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In a city packed with history and notable events, there are lots of Philadelphia landmarks to see. From Independence Hall, which played an important role in the formation of the country, to places like LOVE Park that are synonymous with Philadelphia, monuments and historical sites are scattered around the city. Here’s a look at some of the important spots and places that make Philly unique.
Independence Hall is the most notable landmark in Philadelphia. Completed in 1753, the building that was once the Pennsylvania State House is now known around the country as the site where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
Inside, Independence Hall looks as it did in 1776 when George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and others walked its halls. A visit to the historic site is brief (about 20 minutes) but packed with information and significance.
After your tour, visit Congress Hall next door to see the first Senate chamber and first House of Representatives used from 1790 until 1800 when Philadelphia was the capital of the brand new United States.
Second only to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell is synonymous with the City of Brotherly Love.
This famous city landmark was once part of the carillon at the State House now just a few yards away. Dating from 1755, no one really knows when it cracked, though it was likely the 1840s. In its imperfectly perfect state, it has long been a symbol of liberty and is displayed year-round in Old City.
The Liberty Bell, is housed in a museum adjacent to Independence Hall. It’s free to visit and gets quite busy in peak season.
Few places in the city are as colorful as Elfreth’s Alley. Its decorated facades and brightly painted doors attract visitors and locals year-round.
Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the country, and people still live in its 32 historic dwellings. In fact, they’re some of the most sought after in the city. The buildings here date as far back as 1703, and you’ll even find a museum that occupies 124-126. The museum has been restored to its Colonial-era appearance and tells the history of the street and the tradesmen who lived here when it was first built.
Mother Bethel AME
Fed up with racial segregation in a local Methodist church, Reverend Richard Allen led many Black members of the congregation to splinter. The result was the formation of what is now Mother Bethel AME, the mother church of the first Black denomination in America.
Dating to 1787, the church was built on the oldest piece of land in the US that has been continuously owned by African Americans. Over the years, it welcomed prominent abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass and Lucretia Mott, and became a stop on the Underground Railroad. Rev. Allen’s tomb and artifacts related to his life and the church’s history are featured in the on-site museum.
Free Franklin Post Office & Museum
Close to the historic sites in Old City, the Free Franklin Post Office & Museum is an homage to Benjamin Franklin’s roles as postmaster of Philadelphia and later Postmaster General. Though this site wasn’t a post office in Franklin’s time, employees here hand-cancel stamps with the postmark “B. Free Franklin,” which he used. A small museum has displays about the history of the postal service and related memorabilia.
Betsy Ross House
A Pennsylvania colonial style building on Arch Street—the Betsy Ross House—is one of the most famous landmarks in Philadelphia. The 1740s home is filled with information about Ross’s history, her experience with the American Flag, and her interactions with George Washington.
The President’s House was occupied by George Washington and John Adams during their terms of office. Though the building has been demolished, an open-air structure in its footprint provides information about the house and the people who lived there.
Importantly, the exhibit at the President’s House explores the paradox between the founding fathers fighting for freedom for some while actively keeping others locked in the shackles of slavery. It addresses the nine enslaved people Washington kept in the city and what their lives were like in the household.
Second Bank of the United States
The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816. Modeled after the Parthenon in Greek Revival style, it became the standard image for many subsequent American bank buildings.
Though the bank has been defunct for nearly 200 years, the building is still in use as part of Independence National Historical Park. The interior contains an extraordinary collection of 18th-century portraiture featuring many dignitaries and notable Philadelphians as well as a pine sculpture of George Washington.
Founded in 1695, Christ Church is the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church. Centuries ago, it welcomed presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and other notable figures among its worshipers. Some of those significant people are buried on the grounds while others were laid to rest at the church’s graveyard several blocks away.
The current Christ Church building that dates from 1744 is filled with history and is open for guided tours. Most of the year, a weekly farmer’s market featuring local producers and artisans takes place on its grounds.
Benjamin Franklin’s Grave
Even on a quick weekend trip to the city, Benjamin Franklin’s grave is a must-see for most visitors. The grave is located in the Christ Church Burial Ground alongside many other early residents of Philadelphia and people who contributed to shaping the city.
Franklin’s grave is located in the corner of the burial ground at 5th and Arch and can be seen without paying to enter (though a more thorough visit is interesting). You’ll often find pennies on top of the large marble slab, an homage to Franklin’s adage that “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
In 1774, Carpenters’ Hall was the home of the First Continental Congress where delegates from the colonies voted to take a stand against the King of England. Patrick Henry and other passionate patriots gathered here to debate the future of the colonies and the path to independence. The delegates’ chairs and the original banner from the 1788 Constitutional parade are still displayed, and there are rotating exhibits.
Center Square was one of the five original parks laid out by William Penn in 1682. That space is now occupied by the ornate Philadelphia City Hall. The largest municipal building in the United States, it’s nearly impossible to miss on a visit to Philadelphia thanks to its size and unique construction.
The exterior of the building is an artwork itself, covered in over 250 statues designed by Alexander Milne Calder, the patriarch of the Calder family of sculptors. At the top of the 548-foot tower, a statue of William Penn looks out over the city. Inside, rooms including the City Council Chamber, the Mayor’s Reception Room, and the Conversation Hall are some of the most sumptuous in the city.
Just northwest of City Hall is John F. Kennedy Plaza, which is better known as LOVE Park. An iconic Philadelphia landmark, it is named for the red LOVE statue by Robert Indiana.
The park is a popular spot for photos. Throughout the year, there are markets, pop-ups, a beer garden, and special events here, including the city Christmas market.
Laurel Hill Cemetery
When Laurel Hill Cemetery opened in 1836, it was designed to be a scenic spot (then somewhat rural) overlooking the Schuylkill River where visitors could enjoy the grounds. Around its 78 acres, there are lot of places to walk and appreciate the views and foliage.
There are more than 30,000 monuments to peruse around the cemetery. Visitors will find graves and monuments for city leaders, pioneers across industries and social movements, and even a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It may seem an odd thing to say about a cemetery, but Laurel Hill is a beautiful place to spend a few hours.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most unique historic sites in Philadelphia. Now a preserved ruin, it housed thousands of inmates in its 140-year history.
Twenty years without maintenance led to crumbling walls, fractured concrete, and cellblocks that are open to the elements. In that ruined state, the penitentiary has since become a museum with exhibits that tell the history of the building and stories of many former prisoners.
Historic Rittenhouse Town
Right along Lincoln Drive, Rittenhouse Town is one of the oldest historical landmarks in the city. The site contains the remains of a community that included the first paper mill in North America built in 1690. Today, six buildings remain, including facilities that host cooking demonstrations and paper-making workshops.