7 Must See Historical Spots in Old City, Philadelphia
You know you have to hit up the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall; but other than that, you’re ashamed to admit that you don’t know your American history well enough to know what else to see in Philly. Well don’t worry; that’s what we’re here for. Below you’ll find an introduction and overview of some of our favorite Old City spots.
Independence Visitor Center
599 Market St.
It may seem obvious, but that’s the thing; it’s so obvious most people don’t bother. But we recommend starting with the Independence Visitor Center located on the corner of 6th and Market for a few reasons. First, when you arrive, you will want to go to the information desk run by National Park Rangers and pick up a free, timed ticket for touring Independence Hall. After you have your tickets, brush up on your American history by taking some time to explore the interactive exhibit spaces or check out a free historical film in one of the visitor center’s theaters.
N 6th St. & Market St.
Directly across Market Street from the Visitor Center, you will find the Liberty Bell Center. Within this building, you will find exhibits that highlight the way the Bell was used as a symbol by abolitionist groups and advocates of women’s suffrage throughout American history, and, of greatest note (pun intended), at the end of the corridor is the Liberty Bell.
Also of great importance, right outside the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center, stand remnants of the first Executive Mansion (White House) where Presidents George Washington and John Adams both resided during their terms. The exhibit highlights fascinating archaeological remnants but more importantly brings attention to the paradox of President Washington bringing at least nine slaves from his Mount Vernon home to this Executive Mansion after fighting for freedom and proclaiming, along with the forefathers, “all men are created equal.”
If you’re short on time, or if there’s a long line to get into the Liberty Bell Center, consider taking it in through the window. If you walk along the left side of the building towards Independence Hall, shortly before the end of the building you will come across a window with a pretty decent view. This view is especially breathtaking at night when the bell is lit up and the inside of the building is empty.
Note: For both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, be prepared to go through metal detectors and have your bags x-rayed. Independence Hall
520 Chestnut St.
Independence Hall is THE place where it all went down. All “the greats” walked these halls. This is where they sat, debated, and dreamed about a new land with great freedoms… This is where they met up, sometimes in secret, to make the revolutionary plans. It’s where they first declared our freedom.
Visitors also like to point out that this is also where Nicholas Cage ran around on the roof looking for clues in the movie National Treasure, a fun fact but not actually very relevant to American history.
Tours of Independence Hall are free and offered about every fifteen minutes or so, but you must obtain a ticket from the Independence Visitor Center.
If they’re out of tickets, ask about the overflow tour. Sometimes at the end of the day, there’s a final tour you can try to just walk up for. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t work for your schedule, you can still explore the grounds without a ticket. You’ll need to go through security first (located on the corner of 5th and Chestnut) but then you’re free to explore the grounds outside the hall and the museum of the American Philosophical Society (founded by Ben Franklin in 1743).
Note: For both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, be prepared to go through metal detectors and have your bags x-rayed.
322 Market St.
Franklin Court is the former residence of Philly's favorite son, Benjamin Franklin. You'll find the Court as you walk down Market towards the Delaware River. Between 4th and 3rd on Market, you'll discover an archway with a cobblestone path. To your right is a re-creation of Franklin's printing office, and to your left is the original post office (still in operation today). Fun fact: unlike every other U.S. Post Office, there is no flag waving outside this post office because when it was founded we didn’t yet have a flag.
Walk through the archway along the same cobblestones that Ben traveled, and you’ll find a variety of interesting exhibits, including a ghost structure of Franklin’s home along with windows into the foundation. Don’t miss the Benjamin Franklin Museum. For only $2 for children and $5 for adults, you can spend an hour or two exploring the life and work of Ben Franklin. This underground museum features artifacts, interactive displays, computer animations, videos, and more, all highlighting the great accomplishments, inventions, and character of the legendary man who brought us everything from electricity to the library to the post office to swimming fins and fire insurance...
124-126 Elfreth's Alley
A walk down this alley, located between 2nd Street and the Delaware River, will immediately make you feel as though you have been transported in time. Here you will find 32 Federal and Georgian residences making up the oldest residential street in British North America and paying tribute to the early days of Philadelphia.
To learn more about Elfreth’s Alley through the years, visit www.elfrethsalley.org
20 N. American St.
Christ Church is one of Philadelphia’s most historic churches. Not only is it where many of America’s most important historical figures (including Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, President George Washington, President John Adams, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush and Francis Hopkinson) met to worship, but, according to their website, it’s also where the nation’s first black priest received his ordination.
Ben Franklin’s Grave Site
340 North 5th St.
Ben Franklin, along with his wife and family, is buried in the the Christ Church burial grounds. Located a few blocks from the church on the corner of 5th and Arch Streets, this unique “Colonial and Revolution-era graveyard” is also the known resting ground of many other notable American heros and signers of the Declaration of Independence.
If you take the time to visit the Franklin family grave, you will notice pennies all over the place. It may seem odd, but it is a considered a sign of respect for admirers to toss pennies in honor of his famous words: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
No matter what you do while you're in town, we’re sure you'll have a fantastic time and look forward to hearing about your adventures.