Explore Philadelphia

Philadelphia for History Buffs

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” The best way to absorb America's past is to see it for yourself, so let Ben Franklin’s famous words be your guide as you discover all the history Philadelphia has to offer.

Lovers of history will revel in the plethora of sites related to this country’s past, and with so many places being named the “first” and the “oldest,” a simple walk around (just look out for the blue nameplates to know what’s what) will keep history fans delighted.

Start your journey at the Independence Visitor Center. Here, you’ll find every available tour option, a ton of brochures filled with much-needed information, and a great place to sit and plan out your day. Since it’s located near many of the historical sites, it’s also an ideal spot to mark as home base. Get here early, as tickets are limited. Early birds also stand a better chance of scoring free timed-tickets to the Independence Hall Tour.

Ready, set, head back in time…

Liberty Bell Center

The 2,080-pound bell with its famous crack rang on July 8, 1776, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. These days, the world’s most famous bell is preserved here across from Independence Hall. Free. Daily 9 am-5 pm.

National Constitution Center

Located just two blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, this dynamic and modern museum tells the story of the U.S. Constitution through interactive and multimedia exhibits. $11-$14.50. M-Sa 9:30 am-5 pm, Su noon-5 pm.

Old City Hall

The building originally constructed to be Philadelphia's second City Hall now preserves the courtroom that also served as the home of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791 to 1800, when it—and the nation's capital—moved to Washington. John Jay was Chief Justice here, and the Liberty Bell stands just outside. Free.

Independence Hall

Built for the Pennsylvania legislature, Independence Hall became famous as the “Birthplace of the United States” after the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the U.S. Constitution was drafted here. Free, timed tickets available at the Independence Visitor Center (Sixth and Market streets). Daily 9 am-5 pm.

Betsy Ross House

The Colonial-style historic home of America’s famous flag maker features period furnishings and Betsy Ross’ own personal belongings, plus an upholstery shop and special exhibitions. $4-$8. Daily 10 am-5 pm (March 1-Nov. 30); Tu-Su 10 am-5 pm (Dec. 1-Feb. 29).

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site

Once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, Eastern State Penitentiary is now a haunting, crumbling, abandoned building remembered for its notorious captives. Tours include cell blocks, solitary punishment chambers, Al Capone’s lavishly decorated cell, death row and hospital wing. $12-$16. Open daily.

National Museum of American Jewish History

At this Smithsonian affiliate, visitors explore the history of the Jewish people in America through exhibits featuring more than 1,000 artifacts, plus films and interactive displays that allow visitors to contribute their own stories. $13-$15, children under 13 free. Open Tu-Su.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Founded in 1976, this museum is the first built by a major U.S. city devoted to African American lives, history and culture. Four galleries and an auditorium highlight exhibitions around the themes of the African Diaspora, the Philadelphia Story and Contemporary Narrative. $10-$14. W-Sa 10 am-5 pm, Su noon-5 pm.  

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Explore the financial history of the city and the nation through interactive displays like “Money in Motion,” which reveals the ins and outs of counterfeit currency. Other sights include banknotes from the original 13 colonies and the “Bankers’ Challenge,” an exhibit testing knowledge of financial management. Free.

Tippler's Tour Colonial Pub Crawls

Join a Colonial guide on this weekly tavern tour through historic Philadelphia. $50, $45 seniors, military and students. Age 21 and over. Tastings and gratuity included.Seasonal dates, typically May-December. Th 5:30. 

Independence National Historical Park

This park spans 20 city blocks (more than 55 acres) and includes Colonial sites like Independence Hall, Christ Church, Carpenters’ Hall, Old City Hall and the Benjamin Franklin Museum, not to mention the Liberty Bell.

American Philosophical Society Museum

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, this building dates back to the late 1780s and once housed America’s first museum, national library and academy of science. Guided tours may be scheduled M-W 10 am-4 pm ($5, student $2). $2 donation accepted. Open Th-Su 10 am-5 pm (mid April-December). 

Bartram's Garden

The oldest botanical garden in the United States and the former homestead of famed botanist John Bartram now serves as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory. The Common Flower Garden offers an unforgettable view of the city skyline. Gardens: free. Daily, dawn to dusk. Tours (in season): $10-$12.

City Tavern

At this reconstructed tavern used by delegates to the First and Second Continental Congresses, enjoy a Colonial-style meal by acclaimed chef Walter Staib. Visitors are welcome to walk through to take in the history. L, D (daily).

Elfreth's Alley

The oldest continuously occupied residential street in the U.S. features 18th- and 19th-century private homes. Visitors stroll the cobblestoned way named for Jeremiah Elfreth, taking in such quaint details as brass doorknobs, small-paned windows with flower boxes and brickwork.