When I have only a few days in a city, I look to make the most of my sightseeing in a short stint. Getting around to sites that are spread out around a city can eat up precious time in a place. In this walking tour of Philadelphia historical sites, I will take you to some of the city’s finest historic spots while keeping you mainly on only three streets: Market St., 2nd Street, and Arch Street. Along the way, I’ll point out a few great places for food (one requires a slight detour).
This part of the walking tour of Philadelphia historical sites, starts at the corner of Market St. and 7th street with Declaration House. As you walk down Market St, you will pass the Philadelphia sites below in order.
Declaration House—the house where Thomas Jefferson stayed when drafting the Declaration of Independence.
President’s House Site—this is the site of the house where Presidents Washington and Adams lived. Videos and placards examine the paradox between slavery and freedom in the early Republic.
Liberty Bell Center—see the bell that topped Independence Hall in 1776 when it rang out to gather Philadelphians to hear the proclamation that we were declaring our independence from Great Britain.
Independence National Historical Park—you will need to veer off Market St. down 6th St. for a block. Most of the year you will need tickets in advance to visit this fabulous park (link below). The complex includes Independence Hall tour, Congress Hall, West Wing, Old City Hall, and the American Philosophical Society. Before you enter security for Independence Hall, check out Old City Hall (where Supreme Court met in the early days).
In the block next to the Independence Hall complex, take a peek at the Signer’s Garden, the 18th century garden, the Merchant Exchange Building, the Bishop White House, Carpenter’s Hall, New Hall Military Museum, and the Second Bank of the U.S., if they’re open. Then enter the Benjamin Franklin complex off of Chestnut Street making your way through it back to Market St.
Franklin Court—this complex holds the Benjamin Franklin Museum, Franklin Court Courtyard, Fragments of Franklin Court exhibit, Franklin Court Printing Office, and the B. Free Franklin Post Office. Wander down a cobbled covered walkway between the post office and the printing office to get back to Market St where you will turn right.
Sonny’s Famous Steaks—for a tasty Philadelphia cheesesteak stop by this eatery.
Turn left onto 2nd street from Market Street going towards Arch Street.
Christ Church—dating to 1744, it is one of the finest Georgian structures in America and a great example of an early American church.
Detour: Elfreth’s Alley—instead of turning onto Arch Street go a block more down 2nd street and you will find historic Elfreth’s Alley on your right. This has to be one of the most picturesque streets in all of the US. It is known as the oldest continuously inhabited road in America. One of the homes has been turned into a museum.
Turn left onto Arch Street going towards Reading Terminal Market.
Betsy Ross House—this small house shows period furniture and recreates how it would have looked when famed flag maker and seamstress Betsy Ross lived there.
Arch Street Meeting House—this historic Quaker meeting house was designed 1803-4 and exhibits the Quaker ideals of simplicity, plainness, and equality of those who met there.
Christ Church Burial Ground—you will find Benjamin Franklin’s grave as well as those of other Colonial and Revolutionary Americans.
Free Quaker Meeting House—an 18th century building that tells the stories of the Free Quakers who met there.
Chinatown Friendship Arch—this ornate arch crosses 10th street at Arch. For delectable dim sum, veer off down 10th St. past the Friendship Arch, take a left on Race St. and you will find “Dim Sum Garden” on the left. It is quite tasty! Take a left on 11st street to get back to Arch Street.
Reading Terminal Market—in 1890, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company purchased the block upon which the market stands for a new terminal. But the market merchants who had stalls there refused to move so the Reading Terminal Market was constructed tucked beneath the train tracks. Today, go and experience the many food vendors and other merchants who occupy this fabulous space.
Bonus: continue on Arch St to Broad St. Take a left and you will come upon the marvelous Masonic Temple (definitely worth a tour) and the striking Philadelphia City Hall.
I hope you enjoy this walking tour of Philadelphia historical sites! There are also several museums along the way that I didn’t include since I tried to stick to historic buildings, but you can also see the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, the Museum of the American Revolution, the National Constitution Center, and the African-American Museum. Philadelphia has tons of history for fans of the early days of the Republic and the American Revolution. There is a lot more to see than this three street tour though, so, if possible, save extra days for visiting the great museums, Eastern State Penitentiary, and much more. Happy travels!
A YouTube short I made of the tour: https://youtube.com/shorts/rUjyjAuBUdE?feature=share
Independence Hall Tickets: https://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm
We sell fabulous photographic prints from our travels on our Etsy shop! These are great for home decor or as a gift. If you see a photograph on our website that isn’t in our Etsy shop, let me know and I’ll likely be able to add it to Etsy.
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