Philadelphia is a city full of historic neighborhoods and shoppers will find that each one has its personality.
Philly's Top Shopping Neighborhoods
Here are a handful of neighborhoods full of independently-opened shops (and a few chains) where you can bag some unique souvenirs from the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.
Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill’s vibrant main street, is populated by independent clothing stores, home stores, galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants, as well as a few chains. Veer off the main drag for a glimpse of the lovely residential neighborhood full of Victorian mansions and find out why the charming neighborhood has a high walkability factor. The neighborhood, dubbed Philadelphia's Garden District, has a busy schedule of events from sidewalk sales to the annual Witches and Wizards Festival Potter Festival, Home & Garden Festival and an Arts festival. Bredenbeck’s Bakery & Ice Cream Parlor, a neighborhood staple since 1889, is not to be missed; It’s doors are open.
The cobblestone streets in Old City are lined with independently- owned clothing boutiques and home goods stores, galleries, furniture stores, gift and antique shops, vintage and thrift stores, càfes, and historic attractions. You won’t find chains in this charming neighborhood that’s home to the Betsy Ross House and Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the nation. Don’t miss Smak Parlour, with women’s clothing by independent and in-house designers mostly under one hundred dollars. It’s open with modified hours and masks are required.
South Street/Headhouse District
In 1963, the Orlons’ dubbed South Street “the hippest street in town” in their Top 40 hit “South Street.” After all these years, this eclectic street is still awesome, if not for the Orlons’ contemporaries then at least for their grandchildren. Teens, students and twenty-somethings are attracted by the street’s edgy atmosphere. It’s full of funky boutiques, tattoo parlors/piercing/body arts salons, sex shops and other mostly independently-owned stores, plus ethnic restaurants, cafes and bars. The younger generation loves to stroll the blocks, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. In the warmer months, Farmer’s Markets and craft fairs are held at the headhouse at South and Front streets.
Don’t miss Eyes Gallery a gift shop specializing in Latin American folk art, specialty clothing and unique jewelry. Julia Zagar and her husband, Isaiah Zagar, the well-known artist who created Philadephia’s Magic Gardens a few blocks west of the gallery, opened the store in 1968. There’s a reason it’s been around for more than 50 years; It has re-opened.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Jewish immigrants selling fabric graduated from pushcarts to storefronts, creating a thriving fabric row. They sold fabric for clothing, home décor, and bridal gowns. Many lived above their shops. Though no longer in its heyday, South 4th Street from Bainbridge to Catharine is still home to about a dozen fabric stores, many run by descendants of the original owners. Fabric Row is a mecca for sewers who rifle through bolts of fabrics stacked to the ceiling and giant bins of buttons, trimmings, and other sewing materials. While some of the fabric businesses have closed, the neighborhood has retained much of its charm, thanks to the unique boutiques, vintage clothing stores, and cafes that have opened there.
Make sure to check out Bus Stop boutique, which is known for its soft-as-butter handcrafted oxfords and fashion-forward styles typically only found in New York, London, Paris or Rio. Bus Stop is open for walk-ins, socially distant appointments. The shop is also offering free shipping, curbside pick up and contactless delivery.
Early in the 19th century, Midtown Village was one of the most vital areas of Philadephia. It’s where Ben Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. In later years it fell into disrepair, however, in the last decade it has come back in a big way. It has once again become one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods with more than three dozen restaurants and bars and dozens of one-of-a-kind boutiques. Midtown Village overlaps with the Gayborhood, as evidenced by the rainbow crosswalks and street signs. This unique enclave prides itself on its open-mindedness, diversity and independently-owned and operated businesses. Don’t miss Bella Turka, a locally-owned jewelry store known for affordable pieces inspired by designs from Greece and Turkey.
This historic neighborhood is a 15-minute drive from Center City (downtown) with a walkable main street, called Main Street, filled with appealing Victorian storefronts housing mostly independently-owned boutiques selling clothing, art, home decor and furnishings. The small town is also home to more than 30 restaurants and bars, including ethnic restaurants and many with outside dining. The word “Manayunk” comes from the Lenape Indian word for a river which, translates to “the place we go to drink.” It seems serendipitous that Manayunk is also known for its vibrant nightlife and brewpub. Don’t miss The Spiral Bookcase, an inviting independent bookstore that’s currently open for curbside pick up and shipping.