The original city center of Philadelphia was carefully plotted and planned by the town's founder, William Penn. Inspired by the narrow streets of London, Penn designed Philadelphia with wider streets. After the original founding in the 1680s, the small town quickly grew to a population of over 2,000 people by 1700. Philadelphia soon became an important city in the region and continent and served as a place of trade. Supported by a strong economy, the city constructed new schools and cultural institutions.
Many crucial events during the American Revolution era occurred in Philadelphia. Representatives of the thirteen original American colonies met in Philadelphia to discuss rising tensions with the British. After the war broke out, the representatives met once again in Philadelphia. A year later, a series of meetings resulted in the creation of the Declaration of Independence. In 1777, British forces took command of Philadelphia and occupied the city for almost a year. After the occupation and the war, Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States for ten years.
Visitors to Philadelphia's Center City will definitely want to take in the shopping venues along Chestnut Street. The Shops at Liberty Place are a favorite destination for locals, and tourists will find a wonderful mix of boutiques, fashion accessory outlets, and European design shops. Express, Godiva Chocolates, and Nine West are just a few of the specialty stores located in this centrally located shopping area.
Along Walnut Street, shoppers will find a wide variety of clothing stores, arts and crafts retailers, and salons. The popular Shops at the Bellevue is located inside the historic Bellevue Building at one end of the Avenue of the Arts. The building houses fashionable designer shops including Polo/Ralph Lauren, Nicole Miller, and Williams-Sonoma. Several of the area's renowned restaurants are also found here. Visitors will love the fine entrees served up at The Palm, Bliss, and XIX restaurants.
The Rittenhouse Row district is full of art galleries, import clothiers, and French-style bistros. Shoppers will enjoy the many fine retail shops in close proximity to one another. The famous Knit Wit boutique is adjacent to such favorites as Tiffany, Urban Outfitters, and the local favorite, Burberry.
King of Prussia Mall
On the outskirts of town is the renowned King of Prussia Mall. Located near the Valley Forge National Historic Park, the mall is easily accessible by freeway from downtown Philadelphia. The mall boasts a total of seven major department stores. This shopping center is noted for its large number of European retailers, fashion outlets that have no other locations in the region, and superb restaurants. Betsey Johnson, Cole Haan, Lacoste, and Tourneau are just a few of the fine retailers found at this extravagant shopper's paradise.
Franklin Mills Mall
The Franklin Mills Mall is located approximately 15 miles from Center City and features the largest collection of outlet stores and discount retailers in Eastern Pennsylvania. More than 200 stores are located in the shopping center, which also constains a pair of food courts and a 14-screen movie theater complex. Visitors can travel to the mall via complimentary shuttle service operated by many of the downtown hotels. There is also shuttle service from Philadelphia International Airport and the Amtrak station.
Shopping tours are operated by several independent companies in the Philadelphia area. Kristel Closets offers both half- and full-day tours that include transportation, full lunch and/or dinner, and discount coupons good for use at many of the popular retailers in the city. Guests can save as much as 60 percent off retail prices when taking the scenic shopping tour operated by Kristel Closets.
To And From The Airport
Travelers arriving at Philadelphia International Airport will find reservation centers for all major rental car agencies on the lower level of each terminal. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority operates a regional rail line connecting the airport to the central business district. Taxis can be found at designated queues near the baggage claim areas.
Taking The Bus Or Light Rail
Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides both bus and light rail service throughout the metro area. The rail system's Market-Frankford line runs from the western suburbs through downtown and northeasterly to the Frankford Transit Center. The Broad Street line runs north-south through downtown, and the trolley lines connect the central business district with several nearby neighborhoods.
The regional rail lines merge at several of the transit centers located within two miles of the downtown area. Passengers can purchase a one-time fare or an all-day pass. These passes are good for travel on the surface street buses, regional and high-speed light rail lines, and the trolley lines.
Most of the SEPTA bus lines operate through the downtown area and run directly to transit centers located in the outlying neighborhoods. Designated NiteOwl buses run 24 hours a day.
Independent Transit Lines
Visitors to Philadelphia may wish to use the services of the Big Bus line, featuring double-decker buses and including site-by-site narration by the onboard travel guide. The 90-minute tour covers most of the downtown area and regional landmarks, and more than 20 stops allow passengers the opportunity to begin and end their trip from almost anywhere in the city.
The Riverlink Ferry connects downtown with the Camden, NJ waterfront. Visitors will enjoy the 12-minute ride across the Delaware River and will get an impressive view of the Philadelphia skyline.
Downtown On Foot
Downtown Philadelphia is known as Center City, and public authorities have made walking tours of this area extremely easy to navigate. There are numerous signs at intersections pointing the way to historic landmarks. These signs are noted on the many walking tour brochures available at visitor information kiosks and hotel lobbies. Uniformed goodwill ambassadors walk the streets of Center City, ready to assist visitors with tips and information on getting to the most popular tourist attractions and historic landmarks.
Taxis In Center City
Taxis can be hailed on most downtown streets, and most of the licensed operators form queues outside the larger hotels. With few exceptions, taxi fares are based on mileage. A number of rental car agencies have offices in Center City as well.
An absolute must see in Philadelphia is Independence Hall. A World Heritage Site, Independence Hall is a historically important building where the signings of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution took place. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the building to learn about America's birth and walk along the same spots where the founding fathers once walked. Period furniture pieces can be viewed such as the Rising Sun Chair, which George Washington used while he officiated over the Constitutional Convention.
Liberty Bell Center
Originally situated in the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell can now be viewed across the street, enclosed in its own glass display at the Liberty Bell Center. As a popular Philadelphia attraction, visitors should be prepared to stand in line to see this American icon, but the wait is well worth it. While waiting in line, visitors have the opportunity to learn the interesting history of the Liberty Bell and its famous crack.
A 300 year old church still used for worship services, Christ Church is one of Philadelphia's most visited attractions. Built in the early 1700s, the church presents a beautiful example of Georgian architecture. More importantly, the church served as a home congregation to famous Americans, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross. Visitors can tour the church building and cemetery as well as attend worship services. Visitors are even allowed to sit in the wooden pew where several of America's founding fathers once sat during worship services. Additionally, the church houses several artifacts such as antique silver pieces, paintings, old letters and rare books.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
One of the country's largest art museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art houses more than 200,000 objects within 200 different galleries that chronicle the last 2,000 years. In the Asian collection, visitors can see the likes of Chinese ceramics, Turkish carpets, a Japanese teahouse and an Indian temple hall from the 16th century. The European collection highlights paintings by famous masters such as Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh as well as weapons, sculptures and more. Visitors can see the likes of early American arts, furniture, silver and ceramics in the American gallery.
Established in 1824, the Franklin Institute is one of the nation's most popular science museums. The Institute offers numerous hands-on exhibits and activities for adults and children alike to learn about various science aspects from ancient medicine to space. The museum also offers a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
After the Civil War, Philadelphia continued to prosper and thrive
The War of 1812 led to a downturn in Philadelphia's economy. Traders began to import their goods into other ports, forcing Philadelphia's economy to change. New factories began to create a vast array of goods, including paper and shoes. Philadelphia's mining industry also helped to stabilize the city's economy. When the American Civil War began, Philadelphia produced and provided just about any good the Union army required.
After the Civil War, Philadelphia continued to prosper and thrive. The city attracted a number of immigrants from all around the world. Philadelphia was hit extremely hard by the Great Depression. Many of the city's banks failed and closed. A large number of Philadelphia's residents enlisted in World War II, leading to worker shortages in the city. The women of Philadelphia helped the city's economy by taking the vacant jobs.
In the 1990s, Philadelphia went through a period of reform and revitalization. The city also started a marketing campaign to attract tourists. Today, Philadelphia is a prosperous city in many fields, including tourism, business and technology.