Old City is where the Founding Fathers did all their founding and fathering. Naturally, this neighborhood is where you’re going to run into the more historical elements of our city, from Independence Hall to cobblestone streets. But there’s more to Old City than sight-seeing: world-class boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants are all integral parts of its makeup.
Where to stay: For a lodging experience beyond the usual chains, spend the night at Penn’s View, a charming boutique hotel with historic details like exposed brick, balconies, and gas fireplaces. Similarly, the Thomas Bond House is a 12-room bed and breakfast with 18th-century decor and period furniture. Upscale travelers should look into Kimpton Hotel Monaco for rooms with personality plus an in-room spas. If you’re looking to show off on Instagram, don’t miss the OG Lokal Hotel with stylish rooms overlooking an idyllic 3rd Street.
Things to do: History buffs can see where our democracy was formed at Independence Hall and then make the short walk over to see the Liberty Bell. Other world-class museums in the area include the fairly new Museum of the American Revolution, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Constitution Center, National Museum of American Jewish History, Independence Seaport Museum, and Betsy Ross House. If you’d rather skip the history and want to get active, lace up your shoes or rent an Indego bike and traverse the Ben Franklin Bridge via the pedestrian path at 5th and Race Streets. Coming to town on the first Friday of the month? Stop into any of the neighborhood’s many art galleries and check out new exhibitions and installations. Oh, and then there’s shopping. Boutiques like Vagabond, United By Blue, Art In The Age, Philadelphia Independents, and Lost and Found offer only-in-Philly wares and knick knacks.
Best restaurants: Some of the city’s longest-standing and most-lauded eateries are located in Old City. One of the country’s top restaurants -- and one of the most difficult to get a reservation -- Zahav serves up Israeli dishes bound to take your breath away. Stephen Starr’s first restaurant Continental Martini Bar offers upscale diner vibes just a stone’s throw away from the local establishment Khyber Pass Pub, which serves unpretentious Southern food. For upscale eating, get yourself a reservation at Fork (new American), Amada (Spanish tapas), or Buddakan (Asian fusion). Some of the best sushi in town can be found at Kisso. Or if you’re with a group that can’t come to an agreement, eat your way through The Bourse, a food hall with vendors selling everything from pizza to poke bowls.
Bars and nightlife: Sure, Old City might have a reputation for sloppy weekend nights, but they sure are fun. Cut a rug at Cuba Libre, where DJs play Latin music on weekends, or walk just one block away for top 40 tunes and dancing at National Mechanics. In warmer months, get into the rooftop party scene at Stratus. Asian fusion martini bar Bleu Martini is an epicenter for nightlife, as is underground party spot Recess Lounge.