Kimmel Center

Kimmel Center For the Performing Arts is a world-class facility located on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts that is the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It opened in 2001 and is holds 2 concert halls and a rooftop garden. The huge vaulted glass canopy of the main lobby seems to open up to the sky and city skyline. The facility is named in honor of Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, who gave the largest individual gift toward its construction. The main stage is in Verizon Hall, which holds 2,500 seats and is shaped like a cello. The 650-seat Perelman Theater features a rotating stage and can be rotated for either music or a stage presentation. Both concert halls at The Kimmel offer stunning acoustics, and a liberal use of wood adds warmth to the graceful architecture. See web site for schedule of performances. Guided tours are available and provide a history, along with architectural information and visits to the Kimmel Center’s key venues – read more here (Photo by Bob Jagendorf)

9. Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square is a small gem of a park is in the midst of downtown bustling Philadelphia. It is one of the five original open-space parks planned in the late 17th century by William Penn and his surveyor, Thomas Holme. Today, Rittenhouse Square is full of huge trees, shaded benches, public art, musicians, and dancers. It is a great spot for resting, people-watching, and eating a snack or lunch. The neighborhood surrounding the park is full of great restaurants and shops. There are also festivals and concerts in the warmer months – read more here (Photo by Ross Griff)

10. National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center can be found in a modern building of glass, steel, and limestone on Independence Mall. Groundbreaking on the Center took place on September 17, 2000, which was exactly 213 years after the original document was signed. Ironically, the Constitution is not kept here – it is housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. The purpose of the NCC is to explain the document and its significance in the country’s history. At the Kimmel Theatre, there is a film and live-action presentation called Freedom Rising about the Constitution. Signers’ Hall contains life-size bronze figures of the signers of the Constitution. Other exhibits at the National Constitution Center include a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a collection of Pulitzer Prize photographs – read more here (Photo by Hazel Estrada)

11. Franklin Institute

Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute dates back to 1824 and  is one of the oldest science museums in the United States. In addition to being a science museum, it also houses The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, and one of the main attractions here is a 20-foot marble statue Ben Franklin. The Electricity exhibit showcases Franklin’s discovery of electricity and its use in the modern world. The large number of interactive exhibits make it fun for kids and adults, including The Giant Heart and The Joel L. Bloom Observatory. The Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion is a huge 53,000-square-foot expansion that hosts both permanent and special exhibitions. Inside, the new Your Brain exhibit leads visitors through a seven-gallery exploration of the human brain with more than 70 interactive experiences, the highlight of which is a two-story climbing structure that simulates the brain’s neural network with lighting and sound. Outside, the Shimmer Wall is made up of 12,500 clear anodized aluminum squares and moves with the wind – read more here (Photo by angela n.)

12. Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens is located in the Brandywine Creek Valley, which is about a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and it is widely considered to be one of the premier botanical gardens in the US. The grounds stretch over 1000 acres and feature 20 outdoor gardens and 20 indoor conservatory gardens full of over 11,000 types of plants and trees. Because of the vast size, plan to spend at least a few hours and up to an entire day here. Be sure to see the 10,000 pipe Longwood Organ, The Fountains, and the Italian Water Garden. For kids, the Indoor Children’s Garden has a Rain Pavilion and a Bamboo Maze that provides a great place to play and explore. Longwood Gardens’s ownership dates all the way back to William Penn in 1700. The property was owned by Pierre S. du Pont for a time during the early 20th century. Check the web site for a current listing of plants in bloom and a listing of musical performances. During the holidays the gardens are decorated with Christmas lights. Dining is available at the Terrace Cafe – read more here (Photo by Robert Bolton)

13. Mutter Museum

Mutter Museum

Mutter Museum is a fun and interesting medical museum containing a collection of medical oddities. It’s like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, but more authentic. The museum is actually part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and was started after Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter donated his collection of medical specimens in 1858. The original intent of the collection was that it be used for medical research and education. Exhibits include anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. Oddities at the Mutter include: Abe Lincoln’s autopsy report, A wax model of a woman with a horn growing out of her forehead, Slides of Einstein’s brain, The tallest skeleton in North America, The Chevalier Jackson Collection of objects swallowed and removed, The Thorax of John Wilkes Booth. Teenagers will likely find The Mutter fascinating, but younger kids may find it too scary and clinical. The Mutter is small, so it doesn’t take too long to visit, and their gift shop is full of unusual and creative gifts – read more here (Photo by Terry Robinson)

14. World Cafe Live

World Cafe Live

World Cafe Live is a combination music listening space and bistro. Downstairs is the 300-seat, three-tiered main performance hall where both upcoming and nationally-known artists perform for the syndicated World Cafe Live radio show. The show itself originated in 1991 and was broadcast from WXPN, a non-commercial station licensed to the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2005, the show has been distributed by NPR. On the show, host David Dye introduces artists and interviews them before they perform live. Musical genres represented include folk, indie rock, alternative, and Americana. The World Cafe Live venue was established in 2004 and was designed to be a place that made musicians feel welcome and created a great listening experience for visitors. The 40,000 square-foot Art Deco factory building was refurbished and redesigned for music – structural columns that were blocking sight lines were removed, sound insulation was added, and top notch sound and lighting systems were installed. There’s not a bad seat in the house – even the bar seats are good for listening. A small bite menu is available and is customized for each show by Chef Joe Deamer. The Upstairs Live Cafe features a 100-seat listening room where patrons can enjoy drinks and well-prepared bar food while enjoying music – read more here (Photo by Vladimir)

15. Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple

Philadelphia’s Masonic Temple is one of the world’s largest and most ornate Masonic temples and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Construction of the exterior was completed in 1873, but the interior was not completed until 1888. The original cost of building the facility was an amazing $1.6 million. The temple was later one of the first buildings in the city to be lighted by electricity. The Philadelphia Masonic Temple figures prominently in US history is significant because many of America’s founding fathers were Masons. The seven lodge halls in the temple pay homage to the seven “ideal” architectures, which are Renaissance, Ionic, Oriental, Corinthian, Gothic, Egyptian, and Norman. The porch is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Norman architecture in America. Tours of the Masonic Temple last about 1 hour. Before 2006, visitors were not allowed to enter the temple through The Grand Entrance – they had to enter from a side entrance – read more here (Photo by Paul J. Everett)

16. Penn Museum

Penn Museum

Penn Museum is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest archaeological and anthropological museums. Their collection includes nearly one million artifacts and is comprised of the spoils from more than 400 expeditions made by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The artifacts from ancient Egypt, China, Iraq, Japan, the Americas, Rome, and Greece, among other places. The prize of the collection is a 13-ton Egyptian Sphinx. Other noteworthy artifacts are Egyptian mummies and Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets. In addition to the artifacts, the grounds feature beautiful gardens and sculptures by Alexander Stirling Calder. The Harrison Rotunda and Auditorium boasts the largest unsupported masonry floor-dome in the world. A visit to the Penn Museum is a must for fans of ancient history – read more here (Photo by Ryan Neuls)

17. Please Touch Museum

Please Touch Museum

Please take the kids to the Please Touch Museum – they will love it. The interactive, rambunctious museum is in a huge and spacious historic building within walking distance of The Franklin Institute and the Academy of Natural Sciences. It was originally designed for children 7 and under, but has expanded and now is entertaining for kids from toddler age to 12-year-olds. Attractions at the Please Touch Museum include the refurbished Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel, a River Adventures wet-play area, Roadside Attractions, Wonderland, and a Playhouse Theater. The building that houses the museum, the historic Memorial Hall, is the last building still standing from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia – read more here (Photo by sikeri)

18. Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park is a 43,651-seat baseball park has been home to the Philadelphia Phillies since 2004. It’s not too big, and there are great seats everywhere with great views of the skyline at night. With a seating capacity of 43,500, it is plenty roomy, yet retains a cozy, nostalgic aura. For fans and players alike, the new ballpark was a huge improvement over the previous ballpark, Veterans Stadium, which was a multi-purpose stadium that was shared with the Philadelphia Eagles football team and was known for being too large for baseball and having horrible artificial turf. In addition to just being a better facility, Citizens Bank Park is known for having some of the best food options in Major League Baseball. In true Philadelphia fashion, Citizens Bank Park serves authentic cheesesteaks and hoagies at the food stands. Also, be sure to visit ex-Phillie Greg Luzinski at Bull’s BBQ. For kids, the Phanatic Fun Zone has one of the largest play areas in the Major Leagues – read more here (Photo by Geoff Livingston)

19. Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is one of the world’s largest municipal parks at 9,200 acres, and it provides vast swaths of greenspace for Philadelphians. Miles of trails offer opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Outdoor concerts take place in the summer. Picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fairmount Park is home to many Philadelphia attractions: Philadelphia Zoo, Centennial Arboretum, Horticulture Center, Fairmount Water Works, Memorial Hall, Please Touch Museum, Belmont Plateau, Japanese House and Garden, Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row Azalea Garden. Kids will enjoy the 6.5 acre Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse. If that’s not enough, there’s also the Rocky Statue. Around the perimeter of the park, the Charms of Fairmount Park are a string of 7 beautiful mansions that served as the rural summer villas for well-to-do families during the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century – read more here (Photo by Kristine Paulus)

20. Italian Market

Italian Market

Philadelphia’s Italian Market dates back to the 1880’s and is the oldest open-air market in America. The Market is also known as 9th Street and was the landing place where immigrants from Italy settled upon arriving in Philadelphia. The market became a destination for visitors in the 1960’s. The area was outside of William Penn’s original outline for the city, The Italian influence has yielded a bit to other ethnic influences over the years, and the Market offers a wide range of grocery shops, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops, and more. The “outdoor” market is often in name only, as many shops features brightly colorful metal awnings that cover the sidewalks where vendors of fruit, vegetables, fish, and housewares. Restaurants and cafes offer Italian fare, plus authentic Mexican, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. Tours of 9th Street are available. An Italian Market Festival takes place on the 3rd weekend in May and features live music and a Procession of the Saints – read more here (Photo by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng)

Featured photo by R’lyeh Imaging. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

See our list of the 49 best things to do in Philadelphia here.

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