2 Days In Philadelphia Itinerary, The Perfect Weekend Guide

Planning a short visit or weekend getaway to Philadelphia and looking for an itinerary? If so, this is the ultimate 2 days In Philadelphia itinerary.

As an East Coaster, I’ve been to Philly many times. It’s one of my favorite cities in the US, despite the flack it sometimes gets.

For history buffs, there’s no better place to visit than the City of Brotherly Love. The city wears history like an embroidered cloak.

the I heart Philly sign with City Hall in the background
the I heart Philly sign with City Hall in the background

Philadelphia is especially rich in Revolutionary War history, telling the vivid story of America’s fight for freedom from British rule.

It was here that the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and created a new nation in 1776.

This Philadelphia itinerary takes you to all of Philadelphia’s top must visit historic sites, historic attractions, museums, and landmarks. It also gives you tips for visiting the city and tells you what to see, do, and eat in Philadelphia.

Pinterest pin for 2 days in Philadelphia
Pinterest pin for 2 days in Philadelphia

With 2 days in Philadelphia, you can visit most of the city’s important historic landmarks and sites, peruse markets, and check out the city’s excellent museums and pretty neighborhoods.

Along the way, you can eat some absolutely delicious food, ranging from old time-y cheesesteak to exquisite haute cuisine.

To me, Philadelphia perfectly combines the beauty and excitement of a modern city with the brick and cobblestone hallmarks of the Colonial era. This DIY guide to exploring Philadelphia in two days is loaded with comprehensive tips on what to see/eat/do.

Let’s get started! You’ll be sure to fall in love with Philly.

Robert Indiana's Love sculpture in Love Park in downtown Philly
Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture in Love Park in Center City

2 Days In Philadelphia Itinerary

There are so many amazing things to do and see in Philadelphia. With just two days in Philadelphia, you’ll want to start early, be efficient, and make the most of your short time.

Philadelphia is basically divided into four sections: Center City, University City, Rittenhouse Square, and Old City. Here’s what you can find in each area:

  • Center City: Reading Terminal Market, Love Park, Philadelphia Museum of Art, luxury hotels
  • University City: University of Pennsylvania
  • Rittenhouse Square: Rittenhouse Row, shopping and dining, art galleries
  • Old City: Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church Burial Ground

If you want to get an overview, you can book a customized private tour to see the city highlights.

Day 1 Morning:

Start your 2 days in Philadelphia with a delicious breakfast at FREIDA on Walnut Street. It’s a European-style cafe with a killer weekend brunch menu.

If you’d prefer a simple injection of caffeine, try, La Colombe Coffee Roasters or Old City Coffee Inc. You could also check out Dandelion, an English gastropub with delicious Eggs Benedict and vanilla brioche French toast.


Then head to the Old City. Philadephia’s most important historic sites are clustered here. You can easily walk from site to site.

1. Independence Hall

Start your day with a visit to Independence Hall, dubbed “America’s birthplace. You may even want to go on a founding father walking tour to get the full scoop. Or possibly a history and revolution tour for the historic backdrop.

Independence Hall was the site of a key flashpoint in U.S. history, where the dream of a free country began.

In the Assembly Room, George Washington was nominated as commander-in–chief of the Continental Army. Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General.

Independence Hall,  a must visit on any 2 days in Philadelphia itinerary
Independence Hall, with a statue of George Washington

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress gathered there to sign the Declaration of Independence. In the same room, 11 years later, the U.S. Constitution was signed.

Independence Hall once housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s Colonia Era government. In 1979, it became a designated UNESCO Heritage site.

Entrance is free, but you’ll need to jump on a 30 minute guided tour. Tours run daily and leave every 10-15 minutes.

You just have to reserve a time online in advance here.

Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross House

2. Betsy Ross House

You may also want to check out the Betsy Ross House. This is where the first American flag was allegedly sewn.

You’ll have the chance to explore the historic home where Betsy Ross is said to have lived and worked. The house is furnished in a style that reflects the period when Betsy Ross resided there.

As you walk through the rooms, you’ll find informative exhibits, displays, and artifacts that shed light on the life of Betsy Ross and the times in which she lived.

The museum also offers interactive experiences, including the opportunity to “meet” Betsy Ross herself through costumed interpreters portraying her character and engaging with visitors in an educational and entertaining way.

>>> Click here to pre-book a ticket

the Liberty Bell, with its iconic crack
the Liberty Bell, with its iconic crack

3. Liberty Bell Center

Just across the street from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Center.

In 1751, the Philadelphia Assembly commissioned the Liberty Bell to mark the 50th anniversary of the state’s constitution.

It was cast in the White Chapel Bell Foundry in London. Originally, the Liberty Bell was the official bell of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). It was rung during important announcements.

The bell cracked in February 1846, when it was run to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Since that fateful day, the bell has remained silent.

300 year old Elfreth's Alley, a designated Historic Landmark
300 year old Elfreth’s Alley, a designated Historic Landmark

The bell cracked in February 1846, when it was run to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Since that fateful day, the bell has remained silent.

The bell’s name comes from the quote etched into the side: “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” If you don’t want to wait in the long line to see it, you can peak through the window.

4. Elfreth’s Alley

Before leaving the Historic District, check out pretty Elfreth’s Alley. The cobbled lane is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States.

It dates back to 1702 and is lined with adorable 300 year old houses. It’s the equivalent of Acorn Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. In 1966, Elfreth’s Alley became a designated National Historic Landmark.

READ: Guide To Independence Historical Park In Philadelphia

Philadelphia cityscape
Philadelphia cityscape

Day 1 Afternoon:

1. Lunch

There are plenty of options for lunch in the City Center, frequented by visitors and locals alike.

I’d opt for the eclectic offerings of the food hall in the Bourse building, another National Historic Landmark. If you want to try a classic Philly cheesecake for dessert, head to Marino Brothers there.

If you want a smaller setting, there are excellent sandwiches at High Street on Market. Or, you can indulge in some upscale comfort food at Jones.

Sadly, the historic City Tavern Restaurant, where you formerly could order off 18th century inspired menus has closed permanently.

Alternatively, Philly is a great place to go on a guided food tour. Or you can have lunch and learn about Philly on a lunchtime cruise on the Spirit of Philadelphia.

entrance to Penn's Landing in Philly

2. Waterfront

Then walk a few blocks to Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia’s waterfront playground. Located on the Delaware River, this is the perfect bucolic spot on a sunny day and a mecca for maritime buffs.

Stroll along the tree-lined promenade. If you need some river-water-fun, you can rent kayaks and paddle boats.

Or you can hop on the RiverLink Ferry over to the Camden waterfront in New Jersey, to enjoy the views of the skyline. In summer, Penn’s Landing frequently hosts movies and concerts. In winter, you can go ice skating there.

If you’re a maritime buff, Penn’s Landing is home to the Independence Seaport Museum and several storied ships. There are interactive exhibits and kids can climb through a 19th century boat.

the Barnes Foundation
the Barnes Foundation

3. Museums

But I’d advise spending the rest of the afternoon at one of Philadelphia’s fantastic museums. There are quite a few options!

Barnes Foundation

My favorite is the Barnes Foundation, created and staged by entrepreneur Albert Barnes.

This singular museum could be considered an exercise in one man’s enormous ego. Nonetheless, it’s one of the greatest private collections in the entire world.

Especially if you like Impressionism. The Barnes Foundation boasts the United States’ largest collection of Impressionism and the world’s largest collection of Renoir paintings.

The museum is second in scope only to Paris’ revered Musee d‘Orsay. You may feel like you’ve been power beamed to Paris.

gallery full of Renoirs in the Barnes Foundation
gallery full of Renoirs in the Barnes Foundation

An eccentric Barnes sought to establish himself as a “bold and ambitious” collector.

He spent a fortune buying up Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from then up and coming artists like Henri Matisse, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso.

He amassed the world’s largest private collection of this sort, now valued at a cool $25 billion. The works are shown in the exact, if helter-skelter and unconventional, way in which Barnes originally displayed them.

READ: Guide To the Impressionism Trail in Paris

Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center
Signers’ Hall at the National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center

If you want to stay in Old City, visit the National Constitution Center.

It’s a hands on museum dedicated to telling the story of the U.S. Constitution. It’s full of interactive exhibits that walk you through the creation of one of the most important documents in our country’s history.

Plus, you can get a glimpse of loads of historic artifacts. The center houses one of the few copies of the first public printing of the U.S. Constitution.

The permanent exhibits are excellent. Freedom Rising will inspire pride in your ability to vote. If you can’t get there in person, click here to book a virtual tour of the National Constitution Center.

Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution

Museum Of The American Revolution

There’s also the Museum of the American Revolution, which ties together all of Philadelphia’s historic landmarks.

The museum’s collections tells the story of the lead up to the American Revolution and what life was like during and after the war.

The museum features artifacts, life size tableaux, videos, and other interactive installations. They’re spread out over four floors in an engrossing chronological journey.

Click here to pre-book an entry ticket.

Photograph: Courtesy Mütter Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Mütter Museum

The Mutter Museum

If you’re brave enough and a science lover, check out the Mutter Museum. Best visited on an empty stomach, the Mutter Museum is part of the Philadelphia College of Physicians.

Many of the specimens were used as teaching tools during Victorian times – conjoined twins in jars, mummified limbs, a menagerie of preserved organs, and skeletons.

You enter through the gift shop, and the first exhibit focuses on an analysis of the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Garfield.

It’s all rather clinical and fascinating. There are a few drawings and diagrams, as well as a couple of medical samples on display, such as a piece of skin from President Garfield.

the Rodin Museum, with a bronze cast of The Thinker
the Rodin Museum, with a bronze cast of The Thinker

The Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum is another one of my favorite attractions in Philadelphia. It’s an architectural jewel.

The museum houses the largest collection of French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s works outside of his eponymous museum in Paris. Rodin was the father of modern sculpture, his works a torrent of emotion.

The Rodin Museum houses some timeless Rodin classics. As you ascend the steps, you’re immediately faced with a bronze cast of The Gates of Hell, a commentary on social despair inspired by Dante’s Inferno.

You’ll also see versions of The Kiss, Balzac, The Burghers of Calais, Walking Man, many busts, and many models of hands. There’s also a lovely garden with 8 sculptures, including the famous The Thinker.

Independence Beer Garden
Independence Beer Garden

Day 1 Evening:

Philadelphia is a beer loving city, so some suds sampling may be in order. You could start with a happy hour drink at the outdoor Independence Beer Garden.

For a more elegant atmosphere, there’s the Stratus Rooftop Lounge, located atop the chic Hotel Monaco. Or try a cool little place called Standard Tap in Northern Liberties, a funky bohemian area.

You can also go on a guided prohibition era pub crawl. Or discover secret bars on a guided speakeasy tour.

For dinner, you’re spoiled for choice. Philadelphia has one of the United State’s most exciting and innovative foodie scenes, with chef churning out delicious eats of all varieties.

You have the triple threat of cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and water ice. You’ll also find great burgers, brunches, street food, and Chinatown.

Raddichio Cafe
Raddichio Cafe

Where you choose to eat really depends on how much you want to pay.

I can vouch for the savoriness of these resraurants:

If you’ve got a craving for culture, Philadelphia has a fantastic theater scene. South Broad Street is the equivalent of Broadway.

It’s so crowded with performing arts venues that it’s known as the “Avenue of the Arts.” Click here to check out the musicals, plays, concerts on offer.

Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philly
Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philly

Day 2 Morning:

1. Terminal Market

To kick off day 2 of your 2 days in Philadelphia itinerary, head to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast. It’s an enclosed public market found at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia.

Operating since 1893, Reading is one of the oldest public markets in the United States and a designated Historic Landmark.

There are around 80 merchants, including several bakeries and restaurants, so you can easily find something tasty for breakfast. If you have a sweet tooth, try out Beiler’s Bakery or Federal Donuts.

You can also taste your way around Terminal Market on a guided gourmet food tour.

Swann Memorial Fountain with City Hall In the background
Swann Memorial Fountain with City Hall In the background

2. City Hall

Just five minutes away from Reading, you can stop to admire and tour Philadelphia’s City Hall, radiating arteries to every quadrant of the city. It’s the most renowned building in the city.

The ornate Second Empire building is the largest municipal building in the United States. On the exterior, you’ll see over 200 sculptures and motifs.

The building is topped by a massive 37 foot bronze statue of William Penn, weighing 26 tons. It’s the tallest statue atop a building in the world.

In the winter, City Hall is illuminated with lights and the square is transformed into an ice rink. In the summer, streaming fountains create a kind of water garden.

Right next door to City Hall is Love Park, also known as the John F. Kennedy Plaza. That’s where you’ll find Robert Indiana’s Love and Amor sculptures.

statue of William Penn atop City Hall
statue of William Penn atop City Hall

Once inside, you can take a timed entry guided tour of the building. It’s a two hour tour offered just once a day.

There’s also a tower and open air observation deck (right below the Penn statue), if you want a panoramic view of Philadelphia. You can take the Tower Tour only or visit the tower as part of the City Hall Interior Tour.

3. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Then, it’s time to walk (1.6 miles) or Uber to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (“PMA”), the third largest art museum in the United States

The bronze Rocky statue, of Philadelphia’s favorite fictionalized character, is at the bottom of the museum steps just waiting for you to take a selfie.

You can channel your inner Rocky and run up the famed “Rocky” steps. You can even take a Rocky-themed guided tour.

the Rocky steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a must see with 2 days in Philadelphia
the Rocky steps leading up to the museum
the Rocky statue at PMA
the Rocky statue at PMA

Once up the steps, continue around the perimeter of the building to the gazebo. You’ll have a gorgeous view of Boathouse Row. At night, 15 boathouses are lit up and reflecting on the river.

Then, enter the museum, which is Philadelphia’s crown jewel. Opened in 1929, the PMA is housed in a beautiful building, resembling a Greek temple and boasting world class art. It’s one of the premiere museums in the United States, with over 200 galleries.

There are some amazing pieces in the PMA’s permanent collection. The art works span all ages—from medieval relics to seminal Impressionist works to riveting and colorful modernist pieces.

The museum has works by artistic luminaries such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Cassatt, Brancusi, Kahlo, Duchamp, and more.

If you have extra time on your Philadelphia itinerary, your PMA ticket grants you two day access to PMA, the Rodin Museum, Cedar Grove, and the next door Perelman Building.

The latter holds the art museum’s acclaimed fashion and textile collection and features displays of prints, drawings, photographs, and modern design.

The famous cheesesteak restaurant Pat's King of Steaks
the famous cheesesteak restaurant Pat’s King of Steaks

Day 2 Afternoon:

After exploring the PMA, it’s time to grab some lunch in south Philly. This is the time to sample the city’s iconic sandwich — the cheesesteak. First timers should try the original at Pat’s King of Steaks.

Pat’s claims to be the inventor of the famous sandwich, which consists of thinly sliced steak and melted cheese on a roll.

Right across the street from the perennial heavyweight is its biggest rival, Geno’s, lit up with an orange neon sign.

1. Magic Gardens

Then head out to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, 15 minutes down the road. It’s a whimsical outdoor art gallery — the brainchild of Isaiah Zagar, an award-winning mosaic mural artist and native Philadelphian.

mosaics in the Magic Gardens
mosaics in the Magic Gardens

Known as an “immersive mixed media art environment,” it’s a stunning place to visit. The installation’s facade—and even some surrounding buildings—are plastered with bits of colored glass and shards, broken ceramics, and even bicycle spokes and wheels.

There’s a long outdoor labyrinth and tunnels. The experience continues inside, as you wind your way through 3D mosaicked hallways and step into glistening courtyards.

Timed entry tickets are just $10. Purchase them online in advance as it often sells out.

You can also sign up for a South Philadelphia walking tour that includes a visit to the Magic Gardens. South Philly is also a great place to go on an Italian market food tour.

2. Eastern State Penitentiary

If you prefer history to art, as an alternative to the Magic Gardens, you could instead visit a fascinating historic prison, Eastern State Penitentiary. It’s a National Historic Landmark, just a 10-15 minute walk from PMA.

a gloomy long cell block in the Eastern State Penitentiary
a gloomy long cell block in the Eastern State Penitentiary

ESP covers nearly 150 years of criminal history. Creepy and foreboding, this old prison is intentionally kept in a state of “sustained ruin.” On the outside, it looks like a medieval castle with turrets and crenellated walls.

ESP was the world’s first true penitentiary with revolutionary system of incarceration that encouraged isolation in a monastic environment.

Some notorious criminals like mobster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton were inmprisoned there.

The audio guide is eerily narrated by Steve Buscemi. Click here to pre-purchase a ticket.

Day 2 Evening:

Wrap up your weekend in Philadelphia with a stroll along the hip and lively South Street. South Street is the perfect place to window shop (over 400 retail shops) and admire vibrant street art.

beautiful homes on South Street
beautiful homes on South Street
shop front on South Street
shop front on South Street

For dinner, you’re spoiled for choice on South Street.

You’ll find every brand of cuisine imaginable. Check out Serpico (global cuisine with Asian flavors), my favorite Pumpkin (modern American), Tamarind (Thai cuisine), Hardena (curries and Indonesian food), or Las Bugambilias (Tex Mex fare).

Just a block away are The Good King Tavern, the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen and Bistro La Minette.

South Street is also home to a wide variety of bars, from classic Irish pubs to hipster dive bars with names like Tattooed Mom. Live music performances can be seen at the Theatre of Living Arts.

It’s easy to choose your own adventure and have a fun night out here, especially on the weekend.

facade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
facade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tips For A 2 Day Philadelphia Itinerary

Here are some must know tips for visiting Philadelphia.

1. How To Get To Philadelphia

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is the main airport serving the city. It offers numerous domestic and international flights, making air travel one of the most convenient ways to reach Philadelphia from distant locations.

To get to your accommodation, you can rent a car or catch a taxi. Or, to make it easy you can book a private transfer to your hotel.

Amtrak operates frequent train services to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, one of the busiest rail hubs in the country. The station connects to major cities along the East Coast and the Midwest. From there, you can take a taxi or Uber.

Various bus companies, such as Greyhound and Megabus, also offer services to Philadelphia’s bus terminals, including the Greyhound Bus Terminal and the Megabus Stop.

townhouses near Rittenhouse Square
townhouses near Rittenhouse Square

If you prefer driving, you can reach Philadelphia by car via major highways such as Interstate 95 (I-95) from the north and south, Interstate 76 (I-76) from the west, and Interstate 676 (I-676) from the east.

2. How To Get Around Philadelphia

The historic sites in Philly are in a compact area and within easy walking distance. Just 25 blocks separate the two rivers defining Philadelphia.

It’s a 45 minute walk from river to river. Numbered streets run north/south and named streets run east/west.

You don’t need a car in Philadelphia. In fact, a car will likely be a hindrance as parking is hard to come by and rather expensive.

To get to all of your itinerary destinations in a hurry, it’s easiest to take Uber of Lyft.

The public transportation, SEPTA, can seem a bit baffling. It’s both a beloved and hated beast. But you can check out the SEPTA site to study up on transportation options.

street art mural on South Street
street art mural on South Street

You can also use the Hop On Hop Off Bus to get around to Philly’s main attractions.

Or, go on a fun Segway tour or trolley tour of the city.

3. Guided Tours In Philadelphia

There are a bunch of good tours you may want to invest in to explore and get around Philadelphia. You can pick one that suits you.

They include:

Philadelphia skyline with the Schuylkill River
Philadelphia skyline with the Schuylkill River

4. City Passes

If you plan on visiting several pricey attractions, you might want to invest in either Go City All Inclusive Pass or the Philadelphia Explorers Pass.

The Philadelphia Pass is a smart card that gives you admission to 30 attractions. The price varies depending on the number of day (1-5 day passes are available).

At some attractions, you can skip the line using these passes, a big benefit during high season.

5. Tourist Office Locations

The main tourist office is found at the Independence Visitor Center in the Historic District, at the junction of 6th and Market Streets. There are also visitor centers at City Hall and Love Park.

fireworks at Penn's Landing
fireworks at Penn’s Landing

6. When to Visit Philadelphia

The best time to visit Philadelphia is in the spring or fall. Summer can be crowded and sweltering. Winter can be bitterly cold and windy. Having said that, Philadelphia has some notable wintery attractions.

Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest in the nation.

In the winter, Philadelphia has an authentic open air German Christmas market, Christmas Village, staged at Love Park and City Hall. You can also enjoy the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s and the Franklin Square Holiday Festival.

Philadelphia is also renowned for its razzle dazzle New Year Eve celebrations. Revelers gather at Penn’s Landing for a spectacular fireworks display.

On New Years Day, there’s a costumed Mummer’s Parade so unique that it’s been featured in National Geographic.

Library Bar at The Rittenhouse
Library Bar at The Rittenhouse

7. Where To Stay in Philadelphia

There are some absolutely wonderful boutique hotels in Philly, my other preferred lodging option.

You can check out the The Franklin on Rittenhouse, AKA Rittenhouse Square, The Rittenhouse, or Alexander Inn.

Then, there are wonderful luxury options like the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons. And the reliable standbys like the Sofitel at Rittenhouse Square, Hilton Garden, Marriott, or the Doubletree.

Rittenhouse Row, Philadelphia's toniest address
Rittenhouse Row, Philadelphia’s toniest address

If you’re interested in other travel destinations on the East Coast, you might enjoy these articles:

I hope you’ve enjoyed my two day itinerary for Philadelphia. If you’d like to spend a weekend in Philadelphia, pin it for later.

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Pinterest pin for 2 days itinerary for Philadelphia

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