The Coolest Neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is home to many diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, with many of them in the downtown area
Philadelphia is home to many diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, with many of them in the downtown area | © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Siobhan Grogan

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, may not be quite as large as New York or Chicago, but it’s still got a lot going for it, including historic landmarks, major theaters and an inclusive, LGBTQ scene. If you’re heading to town and want to hang out at the best coffee joints, bars and galleries, read on for our roundup of the neighborhoods that have a whole lot of cool.

1. Old City

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Historic Elfreths Alley in the Old City district, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
© Ian G Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Every tourist’s first stop, Old City is home to or near all the big-hitting Philadelphia attractions, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Elfreth’s Alley and the Betsy Ross House. The neighborhood is known as America’s most historic square mile and is steps from Congress Hall, which served as the United States Capitol between 1790 and 1800. Take in the museums, monuments and art galleries, then wander the side streets once night falls to find some of the best restaurants and bars in the city, including Royal Boucherie, the Olde Bar and Zahav.

2. Fishtown and Northern Liberties

Architectural Landmark

Head north of Old City to these adjacent hip neighborhoods loved by artists, foodies and craft-beer fans. Northern Liberties is a former manufacturing district renowned as a favorite Philly dining destination, thanks to its walkable size, brunch hotspots and the Roman-style Piazza, which regularly hosts food festivals, along with other events. Those who crave coffee or cocktails should head to Fishtown instead, where narrow streets are lined with top bars, cool new cafes and the flagship La Colombe Coffee Roasters.

3. Midtown Village and Washington Square West

Architectural Landmark

Historic buildings at Washington Square, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
© Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo

You’ll never go hungry in Midtown Village, a rectangular section of Center City between 11th and Broad streets, and Market and Spruce streets. The famous 13th Street corridor is packed with top restaurants, such as Mediterranean kitchen Barbuzzo, while galleries, LBGTQ clubs and major theaters are within walking distance. Washington Square itself is one of five original public squares in Philadelphia and a buzzing haven of picnickers, families and people-watchers, perfect for a sunny day.

4. Rittenhouse Square


One of the ritziest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square is the city’s equivalent of New York’s Upper East Side, home to chic boutiques, upscale wine bars and historic hotels. It also has a public park of the same name, packed during warmer months and loved by dog walkers, sunbathers and pop-up farmers’ markets. Shopaholics are also spoiled for choice, with specialty boutiques such as Joan Shepp and Anthropologie.

5. South Philly

Architectural Landmark

© ClassicStock / Alamy Stock Photo

Sports fans should make a beeline straight to South Philly, home to various stadiums, including the Citizens Bank Park, with its skyline view and family-friendly entertainment complex. It’s also where you’ll find the Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play. Need to fill up first? Visit Passyunk Square for a top cheesesteak spot, traditional Italian trattorias and some of the best-loved dining establishments in the city, including Laurel Restaurant and Fond. Don’t miss the Italian Market, where you can graze on street food while browsing carts of mouth-wateringly fresh produce.

6. University City

Architectural Landmark

You don’t have to be a student to stroll the lively streets of University City, named in honor of Drexel University, the University of Philadelphia and other higher-education institutions in the area. The dynamic neighborhood also has museums, a top-notch street-food scene, sophisticated art galleries and some great bars, including student haunt City Tap House and the more elegant Walnut Street Café, with its extensive and excellent wine list.

7. Society Hill and Queen Village

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

Afternoon sunshine lights up colourful wooden shutters on historic row houses in South 4th Street, Society Hill.
© Craig Jack Photographic / Alamy Stock Photo

Wander the streets of Society Hill and Queen Village to pretend you live in one of the city’s most desirable areas, where beautiful brownstones will give you serious home envy. With old-time charm, walkable tree-lined blocks and green spaces, the neighborhoods are great after dark too. Stop at Southwark for its homey patio and classic cocktails, then head to Moshulu for dinner aboard the oldest and largest four-masted tall ship in the world.

8. Fairmount

Architectural Landmark

Art lovers will be in heaven in Fairmount. All of the best fine art galleries in the city are within walking distance, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the Franklin Institute, but if art isn’t your thing, head to the Eastern State Penitentiary. A National Historic Landmark, this 19th-century prison was once a model for prison design worldwide and is one of the most famous prisons in the world, once housing inmates such as bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and gangster Al Capone.

9. Kensington

Architectural Landmark

A working-class and industrial neighborhood in northern Philadelphia, Kensington is the place to go for the coolest bars. It’s home to the Philadelphia Brewing Company, which offers tours and tastings at its restored 19th-century site. The neighborhood is also known for hosting the popular Philadelphia Federal Credit Union Kensington Derby and Arts Festival, a chaotic free event each spring, complete with outlandish parade floats, a messy mud-pit obstacle course and food trucks of every kind.

10. Bella Vista

Architectural Landmark

Bella Vista was the first city neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants in the 19th century and is still a favorite with anyone who loves la dolce vita (the sweet life). Its street-food hub, the Italian Market, is among the oldest operational open-air markets in America, but the area is also home to excellent Vietnamese, Mexican and Asian restaurants. Go in summer to eat all day at the popular South 9th Street Italian Market Festival, where Italian food comes with a side order of live music, entertainment and pop-up events.

11. Gayborhood

Architectural Landmark

Thousands attend the annual Philly Pride Parade celebrating the LGBTQI community and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
© PhotograPHL / OOgImages / Alamy Stock Photo

In the Washington West neighborhood of Center City, Gayborhood was officially recognized by the city in 2007 when gay pride rainbow symbols were added to street signs. It’s the starting point of Philly’s fantastic pride parade and home to the William Way LGBT Community Center. You’ll find Tavern on Camac, the longest continuously running LGBTQ bar in the city, and Philly Aids Thrift at Giovanni’s Room, the longest-running LGBTQ bookstore in the US.

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Nina Starner.

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