What Is Philadelphia Known For? The fifth-largest city in the US and the largest in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia was originally known as Quaker City. William Penn, founder of the American Commonwealth of Pennsylvania named the city Philadelphia after his arrival in 1682. The new name was a tribute to the quaker’s belief in patience and love.
So, what is Philadelphia known for? We’ll take you on a trip to show you the city’s most famous landmarks, products, and people.
Philadelphia holds the honor of being one of America’s most preeminent historical cities. It is here that the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was written. The city has a history that goes back to 1682 when William Penn first stepped off a boat on the Delaware River.
The Philadelphia of today is a modern city with all the modern conveniences you would expect. It’s also a city of surprises with some of the best street art you’ll find anywhere in the world. Yet, Philadelphia also holds onto its history. It has dozens of art galleries and museums. Beautiful examples of colonial architecture lay scattered throughout the city.
Philly also has a wonderfully vibrant food and entertainment scene. The many home-grown products make Philadelphia something special. So, let’s start our journey.
The Name of the City and its Construction Height Restrictions
Philadelphia is a mix of two Greek words, phileo meaning love, and adelphos meaning brother. Hence the “City of Brotherly Love”.
The statue of William Penn, the city’s founding father, stands proudly upon the city hall. For years his hat was the tallest construction anywhere in the city. No building was permitted to surpass its height. It was only in 1986, with the building of the Liberty Place skyscraper, that this height limit was, at last, transcended.
Now you can get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Liberty Observation Deck on the 57th floor of the One Liberty Observation Building. It is an important stopover for any visitors to the city. Each floor in the building also contains different themed displays.
What Is Philadelphia Known for Historically?
Philadelphia is the only city in the United States to claim the honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage city. This is thanks to the nation-building activities that took place right here.
The Independence Historic National Park is where most of the action took place. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed and the American Constitution developed. The Park is home to the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center, Carpenter’s Hall, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
It was at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. This is also where the Constitution of the United States was penned, discussed, and signed in 1787.
The Liberty Bell found its first home in Independence Hall, though now it is in a tower across the street. The building was once known as the Philadelphia State Building. Independence House has interactive museum displays. They tell the story of how the country grew from a British colony into the United States of America.
The Liberty Bell
Cast by the French, the Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of the freedom of the United States. It was once a valued symbol of the civil rights movement, supporters of Independence women’s suffrage, and anti-slave activists. The bell contains an inscription. It reads “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” It chimed on the 8th of January 1776, to call together Philadelphia citizens to hear the first recital of the Declaration of Independence.
Today the bell is never struck because it developed a crack when first it was rung. A second crack followed and today the crack runs down most of one side of the bell.
What is Philadelphia Known For? Iconic Places
There are plenty of places to go and things to do in Philadelphia. Here are just a few
In designing Philadelphia, William Penn made sure that the citizens would have no shortage of green spaces. He included five squares that would serve as parks.
Rittenhouse Square is, perhaps, the most beautiful. Manicured Gardens, a summer fountain, and plenty of seating invite families to enjoy the lovely surroundings. The park is situated in one of the best restaurant zones in the city and there are plenty of high-end shops in the streets that surround the park.
Fairmont Park near the city center covers more than 2,000 acres of land. It boasts miles of hiking and biking trails. It also contains a Japanese garden, ancient mansions, and the oldest zoo in the United States.
If you’re looking for Boathouse Row, you’ll find that here too. Besides biking or strolling through the park, you can also take outdoor yoga classes or a guided trail run for a small fee. If you don’t have your bike, you can hire one
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Rocky Balboa and the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Rocky Balboa is a hero in Philadelphia. A statue of the film character stands proudly on the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Visitors to the city make a point of taking the victory run up the “Rocky Steps” in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The Museum of Arts is well worth a visit. It has an extensive collection of impressionist art including works by Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet. It also contains textiles, sculptures, and photo collections. Structural exhibits include a Japanese teahouse, a 16th-century Indian Temple Hall, and a Chinese Palace Hall. Built in 1876, the stunning building is itself a work of art.
Unusual Museums in Philadelphia
As you would expect a historical city like Philadelphia has its fair share of museums. Here you will find the Barnes Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Penn Museum, the Franklin Institute, and the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art to name but a few. There are also a couple of fairly unusual museums in the city. Let’s take a look.
Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Housed in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum started in 1858, with its first collection of donated specimens. The collection has grown over the years and it now contains 25,000 pieces that span two stories.
The collection includes specimens, medical instruments, and wax models. This is not a museum for the faint of heart. It contains both interesting and stomach-turning components like human organs. Displays include a collection of amputation instruments that date back to the Civil War.
Al Capone’s cell in the Eastern State Penitentiary
Al Capone’s first experience of jail was in the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. He spent seven months in the prison after being arrested in May 1929. You can visit his small, yet comfortable cell, as part of a guided tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum.
National Museum of American Jewish History
Established in 1976 as a small, intimate museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History expanded in 2010. It now proudly displays three and a half floors of Jewish memorabilia.
The iconic museum boasts more than 30,000 artifacts, telling the story of Jewish people since the first group arrived in the country in 1654. A walk through the museum takes visitors through historical events and concludes with a Hall of Fame.
The Delaware River Waterfront
The Delaware River waterfront comprises a number of parks and piers. Here you can take a stroll or a cycle along the river, stop for a beer or shop and eat at the many establishments that line the piers. In recent years the city has developed the area to include outdoor areas, beer gardens, and an outdoor roller and ice skating venue.
The Home of the Love Sculpture
You’ll find the love statue in John F Kennedy Park (also known as Love Park). Robert Indiana created the iconic Love statue in 1976. A lick of paint gave the statue new life in 2018 and the garden was redesigned at the same time. The city also added a new water feature. This is the perfect Instagram photo opportunity for modern-day lovers, and it’s not the only Love statue in the city. There is another on the University of Pennsylvania campus and a Spanish Amor statue at Sister Cities Park, a six-minute walk away.
Reading Terminal Market
Established in 1892, Reading Terminal Market is America’s oldest continuously operated farmer’s market. It’s located inside a National Historic Landmark Building. Here you’ll find a huge selection of produce, meats cheeses, seafood, and confectionery. The original market has been expanded to include a wide variety of restaurants from all corners of the globe so come hungry, you’re bound to find something tempting on offer.
The Mummers’ Parade Ringing in the New Year
Every New Year, for more than a century, the distinctive and ostentatious Mummers’ Parade has taken to the streets of Philly. On New Year’s Day dancers and musicians, dressed in elaborate costumes make their way down Broad Street to delight spectators with their antics. Fancy floats trundle along with the performers, showcasing their artistic skills.
This is a competition and every one of the Mummers wants to win. Here, clubs belonging to the New Year’s Association compete in various categories. These include Fancies, Comics, Stringed Bands, Wench Brigades and Fancy Brigades.
The parade has its origins in 17th century UK and Irish traditional Mummer’s Plays.
Abundant Street Art Displays
Philadelphia is a colorful place with a vibrant art scene. Some consider it the mural capital of the world.
Mural Arts Philadelphia has been encouraging and promoting the development of street art for years. The city also retains more than 1% of its annual budget for public art on buildings funded by the local council. As a result, more than 4,000 colorful artworks paint the city walls in energetic colors. With so many murals, there is always some work of art worth seeing. Regular trolley buses take art lovers’ street art tours around the city. There are places like the Magical Gardens filled with cool artsy walls, and Plane at the Art District.
The Nostalgic Old City
Every city has a historic section and Philadelphia is no exception. Close to the Delaware River, the Old City offers a mix of cafes, boutiques, restaurants, and a fair number of historic buildings too. Here, you’ll find the country’s oldest residential street. Elfreth’s Alley dates back to 1702. Pay a visit to the museum that goes by the same name while you’re there. Also in the area, Christ’s Church is been in business since 1695. Famous historical figures like George Washington and Ben Franklin have graced its hallowed aisles.
Ninth Street Italian Market
The oldest outdoor market in America, the Italian market is open year-round and it’s free to enter. The enormous market contains more than 200 businesses and covers twenty blocks. It is full of vendors cooking up the most delicious fragrances and flavors. Here you’ll find baked delicacies, meat, cheese, fish, and fresh produce.
Philadelphia has a strong Italian heritage so Italian food is always on the menu. Just remember that Philadelphians call pasta sauce, gravy.
Though this market is vibrant and stimulating throughout the year, May is a standout. Every Saturday and Sunday the market opens up to the biggest block party in Philadelphia. The festival showcases music, and dance. Local arts and crafts are also up for sale.
What Is Philadelphia Known For Food?
Philadelphia is famous for its food. The city boasts dozens of fine dining restaurants. The cuisine carries the influence of the many immigrants who have called the city home. From Germans to Italians and Irish to Dutch and more recently South East Asians all have left an indelible imprint on the food culture of the city. Still, there are some foods that are uniquely Philly.
Philadelphia’s most famous food is, without question, the cheesesteak. Invented in 1930 by Pat Olivieri of Pat’s Steaks. This simple sandwich is made from a long crispy bread roll stuffed with a thinly sliced porterhouse steak. Add fried onion, sweet peppers, and mushrooms and you have a sandwich made in heaven.
The cheese loading remains contested. The jury is out on the choice between American, Cheez Whiz, and Provolone. Pat’s King of Steaks still serves the 1930s sandwich that made Pat famous. A little way down the street, Geno’s Steaks puts up strong competition. Both establishments draw thousands of hungry people to their doors each year.
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Scapple is a delicious mixture of pork, cornmeal, and spices. This breakfast feast finds its origins among the Philadelphia Dutch. You’ll find it in cafes and on breakfast menus across the city. Another breakfast favorite is the pork roll. Thick slices of processed pork meat are a great companion to eggs for breakfast.
The Hoagie is a Philly signature dish. It’s a crisp roll stuffed with layers of cold meats, cheese, and salad vegetables. These fresh sub sandwiches are simply delicious.
The Philly Pretzel is different from any you may have eaten in Germany. Philly pretzels are wound onto a figure of eight rather than into the typical German loop. The Philly pretzel is soft and buttery. It’s a Philadelphia staple. Locals love them with a smear of mustard. Philadelphia pretzels find their origins in the Quaker German tradition.
The Pork Roll
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Almost as famous as Philadelphia’s cheesesteak, the steak roll is a meal you shouldn’t miss in Philly. It consists of an Italian hoagie roll filled with loads of thinly sliced roast pork. Add to that broccoli rabe and provolone and you have a delicious Philadelphia pork roll.
Invented in this great city, stromboli has Italian origins. It is a type of wrap or pizza base filled with Italian meats and cheeses like salami and mozzarella. A stromboli is usually rolled up with the filling inside the roll.
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What dessert is Philadelphia known for?
It seems Philadelphians have a sweet tooth. There are several favorite desserts that you can sink your teeth into in Philly and many of them have their origins right here. We’ve listed a few of the best below;
- Apees cookies – these spicy, butter cookies are of German origin
- German butter cake – also known as Philadelphia butter cake, this sweet and buttery cake is crispy on the outside thanks to its yeasty crust.
- Irish potato cake – though not made with potato, these tasty morsels look just like potatoes. They’re associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. Ground cinnamon covers the white dessert to create the skin of the potatoes. Pine nuts are often pressed into the outside of the cookies to represent the eyes.
- Banana split – who would have guessed it? The beloved banana split finds its origin in Philadelphia. Pharmacy apprentice David Strickler invented it in 1904.
- Ice cream float – another Philadelphia invention. Robert Green, a Philadelphia soda shop owner introduced his customers to this cold treat in the 1800s.
What candy is Philadelphia known for?
When it comes to sweet treats, Philadelphians are an inventive lot. It is not only deserts that find their origins in the city. There are a number of great candies invented here too. Here are a few of them;
- Goldenberg’s peanut chews – Romanian immigrant, David Goldenberg, founded the Goldenberg Candy Company in 1890. The company made the iconic peanut chews in 1917 as a sweet treat for soldiers.
- Good and Plenty – believed to be one of the oldest branded candies in the country, Good and Plenty licorice candies made their debut in Philadelphia in 1893. The Quaker City Chocolate and Confectionery Company created these famous sweets.
- Candy Corn – these traditional Halloween candies originally sold under the name “Chicken Feed”. George Renninger from Philly’s Wunderle Candy Company invented them.
- Wilbur Buds – invented by Philadelphian, Henry Oscar Wilbur. These chocolaty treats are still popular today.
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What drink is Philadelphia known for?
Philadelphia has a long history as a beer-drinking town. Beer was first brewed here in the 17th century by British colonialists. Germans carried on the tradition. By the time Prohibition came along, Philadelphia had more than 90 operating breweries. Another 100 breweries lay on the outskirts of the town. Most often connected with Philly, Yuengling Lager, the locals just call it lager.
In recent years as micro-breweries have grown in popularity. Keeping up with the trend, Philadelphia also boasts a thriving micro-brewery industry.
Philadelphia also had a thriving whiskey distilling industry before Prohibition shut it down. This industry has recently revived and today, many tourists sip their way around the city as they take a distilling tour from still to still.
What industry is Philadelphia known for?
Philadelphia is central to Pennsylvania’s economy. So, it isn’t surprising that there is more than one important industry in the city. Philadelphia has large information technology and biotechnology sectors. Food processing and pharmaceuticals also thrive here and the financial sector is alive and well. The University of Pennsylvania is the biggest private employer in the city.
What music is Philadelphia known for?
Philadelphia has a lively music scene. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that Philly was named the number one music city on the continent. The choice was based on a number of concerts, ticket prices, and planned future shows. You will find almost any genre of music on the go in Philly. From live jazz bars to orchestral music, ballets, and live outdoor concerts, they’re all up for grabs on the Philadelphia music scene.
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So, what is Philadelphia known for | An Interesting and Historic City
We hope that we have answered the question “What is Philadelphia known for?” in this article. Philly is an interesting city with plenty of iconic sights and sounds and if you’re a food lover, this is Paradise. So plan your trip to Philly try out some of the best things to do in Philadelphia.