Philadelphia/Center City West

Philadelphia's Center City West is the downtown area west of City Hall. It contains downtown's upscale shopping district, the financial district, and the museum district along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, culminating in the Philadelphia Art Museum and Fairmount Park.

49 things to do

All Places United States Pennsylvania



The Comcast Center

Opened in 2008, at 975 feet tall, the Comcast Center is Philadelphia's tallest skyscraper and the headquareters of the cable provider. The building features a public plaza with a gorgeous fountain display, a dramatic eight-story “Winter Garden” and an energy-saving “glass curtain” that wraps around the Comcast Center, allowing for a 360° view of Philadelphia’s urban landscape. The building has also unveiled a Sony Style Comcast Labs Store, which includes an “Interactive Technology Lab” that is open to the public. The lobby has garnered attention as a tourist attraction. At first glance, the north wall of its lobby appears to be a wood veneer wall, but actually, it's a massive 2,000 square feet high-definition LED screen that's just ''displaying'' a picture of a wood veneer wall. Wait a minute, and a dancing figure might appear on the wall, or the entire wall might fade out and be replaced with a photograph or a video show. The computer-generated images are so realistic, you’ll think they’re jumping out of the wall. With a resolution 500% greater than that of an HD television, the Comcast Experience is a remarkable technological and artistic achievement. The video wall, a giant HD video screen that is actually the largest four-millimeter LED screen in the world, is located right in the building’s publicly accessible main lobby, so everyone can enjoy it. Visit during the holidays for special seasonal displays.


McGlinchy's

One of the few ''true'' dive bars in Center City. It's dirtier then you can imagine, and since the lighting is dim enough to be almost completely turned off, it's also dirtier then you can see. Right away, the staff genuinely doesn't like you. You will be a smoker as soon as you walk in, whether you smoke or not; McGlinchy's is one of the few bars that is exempt from the smoking ban and it's obvious from the door. The bathrooms are tiny and completely foul. You're better off not washing your hands, just to avoid touching as few things in there as possible. Fights are not uncommon, but the staff is always quick to pounce and drag it outside; McGlinchy's does not suffer fools. But the beer is ridiculously cheap, and the staff will warm up to you if you aren't an idiot, don't waste their time thinking about what you want to drink, and tip well. The crowd is often a mix of old barflys, blue collar after-workers and plenty of cute art school students. This is hands-down one of the best bars in Philly if you leave pretension at the door and roll with the vibe.

DRINK   —  +1 215 735-1259 —  259 S 15th St


Philadelphia Museum of Art

Famous on the outside for the steps seen in the film "Rocky" and famous on the inside for one of the world's largest collections of art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to many rotating collections as well as a standard selection of pieces always on display. The permanent collection is especially strong in Asian and medieval art, impressionist paintings, and furniture. The museum was founded in 1876 in conjunction with the Centennial Exposition of the same year and is now among the largest and most important art museums in the United States. It sits on a hill overlooking the Schuylkill River at the end of The Ben Franklin Parkway, which was modeled after the Champs Elysees in Paris. There's an impressive view back toward City Hall from the top of the "Rocky" steps. In addition, the PMA is opening a new exhibition space in the Perelman Building on Pennsylvania Ave which will display sculpture, costumes, textiles, prints, photographs, and design.


Rittenhouse Square

As close to a central park as one can get in Philadelphia. Only 4 blocks west of Broad St and the main business areas, it is an oasis in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by tall buildings, and there are many nice restaurants in the area. Summer concert schedules are listed in the park. The square was named after a patriotic leader David Rittenhouse. As you explore through the square you will see outdoor art exhibits, several art sculptures, annual flower markets, a reflecting pool, and many people having a picnic or watching their children play.



Rosenbach Museum and Library

Hourly tours (Tu-F, 11AM-4PM) take visitors through this fine old townhouse owned by a pair of rare-book dealers, which has grown into a museum and archive. The Maurice Sendak room, full of his sketches and pages, also contains Herman Melville's own bookcase, which holds the copy of Moby-Dick he inscribed to Hawthorne. A handsome double library on another floor holds Joyce's manuscript for Ulysses. On the top floor, poet Marianne Moore's Greenwich Village living room has been installed, to go along with the Rosenbach's trove of Moore papers.


Friday Saturday Sunday

A good neighborhood restaurant with regularly updated menu and good, reasonably priced wine list. The decor is dreamily intimate, with strings of twinkly white lights framing the room and, oddly enough, a huge aquarium that backs the bar upstairs and lights up the faces of the bar patrons with a faint glow. A great place for a romantic adventure or a date with an old friend. FriSatSun was a key contributor to Philly's 'restaurant renaissance' in the 70's, and is still going strong. Reservations recommended.

EAT   —  +1 215 546-4232 —  261 S 21st St


The Franklin Institute Science Museum

This museum attracts some of the top scientific exhibits in the world, including special exhibits that change every few months. Be sure to walk through the giant-sized human heart, a favorite with kids. Also features planetarium and the immense Tuttleman IMAX Theater and its four-story, domed screen with fifty-six speakers. This museum is incredibly popular with as a field trip destination for local schools, so be advised that mornings and early afternoons on weekdays may be crowded with schoolchildren.

SEE   —  +1 215 448-1200 —  222 N 20th St

Schuylkill River Park

The newest of the city's parks, but already becoming one of the most popular. For a century, Philadelphia's waterfronts were cut off from its residents by industry and an extensive system of railroads. Now gone for decades, the waterfront is a kaleidoscope of residential development, recreation, and good living. Center City's ongoing Renaissance is being charged by new amenities such as this urban river-side park, which carves its way deep into the city, culminating in South Philly.

DO   —  Map


The Dandelion

A perfect spot for a hearty dinner in a whimsical atmosphere. The idea behind Dandelion is a British gastropub, serving not only hearty food but also hearty beer. Order either the beer-battered fish and chips or the lamb shepherd’s pie. For dessert indulge in either the chocolate hot pot or the sticky toffee pudding. Dining at Dandelion is a relaxing way to end a jam-packed day.

EAT   —  +1 215 558-2500 —  124 S 18th St

Academy of Natural Sciences

Not just a natural history museum, this institution also has an active research arm and library. Highlights of the museum include a 2-story dinosaur exhibit, a butterfly walk-through area, and a children's nature center with live animals. It is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Americas.


Monk's

One of two of the best places to drink beer in Center City (the other one is Eulogy Tavern in Old City). Monk's has one of the largest beer varieties in the area, especially Belgian beer, with the right food to go with it (the burgers and mussels are standouts). Check their website to see the newest featured beer.

DRINK   —  +1 215 545-7005 —  264 S 16th St

Raven Lounge

A small bar just around the corner from Rittenhouse Square that's a lot of fun. Board games on the tables, affordable drinks, and a DJ mixing it up—once the night gets going, girls get on the bar itself because that's the only place left to dance! Other nights there will be live music or a live comedy show as well.

DRINK   —  +1 215 840-3577 —  1718 Sansom St

Parc Restaurant

One of Stephen Starr's many Philadelphia restaurants, located across from Rittenhouse Square and mimics the Parisian cafe scene in food, decor, and ample sidewalk seating. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is always busy, even on weekdays—don't any of these people have to work? Ah, just like Paris.

EAT   —  +1 215 545-2262 —  227 S 18th St

Jones Restaurant

The retro decor and shag rugs add to the fun atmosphere. This is a great spot for families and requires casual comfy attire. Make sure to start your meal off Jones’ famous monkey bread and a cup of coffee. The breakfast menu ranges from chocolate chip waffles, to eggs benedict, to huevos rancheros

EAT   —  700 Chestnut Street

The Mütter Museum

Originally open only to medical students, this collection of medical oddities is quickly becoming one of the city's most popular attractions. Not for the faint of heart, this museum includes lots of items in formaldehyde, lots of skeletons, and one of the only women to ever decompose into soap.

SEE   —  +1 215 563-3737 —  19 S 22nd St

Barnes Foundation

One of the world's most important collections of post-impressionist and modernist art, open in this location since 2012. Advance reservations strongly recommended (weeks in advance for week-end time slots); a limited number of tickets is available for same-day visits.


Table 31

There’s an outdoor bar/lounge area with a view of the city. Table 31’s outdoor lounge is a way to end off the night with a few drinks. They also offer an indoor lounge area that has a high-class look. One of the nicest ways to end the night is with a view of the city.


Walnut Bridge Coffee House

Besides the cashier's station and the small deli counter this small cafe is more like someone's tiny living room. Grab a cup of joe first thing in the morning or take a break on the couch during the day, but there's no wifi so catch up on e-mail somewhere else.

DRINK   —  +1 215 496-9003 —  2319 Walnut St

Village Whiskey

A beautifully decorated Victorian-era bar and restaurant by local restaurateur Jose Garces, which serves some of the best and juiciest burgers in Philadelphia. It's not the cheapest, and fries cost extra, but it's definitely worth it.

EAT   —  +1 215 665-1088 —  118 S 20th St

Fitler Square

Neighborhood has some good restaurants and pretty tree-lined streets. The charming 2400 block of Panama, supposedly, has been re-created on a Hollywood lot for the show "Cold Case." A Saturday morning farmers' market runs spring-fall.


Denim Lounge

One of Center City's most popular lounges with great DJs and a hip, young and fashionable crowd. However, recent reviews of service and drink prices in particular have placed this venue on the decline over the past several years.

DRINK   —  +1 215 735-6700 —  1712 Walnut St

The Shops at Liberty Place

On 16th and Chestnut, is an elegant shopping center with stores like Nine West, J.Crew, and Express. Many professionals stop by to get a bite to eat at its large food court and some quick shopping during the lunch hour.

BUY   —  Map

XIX

Actually a hotel bar and restaurant named for the floor it's on in a historic 1904 Beaux Arts building, it just might be the highest dining spot in the city with a giant outdoor balcony with a view of downtown.


Fairmount Park

Consists of 63 regional and neighborhood parks, spanning both Center City and part of western North Philly. When you want to get away from the city's hustle and bustle, there is always somewhere green to go.

DO   —  Map

Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

A luxury Kimpton hotel near Rittenhouse Square, with complimentary wifi and hosting an evening wine reception. A LEED registered building following eco-friendly, energy-efficient standards.


Capogiro

Artisanal gelato that reflects seasonal and local ingredients. Sample flavors: La Colombe cappuccino, Campari and grapefruit, muscat grape, hot pepper.


Continental Mid-town

Another Stephen Starr restaurant, located north of Rittenhouse Square. Fusion food in a brightly decorated, almost-but-not-quite retro diner.


La Colombe

Renowned Philadelphia-based coffee company's Rittenhouse cafe is a little slice of continental Europe in the City of Brotherly Love.

DRINK   —  130 S. 19th Street

Mama Palma's Gourmet Pizza

A cozy neighborhood gourmet pizzeria. This casual restaurant serves delicious pizza concoctions from the wood-fired brick oven.


LaVa

Relaxed feel, password given on purchase, a bit of a walking distance from Rittenhouse however.

OTHER   —  21st and South Street,

Nook Bakery & Coffee Bar

Coffeehouse and bakery operated by the owners of the former Walnut Bridge Coffee House.

DRINK   —  +1 215 496-9033 —  15 S 20th St

Rittenhouse 1715

Newly renovated boutique hotel. Seasonal and couples specials are available.

SLEEP   —  1715 Rittenhouse Square

Cosi

No password on internet, opens as late as 11 but lacks many power sockets.

OTHER   —  1720 Walnut Street,

Le Castagne Ristorante

A sophisticated Northern Italian Restaurant owned by the Sena Family.

EAT   —  1920 Chestnut St

Rodin Museum

Displays the largest collection of Rodin's work outside of Paris.


Erawan

Some of the best Thai food in Center City. They'll also deliver.

EAT   —  +1 215 567-2542 —  123 S 23rd St

Sheraton Philadelphia City Center

Just four blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

SLEEP   —  201 N 17th St

Free Library of Philadelphia (Central Library)

You'll need a library or a guest account.

OTHER   —  1901 Vine Street

Free Library of Philadelphia (Philadelphia City Institute Branch)

You'll need a library or a guest account.

OTHER   —  1905 Locust Street

Tuscany Cafe

No password, but also incredibly slow.


Scoop DeVille

a wonderful ice cream and sweets shop.


The Rittenhouse Hotel

A luxury 5-Diamond rated hotel.


Los Catrines & Tequilas Restaurant

Featuring over 100 tequilas.


Barclay Prime

Luxury boutique steakhouse.

EAT   —  237 S 18th St

Matyson

EAT   —  37 S 19th St

About Philadelphia/Center City West

When Philadelphia was first settled, the core of the city was on the eastern part of the city, nearby the Delaware River, in what is now Old City. City founder William Penn plotted out the entire grid street structure of Center City from the Delaware to the Schuylkill Rivers so that the city would develop in an organized fashion, and over time the city did extend development westward and beyond. Since Old City was originally where the business and market areas were concentrated, much of the western half of Center City became the residential neighborhood. A lot of the housing stock dates from the 1800s, when wealthy businessmen built their homes alongside communities of working-class neighborhoods. In the 1950s, Philadelphia began to expand the business district westward as well, and with the University of Pennsylvania located just across the Schuylkill River, the area has retained its desirability for many residents. In particular, '''Rittenhouse Square''' is surrounded by high-rise apartment towers housing the moneyed elite, and the neighboring blocks have long been one of the most desirable residential locations in Philadelphia. Fortunately, the park itself has retained a unique ability to exclude no one, no small feat considering Philadelphia's history of tension between different racial and social classes. On any given day, especially weekends and in the summer, the park will be populated and used by just about anyone and everyone. Commercial businesses came westward with the planning of '''Penn Center''', a rather unwelcoming business district west of City Hall just north of Market Street. However, this enabled other commercial development to occur in the area, and in 1985 '''One Liberty Place''' became the first building to break the unofficial height limit in Philadelphia, which was top of Penn's hat on City Hall. With a ground floor mall at the base of the building, this development helped spur retail development, which in turn contributed to the reversal of urban blight and flight in the early 1990s. Today, the three blocks north of Rittenhouse Square (Walnut, Sansom and Chestnut Streets) and eastward to Broad Street is Center City's '''upscale shopping district,''' where fashionable clothing brands have established a presence. In addition, many restaurants, bars and nightlife destinations are located in this particular area as well. North of the business district is the spectacular '''Benjamin Franklin Parkway''', a grand boulevard that begins at the famous '''LOVE Park''' near City Hall and continues northwest, through '''Logan Circle''', and ends at the '''Philadelphia Art Museum''' and '''Fairmount Park'''. Designed in 1917, the Parkway is one of the city's earliest urban renewal projects and takes many of its cues from similar boulevards in France. Today, the parkway is the spine on which most of the city's museums are located.


Source: wikivoyage