This Philadelphia Travel Guide shares everything you need to know before visiting the historic city, including where to stay, what to do and how to save.
This urban city represents the East Coast living, offering amazing food, music and history. Just a short journey from NYC, Philadelphia is often over looked but is worth a detour for those who want to experience a different type of city life.
Philadelphia is a hub of history, with some great architecture, the famous Liberty Bell, the incredible Museum of Art and walking tours of Benjamin Franklins home. Make sure you check out the Eastern State Penitentiary; America’s first state prison to use solitude punishment – refining the prison system and also the prison Al Capone spent his first prison sentence at.
Budget: Dorm beds start around $22, with privates nearer $60.
Midrange: Budget motels and chains start around $90 – $120 whilst hotels nearer the centre of Philly will cost between $130 – $160.
Luxury: Top chains and fancy hotels can be found upwards of $200.
Transport: As a compact city, Philly is known as one of the great walking cities of the country whilst the city wide bike sharing service costs $4 per ride. The PHLASH bus takes you to all of Philly’s top attractions and costs $2 per ride or $5 for an all day pass.
Average cost of food:
There are some great deli and pizza places around Philly, offering lunches for $5-$8 per person or whole pizzas for $15- $22.
There are a small selection of cheap sit-down restaurants that will cost around $20-$30 a head whilst many chain and mid-range restaurants will cost you upwards of $40 per head with 2 or so alcoholic drinks.
Best time to visit Philadelphia
The summer is when the city comes to life, making it the ideal time to stroll through the historic neighbourhoods and visit the many outdoor attractions.
Spring is also a great time to visit because of the photogenic cherry blossom, pleasant temperatures and lower room rates.
Avoid visiting on or around the 4th July, the city gets busy with festivities, so unless you are there for the fireworks and festivals, visit another time.
Visiting in the fall before Thanksgiving is the cheapest time to head to Philadelphia and hotels drop in price between Thanksgiving to New Years too but check the weather forecast when planning a trip.
Where to stay in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia House is a close walk to all major attractions, with dorms costing $32 a night and private rooms starting at $70 for two.
Another popular spot is the Apple Hostels of Philadelphia, in a quieter area of old city just a short walk from the Liberty Bell, with dorm beds starting at $32 or twin rooms with shared bathroom starting at $90.
The Morris House Hotel is a historic landmark, transformed into a luxury boutique hotel, just a short walk from all major attractions, rooms start at $136.
Looking for a spectacular stay, check out The Windsor Suites Philadelphia, with rooms starting at $122.
High end hotel Loews Philadelphia Hotel is a great choice for those looking to splurge, with rooms starting at $259.
Or the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia offers a great location, spacious rooms and a nationally celebrated onsite chef, with rooms starting at $224.
Save money in Philadelphia
America is not the best place to start if you are travelling on a budget but there are many ways you save money travelling the USA.
- Chain hotels – The USA has many budget chain hotels. These are basic and make sure to check reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor first, but you can save some serious money staying in places like Econolodge, Travelodge, Days in and Super 8.
- Hotels with kitchenettes – When booking a hotel or motel, check if there is a kitchenette. If there is a room or hotel with a kitchenette, then opt for that choice, especially if you are staying somewhere for an extended period of time. This means you can save loads of money cooking food yourself rather than eating out.
- Farmer markets – Heading to farmer markets or ethnic grocery stores can save you money on snacks and food.
- Early Bird – When eating out, either aim to have a big lunch or head to a restaurant before 5. Many places offer an early bird option, where you can save money when eating between 2 – 5pm.
- Coupons – Pick up the local newspaper to find coupons for attractions and restaurants each week. If you plan on visiting a chain restaurant or cafe (such as Starbucks), check for vouchers or gift certificates on Ebay.
- Reward cards – If you travel a lot, why not get a rewards credit card for your favourite hotel chain. Hilton and Marriott have great sign up offer, so you can collect points each time you spend money on the card and then redeem free stays and upgrades worldwide.
- Compare rentals – If you intend on road tripping, make sure you compare prices for a rental car on websites such as rentalcars.com or hotwire.com.
- Turo – Another option if you are looking to rent a car is by using getaround.com or turo.com. This is a similar concept to airbnb but for cars; you can rent a car from owners and this can work out cheaper than renting from a rental company.
- Avoid checked luggage – If you are flying in or out and visiting for a short period, avoid having checked luggage. You can book budget flights to save money but these don’t always include checked luggage.
- Hotel Tonight – This app can be used in the big cities such as New York, LA, Chicago, Miami and Vegas. It offers last minute rooms, particularly great if you are thinking of a weekend away.
- Download a Wifi Map – This map is fantastic at finding available Wifi Spots in your area. These aren’t just Free Wifi Spots too, they have a database of passwords to make your connection reliable and safe.
- Avoid Public Holidays – Hotel and travel prices rise around the 4th July and Labor Day, so avoiding travelling at this time. If you do want to travel at this time, book everything in advance.
- Avoid hostels – Hostels are a great way to save money accommodation everywhere else in the world but not in the US. There aren’t many hostels and most are overpriced. If you are travelling by yourself, you are better off using a budget hotel or look for a bedroom on airbnb.
- Free attractions – Take advantage of the free attractions in Philadelphia, such as take advantage of the free attractions such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
- Go Philadelphia Pass – get yourself a Philadelphia pass to save money on ticketed attractions, including some of the best museums in Philadelphia.
- Happy hours – You can also save money by taking advantage of the happy hours around the city.
- Free shows – The Kimmel Center offers a series of free shows or you can pick up same-day shows at the Walnut Street Theatre.
Best things to do in Philadelphia
The Liberty Bell
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Eastern State Penitentiary
Rocky Steps & statue
Reading Terminal Market
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Please Touch Museum
Battleship New Jersey
The Philadelphia Zoo
How to get to Philadelphia
Fly – Philadelphia International Airport is just 7 miles from the city centre and serves countries across the world as well as domestic flights. From here you can catch the Airport line train, costing $8.75 for a 25 minute trip into the city centre. Flat rate taxis cost $28.50.
Bus – Greyhound and NJ transit offer buses to and from Philadelphia from other major eastern cities. MegaBus also offer similar journeys and also serves Toronto.
Train – Amtrak provides trains from the elegant and Grand 30th St Station, with trains connecting you to NYC (1-1.5 hours), Washington DC (2 hours), Boston (6 hours) and Pittsburg (7.5 hours). Book in advanced and you can find some cheap fares.
How to get around Philadelphia
Most things to see and do in Philadelphia are in walking distance to each other.
Septa buses and subway lines can connect you to attractions further afield or try out the bike-share system; Indego, costing $4 for 30 minutes or a 30 day membership costing $15.
Taxis are easy to hail, and with a fairly small city, most journeys don’t cost more than $15.