Being a touring company, we are lucky enough to see some of the best landmarks Philadelphia has to offer. You may already know some of the spots listed below, but there are some hidden gems we’ll introduce you to as well. All these top Philadelphia landmarks are worth checking out and should definitely be added to your bucket list!
While some may argue that the Liberty Bell is not all it’s cracked up to be, there is no denying its’ status as a symbol of freedom and independence in America. As for the importance of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, it might have been best put into words by the Marquis de Lafayette from France, who valiantly fought alongside our Patriot Soldiers during the Revolution. “Here within these sacred walls, by a council of wise and devoted patriots, and in a style worthy of the deed itself, was boldly declared the independence of these vast United States…has begun for the civilized world the era of a new and of the only true social order founded on the inalienable rights of man, the practicability and advantages of which are every day admirable demonstrated by the happiness and prosperity of your populous city.”
We can admit when we’re biased, and when it comes to City Hall, we are. Our founder and his wife got engaged in the building’s observation deck, so it holds a special place in the heart of our company. So don’t take our word for it. Instead, listen to Walt Whitman. When one of America’s most famous writers first laid eyes on the building as he traveled down Market Street, he said it was “A majestic and lovely show there in the moonlight.” Whitman called it the “8th wonder of the world,”…and this was years before the construction was even completed.
Philadelphia is known as the “City of Firsts”, because so many important things in our nation began here. Nowhere is that title more appropriate than Carpenter’s Hall. Aside from being the building where our 1st and 2nd Continental Congress planned out the revolution, it also housed Ben Franklin’s first lending library, the first art gallery, first science museum, first bank, and shortly after, the first bank robbery.
We’ve often been asked on our tours why we hold a statue to a fictitious boxer in such high regard. It’s a fair question, but people travel from all over the world, specifically to take their picture with the statue and run the steps. Rocky’s story is what Philadelphia connects to; an underdog who fights against all odds and adversity, finding ways to persevere. The fact is, Stallone’s character helped to put the city on the map and we should be grateful for a native son who continuously uses the city as a backdrop for his iconic movies. It’s hard to be from Philly and not get moved when you hear Stallone talk about skipping rocks across the Schuylkill as a young kid, only to be immortalized next to it later. The steps themselves have transcended the movies. They’ve become a source of hope and inspiration to millions of people since Rocky was first released in 1976.
The history of our nation seemingly pours out of the walls where our Founding Father’s attended services. You can sit in the exact location where Washington would have worshiped, get baptized in William Penn’s baptismal font (sent over by England in 1697) or use the same chandelier for your wedding that Ben Franklin’s daughter used at hers. The structure itself is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture. Every design detail adds to the churches’ character, from the windows done so perfectly that the style was copied at Independence Hall to the steeple, which was the highest point in all of North America during colonial times.
Born into slavery in 1760, Richard Allen performed extra work in order to raise the money needed to buy his freedom at the age of 20. His list of accomplishments rivals that of Ben Franklin. When you consider what he had to contend with in that time period, it’s fair to say it far surpasses it. Allen became the first black ordained preacher in 1784. Just three years later, he formed the Free African Society, the first free black organization in America, through which he assisted fugitive slaves. He and his wife Sarah would later go on to operate a station on the Underground Railroad from 1797 until his death in 1831. In 1787, Allen purchased land at 6th and Lombard, where Mother Bethel stands. It is the oldest real estate in America to be continuously owned by African Americans. He also was instrumental in helping to stem the tides of the yellow fever. When he opened the doors of Mother Bethel in 1794, he started the first black church in the country and the first African-American A.M.E. church in the world. It is only fitting that it also serves as the final resting place for Richard and his wife.
When Ben died in 1790, 20,000 people came to Philadelphia to pay their respects. On the wall next to his grave is a list of some of Ben’s noteworthy achievements. Any one accomplishment would have set him up for life and made his legacy. Just reading the list of what Franklin is responsible for makes us tired: the first post office, first lending library, first university, and first hospital. Oh yeah, he also discovered electricity, signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and helped to frame our nation! And all this was AFTER an extremely successful career as a printer. Make sure you bring pennies when you visit Ben’s final resting place. It’s a Philly tradition to toss a penny on top of the grave in honor of one of Ben’s most famous quotes, “A penny saved, is a penny earned.” They say if you can get it to land on heads, you’ll receive a year of good luck.
“Our nation’s oldest residential street”, Elfreth’s Alley connects Philadelphia’s past to its’ present. The street itself was established in 1702 and the houses, which date back to the 1720’s, are still called home by those fortunate enough to live on the historic block.
From the simplicity of the interior, to the burial grounds, which accepted free African-Americans, slaves, Native Americans and “strangers”, the Arch Street Meeting House perfectly, embodies the spirit of the Quakers. William Penn himself donated the land where the building stands. To this day, it is used by the city to bring together opposing groups seeking to find common ground and unity.
Ben Franklin’s impact on the City of Brotherly Love is evident everywhere. In Philadelphia, 9 out of 10, the answer is Ben! His post office, the first in America, is a living testament and direct link to his legacy. It is the only post office in the country that doesn’t fly an American flag out front, as the building is actually older than the nation it resides in. We were still a British colony when Ben first opened its’ doors in 1752, doors that remain open to this day. Customers can still get their mail canceled there using a stamp designed by Ben himself – B. Free Franklin.
Top Philadelphia Landmarks Honorable Mentions
The Whispering Bells of Freedom
Located on the corner of 7th and Arch Streets, the symbolic Whispering Bells of Freedom are the perfect introduction to the African American Museum in Philadelphia. There are 13 bells, representing the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. There are no clappers inside the bells, their silence serving as a reminder of the African American’s silent struggle to freedom in America. They are a symbol of hope, strength and freedom and a reminder to those who see it of the principles in which our nation was founded.
The Ben Franklin Parkway
The only diagonal street in Philadelphia Proper, the Ben Franklin Parkway is the perfect canvas to rest our world-renowned art collection upon. So maybe it doesn’t exactly look like the Champs-Élysées as we originally intended, but would Philadelphians really want to be compared with Parisians? With flags from over 100 nations up and down the parkway, and a series of fountains connecting both ends, the view from the top of the art museum steps looking down the “Avenue of the America’s” is second to none!
Reading Terminal Market
True Philadelphian’s cringe at the notion that the cheesesteak is the best of what our city has to offer food wise. Our culinary scene is led by some of the best chefs in the world – culinary rock stars like Jose Garces, Steven Starr and Mark Vetri. Reading Terminal Market, with over 80 vendors offering dishes inspired from regions all over the world, shows off the city’s diverse palette. Besides, if you’re looking for a sandwich in Philly, roast pork is the true crown jewel. DiNick’s, at the center of the market, makes a version that often tops lists of the best sandwiches in the country
Post contributed by: Tim McAleer