Where To Stay In Philadelphia: 8 Best Areas

Where to stay in Philadelphia

If you’re considering your first trip to Philly, you may well be wondering where to stay in Philadelphia This guide will do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods to stay in Philly and all the fun activities and places to see on your trip.

Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city, and the 6th most populated city in the United States. Founded in 1682, Philadelphia played a crucial role in the American Revolution, with such sites as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed) continuing to draw visitors from around the world.

Philadelphia may honor its rich history, but is nonetheless a modern–and ever-expanding–metropolis. 

Boasting a number of colleges and universities, thriving arts & cultural community, and the best shopping and eats one could ask for, it’s no small wonder why Philly is frequently cited as that rare locale that truly offers something for everyone. 

Sports fan or history buff, your stay in Philadelphia is sure to be one for the books.

To help you plan the best stay, we’ve compiled a list of the most recommended areas where to stay in Philly, as well as lodging options.

Where to stay in Philadelphia: Best Areas

1. Old City/Society Hill, where to stay in Philadelphia for the first time

No stay in Philadelphia is complete without an exploration of Old City and neighboring Society Hill. Visitors are encouraged to start at the Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, to get their bearings and plan their excursion. 

Popular points of interest in Old City include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, United States Mint, the Betsy Ross House, and the resting place of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, to name only a few!

Visitors can enjoy a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street, dating back to 1703. 

Along the route are several museums worth checking out, such as the National Liberty Museum, which explores the history and ongoing topic of diversity and civic duty. Notable exhibits include a 21-foot-tall glass Flame of Liberty and replica of Nelson Mandela’s jail cell. 

Your Old City stroll should also bring you near the Benjamin Franklin Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, Fireman’s Museum, and Science History Institute.

Cinephiles, religious or otherwise, are advised to take a peek inside the stunning St. Augustine Church, founded in 1796 and featured in the 1999 film The Sixth Sense.

There is plenty of shopping, tasting, and sightseeing to be had in Old City, with everything from upscale boutiques to local distilleries on offer.

If you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood on the “first Friday” of the month, make sure to stop by the local shops and galleries, which throw open their doors for the titular monthly event.

Society Hill is where visitors can promenade along the cobblestone streets and marvel at the stately 18th and 19th century homes

To add to the area’s place-out-of-time feel, there is The Shambles, the oldest surviving marketplace from the Colonial era. Built in 1745, the market is still very much in use today, with farmers’ markets, community events, and festivals taking place regularly.

Hotels in Old City reflect the area’s diverse mix of past and present, with lodgings ranging from upscale boutique hotels to more casual Airbnb-style rentals. 

While the cost of staying in Old City and Society Hill can be higher than in other areas of the city, it is always advisable to check for special online rates and seasonal promotions.


2. Center City (close to Old City), an extremely popular place to stay in Philly

Just a stone’s throw from Old City, Center City is the bustling heart of Philly. Boasting a dizzying blend of skyscrapers and heritage sites, Center Citer is where visitors can shop, sightsee, and even take in a show or two.

Center City is home of one of Philly’s top attractions, the Franklin Institute, where visitors can both view and partake in permanent and rotating science exhibitions. 

Additionally, there is the renowned Barnes Foundation, which showcases some of the world’s most celebrated impressionistic, post-impressionistic, and modern art.

Music and performance arts lovers will have no shortage of venues to consider in Center City, which boasts–among others–the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Kimmel Center. 

Along with performances, staff at many of these landmark venues offer free tours that delve into each building’s architecture, history, and lore.

Not for the faint of heart but a great deal of fun, the Mütter Museum is a medical museum dedicated to the study of medicine and scientific oddities. 

Displays include anatomical specimens, wax models, antique medical equipment, and an assortment of curios ranging from the bizarre to downright terrifying.

Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s largest and oldest public markets, having been housed in a National Historic Landmark building since 1893. 

Visitors to the market are treated to a mouthwatering selection of both locally grown and international produce as well as locally sourced meats and poultry, along with a top-tier variety of seafood, cheeses, baked goods, and additional cookbooks, kitchenware, and even restaurants.

Shopaholics will no doubt want to check out the Shops At Liberty Place, located between the Liberty Place Towers. The elegant enclosure features high-end shops, popular retail brands, a food court, and year-round events.

Due to its convenient proximity to the city’s neighborhoods and attractions, Center City is an extremely popular place to stay in Philadelphia. Visitors will find many recognizable hotel names, along with boutique, hostel, and private rental options.


3. Parkway Museum District, where to stay in Philadelphia for museums

Running the length of City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is an impressive tree-lined boulevard boasting some of the world’s most revered museums and institutions.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a not-to-be-missed outing during your stay in Philadelphia. It features collections from around the world and spanning many centuries, including famed impressionistic and post-impressionistic masterpieces by Monet, Degas, and Renoir. 

The museum also holds an arms & armor wing, sculpture garden, and painstakingly re-fabricated Japanese teahouse, Medieval cloister, and sumptuous Gilded Age parlors. Last but hardly least, make sure to snap a pic at the top of the museum’s 72 steps in homage to Rocky.

The Rodin Museum is another must-see along the Parkway, and holds an astonishing collection of sculptures by the master sculptor Auguste Rodin, with in-depth explorations of the artist’s life and none other than The Thinker himself greeting guests at the entrance.

Fans of the more macabre may want to pay a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary, which opened in 1829 and closed its doors for good in 1971. 

Today visitors can explore the Gothic Revival ruins, peer into the cells of notorious inmates such as Al Capone, and join a guided museum tour.

If the weather is pleasant, LOVE Park is a highly recommended excursion. The public park, nicknamed for its showcase reproduction of Robert Indiana’s 1970 LOVE sculpture, is perfect for relaxing, snapping pics, and browsing the park’s vendors.

The Museum District has a number of reputable hotels for all manner of budgets, with proximity to the city’s wider attractions a definite bonus.


Read also: Best places to stay in New York, best places to stay in Washington DC, best places to stay in Boston

4. Rittenhouse Square, where to stay in Philadelphia for shopping

Named for both the public park and surrounding neighborhood, Rittenhouse Square is one of the most in-demand areas to live and stay in Philadelphia thanks to its impossibly pretty setting and plentitude of shopping and restaurant options. 

One of the five original squares designed by city founder William Penn in the late 17th century, Rittenhouse Square offers a rare and relatively serene glimpse into life in old Philadelphia.

Visitors can stroll the stately streets and inner park, admire the elegant architecture, and satiate their appetite at one of the many pubs, cafes, and fine bistro-style eateries before taking in some of the best shopping in the city. 

Book lovers will definitely want to stop by the The Rosenbach Museum to take a tour and view the museum’s collection of almost 400,000 rare books, manuscripts, and pieces of art.

Due to its popularity and high-end appeal, lodging options in and around Rittenhouse Square can be costly but truly magnificent. Boutique hotels abound, as well as upscale converted historic establishments.


5. University City, youth vibe and lots of things to do

The vibrant heart of Philadelphia’s academic world, University City contains both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, two of the largest in the region. 

Bustling with year-round activity, University City is where visitors and locals alike can come together to appreciate the best in food, shopping, sports, and culture.

Visitors can take in the stunning skyline view from the top of Cira Green, a green roof park in the clouds featuring special year-round events, activities, and plenty of picnicking. 

From there it’s a short stroll to the University of Pennsylvania campus, where visitors can explore the historic grounds, athletic fields, and buildings. 

Sports fans won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit Franklin Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles and site of the team’s first NFL Championship win, as well as the oldest and longest-operating of its kind in American football. 

There are also the campus museums to consider, which include Penn Museum, where visitors can view over a million artifacts from around the world, including a 13-ton granite sphinx of Ramses II. 

Also recommended is the Institute of Contemporary Art, which showcases new and innovative artists, among them Andy Warhol, who held his first solo show at the Institute in 1965. 

From there it is a short stroll over to the campus of Drexel University, with plenty to see (and eat) along the way.

West Fairmount Park is an idyllic spot to walk, bicycle, picnic, and explore this gem of an urban park. Make sure to pay a visit to Shofuso, a 19th century home originally constructed in Japan in 1953, which features a garden with a koi pond and traditional tea house. 

You’ll find here the world-famous Philadelphia Zoo, which was founded in 1874 and the first zoo in the United States.

There are hotels, bed & breakfasts, hostels, and private rentals to be found in University City, with options for every budget and party.


6. Fishtown/Northern Liberties, coolest place to stay in Philadelphia

Named in honor of the early industry and residential occupation, Fishtown has since gone on to become one of Philadelphia’s most hip and up-and-coming neighborhoods. 

Brimming with bars, beer gardens, music venues, shops, arcades, eateries, galleries, and unforgettable street art, Fishtown is where you can stay in Philly the local way.

Connecting Fishtown to Old City is Northern Liberties (NoLibs), a former manufacturing district and now trendy neighborhood whose artistic renaissance repositioned it on the map in the early 90s. 

Stunning murals, one-of-a-kind galleries, and top-notch dining and shopping are all on offer in Northern Liberties, with plenty of historic appeal besides. 

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe should make sure to stop and snap a pic of the author’s mural, which resides opposite his only remaining Philadelphia residence, located at 7th and Spring Garden and open to the public.

The Piazza, alternately called The Schmidt’s Common, is the social center of NoLibs. The 80,000 square foot plaza, designed in the European style, is the perfect spot to eat at one of the bordering restaurants, people watch, and even take in a free screening during regular public events. 

There is also Liberty Lands, a lovely local park that contains a community garden, playground, and picnic area.

Although boutique hotels and private rentals can be found in the Fishtown/NoLibs areas, visitors looking for a greater assortment of options (budgetary or otherwise) are advised to look for lodgings in nearby Old City.


7. South Philadelphia, where to stay in Philly on a budget

One of Philly’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods, South Philadelphia is known for its prominent Irish and Italian communities and eclectic mix of immigrant shops, restaurants, and establishments. 

Strolling along the river-bordered South Street, visitors can stop by heritage sites like the Theatre of Living Arts, which has been running for over a century, and Eyes Gallery, which first opened its doors in 1968. 

If you get hungry, pop in to the 4th Street Delicatessen, which was featured in the film Philadelphia, or visit the nearby Italian Market, founded by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century and the well-worn turf of Rocky himself.

South Philadelphia is where you will find the city’s major sports arenas, such as the Lincoln Financial Field and South Philadelphia Sports Complex, the latter home of such teams as the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers.

Visitors of all ages will delight in Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the largest creation by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar that spans three city lots and features both indoor galleries and a beguiling outdoor labyrinth.

South Philadelphia has a variety of lodging options, from a few hotels to plenty of Airbnb-type rentals.


8. Around the Airport, easy access to Downtown and cheaper accommodation

The Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is located just seven miles from downtown Center City.

It is an extremely convenient hub for both international and local travelers thanks to its multiple connecting transport systems, which include the SEPTA Regional Rail and additional shuttle, cab, and bus services.

While a layover certainly warrants an exploration of the Philadelphia International Airport, visitors looking to stay outside the immediate Philadelphia metropolitan during their stay will find the best of both worlds in the airport area. 

Most of the hotels are recognizable by name and reputation, with many offering shuttle services to and from the airport, as well as additional transportation tips and assistance during your stay in Philadelphia.


Traveler’s Tip: Know Before You Go

Philadelphia is served by an exceptional public transportation system, namely the SEPTA Regional Rail, which operates bus, trolley, rapid transit, and commuter lines throughout the city and five counties. 

Visitors are encouraged to purchase a SEPTA pass during their stay in Philly, as there’s no greater way to save money, beat the traffic, and hit all your top destinations.

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