The great thing about Philadelphia is that downtown is less than 30 minutes from the airport. Add that it’s only around seven hours from the UK on a direct flight with Delta Air Lines, then the city definitely becomes viable for a long weekend.
It has all the buzz of New York but is obviously smaller and that means you can walk everywhere. There are lots to see including the birthplace of US independence, some great art museums, and a unique submarine experience.
Start with the Constitutional Walking Tour. It has nothing but takes you around the Independence Park area, the heart of Philadelphia. Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage, where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted in the late 18th century is the star attraction.
Across the street is the Liberty Bell, originally in the steeple of Independence Hall, and paraded around the US for 25 years as a symbol of American independence. The park also contains the first US bank buildings and Carpenters’ Hall, the venue for the First Continental Congress of the United Colonies of North America. At the opposite end is the modern interactive museum, the National Constitution Centre.
National Museum of American Jewish
Just off Independence Mall is the only US museum dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience.
Four floors tell the story, starting with the first Jews who came from Brazil, escaping persecution by the Portuguese, through the migration of millions of immigrants from Europe in the late 19th century, to post stories of refugees from torn Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the Soviet Union.
The ground floor has stories of real people and their artifacts – including Steven Spielberg’s first camera, Irving Berlin’s piano, and Even Einstein’s pipe.
Independence Seaport Museum
A short walk from here is the waterfront area along the Delaware River, Penn’s Landing, home to the Independence Seaport Museum. It tells of seafaring in Philadelphia, but moored outside are two vessels well worth a visit.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia has noted for the quality of its art collections and the city’s Museum of Art is the third-largest in the country. You may remember seeing when Sylvester Stallone ran up the front steps, and there’s a statue to commemorate the occasion.
Inside there are Renaissance masterpieces, an excellent French Impressionist collection and works by Picasso, Duchamp, and Matisse. The American art gallery has fine examples of paintings by Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins.
Nearby is the Rodin Museum which houses the largest collection of the sculptor’s works outside Paris.
The Barnes Foundation
If you are still craving art, head for the Barnes Foundation. Albert Barnes, built up this collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings. Among its 3,000 masterpieces, are 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modigliani’s, and seven Van Goghs. Although it only moved to its present, the rooms are laid out exactly as Barnes intended. He mixes time periods, geographic areas, and styles to create his “wall ensembles” which lead to a certain amount of artistic indigestion by the end of your visit.