Philadelphia is known for the Liberty Bell, Philly Cheesesteak, and United States history.
Philadelphia is in the Southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, sitting alongside the Delaware River. It is by far the largest city in the state. Beyond this, Philadelphia is famous for its role in the early years of the United States. From the Liberty Bell to its legendary Philly Cheesesteak, Philadelphia is known for many things.
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What Is Philadelphia Known for?
You may hear Philadelphia called “the City of Brotherly Love.” This nickname comes from the city’s name, a combination of the Greek words for love and brother, created by the Quakers who founded Philadelphia. However, principally Philadelphia is known for being a historic capital of the United States.
This city is where the Founding Fathers came together and formed the union. It is the place they signed the Declaration of Independence and wrote the Constitution. While taking in the history is essential for a Philly trip, there are so many more things Philly is famous for.
History, Culture, And Traditions
The Liberty Bell
What is Philadelphia known for if not the Liberty Bell? The Liberty Bell is arguably one of the most iconic symbols of American freedom. Legend says that on July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell rang out to draw Philadelphians together to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud.
At the time, the Liberty Bell hung at the Tower of Independence. These days, you’ll have to visit the Liberty Bell Center to get a good look at this national treasure! This is one of the most famous things in Pennsylvania.
Independence Hall is another attraction Philadelphia is famous for! The Founding Fathers built the US in this building; it is where they signed the Declaration of Independence and outlined the US Constitution. Few buildings in the United States have as much historical significance as Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
To get the full experience of this historic area, take a tour of the surrounding Independence National Historical Park. Many of these tours are free of charge, so enjoy!
Betsy Ross House
The story of Betsy Ross and her world-changing sewing project has its home in Philadelphia as well. The Betsy Ross house is where Betsy Ross lived when she was making the first American flag! Now, it is a museum that chronicles Betsy Ross’s life and her contributions to the United States.
There are tours of this site and interactive programming throughout the year. The Betsy Ross house makes it possible for you to get a real feel for America in the 18th century!
Elfreth’s Alley is another historic gem Philadelphia is famous for! Walking down Elfreth’s Alley is like stepping into the past.
In 1706, Elfreth’s Alley was built to serve as a paved path for traders and their carts. Though middle-class families used to inhabit this area, it is now quite upscale.
In fact, Elfreth’s Alley is the longest continuously inhabited street in the entire country. Many of the homes retain the architectural character of centuries past, so take a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley and enjoy the view!
If you walk around Philly you’ll quickly understand why Philadelphia is known for being the “Mural Capital of the World.” There are over 3,600 murals in the city, painted by students and professional artists alike.
In fact, one percent of the city’s budget is set aside every year to contribute to this growing mural collection. If you want to see as many murals as possible, you’ll want to take one of the city’s many tours.
Sides of buildings and walls are just canvas in Philadelphia. All of this artwork makes for an inspiring, artistic atmosphere.
The Mummers Parade
If you’re in Philadelphia at New Years, you’ll get to see a famous tradition: the Mummers Parade! These colorful, energetic performers originate from a Swedish tradition, which came to Philadelphia through immigration.
A mummer is someone who dresses up in bright garb, dances, and sings on the first day of January. This tradition has been practiced in Philadelphia since the 1970’s and still happens today. In fact, the Mummers Parade is the longest-running traditional folk celebration of its kind in the US.
Districts And Areas
Old City is the neighborhood where Philadelphia’s historic character really comes to life! This neighborhood is actually known as the US’s most historic square mile. For starters, this is where most of the city’s historic landmarks lie, from the Betsy Ross House to the Liberty Bell.
Beyond that, when Philadelphia was the US capitol, Old City was the main thoroughfare. Make sure you walk down these historic paths and see the historic charm Philadelphia is famous for!
You probably already recognize one of the things Philadelphia is known for! Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Plaza is actually home to Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture. While “Love Park” isn’t the formal name of this square, locals enjoy the sculpture so much that the area takes on its name.
If you visit Philadelphia, you have to take a photo with this famous sculpture. While you’re in the area, take the opportunity to stop in the visitor center and glance at the University of Pennsylvania, which is nearby.
Rittenhouse Square is a breath of fresh air (literally) in Philadelphia. This beautiful square is one of the city’s most popular, established by the city’s founder, William Penn. Today, Rittenhouse Square sits in the middle of a luxurious and exclusive neighborhood.
Rittenhouse Square is basically an art installation. Wandering around the square you’ll not only see green lawns and lush trees, but also sculptures and art pieces. It is a lovely place to take a break from the surrounding city and enjoy a little calm.
Although Longwood Gardens are nearly an hour’s drive outside of Philadelphia, they are definitely part of what Philadelphia is famous for! This garden contains over 1,000 acres of space, featuring over 10,000 different kinds of plants and 40 gardens, in indoor and outdoor spaces.
This beautiful outdoor space serves as a respite from the city. Beyond the natural beauty, Longwood Gardens also offers educational events, flower shows, concerts, and other activities throughout the year.
Check out their schedule before your visit, so you can catch some of their special programming!
One of the newest notable areas in Philadelphia is the Delaware Waterfront. Before the 21st century, this area was largely left out of modern life because it served as a commerce hub in the centuries prior. However, this area has turned into a hotbed of activity in recent years, filling up with parks, attractions, and restaurants.
Getting down by the water at the Delaware Waterfront also gives you the chance to enjoy some unique views! The best view is of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge! Spend an afternoon wandering the waterfront, visiting popular areas such as Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier.
Landmarks And Architecture
City Hall is the municipal center of Philadelphia. Beyond this, it is the biggest municipal building in the entire country, with an impressive architectural footprint. The nearly 550-foot-high tower is the tallest masonry structure on the planet that doesn’t have a steel frame supporting it.
Make sure you check out the Statue of Philadelphia’s founder, William Penn, at the top of the building.
If you want to see the whole building, take one of the guided tours offered during the day. That way, you can make sure you don’t miss anything in this historic building that Philadelphia is known for!
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Music fans should make the effort to catch a show at the Philadelphia Orchestra while visiting Philadelphia! The Philadelphia Orchestra regularly ranks among the United State’s best orchestras. It is recognized as one of the “Big Five,” alongside orchestras from New York, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland.
Fritz Scheel founded the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1900 and served as its first conductor. The talented team puts on several shows every year, featuring different styles of music.
The orchestra is part of what Philadelphia is known for because it has made history of its own! The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first to record electronically and create a CD of Beethoven’s complete symphonies. You can be a part of this evolving history by stopping in for a show!
Reading Terminal Market
Philadelphia’s history even stretches to its markets! Reading Terminal Market is one of the biggest and oldest public markets in the country.
Opened in 1893, visitors can still wander this market and enjoy its over 80 distinct merchant offerings. This phenomenal market is definitely part of what Philadelphia is famous for!
No matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, you can find it at Reading Terminal Market! From Philadelphia classics like the Philly Cheesesteak to phenomenal Middle Eastern cuisine, you can explore many different flavors.
Not feeling hungry? No need to worry! You can check out Reading Terminal Market’s crafts, flowers and artisan works.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art was established in 1876 and has been a cultural center of Philadelphia since then. The museum has an expansive collection of American art with more than 12,000 paintings. Beyond that, there are seven other large collections to explore.
However, this museum gained its fame because of the movie Rocky. In the 1976 movie, Rocky runs up the 72 steps of the museum, celebrates, and takes in the amazing view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
There is even a commemorative statue of Rocky outside the museum, where visitors can copy his famous pose. This impressive museum and monument are some of the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania.
Famous Food In Philadelphia
If you ask a foodie “what is Philly known for?” They’ll tell you, without a doubt, it’s the Philly Cheesesteak. This sandwich consists of thinly-sliced beef, grilled onions, and provolone cheese, all melted together, on a hoagie roll.
The Philly cheesesteak was invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri. These brothers created the sandwich to have a new menu offering at their hotdog stand in the 1930’s. This little stand grew into Pat’s King of Steaks, which is still in operation.
Locals dispute who has the best Philly Cheesesteak, but the two top competitors are Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. Stop in and try both if you want to weigh in on the debate around this Philadelphia classic!
Philly Soft Pretzels
Philly’s soft pretzels are another must-try amongst the iconic foods of Philadelphia! This delicious snack is on menus all across the city, but dates back to German immigrants in the area. As compared to a regular soft pretzel, a Philly pretzel is longer, more doughy, and many say – more tasty!
The real way to spot a Philly pretzel is by its shape. Don’t expect the classic pretzel twist! Instead, you should be looking for an elongated figure-8 form.
Visit the Philly Pretzel Factory, Miller’s Twist, or basically any restaurant to get your hands on one of these incredible pretzels that Philadelphia is famous for.
If you find yourself in Philly on a hot day, make sure you check out “water ice.” This spin on Italian ice or shaved ice has become so iconic in the area that it is something that Philadelphia is known for. It is a refreshing treat with just three ingredients: water, sugar, and fruit.
In terms of taste, it’s more icy than Italian ice, but smoother than shaved ice. When you taste it, you’ll understand. Stop by Rose’s Water Ice or Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice for some of the best water ice in town!
Famous People From Philadelphia
While you’re more likely to see Tina Fey on a movie screen, this comedy star is originally from Philadelphia! Tina Fey is a notable comedian, writer, actress, and producer in the United States.
Tina Fey got her start with the Improv group, The Second City, in Chicago. From there, she became a key cast member and writer on Saturday Night Live. After SNL, Fey starred and wrote for many notable shows and movies, such as Mean Girls, 30 Rock, and Date Night.
She has received great acclaim for her work over the years. She holds 9 Primetime Emmys, 3 Golden Globes, 5 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and more. Though she’s had national success, Tina Fey honors her Philadelphia roots; she’s been known to use the unique accent Philadelphia is known for in her comedy routines.
Although Kobe Bryant never played basketball professionally in his hometown, this basketball legend originally came from Philadelphia. Kobe Bryant started his career playing for the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, but spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
During his career, he helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five national championships. Kobe Bryant was named the MVP (most valuable player) in the NBA in 2008. As if that weren’t enough, he also won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the US basketball team in 2008 and 2012.
Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter accident with his daughter, Gianna, in 2020. Even so, the city still carries his legacy proudly. In fact, there’s a beautiful mural, Dream Courts, at Tustin Playground honoring Kobe Byrant, his career, and his daughter.
Discovering More Things Philadelphia Is Known And Famous For
Visiting this iconic Pennsylvania city allows you to dive into the history and traditions that Philadelphia is known for. There is no lack of things to do, see, and experience at every time of year in this historic city!
Beyond the classic Philly icons, such as the Philly Cheesesteak and the Liberty bell, there is so much more to explore and love in Philadelphia! Make sure you expand your search, and check out some other things in Philadelphia! You may even discover something else Philadelphia is famous for!