Philadelphia/Center City East

City Center East is the most dense section of Philadelphia, home to City Hall, the Convention Center, Chinatown, Washington Square West, and Gayborhood.

39 things to do

All Places United States Pennsylvania


The word "charming" is not nearly enough to describe Zinc, which strives to recreate the kind of neighborhood eatery found in the Marais district of Paris to a T. Food is classic French, of course, as is the decor, which includes a 1919 zinc bar that chef and owner Olivier Desaintmartin had shipped from France. Drinks include many hard-to-find French wines and liqueurs, and the staff are warm and personable. In 2007, Zinc won Best Restaurant of the Year from Philadelphia Magazine.

EAT   —  +1 215 351-9901 —  246 S 11th St


The sexy little Lolita has won heaps of praise since it opened, including Best Margaritas in Philadelphia, which is saying a lot for a BYOB (you bring the bottle of tequila, they do the rest). The menu is "nuevo-Mexican," which is to say, a very elegant twist on south-of-the-border fare. Prices are good for food this delicious, and everyone else in Philadelphia knows it too, so be prepared for a wait on Friday or Saturday (no reservations accepted then).

EAT   —  +1 215 546-7100 —  106 S 13th St

Reading Terminal Market

America's oldest farmer's market is a bustling indoor public market hall, with produce markets, bakeries, arts and crafts, a beer garden, and virtually every type of cuisine present. Be sure to make some time to stroll around and sample as much as you can. Despite the market's stated hours, individual vendors operate their own schedules; some restaurants will be open for dinner, and some, particular the Pennsylvania Dutch shops, are closed on Sundays.

EAT   —  12th and Arch Sts

Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

This museum, "where history inspires the future," is located just around the corner from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, features a hands-on and comprehensive history of America's "birthplace" and founding city. Unique to the museum is a "walkable" map of the region on the floor of the museum. In minutes, you can walk between suburban Montgomery County and the heart of Philadelphia in Center City!

SEE   —  +1 215 685-4830 —  15 S 7th St

Bassett's Ice Cream

A local ice cream brand that has operated the same store at the same location in Reading Terminal Market since it opened in 1893, and has the distinction of being America's oldest ice cream company. While Bassett's is available at many other restaurants and supermarkets, this is the only retail outlet carrying the Bassett's name. The ice cream itself is rich, creamy and delicious.

EAT   —  Map

Academy of Music

The Academy is the oldest grand opera house in the United States still being used for its original purpose. The Academy also provides the Philadelphia area with interesting and popular concerts, ballets, Broadway shows, and other events. Tours of the Academy, focusing on its inspiring history and current renovations, are available by contacting the manager's office.


Effie's is one of two well-known Greek restaurants east of Broad St., though it's more unassuming than Kanella and looks like part of an ordinary rowhouse. Inside, a bright but cozy atmosphere awaits either inside or outside on the courtyard patio in back. While the food isn't particularly inventive, it wins points for making basic Greek dishes excellent. BYOB.

EAT   —  +1 215 592-8333 —  1127 Pine St


It's hard not to see Kanella coming a mile away, what with its bright blue exterior and white Greek lettering. Yes, the food is Cypriot-Greek, and unlike most Greek places, you can eat three meals a day there if you're so inclined. Which you may very well be after eating dinner once. Semi-casual, spare, elegant decor and friendly service. BYOB.

Marriott Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown

Re-opened after a grand $75 million restoration. This 18-story, 498-room Philadelphia hotel opened in 1926 and is listed on the "National Register of Historic Places". The hotel now integrates state-of-the-art systems with unique architectural details like coffered plaster, stunning bronze work and striking marble finishes.

SLEEP   —  +1 215 496-3200 —  21 N Juniper St

The Gallery at Market East

Located atop a major transit hub (the Market East Station on the SEPTA Regional Rail system), this oh-so-dated urban shopping mall (primarily useful as an underground pedestrian pathway between the subway station at 8th Street and Market East) in was closed in late 2015 for extensive renovations expected to last into 2017.

BUY   —  +1 215 625-4962 —  901 Market St


Bon Appetit magazine has said that this small, very upscale place is "probably the best Italian restaurant in America." 'Nuff said. But in case you need to hear it from the locals, the Philadelphia Inquirer has named it one of the top 5 restaurants in the city, along with Le Bec Fin and a few others.

The Mask and Wig Club

Mask and Wig has presented comedy, music, and dancing to the University of Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia and to audiences across the country since 1889 and is a legend amongst Philadelphia theatre-goers. Each spring, Mask and Wig performs a full-length musical comedy at its historic Clubhouse.

Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Terminal Market is home to many of Pennsylvania's Amish merchants who sell their goods. Here, you can find some of the best baked goods and the freshest organic produce in the region. Additionally, the market features cheesesteaks and other non-Amish restaurants and shops.

Sang Kee Peking Duck

One of the best places to eat in Chinatown. The Peking duck is, obviously, what Sang Kee is famous for, but other delights abound, like wonton noodle soup and pork spare ribs. Unpretentious, casual surroundings and brisk service. Great for big groups.

EAT   —  +1 215 925-7532 —  238 N 9th St

David's Mai Lai Wah

Excellent American Chinese food (with an even better non-Americanized menu for the adventurous); even the Americanized dishes are less so than you might expect, and some oddball dishes do appear on the regular menu. Open late, and a very nice staff.

EAT   —  +1 215 627-2610 —  1001 Race St

Yakitori Boy

A Japanese restaurant, with a karaoke bar and lounge upstairs. You can either rent private rooms, which are pricey but worth it with a large group of friends, or if you're brave enough, get your drink on and then sign up to sing publicly at the bar.

DRINK   —  +1 215 923-8088 —  211 N 11th St

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

A school that has had an impressive roster of artist alumni in the past 200 years, including some of the best-known names in American art. Its museum shows works from past and present PAFA students and faculty, as well as regular special exhibits.

Dirty Frank's

One of the contenders for best dive bar in the city. Everything you could want: an eclectic, scruffy crowd both old and young, gay and straight, pinball, darts, random crap stuck up all over the bar, wisecracking bartender, cheap drinks.

DRINK   —  +1 215 732-5010 —  347 S 13th St


One of the market's most popular restaurants, specializing in the Philadelphia roast pork sandwich (served with sharp provolone and greens); also serves roast beef sandwiches. Lines tend to be extraordinarily long.

EAT   —  Map

Walnut Street Theatre

America's oldest theatre celebrated its 200th anniversary season in 2009. Shows regularly sell out, and travelers are advised to buy in advance. The theater is a self-producing, non-profit regional theater.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and 8 blocks from Independence Hall, this Center City Philadelphia hotel is located near dining, shopping, business, & cultural attractions.

SLEEP   —  +1 215 625-2900 —  1201 Market St

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the most famous and widely traveled orchestras in the world. Performs in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

DO   —  Map

Shanghai Bazaar

Two floors of random Chinese merchandise; the upstairs has a lot of music, books, and DVDs. They also have a man in back that does Chinese massage and acupressure.

BUY   —  +1 215 629-8398 —  1016 Race St

El Fuego

The best advertisement for this hip burrito shop is the long line that develops inside every weekday at lunchtime.

EAT   —  +1 215 592-1901 —  723 Walnut St

Wanamaker Organ

The largest operational musical instrument in the world is played twice a day in the store, six days each week.

SEE   —  1300 Market St

Old City Coffee

One of the two branches is located inside the '''Reading Terminal Market''' serving good coffee.

DRINK   —  +1 215 592-1897 —  1136 Arch St

Kimmel Center

Showcases a variety of performing arts from chamber music, dance, drama, orchestral, jazz & pop.

Spataro's Cheesesteaks

One of the best cheesesteaks at the market. Long lines, especially around lunch.

EAT   —  +1 215 925-6833 —  Map

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Built to preserve, interpret, and exhibit achievements of African Americans.

SEE   —  +1 215 574-0380 —  701 Arch St

The Trocadero

Typically features indie/alternative acts and local acts.


A gay bar with 3 different rooms to satisfy everyone.

DRINK   —  +1 215 545-1893 —  202 S 13th St

Alexander Inn

In a bohemian section of Washington Square West.

SLEEP   —  +1 215 923-3535 —  301 S 12th St


A lesbian bar in the Gayborhood.

Giovanni's Room

An LGBT bookstore.

BUY   —  +1 215 923-2960 —  345 S 12th St

About Philadelphia/Center City East

Gayborhood is located within Center City East. It is a square, taking up from about Broad and Walnut about 11th and Pine. Gayborhood is comprised of bars, restaurants and has a bookstore with its very own history: Giovanni's Room (James Baldwin wrote a book with this title; he based it on the bookstore). Some places that attract large crowds are Woody's (Wednesday is college night), Pure and 12th Street Gym.

Chinatown is also located within Center City East, just blocks away from the Convention Center and Reading Terminal. Compared to the Chinatown of other cities, Philadelphia's is fairly small. An important landmark to the town is the Friendship Gate, located at 10th and Arch streets. Chinatown is filled with restaurants, bakeries and gift shops. Some restaurants include Penang, Sang Kee, Banana Leaf and Tai Lake. Bakeries include Asia Bakery, Hong Kong Bakery, Mong Kok Station Bakery and KC Pastries. Many goods include milk tea, bubble tea (also known as boba tea) egg tarts, pork buns, steamed buns, chicken buns and pineapple buns.

Washington Square West is also located within Center City East: 7th to Broad Street, Chestnut to South Street, squished in between Rittenhouse Square and Old City/Society Hill. Home of Antique Row and Mid-Town Village, two great shopping districts. Historic cobbled streets, theaters, restaurants and more.

Source: wikivoyage