There are many famous cities around the US that a lot of people always put on their “mandatory visit” list, but Philly is surprisingly underestimated in that sense. By the end of this where to stay in Philadelphia article, we hope to ignite your interest in the city and give you a reason to visit it.
You Should Visit Philadelphia in 2023
Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and one of the most densely populated cities in the entirety of the US. It might be most famous for the Philly Cheesesteak, but there are actually thousands of upscale restaurants in the city that serve traditional dishes from many different countries, making this a must-visit city for foodies.
The city is also known for being the home of the Liberty Bell, the Penn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as dozens of other notable historic sites and galleries that are worth checking out.
If you’re a football fan that’s wondering where to stay in Philadelphia, then your best bet might be somewhere in University City so that you can stay close to Franklin Field. Additionally, Philly is also the home to Fairmount Park, which is one of the largest and most scenic parks in the state.
Philadelphia is also full of bars, cafes, and nightclubs. This means that you can walk down pretty much any street in the center of the city, and you’ll be able to find a bar that’s playing your tunes.
However, if you don’t like the drinks or the atmosphere, then you’ll probably be able to find something that suits your preferences just a little bit down the road. What we’re trying to say is that while many people know the city for its history and the Eagles, that’s only scratching the surface of what this city is hiding.
The 5 Best Parts of Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a pretty large city, but the important attractions are generally focused around the center of the city, so we’ll mostly be covering locations in that general area.
- City Center: The busiest place in the city and the connecting point for all of the other locations
- Old City: Home to both great bars and historic buildings
- West Philadelphia: Great hiking trails and forests
- Rittenhouse Square: Chic restaurants and interesting museums
- University City: Plenty of sports fields and galleries that you can visit
The Best Areas & Hotels in Philadelphia
The five locations we’ve already mentioned are without a doubt the richest in the city in terms of attractions to visit and restaurants and bars where you can grab a bite or a drink.
However, sometimes the hotels don’t match the specific location that you’re visiting. Going into a random hotel without any prior knowledge about the establishment gives you a 50-50 shot of ending up in an overpriced horrible room with no amenities.
In order to minimize the chance of that happening, we made a list of some of the best hotels that you can book in every area we cover.
1. City Center
The City Center is the busiest part of Philadelphia, and it serves as a sort of connecting point between all of the other major locations as well. To the east, you have Old City and the Historic District, and to the west, there’s Rittenhouse Square and University City.
As for the center of the city, you’ll find plenty of standard restaurants and bars, or you can go down to Chinatown and try some of the delicacies. Despite the name, this area is actually home to a variety of different cultures, including Cantonese, Fujianese, Korean, and many others.
Nowhere is this more evident than the different shops and restaurants that are on almost every corner of Philly’s Chinatown. Midtown Village is another popular destination in the central area of Philadelphia, and it’s home to a neighborhood that locals simply call “The Gayborhood.”
As you might have assumed, this is the area of the city with the biggest concentration of LGBTQ nightclubs, cafes, and other hot spots. As for attractions, the City Center has the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is the home of loads of amazingly detailed sculptures, abstract paintings, and other less conventional exhibits.
There’s also The Barnes Foundation, which is an art gallery that primarily focuses on paintings, but the number of breathtaking works that you’ll find inside is simply staggering.
Since this is the linchpin of the entire city, there will always be huge crowds wherever you go. This isn’t much of an issue when you’re just walking around, but it becomes a lot more annoying when you try to get a table at a restaurant or a room in a hotel.
Things to Do
- Visit the Gayborhood and sit down at one of the cafes or visit one of the art galleries in the area.
- Go to Chinatown, try some of the local dishes, and check out the many shops that sell both clothes and interesting items.
- Get a ticket to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and check out all the interesting exhibits that you can find inside.
- Look through the massive collection of paintings that are housed in The Barnes Foundation Gallery.
Where to Eat
- Maggiano’s Little Italy serves traditional Italian fare and has a great wine list.
- Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar allows you to try some Cuban dishes.
- El Vez is where you go if you’re in the mood for some tacos or maybe a cocktail.
City Center Budget Hotels
- Sleep Inn Center City is a hotel that comes with a fitness center, free wifi in every room, and a complimentary buffet breakfast every morning.
- Hampton Inn Philadelphia Center City has a flat-screen cable TV and free wifi in every room, a complimentary breakfast is served in the lobby every morning, and there’s also an on-site lounge and bar if you want to grab a drink.
City Center Mid-Range Hotels
- Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel provides all of the guests with a front desk that’s always open, rooms that come with both a flat-screen cable TV and an AC unit, and an on-site bar.
- Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City has an in-house Grill & Bar where you can grab a drink and order a made-to-order breakfast that’ll be ready for you in the morning.
City Center Luxury Hotels
- Hyatt Centric Center City gives all of the guests a choice between an American and an a la carte breakfast every morning, and it also comes with rooms that have a flat-screen cable TV and an AC unit.
- The Windsor Suites Philadelphia comes with a seasonal swimming pool on the roof, as well as a fully-equipped fitness center that’s always open, and an in-house Irish-Style pub where you can grab some breakfast in the morning.
2. Old City
The name of this part of town is very fitting since this is the home of many historic buildings like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center. On the other hand, you also have plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops that you can visit.
This is where you can go on a whole-day shopping spree before getting a stiff drink with your friends in one of the local establishments. If you’re a history buff or a tourist that’s visiting from out of town, then you’ll likely want to visit some of the historically important buildings and locations.
As we said, the most notable of these would probably be the Liberty Bell Center, home to one of the most iconic artifacts in American history. The Weitzman National Museum, which tells the story of the Jewish people, is also a culturally-enriching experience in itself.
If you’re interested in the club scene, then this area also has a lot of bars and lounges where you can listen to a live band. However, if you’re more interested in some fun activities that you can try out during the day, then the Maritime Museum has a lot of fun interactive exhibits that you can check out.
And finally, Penn’s Landing is sort of a combination of the best aspects of Old City, so it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s very close to the historic Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and there are plenty of festivals and events like the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest and Summerfest that visitors can check out.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that Old City has so many popular attractions, you’ll encounter a crowd in front of every site that you decide to visit.
Things to Do
- The National Constitution Center is where you go if you want to learn about the constitution and the founding fathers.
- History buffs will definitely want to visit the Historic District of the city and check out all of the attractions here.
- The Maritime Museum has a lot of interactive attractions that are very popular with both kids and adults.
- A great place if you’re in the mood to spend the night drinking and partying.
Where to Eat
- Amada is a chic restaurant with a great bar where you can grab a bite to eat and a drink.
- Fork is a great place to go in the morning if you want to grab some brunch.
- Race Street Cafe has craft beer on tap and a large selection of beers in cans as well.
Old City Budget Hotels
- Apple Hostels of Philadelphia offers cheap rooms, coffee and tea-making facilities in the lobby, and a recreation room that has a pool and a foosball table.
- Philadelphia Marriott Old City offers rooms that come with an AC unit, a front desk that’s always open, and the hotel itself is pet-friendly.
Old City Mid-Range Hotels
- Wyndham Philadelphia has rooms that come with a flat-screen cable TV and a microwave, and there’s also free wifi throughout the property.
- Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Penn’s Landing provides all of the guests with a complimentary breakfast every morning, as well as an HD cable TV, a coffee machine, and free wifi in every room.
Old City Luxury Hotels
- Penn’s View Hotel Philadelphia has a fully-equipped fitness center, an on-site wine cellar with plenty of different vintages on offer, as well as a flat-screen cable TV and free wifi in every room.
- Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing provides all of the guests with an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center and a business center that are always open, and an in-house restaurant that provides you with a complimentary breakfast every morning.
3. West Philadelphia
West Philadelphia has both Fairmount Park and Clark Park as places that you can visit. Clark Park is a great place for joggers, and it’s also where you’ll find one of the best farmers’ markets in the city.
There’s also a statue of Charles Dickens that you can check out, where he’s depicted next to one of his characters from “The Old Curiosity Shop.” Fairmount Park, on the other hand, is one of the largest parks in Pennsylvania, and the 2,000 acres that it covers encompass lakes, creeks, and plenty of hiking trails.
There are also quite a lot of trees, making it the ideal place for a picnic in the shade with your family. Additionally, you can take a walk down the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center, which serves as both an exhibition hall and a greenhouse where you can see tons of exotic flora.
The Philadelphia Zoo is a must-visit spot for anyone that’s in the area since there are over 1,000 exotic animals housed in the 42-acre space, which was also one of the first zoos in the US.
One of the most interesting exhibits is a simple overpass that goes above the walking trails in the park, but the catch is that it’s used by — get this — big cats. The feeling of a tiger walking just above you is admittedly quite unnerving, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s completely safe.
West Philadelphia is heaven for nature enthusiasts and animal lovers, but there aren’t really any other notable attractions in the area aside from the ones that we just mentioned.
Things to Do
- Get a ticket to the Philadelphia Zoo and get a closer look at all of the large cats and exotic animals that call this place their home.
- Go for a hike or just walk around and check out all of the natural beauty in Fairmount Park if you want to see one of the largest parks in the US for yourself.
- Walk around Clark Park and check out the farmers market, or maybe catch a show if there’s one being held in the local amphitheater.
Where to Eat
- Ekta Indian Cuisine is where you go if you want to try traditional Indian dishes.
- African Small Pot offers traditional dishes from Senegal.
- Abyssinia Restaurant & Bar has Ethiopian cuisine and plenty of beer.
West Philadelphia Budget Hotels
- Philly Inn & Suites doesn’t have much going for it outside of the reasonably-priced rooms that come with cable TV and a hairdryer.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Philadelphia is a hotel that offers rooms that come with an AC unit and free wifi, as well as an indoor swimming pool.
West Philadelphia Mid-Range Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia has free wifi and a flat-screen cable TV in every room, and the hotel comes with an on-site restaurant, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.
- The Gables Bed and Breakfast Philadelphia comes with free wifi and a cable TV in every room, free parking for all of the guests, and a computer station with printing facilities.
West Philadelphia Luxury Hotels
- Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue provides all of the guests with access to the fully-equipped fitness center, the indoor swimming pool, and all of the in-house restaurants.
4. Rittenhouse Square
Rittenhouse Square is located right in the heart of the city, and the most famous attractions in this part of town aren’t the chic restaurants or the tall buildings but rather the Rittenhouse Square Park.
This great little patch of greenery is Philly’s own “Central Park,” with plenty of shade for a picnic and paths for relaxing strolls. It also allows for great views of the skyscrapers and the surrounding urban jungle.
Other than the park, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is one of the most unique attractions in the area. This is a walkway that’s just covered in tiles and all sorts of literal junk in order to give it a sort of half-Mozaic, half-Metallic city feel.
You’ll have to see it for yourself if you want a more accurate description, but this outdoor gallery is definitely worth a look if you’re already in the vicinity. Wonderspace, on the other hand, is an actual gallery, and a really fun one at that.
Staying true to its name, each room in the gallery houses a hypnotic interactive exhibit that plays with your location in space by using lights. The Mutter Museum is just as captivating but focused on human anatomy.
You’ll find plenty of exhibits, from human skulls to sculptures of eyes, that give you a new understanding of our bodies and the evolutionary track that got us to this point.
This area of the city is full of luxury apartments and fancy restaurants, which means that you have many good choices for dining. However, that also means you’ll likely get hit in the wallet when the bill arrives.
Things to Do
- Check out the Magic Gardens and see for yourself what creator Isaiah Zagar managed to accomplish with a few tiles and a few scraps of metal.
- Visit the Mutter Museum and look through its impressive collection of skulls, skeletons, and other interesting exhibits.
- The interactive exhibits that you can find in the Wonderspace Gallery are definitely worth experiencing for yourself.
- Go for a night on the town and dine in some of the chic restaurants, or have a drink with your friends in one of the bars.
Where to Eat
- Scarpetta Philadelphia offers quite a selection of Italian dishes that you can try out.
- Parc is a traditional bistro that serves French cuisine
- Rouge is where you go if you’re in the mood for a burger.
Rittenhouse Square Budget Hotels
- Motto by Hilton Philadelphia comes with free wifi and an AC unit in every room, as well as a designated parking spot for every guest and an in-house bar.
- Club Quarters Hotel Rittenhouse Square has a fitness center that comes with all of the gear that you might need, a business center with scanning and fax facilities, and on-site dining facilities.
Rittenhouse Square Mid-Range Hotels
- Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square offers rooms that have a 32-inch plasma-screen TV and free wifi, and the hotel itself comes with three in-house restaurants, as well as both a business and a fitness center.
- Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square allows you to keep your pets in your room, there’s a front desk that’s always available for whatever you might need, and all of the rooms come with a flat-screen TV and an AC unit.
Rittenhouse Square Luxury Hotels
- Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square provides all of the guests with a complimentary grab-and-go breakfast in the in-house bar every morning, and the hotel also comes with a seasonal swimming pool and an in-house restaurant with a great wine menu.
- W Philadelphia offers a complimentary a la carte breakfast to all of the guests in the morning, a flat-screen TV and free wifi in every room, and a sizeable outdoor swimming pool.
5. University City
University City is where you’ll find the Penn Museum. If you’re interested in history, artifacts, and seeing sculptures and historic items from different cultures and countries around the world, then this museum is the best place to visit.
Reportedly, they have hundreds of thousands of interesting artifacts to check out, with the more notable ones being the gigantic sphinx of Ramses II that weighs more than a dozen tons. There’s also a massive collection of pottery from ancient Greece.
The Institute of Contemporary Art is also located in University City. Rather than more standard artworks like paintings or photographs, this gallery has some interesting pieces that can’t really be described because they’re more of a showcase or a display rather than a typical work of art.
If you’re not in the mood for museums or galleries, then maybe you’ll enjoy a game. Franklin Field is probably the most famous football field in Pennsylvania.
While it may no longer be the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s the oldest operating football stadium in the US. In addition to that, there are also quite a lot of basketball courts and tennis fields on campus that can be reserved if you’re in the mood for playing.
Aside from the sports fields and a couple of museums, this area of the city doesn’t really have any other notable attractions. So, if you’re looking for a bar or a club, then your best bet would be to go somewhere a bit closer to the center.
Things to Do
- Visit the Penn Museum and look through all of the different wings, each one of which is dedicated to a particular culture and county.
- The Institute of Contemporary Art stays true to its name and displays plenty of interesting and nuanced exhibits.
- You can go to one of the many sports fields in the area if you’re in the mood to work up a sweat.
- Franklin Field is the best place to catch a game if you’re a hardcore football fan.
Where to Eat
- Louie Louie offers both traditional American and French dishes.
- New Deck Tavern is an old-school bar that serves draft beers and “pub grub”.
- CO-OP Restaurant & Lounge is where you go if you’re in the mood for some seafood dishes.
University City Budget Hotels
- Homewood Suites University City Philadelphia is a hotel that offers rooms with cable TV, free wifi, and a fully-equipped kitchenette.
- Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel offers room service, an AC unit and free wifi in every room, and a fitness center that’s always open.
University City Mid-Range Hotels
- The Inn at Penn has a flat-screen cable TV and a refrigerator in every room, a front desk that’s always available, and an on-site restaurant.
- Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast offers a complimentary meal every morning, as well as free snacks and hot beverages that are available at any time of the day.
University City Luxury Hotels
- AKA University City provides you with access to an indoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped fitness center, an on-site restaurant, as well as laundry facilities, and a fully-equipped kitchen.
So, Where Should You Stay in Philadelphia?
|🚂 High Accessibility Area||City Center|
|🏰 Most Historic Area||Old City|
|🥾 Best Area for Hiking||West Philadelphia|
|🖼️ Best Museums||Rittenhouse Square|
|⚽ Best for Activities||University City|
Old City has the most significance in terms of history. All of the museums and buildings here are a gold mine for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the city, especially its role during the revolutionary era.
West Philadelphia is the best spot for anyone who wants to hike and take long walks in nature and check out the exotic animals in the Philadelphia Zoo.
And finally, anyone that’s looking to experience the Philadelphia nightlife and wants to visit a few bars with their friends will definitely want to stay somewhere close to the center of the city.
Regardless of where you stay, though, you’ll have a blast in Philadelphia. We’re confident of that! With a city so rich in history, how could you not have a good time? So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!