Philadelphia in One Day: An Itinerary
A guide on what to see in the City of Brotherly Love in the span of 24 hours.
Philadelphia is one of the great cities of the United States, with a plethora of content to offer. One day is certainly not enough to see it all, but assuming you’ve only got that amount of time in the city, what will follow is a full guide on the top things to do and spots to check out as briefly as possible, while still offering the best of the city in the shortest amount of time.
I have been to Philly numerous times, and most recently visited the city a couple of months ago, doing so in only one day. Starting from my hometown of New York City, we left in the morning, drove an hour and a half to Philly, spent the day there, and drove back at night in the same day. Assuming you’re already starting and ending your journey in Philly (not counting the two travel days), and you only have one full day in between to see it all, this guide is for you.
If you’d like me to do the same for other cities, be sure to Clap for this article, and let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chriskirsch01.
1. Center City (9:00 a.m. — 11:00 a.m.)
Start your day in Center City. Assuming you’re staying over in a hotel, your best bet would be Center City. As its name implies, it’s centrally located, in-between a majority of the sights you’re going to be seeing, and it even contains some sights of its own that you definitely won’t want to miss.
Grab some breakfast early (there’s a good iHOP in Center City) and then check out some of the sights to offer on foot: Philadelphia City Hall is a must, with its breathtaking architecture, and if you’ve got extra time, check out the Macy’s in City Center containing the Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest functioning pipe organ (and you can go clothes shopping). By 11:00 a.m., navigate on foot to Love Park, where the iconic “LOVE” sculpture is located.
2. Rocky Steps & Statue (11:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.)
Even if you’re not a fan of the Rocky movies (but let’s be honest, who isn’t?) checking out the iconic statue and rising triumphantly up the steps used in the movie is a must. From Love Park, it’s a straight 20-minute walk up the lavish Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the location of the movie. Right outside the museum at street level is the statue, which there will be a line for. Wait on the line and snap your pic, and then proceed up the famous steps and pose at the top.
At the top of the stairs will be the Philadelphia Museum of Art. If you’re really into art, you can check out that museum instead of the next activity on this list, because you won’t be able to do both (unless you want to omit some other activities on this list, which I don’t recommend). After you check out the steps and statue, it’s a quick 5–minute walk to our next attraction.
3. Eastern State Penitentiary (1:00 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.)
The reason why I opt for you to check out this living history museum instead of the art museum is because it’s so much more unique. I am absolutely not knocking art museums, or the Philadelphia Museum of Art for that matter, as it is magnificent. However, if you want a more unique and informative experience, the Eastern State Penitentiary is definitely the way to go.
This gothic prison, which operated from 1829 to 1971, housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone (whose cell you can actually check out, and you’ll be incredibly shocked at how lavish it is, and how fine Al Capone was living in prison). Self-tour the entire complex, navigating up and down the abandoned cell blocks. Many of the former cells contain art installations, highlighting the dark history of the U.S. prison system which continues to this day.
4. Pat’s & Geno’s Cheesesteaks (3:30 p.m. — 4:30 p.m.)
Once you leave Eastern State, you’ll want to call an Uber and head down to the famous Passyunk Square neighborhood, where you’ll be faced with a choice: eat at Pat’s King of Steaks, or eat at Geno’s Steaks. These two neon-cladded eateries both serve Philly cheesesteaks, a classic staple dish of the city. In my opinion, choosing one over the other is merely impossible, so get a cheesesteak from both!
Now, Philly natives will tell you that, despite Pat’s and Geno’s being the two most famous cheesesteak places by far, they’re not even the best cheesesteaks in Philly. This might be the case, but these two places are tourist destinations on their own, and they still serve some epic sandwiches (and it’s centrally located), so in my opinion, these two would be the places to check out.
If you’re not crazy for Philly cheesesteaks, head over to Tacconelli’s Pizza instead. Pizza is another iconic dish of Philly (despite it not being as known for this dish as New York, for example). This place is consistently ranked as one of the best pizzerias, if not the best, in Philadelphia. This old-timey classic is a staple of the Port Richmond neighborhood, though be sure to order ahead, because they only make a limited amount of pies per day (you may get lucky, though, and be served on the fly, as I was).
You can’t check out both Tacconelli’s and the two cheesesteak places in one day, but no matter which one you pick, they’re worthy of checking out not only for the food, but to get a real feel of Philadelphia outside of the touristy locations. They’re both real, original neighborhoods of Philly, and you’re really exploring what the city is all about with this one. No matter which you pick, chow down on some good food and get going to the next destination.
5. Old City (4:30 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.)
After you eat, you’ll want to Uber to Old City, where the majority of Philly’s historic significance is concentrated. This small neighborhood contains iconic sights such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Elfteth’s Alley, the so-called oldest block in America. Take about an hour to check all of these out, and then head over to your final Philly destination.
6. Baseball Game (7:00 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.)
Our final stop on this list is a classic baseball game. Even if you’re not a baseball or sports fan, the cultural significance and classic nature of a baseball game cannot be denied. The only caveat with this one is that you will have to be visiting Philly during the spring or summer months in order to catch a game, and even then, there’s a chance the Phillies (that’s the baseball team) will be away that day, so be sure to check the MLB schedule before you plan your trip.
From Old City, you can take the subway to the ballpark (Market-Frankford Line / Blue Line to City Center, then the Broad Street Line / Orange Line down to Pattison), though if you want to catch the beginning of the game, which is usually 7:00 p.m., your best bet would be to Uber to Citizens Bank Park. Once there, you should already have bought your tickets ahead of time, which you can pull up on your phone virtually and the guard will scan it so you can enter). Once inside, take your seats, grab some classic ballpark food (hot dogs? Burgers? Chicken? Cotton Candy?! The choice is yours!)
Baseball games usually last around three hours, although they could be shorter or longer depending on the nature of the game. If you’re fully invested, you can stay the whole game, or you can leave early (not recommended). Once the game’s over, head back to your hotel and that wraps a nice bow on your one-day Philadelphia experience!
Again, if you’d like me to do the same for other cities, be sure to Clap for this article, and let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chriskirsch01.
Chris is a writer and publisher who travels America, and loves doing it. He also loves pizza, video games, and sports, and can tell you a thing or two about each. Follow him on Twitter and on Medium to be informed of new articles.