Joan Mead-Matsui

Historic Philadelphia in 24 hours

The City of Brotherly Love: 

Experience historic Philly in 24 hours

Do your plans include an overnight stay in The City of Brotherly Love?

historic Philadelphia

historic Philadelphia’s skyline is a mix of architectural elements and styles.

Why historic Philadelphia? 

By far, Philadelphia is one of my favorites cities to visit.

“The City of Brotherly Love” tugs at my heart.

Whether you choose to take in the sights on foot or perched on a streetcar, be sure to detach from your electronic devices long enough to appreciate the modern and historic buildings that line Philadelphia’s wide streets. Keep your camera close by because there’s something for everyone, whether you’re tuned into people watching or architecture. Philadelphia offers an array of stunningly beautiful architectural gems.

You’ll find a list and descriptions of Philly’s treasures here and a rundown of the Top 10 Historical Buildings in Philly.

A thriving birthplace 

Are you aware Philadelphia’s history dates back to 1682? I also learned something new while researching the city’s rich history. Philly and I share a birthday. William Penn founded Philly on October 27 to serve as the capital of his Pennsylvania Colony. According to http://www.ushistory.org/us/4c.asp, Penn aimed to draft a plan for the city that left the horrors of crowded European urban life behind.

Learn more about historic Philadelphia here.

 

What makes Philly unique from other metropolitan hubs? History abounds on the streets of Philadelphia, with miles of historic and cultural icons you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to bring along your camera (and selfie stick) so you can capture every photo op. All photos by Joan Mead-Matsui.

Whenever possible, take your cue from residents and guests – a walking tour of Philadelphia is one way to see the sights. You’ll be tempted to pause often to glance into storefronts, read menus or stop for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. According to tripadvisor.com,  Philly offers 3,698 restaurants. That’s foodie heaven. You can find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

Get your dose of Philly here.

The extra wide streets are a breeze to navigate.

5 must-see Philly attractions 

History: everywhere you turn

1. Penn Museum

(also known as University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

After a particularly long week, my husband and I took two days off to rediscover Philly’s cuisine and culture. We began our glorious 24-hour whirlwind tour at Penn Museum, 3260 South St.,
on the University of Pennsylvania campus, with Pam Kosty, public relations director, as our guide.

You’ll be captivated by the artifacts and art from around the world. Kunihiko Matsui, AIA, marveled at the distinctive architectural elements throughout the museum. Of course, the Japan gallery was a must-see for this Kyoto native.

Stroll the University of Pennsylvania campus and you’ll soon discover why this Ivy League school is regarded as one of the world’s most respected research and teaching institutions. Penn Museum, located on the campus, was our first stop upon our arrival in Philly. Both the interior and exterior of the building are enchanting and representative of an enlightened society eager to promote the arts and sciences. The museum in College Hall was formally opened to the public January 2, 1890.

Create your own signature learning experience as you celebrate the incredibly diverse artifacts and art displayed and intermingled with hands-on learning tools. If you’re fast-tracking your way through Philly and you’re short on time, you can view each of the exhibits in two to three hours. You can also expect to find many objects on display that originated from university-led archaeological excavations and anthropological expeditions. Stone tools, household items, monuments and yes, fine art, are among the treasures you’ll see.

When you think of archaeology and anthropology, what comes to mind? Truly, both disciplines are a celebration of mankind and our world’s diverse cultures.

Take your Pick or see them all

The interior space houses 11 signature exhibitions: Egypt (Sphinx), Egypt (Mummies) Gallery, Africa, Canaan and Israel, China, Etruscan Italy, Greece, Rome, Japan, Mexico and Central America galleries; space dedicated to special exhibitions, and a cafe that features tasty, authentic food from around the world. I chose an Indian dish that was delicious.

Click here for an updated list of special exhibitions or to purchase tickets to the museum.

Museum hours are Tues to Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

Admission is $15/general adult, $13/senior citizens (65 and above), and $10/children 6 to 17 and full-time students with college ID. Museum members, active U.S. military personnel, children 5 and under and PennCard holders (Penn faculty, staff and students) receive free admission.

 

Flanked by a lovely courtyard, koi pond and seating area, the lawn is a respite where students, staff and museum guests can take a coffee or lunch break, amidst the soothing sounds of trickling water.

 

2. Sonesta Philadelphia Lobby Art Exhibit 

Our next stop was check-in at the incredibly hip Sonesta Downtown Philadelphia. View the original art of Philadelphia’s fine artists and craftsmen in Sonesta’s lobby. The exhibit is updated every six months. Hotel guests in need of information should consult with the concierge. 

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

 

Contemporary decor

Art created by Philadelphia artists and craftsmen is the focal point in the lobby of Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square.

Read more about Sonesta’s accommodations and services at my companion post: http://wp.me/p7Pqe9-uy

3. Reading Terminal Market 

Sonesta Rittenhouse Square is centrally located downtown at 18th and Market Streets in Center City, and only a short distance from a multitude of attractions. Whether you and your spouse are on an overnight getaway or you’re traveling with children, I guarantee you won’t want to miss the historic Reading Terminal Market. Whatever taste bud you hope to satisfy, you’ll find a selection of baked goods, meats, poultry, seafood, and produce. Other vendors also carry flowers and cookware. The Reading Terminal Market has been open to the public since 1892.

4. The Butcher Bar

What’s your hankering? As 5 p.m. rolls around, and particularly after hours of sightseeing and walking, why not try one one of historic Philadelphia’s newest restaurants?

As we approached the restaurant around dusk, the large shutters on the second-floor windows were wide open. I could see diners engrossed in conversation and candles gently flickering. The entrance-way was bursting with activity as guests sipped cocktails, wine and beer. Happy hour was in the works.

The Butcher Bar, 2034 Chestnut St, offers a lunch, brunch and dinner menu that will leave the meat lover’s mouth watering. I can still recall my reaction to one of our appetizers, a slab of bacon. “Oh, this is incredible – tender and juicy.” Words cannot describe this delectable creation. Kunihiko Matsui and I sampled a variety of menu items.

The bar features 16 beers on tap, 6 draft wines, and a whiskey-based cocktail program. You should absolutely make reservations. View the menus here.

5. The Eastern State Penitentiary 

Before leaving Philly, The Eastern State Penitentiary was our final stop as we prepared to leave the city. Over the years, I’ve heard rave reviews about the Eastern State Penitentiary, but since most of my trips to Philadelphia have been brief, I’ve never found the time to visit.

Regarded as “one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world” and the world’s first true “penitentiary,” the ruins are bone-chilling and captivating. My overall opinion is the crumbling walls, empty prison yards and dimly lit hallways all speak of the lives of the inmates who called the Eastern State Penitentiary home. They are haunting as much as they are thought-provoking.

Notable residents were “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone, who were among some of America’s most famous criminals.

A masterfully created one-hour hands-on audio tour, history exhibits, artists’ installations, and a vivid imagination are all you’ll need to feel the history that emanates from the walls. A very knowledgeable tour guide also led us through portions of the building.

Stay tuned for video clips from Eastern State Penitentiary. 

Are you looking for a more in-depth history of the penitentiary? Visit http://www.easternstate.org/history-eastern-state.

The penitentiary is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last entry at 4 p.m. Don’t plan to visit on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, when the facility is closed.

Adults: $14
Seniors: $12
Students & Kids: $10 (not recommended for children under seven-years-old) 
Members: FREE


Granted, you won’t have a full 24 hours to tour historic Philadelphia, when you factor in time while you’re sleeping, but in a brief period of time, you will get a taste and feel what makes Philly so interesting. Allow some time to relax and catch your breath. There’s no need to rush, and realistically, who can say how many days, weeks or perhaps even months you’d need to see everything Philly offers? Move at your own pace.


Visitphilly.com graciously arranged my visit and also provided me with information that helped immensely when we were mapping our 24-hour visit. Feel free to reach out to the staff as you are planning your trip to Philadelphia. 

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