Philadelphia, The (Newest) Trendy City You Didn’t See Coming

By Susan L. Schwartz,

You would think that Philadelphia would have always been one of America’s great cities, but unfortunately it had a few rough years. Although it started off with a bang in the 1770’s, it got stuck between two power-houses, DC and New York, and somehow lost its way. But now, it’s got its mojo back and it’s better than ever. 

Where to Eat

Jose Garces Village Whiskey in Philadelphia

The Veggie Burger at Village Whiskey. Photo by Robyn Lee

For about the past ten years, Philadelphia has steadily knocked the chip off its shoulder and has become a culinary triumph. Restaurants open here now and then move to New York. A few chefs such as Marc Verti (Vetri) and Jose Garces (Tinto, Village Whisky) as well as Stephan Starr (Parc Bistro, Buddekan), restaurant impresario, have taken back the streets and made Philadelphia into one of the cities on the Foodies Grand tour.

World renowned hot sandwiches

Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

Hungry Reading Terminal market go-ers. Photo by Thisisbossi

Head over to the Reading Terminal Market – the enclosed market has over 100 merchants offering all kinds of delicious food housed within its walls, but make a beeline directly to DiNiC’s. You can’t miss it as the line for their sandwiches wraps around the whole Terminal. Their homemade hot roast pork sandwich is world renowned and even won Adam Rich’s Best Sandwich in America. It is a mix of pork, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, and hot and sweet peppers with just the right amount of Jus so the crispy Italian role stays crispy. Sit at the counter and sip your accompanying Dr. Pepper to have a truly modern Philadelphia experience.

DiNiCi's Philadelphia

Hot sandwiches at DiNiCi’s. Photo by Pgargagl CC BY

The cheese steak might be stuck in the 80’s but still so delicious!

Where to Stay

Elfreth's Alley Philadelphia

The oldest residential street in America. Photo by Kevin 

People may come for the food but they stay for everything else that the city has to offer. If you want to stay nearer to 18th Century Philadelphia, then the Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Philadelphia is the place to be. Hip, modern and it’s located next door to one of our nation’s most beautiful buildings, Independence Hall and its most famous bell.

Hotels in Philadelphia

The Kimpton Monaco Lobby. Photo by Christopher Fascenelli for Kimpton Hotels

Wander around the tiny streets and make sure to find the oldest street in Philadelphia, Elfreth’s Alley, and Betsy Ross’s house to see our first flag. Another option is to make your home at the lovely Ritz Carlton and you will be walking distance to almost everything.

Locally-owned Artisanal Shops

Chocolatier Marcie Blaine Philadelphia

Philly inspired Marcie Blaine chocolates. Photo by Alison Heller

Head south on 13th Street from Chestnut Street to Locust, which is booming with new shops, restaurants and bars. Don’t miss the wonderful housewares stores, Open House and Verde as well as chocolatier extraordinaire Marcie Blaine.

What to See

One of Philadelphia’s lesser-known gems is the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Most people don’t realize that it was the first museum and art school in the country. Opened in 1806, the wonderful Victorian Furness-Hewitt building houses a vast collection of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. It is still a thriving art school.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

People hanging out in front of the Academy of Fine Arts. Photo by Aganderson 

If you time your trip right, you can take advantage of First Fridays. The first Friday of every month, all of the art galleries of Old City and some of the shops on this very trendy area stay open late. Then you can hop a cab to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, run up the steps Rocky style and take part in their Art after 5, also the first Friday of every month. Sip champagne and sample canapés while music drafts through the halls decked with some of the world’s greatest art.

Local Tips

Gourmet Donuts in Philadelphia

Drool-worthy Federal Donuts. Photo by Robyn Lee 

  • If you are desperate for Fried Chicken & Donuts, don’t miss Federal Donuts. Go early, once they sell out for the day, they close up shop!
  • One of the grooviest shops in town is Art in the Age, 116 North 3rd Street. They even make their own spirits: Snap, Root, Sage & Rhubarb. Stop in for a taste but beware they are 80 proof!
  • Other Old City Best Bits: Christ Church, African American Museum, National Museum of American Jewish History