A Fun Weekend in Philadelphia: 2-Day Itinerary

Home » Attractions » A Fun Weekend in Philadelphia: 2-Day Itinerary

Philadelphia is full of historical sites, good eats, and cultural institutions. From colonial-era attractions to modern art, there is more than enough to occupy any amount of time you have in this great city. If you’re planning a trip, a weekend in Philadelphia will let you see some of the top sites and then dig a little bit deeper to visit places casual visitors may miss.

As locals, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know many of the best sites and restaurants. Because a weekend trip is still a quick visit, we’ve focused our recommendations on some of the most unique things to see, while keeping geography in mind. This 2 day itinerary is designed to minimize back-tracking while still covering some of the best places to go in a weekend.

Day 1: Historic Philadelphia

The first day in Philadelphia is focused on Old City. This neighborhood is the historic core of the city, notable for being the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where Benjamin Franklin experimented with electricity, and where the first U.S. presidents lived. It also has museums, lively waterfront parks and piers, art galleries, and great restaurants to try.

Breakfast in Old City

Hand holding a coffee cup with a sleeve labeled "Old City Coffee."
Start your day at Old City Coffee

There are lots of options for breakfast in Old City. Talula’s Daily and Old City Coffee are two of our favorites. They are both within a few blocks of the main historic sites, so they’re not far out of your way if you’re staying in the neighborhood.

Whether you’re dining in or getting something to go, Talula’s Daily is an ideal stop for breakfast. The cafe has pastries and egg dishes to fuel your morning plus a full coffee bar. We love the market vegetable frittata paired with a salted caramel latte, and the breakfast burrito is also excellent.

Depending on where you’re staying, Old City Coffee a couple of blocks away on Church Street may be a more convenient option. This shop has been a Philadelphia institution for nearly 40 years. They roast their own beans and offer housemade scones, muffins, and other light breakfast items.

Independence Hall

Brick building with a clock tower and cupola.
Independence Hall on a summer day

Visiting Independence Hall is a must, especially if it’s your first trip to Philadelphia. It’s always one of our first stops with out-of-town visitors. The building dates from 1753 when it was the Pennsylvania State House and is the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.

A 20-minute tour lets you see the inside of the building, which looks much like it did in 1776. On the tour, you’ll learn about the history of Independence Hall and the importance of the conventions held here as the founding fathers debated the tenets of freedom and conceptualized a new country. There are even several original artifacts on display, including George Washington’s chair and an inkstand that was used to sign the Declaration of Independence. Tours are led by park rangers who are very knowledgeable about the building, and questions are always welcome.

Independence Hall tickets are just $1, and it’s a good idea to reserve in advance, especially if you’re visiting in the summer (in January and February tickets are only needed on holiday weekends). Make sure to leave time to go through the security screening before your tour.

It may also be possible to see Congress Hall, the location of the first US House of Representatives and Senate, which is within the secure zone adjacent to Independence Hall. We recommend a stop if the building is open.

Liberty Bell

Large metal bell with a crack in it displayed in a museum.
The Liberty Bell

Just steps from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell. The small museum here is free to visit and features exhibits about the bell’s origins, its famous crack, and how it became such a prominent symbol of freedom.

If you’re short on time and just want to see the Liberty Bell itself, make a beeline straight to the back of the building after you go through security. Alternatively, if you don’t want to wait in line at all, head to the south end of the building where you can see the bell 24/7. It’s even lit up at night.

Second Bank of the United States

Sculpture of George Washington beside portraits of men displayed in a gallery.
Statue of George Washington and some of the portraits displayed

One of the lesser-known sites in the historic area, the Second Bank of the United States now operates as a portrait gallery. Its permanent collection has over 150 portraits of politicians, military officers, and other notable people who figured prominently in the American Revolution and the early days of the United States. Many of the paintings are the work of prominent artist Charles Willson Peale who was most well-known for the dozens of portraits he painted of George Washington.

Visiting the gallery is free, so it’s worth a quick stop on your walk, especially if you’re an art lover.

Carpenters’ Hall

Large brick building with a cupola surrounded by trees.
The recently restored Carpenters’ Hall

Like the other sites on the recommended morning itinerary so far, Carpenters’ Hall is also part of the Independence National Historical Park. That means it’s also free.

This beautiful 18th-century building at the end of a cobblestone path was the location of the First Continental Congress. The delegates’ chairs and the banner from the 1788 Constitutional parade are displayed, and there are often rotating historical exhibits.

Elfreth’s Alley

Brightly colored doors and window shutters on brick buildings.
Colorful doors along historic Elfreth’s Alley

Head three blocks north to Elfreth’s Alley. This charming street with brightly painted doors is one of the most popular places to visit in Philadelphia. No matter how many times we walk it, we always notice something new. Plus, homeowners often put up seasonal decorations, which is fun to see.

The oldest residential street in the US, there is more than 300 years of history in Elfreth’s Alley. Visit the museum located in the former homes at 124-126, which tells the history of the street and the tradesmen who lived here when it was built.

Christ Church and its Burial Ground

Rows of old tombstones in a burial ground surrounded by trees.
Tombstones in the historic burial ground

Nearby is Christ Church and Christ Church Burial ground. The church, which is the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church, was founded as part of William Penn’s charter in 1695. It has an illustrious history.

Over the years, presidents and other notable people have been worshipers at Christ Church. It is still a functioning church but is open for visiting. Inside, you learn lots about the church’s history and see the marked pews where the Penn family, the Franklin family, and others regularly sat. If you visit in the summer or fall, you may encounter the (delicious) farmer’s market here which is worth visiting for local treats.

While there are some graves at the church site, the Christ Church Burial Ground is a couple of blocks away. At the burial ground, you’ll find the graves of many Revolutionary War figures and early leaders. There are signers of the Declaration of Independence and notable figures like Dr. Philip Syng Physick who is known at the “father of modern surgery.”

The most notable person buried here is Benjamin Franklin. His grave is typically covered with pennies, an homage to his “a penny saved is a penny earned” adage. If you don’t pay to enter the burial ground, Franklin’s grave is visible through the wall at the cemetery’s northwest corner.

Cherry Street Pier

People sitting at tables under the iron framework of an old pier.
The garden at Cherry Street Pier

Nearby, Cherry Street Pier offers a contemporary break from all the history. This unique spot is a 100-year-old municipal pier that has been converted into a mixed-use space. There are artworks of all types done by local artists who have workshops here.

During the summer and on the weekends, concessions are available, so this is a great place to stop for lunch if you’re hungry. Enjoy a drink and a meal with incredible views of the Delaware River and browse all the artwork on-site. On weekends, there are often markets featuring local artisans and other special events. It’s one of the most unique spaces in the city and is one of our favorites.

Lunch at Campo’s

Exterior of a building with signage for "Campo's" and "Philadelphia's cheesesteak."
Campo’s in Old City

If lunch at Cherry Street Pier doesn’t float your boat or you just really want a Philly cheesesteak, head to Campo’s. For more than 70 years, Campo’s has made some of the best cheesesteaks and specialty sandwiches in the city. They pride themselves on great service and are open every day.

If you’ve never had a cheesesteak before, it’s important to know that steak, cheese, and onions are the only acceptable ingredients for an authentic cheesesteak (exceptions may be made for chicken). You order based on what type of cheese you want and whether you want onions (“wit” or “witout”). If you want the sandwich with onions and wiz (Cheez Whiz-like cheese), you would order “wiz wit,” for instance. If you want provolone and no onions, you would order “provolone witout.” However, the nice folks at Campo’s will be pleased to serve you even if you don’t order like a local.

Betsy Ross House

Two-story brick house with white shutters flying the American flag.
The historic Betsy Ross House

A self-guided tour of Betsy Ross’s 1740s house lets visitors see her upholstery shop, the room where she is reported to have sewn the first flag, and more. After exploring the floors, you can meet Betsy herself and talk about her experiences. The tour takes less than an hour.

If you’re visiting with kids in the summer, keep an eye out for the storytelling bench out front. You’ll often find a costumed storyteller telling tales about colonial-era Philadelphia.

Washington Square

Monument surrounded by fall foliage in a park.
Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier

If time allows, make the next stop Washington Square. This tree-filled park has plenty of seating space to enjoy nice weather. We’ve also encountered different performances and pop-up events here, so you never know what you might find.

In addition to being a nice park, Washington Square is quite historic. First established in 1682, it was used as a burial ground for Revolutionary War soldiers and victims of the yellow fever outbreak of 1793 (as a result, there are rumors of paranormal activity). A large monument—the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier—in the middle of the park includes a soldier’s remains, an eternal flame, and a statue of George Washington after whom the park was named.   

Dinner at Amada

Spanish restaurant Amada serves some of the best tapas and pintxos in the city. The menu features more than 40 options, so it’s fun to try lots of different small dishes. From tortilla Española to gambas al ajillo, the selection is excellent.

Alternatives: If you’d rather go for Asian-inspired cuisine, Buddakan is our pick in Old City. Don’t miss the edamame dumplings. Other excellent options include the seasonal offerings at Fork, sushi at Tuna Bar (try the Hurts roll named after the Eagles’ quarterback), or modern Israeli at Zahav. If you want to dine indoors at Zahav, you’ll need to plan well ahead to get a reservation. In the summer, however, they have a first-come, first-served patio.

Independence Beer Garden

Outdoor seating area filled with plants and a sign: "Independence Beer Garden."
One of IBG’s many seating areas

For an after dinner drink, one of the most lively places nearby is Independence Beer Garden. This sizeable space that overlooks Independence Mall has tons of seating in unique environments such as a re-purposed shipping container. There is a projection TV and games to play like ping pong and a giant Jenga. The beer garden has 2 bars with 40 local and domestic craft beers plus a small selection of cocktails and wine. For an indoor option, check out National Mechanics, which is set in an historic bank.

Day 2: Parks, Art, and Great Food

The second day of your weekend trip to Philadelphia starts in the Rittenhouse neighborhood, one of the city’s nicest areas. After that, you visit an unusual space in South Philly before venturing to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and University City.

Brunch at Parc

Quiche and French fries on a plate.
Parc’s quiche is a winner for brunch

Parc, a French brasserie on Rittenhouse Square, is a great place to start the day with brunch. The restaurant’s menu is renowned across Philadelphia and beyond. We know people who would crawl over a sea of broken glass just to have their bread basket. Their cheesy, herby French onion soup is also a wonder, and they’re known for their fruits de mer.

Get a sidewalk table if you can and indulge in croissants, Champagne, and their fabulous brunch specialties.

Alternative: If you’d prefer a more grab-and-go style breakfast, head to Kismet Bagel, a local favorite. They offer bagels with creative schmears, breakfast sandwiches, and latkes.

Rittenhouse Square

People enjoying a park on a sunny day.
People lounging in Rittenhouse Square Park

Rittenhouse Square was one of the five original squares created by William Penn in the 1680s. With sculptures, fountains, benches, and plenty of room to set up a picnic, it’s one of the city’s favorite places for relaxing on a sunny afternoon.

Take a stroll around the park and get in a little people watching before you head to the next stop. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, don’t miss the farmer’s market that happens from 10 am-2 pm. There are lot of delicious treats from local vendors. We particularly enjoy the to-die-for brownies from Second Daughter Baking Co. and the fresh made apple cider donuts that are available from Hands on the Earth Orchard in the winter.

Magic Gardens

Passageway covered in mosaics.
A passageway in Magic Gardens

A visit to Magic Gardens is a singular experience. This unique location is part museum, part artwork, and all fantasy. Its creator, artist Isaiah Zagar, has constructed an environment full of whimsical mosaics and reclaimed items like bicycle spokes and glass bottles. Wandering through it, you never know what you’ll find next.

With indoor and outdoor components, Magic Gardens spans half a city block and has mosaics spilling down staircases, lining passageways, and covering the walls. It’s a sight to behold.

Mural Mile

Mural on the side of a building featuring bright trees and gardens.
Garden of Delight by David Guinn

If you’re interested in more contemporary art, take a walk around the neighborhood. Not only will you find more unexpected Zagar mosaics, you’ll see part of the Mural Mile.

Mural Arts Philadelphia has worked to create over 3000 murals around the city, and there are several near Magic Gardens that are part of the Mural Mile—a self-guided walking tour in Center City that features 17 murals. With a full weekend in Philadelphia, you will probably see a handful of the murals on your walks, but this map can help ensure you don’t miss any near you on the Mural Mile.

Reading Terminal Market

Signs for businesses in a food market.
The sights and colors of Reading Terminal Market

If you’re ready for lunch, now is a great time to visit Reading Terminal Market. This historic spot is a Philadelphia landmark that dates from 1893, and a visit here is one of the top things to do in the city.

In the bustling market space, there are over 100 vendors who feed locals and tourists every day from 8am to 6pm. You can find Philly classic foods like cheesesteak and DiNic’s roast pork sandwich along with Pennsylvania Dutch specialties and cuisines from all over the world. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth the time to browse here. If you’re just looking for a snack, get one of the excellent pretzels from Miller’s Twist. We can never visit Reading Terminal without indulging in at least one.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gold colored buildings with large columns.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the most recognizable buildings

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must for art lovers visiting the city. With more than 240,000 works, it is one of the largest art museums in the country. The museum’s collection spans 2000 years of human history from ancient times to modern day.

Visitors can see everything from medieval armor and a 14th-century Buddhist temple to paintings by Van Gogh and photography from Pennsylvania native Andy Warhol. The permanent collection is extensive and temporary exhibits bring in the best in art, architecture, and fashion design.

Rocky fans will want to see the statue of the famous fictional boxer out front and take a quick sprint up the museum’s steps.

If you need even more art in your life, the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation are both nearby. The Rodin Museum houses the largest collection of the sculptor’s work outside of France, and the Barnes Foundation is a glorious collection of artistic greats, including Matisse, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and many others.

Cira Green

Skyline view of buildings at sunset.
View of the city from Cira Green

Cira Green offers a unique view of downtown. This sprawling rooftop park overlooks the west side of Center City from 12 stories up. Free to visit, it’s a fun place to hang out for a little while and to see the skyline at practically eye level.

In season, the park runs lots of special events, often projecting movies and sports on their massive screen. There is also a restaurant and bar offering sandwiches and drinks, so you can make a picnic or happy hour out of the experience.

Dinner at Vedge

Bread and dip on a table.
Vegan specialties at Vedge

Critically acclaimed Vedge is one of our favorite restaurants. As the name hints, everything here is vegan, but you would almost never know it. All the dishes are so good, you won’t miss the meat. We love the rutabaga fondue, the grilled avocado, and anything mushroom. And everything else on the menu, too.

Vedge is very popular, so it’s best to try to book several weeks in advance, if possible.

Alternative: Bud & Marilyn’s describes its style as retro American, which is evident from the sleek 60s-style décor. The menu is filled with favorites like Marilyn’s fried chicken, fontina stuffed meatloaf, and shortrib stroganoff. Their cheese curds are also ridiculously delicious. Other great options in the immediate area include El Vez for Mexican and Barbuzzo for pizza and Mediterranean dishes.

Hop Sing Laundromat

Cocktail on a bar.
Andra Hem is a great place for a nightcap

If you’re up for a nightcap, check out Hop Sing Laundromat. This quirky speakeasy is known for its incredible cocktails and its strict rules, so make sure to check out the dress code and cellphone rules before you go. It’s worth it. Whatever you do, don’t take a photo and bring cash.

Alternatives: Other options we love back in Rittenhouse Square include two speakeasies–Franklin Mortgage and Andra Hem–as well as Library Bar at The Rittenhouse Hotel. Franklin Mortgage and Andra Hem both take reservations.

Where to Stay

If you book through the affiliate links below, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

Marriott Old City – An 8-minute walk from Independence Hall, this 4-star hotel is noted for its comfortable beds and helpful staff. There is an on-site restaurant, bar, and coffee bar.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco – This modern hotel in Old City offers a rooftop lounge and top-notch service. It’s known for its spa suites that include a soaking tub and for its views of Independence Mall.

Cambria Hotel Center City – Just south of City Hall, the Cambria is conveniently located to explore the whole city on your weekend visit. It offers cozy, modern accommodations and a rooftop bar and restaurant.

Sofitel at Rittenhouse Square – This upscale hotel in one of the nicest neighborhoods offers luxury accommodations and an on-site restaurant and lounge.

Getting Around

By Air: Philadelphia International Airport is just 7 miles from downtown. It is easy to take a cab or get a rideshare from the airport to Center City. The SEPTA Regional Rail, which runs every half-hour, also stops at the airport and goes to several stops downtown.

By Train: Philadelphia is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service, which also serves Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

By Rideshare: Uber and Lyft are both available in the city from the airport and to connect sites on this itinerary.

By Taxi: Taxis are widely available downtown.

2 thoughts on “A Fun Weekend in Philadelphia: 2-Day Itinerary”

  1. This is an excellent post! We just got back today from Philly and did most of the first-day list. We stayed at Kimpton, right next to Independence Hall. Most things on the list were altered right now. I would add the Ben Franklin house and museum and The Franklin Institute.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *