An insider’s guide to Philadelphia: Places to eat and things to do

We regularly chat to those in the know about what makes their destination special. James Cartmell at Collette Tours talks about his home town of ‘Philly’, and provides an insider’s guide to the best local haunts in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’...

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

Made famous by the iconic Bruce Springsteen song, the ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, Philadelphia is a destination rich in American history and culture.

As one of the most populous cities in the United States, Philly is a lively and vibrant hub, offering visitors a smorgasbord of live music, great food, shopping and attractions. The name Philadelphia, coined by William Penn, joins the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos).

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

Image: Bigstock

Great places to eat…


When food comes to mind in the City of Brotherly Love, everyone thinks of the famous Philly cheesesteak: sautéed beef and onions, melted cheese, all on a soft long bread roll. Delicious! Everybody has an opinion about where to get the best one, but for me, Pat’s is the best – end of story.

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Pat’s

Barclay Prime

For a slightly more up-market culinary experience, another one of my favourites is the top-rated steakhouse in Philly, Barclay Prime – home to the famous $100 cheesesteak!

Reading Terminal Market

The Reading Terminal Market is the best place in the city to grab lunch or buy some unique gifts or souvenirs. With vendors selling homewares, books and handicrafts, ethnic groceries, dairy and cheeses, seafood, deli meats, baked goods and candy, you could spend a whole day wandering around the stalls and still not see everything.

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia: Reading Terminal Market

Hank’s Place

If you’re thinking about a day trip to get out of the city, consider the Brandywine Valley to the southwest. The gorgeous scenery is a perfect contrast to the tall buildings and architecture of downtown Philly. Home to famous American artists, world-renowned gardens, historical battle sites, and charming bed & breakfasts, it’s the perfect weekend trip.

If you are visiting this region, you absolutely must try a traditional home-style breakfast at Hank’s Place in Chadds Ford. For the hungry traveller, I recommend the ‘eggs benedict – Hank’s style’: poached eggs on a southern-style biscuit, Canadian bacon or sausage, creamy old-fashioned chipped beef and a generous portion of home fries. Yum!

Where to head for a top night out…

There are a few great live music venues I would suggest you check out while you are visiting Philly. Electric Factory is brimming with energy and hosts amazing performers from all around the world.

Howl at the Moon is another fun place to go out and party with a group of friends. It has a big focus on dance music but also features live music acts and some cover bands.

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

Image courtesy of Howl at the Moon

At night, the Old City district comes to life and transforms into an urban playground, buzzing with music, trendy bars and great restaurants.

If you are looking for a nice happy hour, check out National Mechanics. Built in 1837, the building was originally the Mechanics National Bank. This place is the perfect fusion of old-world décor and modern menu selections.

I recommend the shared plates; the National Wings or plantain chips with guacamole are amazing. There’s also a huge range of cold beers on tap. Try the Yards IPA from Philly’s local brewery.

Where to take a break and relax…

I’m a big sports fan and for me, you can’t go past an afternoon baseball or hockey game at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.

For nature lovers though, I would suggest taking a walk through the Gettysburg Battle site or Valley Forge Historic Park.

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia: Visit the Valley Forge Historic Park. Image: Bigstock

Best spots for history buffs…

Many visitors go to Old City during the day to see iconic landmarks like Independence Hall. Independence Hall is one of the most important American heritage sites. It was the place of both the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution.

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia: Explore the historic Old City.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Philly without visiting the Statue of Liberty. Although it is not in Philadelphia, the statue’s torch was exhibited in Philly in 1876 at the World’s Fair in Fairmount Park. People who came to the fair paid admission to climb into the torch and take in the view from the top. This was so successful that for a time, the sculptor considered giving it to Philly instead of New York!

An insider’s guide to Philadelphia

Visit the Statue of Liberty on a day trip from Philadelphia. Image: Bigstock

Philly is only a short distance from the statue. You can take the bus or train and make a day of it. 

Do you have any tips to add to this insider’s guide to Philadelphia? We would love to hear your tips. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock


About the writer

James Cartmell is business development manager at Collette Tours.


About Collette

Collette is a third generation, family owned travel company, with offices in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Since 1918, the company has been sharing its love of travel with guests. Today, Collette’s worldwide travel collection features comprehensive land tours, river cruises, rail journeys, small group tours, family trips, garden holidays and more. Chauffeur driven transfers to and from the airport, centrally located deluxe hotels and a carefully curated itinerary of key local experiences are all part of the Collette difference.

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