A Philadelphia travel guide – cheese steaks, Benjamin Franklin and art on every corner

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A Philadelphia vacation holds a different story for every visitor, whether touring historic homes or discovering a kaleidoscope of arts, both out on the street and inside museums. Book a Philadelphia hotel and write your own happy ending in the City of Brotherly Love.

Get your bearings

Downtown Philadelphia is defined by two rivers, the meandering Schuylkill on the west and the Delaware on the east, the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The city is laid out on a grid, with streets named after trees – Cherry, Chestnut, Walnut – running east and west. Numbered streets run north and south. The heart of Philadelphia is its historic center, where Federal-period red-brick row houses line the streets of Old City. Market Street, the major artery, runs horizontally through the center of town. Benjamin Franklin Parkway runs diagonally northwest from central City Hall.

Art and the City

LOVE – and unique public-art displays – are on the streets of Philadelphia, along with giant game-board pieces, wall- sized murals and door-sized aluminum cutouts. This free outdoor art is a great warm-up to the treasures in store in the Philadelphia Museum of Art or The Barnes Collection. If you’re in town the first Friday of the month, gallery hop in trendy Old City, where admission – and wine – are free.

Ben Franklin’s Philly

Although the city is named for founder William Penn, Benjamin Franklin’s name is nearly as ubiquitous around town. At his namesake Franklin Court museum, get your postcards hand-stamped at his personal post office (He was once Philadelphia’s postmaster general). The ivy-covered walls of the University of Pennsylvania were also created by Franklin. And while he was at it, he helped create the Colonies’ first hospital and invented the lightning rod. 

Cheese steaks and more

Sure, it’s just a sandwich – the way Big Ben is just a clock. The bread is soft, but has enough heft to soak up the juices of just-off-the-griddle shaved beefsteak. You can get American or provolone cheese, but if you’re at cross-corner rivals Pat’s and Geno’s and want to do it right, order it “wit wiz” (unctuous orange Cheez Whiz and fried onions). Don’t worry if a greasy sandwich isn’t your idea of fine dining, Philadelphia also has Michelin-Starred chefs turning out Asian, Latin America, and French cuisine in swank dining rooms around the city. 

Five Squares of Fun

City founder William Penn designed five squares in downtown to provide leafy oases for Philadelphians. Whether you rent a bike at lush Fairmount, people-watch at swank Rittenhouse, play mini- golf at Franklin, museum hop from Logan or check out City Hall at Centre Square, there’s a swath of green waiting for you.