The Perfect 2 to 3 Days in Philadelphia Itinerary

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As the second-largest city on the East Coast and one of the oldest in the nation, planning a 2 to 3 days in Philadelphia itinerary is a highlight of any trip. Whether you’re visiting Philadelphia alone or in conjunction with other major East Coast cities, the City of Brotherly Love has more than enough to offer its visitors during their stay. 

Philadelphia has a convenient location. It’s a large city with plenty to fill your trip to Philadelphia without the same overwhelming energy as nearby cities like New York City. Without further ado, here’s how to spend a few days in Philadelphia. 

How Many Days in Philadelphia?

On average, two to three is ideal for how many days to spend in Philadelphia. With 2 days in Philadelphia or if you’re planning a weekend trip, you have enough time to see the highlights and historical landmarks before departing.

If you have 3 days in Philadelphia, you’ll have plenty of time to see the best landmarks as well as venture off the beaten path. 

Seeing Philadelphia is best for those who want a chance to venture beyond the city while still catching the highlights inside it. You can take a day trip via train or bus to a nearby natural site and get a break from the city. On the other hand, 3 days allows visitors to see Philadelphia at their leisure. 

In short, 2 days or a weekend in Philadelphia will give you enough time for the highlights whereas 3 days in Philadelphia allows time for the highlights and some bonus landmarks. 

Independence Hall in Philadelphia
Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Getting To & Around Philadelphia

There are several options for how to get to Philadelphia. Due to its close proximity to New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston, and other large cities, it’s easy to reach Philadelphia by bus or train.

The shortest of these options takes only one hour (coming from New York City by train) with the longest taking a few hours. You can view train schedules here.

Buses are the most affordable option. Both buses and trains will deliver their passengers to the city center, making it easy to reach your accommodation from there. 

If you’re flying directly into Philadelphia, you’ll arrive through Philadelphia International Airport. It’s located about 7 miles from the city. You can call a rideshare, organise a transfer or taxi to drive into the city. Taxis charge a flat rate of $28.50 to get to and from the airport from the city center.

You can also reserve a seat on an airport shuttle—some even take you directly to your accommodation. You can also take public transportation. 

The city of Philadelphia is considered one of the most walkable in the country as it is an old city designed before the wide use of cars.

Many of the most popular landmarks are located near each other. The layout of the city is simple—the north/south streets are numbered whereas the east/west streets are named after trees.

There are signs throughout downtown that guide visitors to walk around the city, catching all the main historical sites. It’s also easy to call a Lyft or Uber, or hail a taxi.

Philadelphia also has an underground public transit system that works well for quickly getting across the city. 

Philadelphia Skyline
Philadelphia Skyline

2 or 3 Days in Philadelphia Itinerary

Whether you’re seeing Philadelphia in 2 days or 3 days, you won’t have any shortage of ways to spend your time. Use this Philadelphia itinerary as inspiration as you set out planning your perfect trip. 

Day 1 – Downtown Philadelphia Highlights

The first day of this itinerary explores some of the highlights of Downtown Philadelphia. If you want to learn more about the history of the city, consider taking this historic walking tour or this cultural tour that explores another of the attractions listed below with a tour guide.

Independence Hall

Along with many of the historic buildings in Washington DC, Independence Hall is probably one of the most famous structures in American history. Here is where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.

In fact, before DC, Philadelphia was the capital of the USA after the Constitution was ratified and where presidents George Washington and John Adams had official residences.

From March to December, you can only enter Independence Hall with a timed, ticketed tour. In January and February, the Independence Hall entrance is first-come, first-served, so plan accordingly if you’re visiting during this time.

The tour lasts around 20 minutes. Guides take visitors through the Assembly Room and first floor of the Hall, providing important context to the rich history of this building. 

Liberty Bell

The State House Bell, also known as the Liberty Bell, is an iconic part of Philadelphia’s history. This bell was actually a replica.

The first cracked the first time someone attempted to ring it and a second was promptly made. The bell seen today was originally housed in Independence Hall and intended to call lawmakers and townspeople to gather.

No one knows for certain how the infamous crack occurred. During your visit to the Liberty Bell Center, you’ll learn about the history and lore surrounding the bell. You don’t need a ticket to visit, but make sure you check the center’s hours prior to visiting. 

Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell

Museum of the American Revolution 

Continue your exploration of the history of the American Revolution with a visit to the Museum of the American Revolution. This huge collection of art and artefacts from the country’s path to achieving independence is a perfect crash course of the time period.

The galleries of the museum are organized in chronological order, so you’ll walk through history during your visit. You’ll be able to enjoy excellent storytelling and fascinating artefacts from a pivotal time in American history. You can pre-book tickets here.

Philadelphia City Hall

If you still have some energy after seeing many of the top attractions in Philadelphia, consider paying a visit to the City Hall. It’s the largest municipal building in the United States, with over 14.5 acres of floor space, and is an architectural wonder to see both inside and out. Inside, you can take a tour that details the history and creation of the city.

You can also climb to the top of the tower for excellent views of the city.

City Hall is home to the office of the city mayor and the chambers of the Philadelphia City Council. Entrance to the museum, tower, and building itself is free, but make sure you check the opening times for when you’re there. 

Before you leave the area, head to the iconic LOVE statue that sits just northwest of City Hall. It was installed in 1976 and has since become an icon for the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall

Eat a Philly Cheesesteak 

No visit to Philadelphia is complete without eating a Philly cheesesteak. The most authentic cheesesteaks have thinly-sliced ribeye steak, cheese (American, provolone or Cheez Whiz), fried onion, mushrooms, or bell peppers all tucked into a hoagie roll.

As the name suggests, Philadelphia is the birthplace of this now legendary sandwich. The city is filled with some of the best places in the country to find one. You can take a food tour to learn more about the city’s food scene.

Day 2 – Museums and Markets

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Nearly every major city has an art museum for its visitors and locals to enjoy. Philadelphia boasts one of the largest in the country, making it a must-see for guests to the city.

The building towers at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and houses a huge collection of work. More than 240,000 pieces of art from 2,000 years of history live here. You’ll find suits of armor, a complete 14th-century Buddhist temple, and works from Picasso all under one roof.

The building was expanded as recently as 2021, allowing the museum to open new exhibits and extend its permanent collection. 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Franklin Institute

Named after the highly revered inventor and founding father Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute is one of the most treasured science museums in the country. The museum specializes in interactive displays that walk visitors through several areas of science.

The earliest iteration of the Franklin Institute opened in Independence Hall in 1824 to showcase the inventions of Benjamin Franklin. Today, it’s one of Philadelphia’s most-visited landmarks.

During your visit, don’t forget to stop by the museum’s trademark: a 20-foot tall marble statue of the museum’s namesake, Benjamin Franklin. After the museum, you could opt to take a stroll to Rittenhouse Square, a nearby lovely park, or simply make your way to the next stop on this itinerary.

The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute

Reading Terminal Market

Looking for a unique place to grab a bite to eat midday? Go no further than Reading Terminal Market.

As one of the oldest public markets in America, Reading Terminal is chock-full of local vendors and food stalls. There are over 80 merchants that specialize in preparing food from all over the world. You can also find some of the city’s best Philly cheesesteaks.

If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir, this might be the place. Along with food, there are artisans selling handmade crafts to American quilts. 

Elfreth’s Alley Museum

Philadelphia is a city filled with many landmarks that are the oldest of their kind. Elfreth’s Alley is no exception. Here is the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the country. It’s a narrow stone street with brick buildings on either side.

Greenery and colorful window shutters bring the street to life. In its earliest years, Elfreth’s Alley was the home of 18th-century artisans and tradespeople who helped build Philadelphia from the ground up. 300 years later, the stretch of untouched homes was named a National Historic Landmark.

You can stroll down the street on your own or sign up for a guided tour. 

Day 3 – Dig Deeper in Philly

Longwood Gardens

If you’re short on time in Philadelphia and want a taste of nature during your visit, head to the Longwood Gardens. Located just about an hour outside of Philadelphia, the gardens are a great way to spend a quiet morning or afternoon during your last day in the area.

The garden houses over 9,000 species of plants across 1,000 acres. There are walking paths to enjoy the area as well as a botanic garden with fountain shows and stunning landscape.

Make sure you see the Italian Water Garden, Flower Garden Walk, and Pierce’s Woods. While exploring, don’t be surprised if you come across a variety of wildlife. A visit here is a relaxing way to conclude your visit to Philadelphia. 

The quickest way to reach Longwood Gardens is by Amtrak. From there, you can reserve a shuttle service 24 hours in advance to reach the gardens or call a rideshare. There are also four bus lines that run from Philadelphia to Longwood.

If you have a car during your visit, it will take you around 45 minutes, depending on traffic, to reach the gardens. You can also take an organised tour. You should plan to spend 3 to 4 hours there.  

Longwood Gardens and Fountains
Longwood Gardens and Fountains

Barnes Foundation

Lovers of art should make time for the Barnes Foundation during their 3 days in Philadelphia. Here is one of the world’s most respected collections of French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Here, visitors will find 181 pieces of art by Renior, 69 pieces of Cezanne, and an exquisite collection of African Art.

Along with the permanent exhibit, the Barnes Foundation has a rotating series of temporary exhibits that include works from major artists throughout history. It was established in 1922 and is a charming way to spend an afternoon of your Philadelphia itinerary. 

Philadelphia Zoo

Before you leave Philadelphia, pay a visit to America’s first zoo: the Philadelphia Zoo.

As one of the best-designed zoos in the country, exploring these exhibits is simultaneously relaxing and engaging. Over 1,300 animals, many rare or engaged, call this zoo home. Make sure you visit some highlights like Big Cat Falls, the McNeil Avian Center, the PECO Primate Reserve, and the interactive wildlife exhibits aimed at kids.

The zoo opened in 1874 and has since rehabilitated countless animals. Here is a great stop if you’re traveling with kids or if you just love spending an afternoon learning more about wild animals. 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

You might’ve seen photos of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens online. These intricate indoor and outdoor mosaics make for beautiful photo ops.

The gardens began when a local artist, Isaiah Zagar, started hanging tiles on South Street in the 1960s. Today, the mosaics are constructed out of tiles, bottles, ceramic shards, bicycle spokes, and other pieces of art supplies.

Over the years, the garden has gained public support that preserved the windy corridors of art. It’s worth adding to your Philadelphia itinerary, especially if you’re looking for something that is uniquely Philadelphia and isn’t another historical landmark.

Magic Gardens in Philadelphia
Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

Where to Stay in Philadelphia

Alexander Inn – This quaint, boutique bed and breakfast is an excellent option for mid-range visitors to the City of Brotherly Love. They have a number of great rooms to choose from, a central location for exploring the city and breakfast available each morning. Click here to check availability

The Notary Hotel – Those looking for a high-end stay in Philadelphia will love this swanky hotel in the center of the city. They have a range of plush rooms to choose from, an excellent location for exploring all the highlights of the city and plenty of great amenities for guests to enjoy. Click here to check availability

The Windsor Suites – If you’re looking for both a luxurious stay while also having some self-catering facilities, then these suites are a great option. There are a range of suites to choose from — all fully furnished and equipped with a kitchenette — along with an on-site restaurant/bar and other fantastic amenities. Click here to check availability

Apple Hostels – Budget and solo travelers will love this highly-rated hostel located in the heart of the Old City. They have a range of both dorms and private rooms to choose from along with good common areas and self-catering facilities for guests to use. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Philadelphia hotels!

Philadelphia is home to both historical and cultural landmarks. When combined in a Philadelphia itinerary, they give their visitors a blend of old and new as visitors get acquainted with the city. Use this itinerary for seamless trip planning for the ultimate Philadelphia trip. 

Are you planning to visit Philly? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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