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Rich in history and packed with sights, spending one day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is just enough time to see the city highlights – but only with a good trip plan! We created a perfect Philadelphia Itinerary that features must-see Philly sights and the best things to eat.
One Day in Philadelphia
While having just one day in Philadelphia will be somewhat limiting (seriously, there is so much to see and do in the city!), we think that if you are going to visit Philadelphia in one day, you should absolutely make the most of it!
The city is a gateway to Europe – and on our trips abroad, we often had layovers of up to 24 hours in Philadelphia. Rather than sitting in an airport hotel, we came up with a plan of what to see in Philadelphia in 1 day and set off to explore the city on foot. We marveled at the history, sampled the fare and experienced a bit of the nightlife.
Because we know some travelers are making day trips to Philadelphia (meaning even less time!) and other visitors have 2 days in Philadelphia, we provide tips at the end of the post for alternate Philly itineraries.
Pro Tip: Visitors making a day trip to Philadelphia from New York have numerous options – from a DIY day trip to Philly to organized tours. We feature the best options for a day trip in Philadelphia at the end of the post!
1 DAY IN PHILADELPHIA ITINERARY
In our Philadelphia 1-Day Itinerary, we highlight what to see in Philadelphia in one day – including top attractions, the best places to eat and a taste of Philly nightlife. In addition to what to see and do on a Philadelphia one day trip, we offer tips for how to get there, where to stay and what to pack.
Our One-Day Philadelphia Itinerary includes everything you need to plan your Philly trip! Save, Pin or Bookmark this blog post so that you can easily access it as you plan – and during! – your trip.
Morning Itinerary for Philadelphia in a Day
Start your One Day Itinerary Philadelphia stepping back in time at some of the most important sites in America’s history at the Independence National Historical Park. Steeped in history and lined with cobblestone streets, the park is home to museums, artifacts, statues and monuments. See where the United States’ Declaration of Independence was signed and walk in the footsteps of America’s Founding Fathers.
Breakfast at The Bourse
After picking up your Independence Hall tickets at the Independence Visitor Center (more on that in a minute!), grab an All-American breakfast at the Grubhouse at The Bourse. The building dates to the late 1800s and was used as a commodities exchange. Recently, however, it has been renovated into a Food Hall featuring some of the best eats in the city – and it’s a great place to kick off your Philadelphia One-Day Itinerary!
Museum of the American Revolution
Brush up on your history of how the United States was formed at the Museum of the American Revolution. Follow the timeline of America’s independence – from Boston to war to the beginning of the nation – via engaging exhibits and interactive displays.
Because you only have a day in Philadelphia, you don’t want to spend your time standing in line! Buy a Skip-The-Line Ticket to the museum here!
Pro Tip: Other places of interest on the square are the Merchant Exchange Building, the Independence Historical Library, and City Tavern (which is our recommended dinner spot!).
Witness to numerous historical events, Carpenters’ Hall housed the First Continental Congress in 1774. The brick building is one of a few in the complex – and can be toured for free. Inside, visitors will find limited information about its historical significance and a small gift shop. Because of its location, it is easy to fit in a visit to Carpenters’ Hall while touring Philadelphia in one day.
If you have time before visiting Independence Hall, make a quick detour to Washington Square. Once a grazing field and cemetery, Washington Square – one of the city’s originally planned squares – is a leafy urban escape and host to several memorials. Don’t miss the center fountain, the Eternal Flame and Memorial to the Unknown Soldiers of the American Revolution.
Visiting Independence Hall is one of the top things to do in Philadelphia in one day!
One of the most significant places in US history, Independence Hall is where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and signed by the country’s Founding Fathers. Essentially, it is the birthplace of America. Built as the Pennsylvania State House, the red brick building (that was built in 1732) features an ornate white clock and bell tower and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors who want to see the interior of the building can join a free 30-minute guided tour, but obtaining a timed ticket is required. Tickets are available on the day of your visit at the Independence Visitor Center on a first-come first-serve basis. However, advance reservations can be made online, at the cost of $1 USD.
A timeless symbol of the United States of America – and of freedom itself, the iconic Liberty Bell has a fascinating history – and is a must-see on your Philly Itinerary. Commissioned in London in 1752, the bell was cast to hang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House. The bell was inscribed with the quote: Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.” However, at first ring, the bell cracked.
The bell was melted, recast and re-inscribed by locals Pass and Stow, but the bell produced a horrid sound…and had to be re-cast, yet again. Years later, on July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung to celebrate the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The Liberty Bell is now housed in the Liberty Bell Center, which is free to visit (no ticket required). Exhibits inside the center tell the story of the bell and visitors are able to see the bell on display.
National Constitution Center
If your interest in the formation of the nation has been piqued, consider including a visit to the National Constitution Center in your plan of what to do in Philadelphia in 1 day. Through interactive displays, the museum details the creation of the United States Constitution in a fun and informative way.
Pro Tip: Guests could easily spend the better part of the day inside the museum. If history is the main focus of your one-day trip in Philadelphia, then the museum will likely be a highlight. However, if you want an overall tour of Philadelphia in one day, we recommend skipping the museum in favor of other sights.
Where to Eat Lunch on Your One Day in Philly
By now, it is probably mid-day of your 1-day in Philly, which means it is time for lunch – and there is no better place to go to eat than the Reading Terminal Market. The market was established in 1893 under the train tracks of the newly built Reading Terminal – and today it stands as both a historic landmark and the heart of the city’s gastronomy.
With more than 80 food vendors, deciding what to eat can be a conundrum. That said, on a 1-day trip to Philadelphia, we recommend getting a Philly Cheesesteak! Several vendors sell them at the market…and they are all delicious!
Pro Tip: To get to the Reading Terminal Market, walk west on Arch Street. At 10th Street, you will see the Chinatown Friendship Arch; we explore more of Chinatown after lunch!
Afternoon of Your One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
After your filling lunch, continue your Philadelphia 1-Day Tour by visiting more landmark sights in the city center.
Philadelphia City Hall
Opened in 1901, the Philadelphia City Hall building once reigned as the tallest building in the world. The grandiose building features a bell tower topped by a statue of William Penn (the city’s founder) – and reaches a height of 548 feet. It houses the city government offices and is a National Historic Landmark.
Designed in the 1960s, the park is officially dedicated to President John F. Kennedy. However, the park is now better known as LOVE Park for the Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture that was first displayed in the park in 1976.
The Philadelphia Chinatown has a history that dates back to 1871. The district is filled with Asian eateries and shops – and is marked by the ornamental Chinese Gate at 10th and Arch.
Take a walk through Franklin Square – another one of the city’s originally planned squares. At the center is the Franklin Square Fountain (which dates to 1838) – and other sights at the park are the Parx Liberty Carousel and Living Flame Memorial.
Pro Tip: Nearby (but incredibly difficult to get to!) is the 101-foot-tall Bolt of Lightning Sculpture dedicated to Benjamin Franklin. The artwork commemorates Franklin’s famous experiment of flying a kite in a storm to prove lightning bolts have an electrical charge.
More Philadelphia Historical Sights
Ease your way back into the most historical part of the city. Walk down Elfreth’s Alley, which has existed as a residential street for more than 300 years. Nearby find the Betsy Ross House, the home where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag in the country’s founding year, 1776.
Just around the corner is Christ Church, which dates to 1695 and is often called “The Nation’s Church.” Many of the Founding Fathers were members of the American Episcopal Church and it is open to visitors (for a small fee). The church’s graveyard (located a couple of streets away at 5th and Arch), is where Benjamin Franklin is buried.
The Benjamin Franklin Museum, which includes artifacts and exhibits from his life, is also an interesting place to visit in the city’s historical center. In the area, visitors can also see portions of Franklin’s house, the Franklin Court Printing Office and one of the oldest post offices in the USA (which is a cool place to send postcards from!).
Things To Do in Philly at Night
We have highlighted some of the best places to visit in Philadelphia in one day, but our sightseeing adventure is not over yet! To complete your 1 Day in Philadelphia Itinerary, dine at one of the city’s most famous taverns and then join the revelers on South Street for a few drinks.
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Before going to dinner, give your feet a rest at the riverside park, Spruce Street Harbor. In the relaxing urban oasis, you can swing in a hammock, play a game of chess or stroll along the boardwalk.
Dinner at City Tavern
Established in 1773, City Tavern was frequented by the city’s elite and most famous residents. In fact, it served as an unofficial meeting place for the Founding Fathers before they officially moved their meetings to Carpenters’ Hall. Although the original building was destroyed in a fire, the tavern was rebuilt to original specifications in the 1970s. Today, waiters clad in 18th century garb serve upscale colonial cuisine using a farm-to-table concept.
End your 1-Day Itinerary in Philadelphia on South Street, the city’s lively entertainment district. Appealing to a wide range of interests, the street is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, international eateries, fun bars and live music venues. Tattooed Mom is a funky spot with a hip vibe – but we recommend finding a bar that best fits your style.
Pro Tip: If after a few beers you have a late-night craving, be sure to stop at Jim’s on South Street for a Philly Cheesesteak. The restaurant opened in 1939 – and has seen a slew of celebrities over the years!
More Philadelphia Itineraries
We have outlined what to do in Philadelphia for a day, but what if you are planning to spend two days in Philadelphia…or even 3 days in Philly? No worries! We are offering our top suggestions on how to build a Philadelphia 2-Day Itinerary and how to plan 3 perfect days in Philadelphia.
Half Day in Philadelphia
Visitors planning to visit Philadelphia in a half day – perhaps on a long layover or with limited free time on a business trip – will need to create a succinct Half Day Philadelphia Trip Itinerary. Using our above tips for spending One Day in Philadelphia, we recommend selecting just a few attractions to see that are of most interest.
For us, a perfect Half Day Philadelphia Travel Itinerary would include the city’s most iconic spots within the Independence National Historical Park. In fact, an easy way to plan your trip would be to simply follow our outline for the morning activities (Museum of the American Revolution, Carpenters’ Hall, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell). With extra time, visit the National Constitution Center or other historical city sights that we recommend visiting in the afternoon.
Alternate 1-Day Philadelphia Itinerary
In our one-day visit to Philadelphia, we trek all over the city seeing the best sights and most historical spots in the city center on a self-guided tour.
That said, visitors can start their one-day tour in Philadelphia with a local guide for a better introduction to the city and history. The two-hour Founding Fathers tour is a small-group walking tour that visits many of the sights we recommend seeing…but is led by a knowledgeable guide. Get the details!
On the other hand, visitors who are looking for things to do in Philadelphia in 1 day outside the historic core have many options, too. While we are fascinated by the history of Philadelphia, there is more to the city than the past. A great way to sightsee beyond the Old City is to travel by Hop On Hop Off Bus to the city’s top sights (many of which we recommend in our 2- and 3-Day Philadelphia Itineraries!). Visitors can purchase tickets for 1, 2 or 3 days of sightseeing. Get Tickets now!
2-Day Itinerary Philadelphia
Planning a 2-Day Philadelphia Itinerary allows for a lot more sightseeing! Visitors can experience some of South Philly, soar to the top of One Liberty for stunning city views and go to a museum.
Start your second day in the city right where you left off, South Street. Get donuts and fried chicken for breakfast at Federal Donuts. Then, spend the morning discovering South Philly. Go to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (one of the city’s most unique art museums), the Italian Market 9th Street and – for lunch – go further south to the most famous Philly Cheesesteak corner in the city, where Geno’s and Pat’s face off on opposing street corners.
Pro Tip: Get a better introduction of South Philly on a guide-led tour! Learn more here!
In the afternoon explore more of downtown Philly – including Ritenhouse Square, One Liberty Observation Deck (Buy your ticket in advance!) and The Academy of Natural Sciences (Advance tickets here!). Alternatively, go to the National Constitution Center if you skipped it on Day 1.
3-Day Philadelphia Itinerary
With 3 days in Philadelphia, you will have ample time to see the city sights! To create a Philadelphia 3-Day Itinerary, we recommend following the tips in our above 2 Days in Philadelphia Itinerary, then spending the third day at the city’s best museums and attractions on the north side of the city.
Start your day at one of the many Philadelphia museums – like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose steps are almost more of an attraction than the art itself, thanks to Rocky (Buy Advance Tickets!) , the Rodin Museum, Barnes Foundation or Eastern State Penitentiary. Note: All of these museums can be reached with the Hop On Hop Off Bus!
Pro Tip: Another way to experience the art in the city is on a Street Art Murals Tour. Philly is filled with incredible and poignant street art – and guides will lead the way to the best artwork. Book it now!
In the afternoon, make your way to Yards Brewing Company to get a taste of locally-produced craft beer. End the day at the Race Street Pier and Benjamin Franklin Bridge (you can even use the bridge walkway to cross the river into New Jersey!) or stop by Morgan’s Pier with a fun beer garden and bridge views.
Pro Tip: Visitors who are really interested in the craft beer scene could join a Philadelphia Brewery Tour with Lunch that visits multiple breweries. Get the details!
New York, Philadelphia, Washington Itinerary
Philadelphia, New York City and Washington DC are in close proximity – making it easy for visitors to plan a multi-city trip. We recommend spending at least one week visiting the three cities. You can use our tips in our New York Itinerary and Washington DC Itinerary to plan your ultimate trip!
How To Plan a Day Trip from NYC to Philadelphia
One of the most popular ways to visit Philly is on a day trip from New York City – and there are several ways to plan a day trip to Philadelphia from NYC. You could book an organized New York to Philadelphia Day Tour (Book it here!), but you could just as easily use our outline of what to visit in Philadelphia in 1 Day to plan your own Philadelphia day trip itinerary.
The cities are just 85 miles apart – and the Amtrak train is the best way to get between the two destinations. The ride takes about 1.5 hours each way and tickets start at about $60 USD. There are multiple departures throughout the day. Trains depart from NYC at Penn Station and terminate at 30th Street Station, west of the city center.
Day Trips from Philadelphia
Philly visitors staying in the city longer than 3 days may want to add day trips near Philadelphia to their itinerary. Some popular DIY destinations are Washington DC and NYC. Other popular Philadelphia day trips are to Amish Country and Brandywine Valley.
Top Tips for 24 Hours in Philadelphia
Now that you know what to do in Philadelphia in one day – or longer! – we have a few more tips for your trip!
How To Get to Philly
Philadelphia can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. Our preferred method is to travel by plane – and when we need to buy tickets, we start our search for the best times and fares on SkyScanner.
The Philadelphia International Airport (code PHL) is located 11 miles southwest of the city and is serviced by all major US airlines and an international gateway from Europe (with direct flights to/from Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Rome to name just a few!). To get from the Airport to the city center, guests can either take Private Transportation, shared minivan rides, taxis (or Uber) or the Regional Rail train.
Where To Stay in Philadelphia
If your one-day trip to Philadelphia includes an overnight stay, you are going to need to find somewhere to spend the night. We think the best place to stay in Philadelphia on a short trip is in the heart of the city, within walking distance of the best tourist attractions.
On our trips to Philly, we stay at the Hilton at Penn’s Landing. The high-rise hotel overlooks the Delaware River and is just a short walk to the city’s most historic attractions. The 4-star hotel features incredible amenities, like an indoor pool, outdoor sundeck, spacious rooms and waterfront dining. Check rates and availability!
What You Will Need for a Philly Day Trip
Before you set off on your Philadelphia trip, you will want to make sure you have a few things with you! You can find all of our packing tips on our Packing List Page.
Our Philly Itinerary is essentially a One Day Walking Tour of Philadelphia…so you are going to need a good pair of city walking shoes! I am most comfortable in lightweight Columbia shoes – and Kris wears Merrell trail shoes for city walks.
What clothes you pack for your trip to Philly will depend on the time of year that you travel. Summers are hot and humid, while winters can be brutally cold – and it rains all year long.
In the summertime, pack clothing that is lightweight and breathable – and don’t forget a sunglasses, wide-brimmed travel hat and sunscreen. During the winter, make sure you bundle up with layers – and bring a hat and gloves. And, regardless of the season, it is always a good idea to have a travel umbrella and packable raincoat.
The historical sights in Philly are truly spectacular! We recommend using a real camera to capture the city sights. On our travels, we carry a DSLR Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens. The camera is easy to use and is well-priced. Best of all, it comes as part of a bundle with a ton of accessories – which is perfect for beginner photographers.
We Want To Know: Have you ever spent just one day in Philadelphia? Is there anything you would add to our Philadelphia Itinerary? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
Visiting More Top Cities In The USA? Dive into our detailed guides for New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Austin, San Diego, and Portland! Got the travel itch for a roadtrip? Read our articles to get you along the Oregon Coast and scenic Pacific Coast Highway in California!
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