Let us tell you everything you need to know about Philly. (Graphic: Ryan McCullah)
Lounge in the lap of luxury at The Rittenhouse. (Photo: Rittenhouse Hotel)
Even a splurge is relatively affordable in Philadelphia, and The Rittenhouse has all the qualities of a great luxury hotel: privacy, impeccable service, delicious linens, and bright tubes of Acqua di Parma potions in the shower. It also has, arguably, the best location in the city, right on Rittenhouse Square, Philly’s elegant green heart, with its French fountains, weekly year-round farmers’ market, and cafés like Parc that are packed, day and night.
210 West Rittenhouse Square
Rates from $299 per night
New and Cool
You’ll want to take the whole bedroom set here home with you. (Photo: Hotel Monaco Philadelphia)
Leave it to Philly to have a hotel with a stylish but not rowdy rooftop bar that is also a great place for children. Hotel Monaco is Philadelphia’s newest Kimpton property, a riot of visual joy down to its Tiffany blue armoires in the lobby, white leather headboards on the beds, and Rocky sweatshirt bathrobes instead of those stiff terrycloth ones. It’s perched right over Independence Mall, and you can see down to the Liberty Bell from some of the rooms. The hotel offers backpacks for children and a pan-Philly scavenger hunt for kids to explore the city while learning its deep history.
433 Chestnut Street
Rates from $129 per night
Old-School Boutique Stay
Everything in Philadelphia is charming. (Photo: Morris House Hotel)
When you duck into the Morris House Hotel in the leafy enclave on Washington Square West, you immediately feel the essence of Philadelphia. Once a colonial residence, now restored with meticulous detail, the Morris comes with its own history book telling the story of the home that was once “the center of Philadelphia’s social and cultural life.” Today, it is warmly decorated with period furniture, and in the cold months the many fireplaces crackle with blazes.
225 South Eighth Street
Rooms from $222 per night
You can’t go wrong at the Radisson. (Photo: Radisson Blu Hotels & Resorts)
The Radisson Blu is the first property in the design-conscious chain to be a conversion — in this case, of the Warwick Hotel. Built in 1926 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this Center City hotel, steps from Rittenhouse Square, has an impossibly chic and airy lobby with a 24-foot ceiling, as well as pretty rooms with Barcelona chairs and ingenious headboard collages decorated with Philadelphia cultural and historical references.
220 South 17th Street
Rooms from $161 per night
Old-Fashioned Grown-Up Fun
Frankford Hall has everything from Jenga to beer pong. (Photo: Frankford Hall/Facebook)
For several years now, Fishtown, a residential neighborhood of urban gardens and tidy homes, has been having its Williamsburg-style renaissance. Craft-brew bars, coffee shops, and some of the best new restaurants in Philly are taking hold in this quiet enclave, including Frankford Hall, a German-style beer garden in a soaring brick warehouse with what seems like acres of outdoor tables. With knockwurst, bratwurst, potato pancakes, pretzels, and beer for the grown-ups, Frankford Hall offers a laid-back atmosphere.
1210 Frankford Avenue, 215-634-3338
Food Truck of Your Dreams
Philly street dining is not to be missed. (Photo: Sugar Philly/Facebook)
One of the most remarkable places to eat in the City of Brotherly Love is the Sugar Philly parked near the University of Pennsylvania. Yes, there are surprising and delicious flavors of macarons, but what makes these the freshest macs anywhere is that an attendant squeezes ganache from a pastry bag and sandwiches them to order.
38th Street between Walnut and Sansom Streets
Make sure you make a reservation at Vernick. (Photo: Vernick Food & Drink)
The spare, casual setting of Vernick Food & Drink is the ideal backdrop for some of Philly’s most elegant and perfectly prepared cuisine. Chef and owner Greg Vernick takes simple cuisine and makes it sing. You could easily be satisfied by his gorgeous open-faced creations — peas and bacon, or pickled ramps with fontina cheese on a slab of sourdough toast — but then you’d miss the Amish chicken crisped in a wood-fired oven.
2013 Walnut Street, 267-639-6644
Quick and Tasty
You won’t want to eat hummus anywhere else ever again. (Photo: Dizengoff/Facebook)
August 2014 saw the opening of Dizengoff, a casual — meaning the seating consists of a few picnic tables — spot in Center City, by the brilliant Michael Solomonov (of Zahav and Federal Donuts fame). It opens at 10:30 a.m., so go early for some of the best hummus you will ever eat, topped with wax beans and Israeli masabacha, or roasted zebra tomatoes and lovage pesto. Behind the counter, they are busy rolling out pita bread that will be served fresh from the oven.
1625 Sansom Street, 215-867-0088
Just looking at the menu at Sbraga will make your mouth water. (Photo: Sbraga Dining)
This is a tough call in a city with some of America’s most ambitious food and plenty of “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” contenders. The 2010 “Top Chef D.C.” winner, Kevin Sbraga, has two excellent restaurants so far — The Fat Ham, with small plates of stick-to-your-bones Southern food, including a knee-weakening mac and cheese with barbecue chip crust; and Sbraga, a buzzy spot in the theater district with expertly prepared dishes, including a sublime bucatini with blue crab and succulent spring lamb served with crispy kale.
The Fat Ham, 3131 Walnut Street, 215-735-1914
Sbraga, 440 South Broad Street, 215-735-1913
The bartenders at Franklin Mortgage are more scientist than mixologist. (Photo: The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co./Facebook)
Philly is traditionally a beer town, but Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. has rendered it a cocktail city as well. There are a total of 450 house drinks featured 30 at a time on the menu, which changes every three months. Creativity, precision, vision, the cozy bar is almost a think tank for new directions in mixology. The bartenders, more like food chemists, will integrate ingredients as disparate as condensed milk, tincture of pink peppercorn, and pear tea syrup into their creations, which will open (and blow) your mind.
112 South 18th Street, 267-467-3277
There are few things as lovely as a Maxfield Parrish mural. (Photo: Bruce Anderson/WikiMedia Commons)
This is an easy detour and it’s free. The lobby at the Curtis Publishing Company building contains one of the gems of Philadelphia — “Dream Garden,” a 15-by-49-foot glass-tile-mosaic mural designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany after a painting by the renowned Philadelphia nature artist Maxfield Parrish. Installed in 1916, it is an ethereal landscape of soft blues, pinks, and greens, and a breath of pure air in a crowded city.
601 Walnut Street in the lobby of the Curtis Center, 215-238-6450
Primp and Preen
You’ll want to look good for your big night out. (Photo: Salon Vanity by Edmondo Blando/Facebook)
Grooming while traveling (GWT) can be a somewhat overlooked commodity, and a hotel will not always send you to the best salon. Lauren Monaghan at Vanity by Edmondo Blando does a truly spectacular blowout with the “brush set” method, whereby she uses a series of thick round brushes like curlers to create a gorgeous, swoopy, and never-overdone head of hair.
1701 Walnut Street, Third Floor, 215-925-2211
Blowouts start at $40.
A Perfect Art Museum
The Barnes is one of the most incredible museums you will ever visit. (Photo: Susan Sermoneta/Flickr)
The Barnes Foundation houses one of the world’s most extensive collections of Cézannes, Matisses, Modiglianis, and Renoirs, hung dizzyingly from ceiling to floor. It’s one of Philly’s treasures, free on the first Sunday of every month. Go when the cashier opens at 9 a.m. to get your ticket and time of entrance.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-278-7200
Run Like Rocky, Stay for the Art
How fast can you run up these steps? (Photo: Peter Miller/Flickr)
Sure, everyone needs to run once up the Rocky steps at the stately Philadelphia Museum of Art, but the real reward is the world-class collection inside, with a massive renewal by architect Frank Gehry under way. One $20 ticket is good for two days for entrance and includes the Rodin Museum, the only space dedicated to the French sculptor outside of France, as well as the Perelman Building, with its astonishing design and photography exhibits.
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-763-8100
Sophisticated Evening Out
The streets are packed on First Fridays. (Photo: B. Krist for GPTMC/Philadelphia Tourism/Flickr)
Once, people visited Old City just to see Betsy Ross’s house. Today, it’s one of the most sophisticated neighborhoods in Philly, with high-end restaurants and cutting-edge boutiques like United By Blue and Erdon inside lovely old buildings. The neighborhood’s artsy vibe comes to life on First Fridays, a year-round gallery open house the first Friday evening of the month, celebrating the creative hum between Front and Third, and Market and Vine Streets.
What’s big and purple and makes sharp left turns? (Photo: J. Fusco/Visit Philadelphia)
If you wish to see any, some, or all of Philadelphia’s most iconic sites, the hop-on-hop-off purple Phlash bus is wildly efficient and economical — an all-day pass is $5. The bus stops at 20 of the city’s most important places, including museums, Eastern State Penitentiary, Chinatown, and the Reading Terminal Market (where you should divert for the best grilled cheese ever, at Melt).