West Philly is a mostly residential section of Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill River, which represented the western boundary of William Penn's original plan for the colonial city. West Philadelphia is a vibrant, diverse, multi-cultural urban area, home to three excellent and world-renowned universities. Tourists may be more interested in the neighborhoods near the campuses than the working-class that lie further west. Even farther out, at the very edge of the city, West Philadelphia gradually gives way to newer, and often larger housing in neighborhoods like Overbrook and Wynnefield, the latter of which is home to half of the Saint Joseph's University campus.
With the exception of a few colonial and early federal mansions like the Woodlands and Bartram's Gardens, most of West Philly developed from farmland as an early suburb. Development moved west from the Schuylkill following the course of a network of trolleys (many of which still run today) and the El which runs above Market St. University City is also known as the "Left Bank" (an homage to Paris' Latin Quarter), as well as Philadelphia's "international" neighborhood because of the multitude of ethnicities living here.
Not surprisingly, West Philadelphia today presents a living catalog of 19th- and early 20th-century residential architecture ranging from dramatic ornate Queen Anne Victorian mansions to more humble brick rowhouses. Although many sections suffered decline and urban blight as the heavy industry that fed the demand for housing construction in West Philly dwindled and departed the United States, areas like Powelton Village, Spruce Hill and Cedar Park have been largely preserved and provide an opportunity to "step back into time" as you stroll the wide tree-lined streets of stately 19th-century homes. The area has been declared a National Historic District.
West Philly is home to several large educational institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the former University of Sciences in Philadelphia (now Saint Joseph's University - University City Campus).
The area also holds most of Philadelphia's expansive Fairmount Park, the largest municipal park in the country. It is home to Mann Music Center, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the Please Touch Museum. On Sundays, MLK Drive is closed to traffic, so bring your rollerblades!
Check out Clark Park on Baltimore Ave at 43rd Street, or take a stroll on Spruce or Pine.
By public transitEdit
- West Philadelphia is primarily served by stops 30th St through 63rd St of the Market-Frankford subway/elevated train line, which most locals refer to simply as "the El." This transit line which, as its name suggests, runs along Market Street, connects the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia with Center City to the East, ending in the Frankford section of Northeast Philadelphia. To the West, the El connects the city with 69th Street Terminal in the suburb of Upper Darby, where riders can transfer to various suburban trolley and bus lines.
- In addition to the El, all of Philadelphia's remaining trolley lines run through West Philadelphia at some point of their route.
- West Philadelphia is also served by Regional Rail, the city's network of commuter lines. Every line serving the city stops at 30th St station, and some lines make additional stops in the area (see the SEPTA rail map for additional information).
- Both Megabus and BoltBus have their Philadelphia stops behind 30th Street Station. The area is easy to locate as there is often groups of people waiting, vendors, and signs where the buses stop. Megabus and BoltBus both run multiple trips to New York each day. Megabus runs to various other places including Washington D.C., Toronto, Boston, State College, and more. See the website for current information.
In addition to the network of city streets, West Philadelphia has easy access to Interstate 76 (usually referred to as the Schuylkill Expressway, after the river along which it was built) on its Eastern edge and Interstate 476 (the Blue Route) may be accessed on the Western edge of the area via PA Route 3 (West Chester Pike).
West Philadelphia cyclists count on one of the more extensive networks of bike-friendly streets in the city, many of them with designated bicycle lanes. These streets are all part of the city's Bicycle Network. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia also provides resources. There are also a few good places to get new/used bikes as well as new/used parts and accessories: The Neighborhood Bike Works and Firehouse Bicycles.
- 1 Powelton Village. It is a small enclave outside the University City section of Philadelphia, from 34th to 40th streets between Market and Haverford. It remains visually identifiable, an oasis of tree-lined streets, porch-fronted suburban houses interspersed with a few mansions and their commercial support buildings dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. Large, well-cared-for homes from the early 20th and late 19th century line several streets. This area is a collection of Philadelphia natives, college students and professors.
- 2 University City. Roughly speaking, University City begins at 30th Street anchored by the historical 30th Street Station, extends west just beyond 40th Street, and north to Spring Garden Street. The area includes two of Philadelphia's major universities, Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania, and a teaching hospital. The neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and is a rapidly growing, heavily policed, student-friendly enclave within the larger predominantly working class West Philly. It also includes the prestigious culinary school The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College at 43rd and Walnut, and the private university University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. West Philadelphia also includes the residential areas of Powelton Village, Spruce Hill and Cedar Park, all of which have large student populations. Locust Walk, a part of Locust Street that has been made pedestrian-only through the University of Pennsylvania campus, is a particularly nice place for a stroll.
- 3 Philadelphia Zoo, 34th St and Girard Ave (parking is available along Girard Ave at 35th and 38th Sts), ☏ +1-215-243-1100. Daily, except Thanksgiving Day, December 24, 25 and 31, January 1, and the second Thursday in June. 9:30AM–5PM March–November; 9:30AM–4PM December–February. The first zoo in the United States, opened in 1874 (after a 15-year delay due to the Civil War). Home to nearly 1500 animals and attractions such as camel and pony rides, a bird safari, and a Victorian-era train. Winter: $17, Summer: Adult $23/Child (2-11) $19; Under 2 Free, $2 military discount with proper identification; parking is $16 year round.
- 4 Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave (parking on Belmont Avenue), ☏ +1 215 893-1999. Theater and dining complex. Admission free, show prices vary.
- 5 Japanese House and Garden (Shofuso). The Japanese House, as it is informally known to Philadelphians, was built in 16th century style on the grounds of the Horticultural Center in the West Philadelphia section of Fairmount Park near the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Montgomery Drive.
- 6 The Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, ☏ +1 215 963-0667. 9AM-4:30PM daily, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. A fantastic place to take young children. As the name says, everyone is encouraged to touch the exhibits. It is located in Memorial Hall, a striking Beaux-arts building of granite, glass and iron, which is only major structure to survive from Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exposition. $9.95.
- Belmont Plateau, 2000 Belmont Mansion Dr. Section of Fairmount Park with a great view of center city. The lower plateau has locations for grilling, baseball, and other activities. Climb to the upper plateau for the view.
- 7 Belmont Mansion, ☏ +1 215 878-8844. Tu-F 11AM or noon to 5PM. Historic mansion built in 1745, located at the top of the Belmont Plateau. Mansion now includes the Underground Railroad Museum. $7 adult, $5 children, students, seniors, under 6 free.
- 8 Clark Park, 43rd & Chester. Clark Park is an outdoor music and arts festival area in West Philadelphia.
- 9 John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, 8601 Lindbergh Blvd, ☏ +1 215 365-3118. Trails: dawn-dusk daily. Cusano Environmental Education Center: 8:30AM-4PM daily. Located on the border of Philadelphia and Tinicum Township, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is the first urban National Wildlife Refuge in the United States and preserves the Tinicum Marsh along the Darby Creek, which is the largest freshwater tidal marsh remaining in Pennsylvania. The refuge is a stop for birds along the Atlantic Flyway and is home for a variety of wildlife including deer, fox, raccoons, butterflies, fish, ducks, geese, osprey, and eagles. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum features a 10-mile network of trails that allow for viewing of wildlife. You can also fish in the Darby Creek of travel through the marsh in a canoe. Also located at the refuge is the Cusano Environmental Education Center.
- 10 Penn Museum, 3260 South St, ☏ +1 215 898-4000. Tu Th-Su 10AM-5PM, W 10AM-8PM, M closed. An anthropology and archeology museum run by the University of Pennsylvania. Houses an impressive collection of Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts. It also houses two of the Six Steeds from the mausoleum of Emperor Taizong of China's Tang Dynasty, which were controversially stolen and smuggled out of China in 1914. $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children 6-17/students, children 5 and under free. Joint ticket with the Mütter Museum available for $20 adults, $14 concession.
- 1 The Palestra. Philadelphia is known for its rich college basketball history, and the Palestra, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, is a museum of the Philadelphia Big 5 programs (La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple, and Villanova). The arena serves as the home court for the Penn Quakers basketball team and is the court for many basketball games between the city's colleges.
- 2 Rave Cinemas University City 6 (The Bridge de Lux).
- 3 Painted Bride Art Center, 5212 Market St, ☏ +1 215-857-5851. The Bride, as it is known, was founded in 1969 and is dedicated to producing and showing works generated by points of view that are "outside the mainstream," according to the center's website. The center contains a gallery and a 250-seat theater, where shows such as "Jazz on Vine," Philadelphia's oldest continuously running Jazz series, are performed. The Bride also hosts innovative dance and world music performances. A Philadelphia treasure.
- 4 Group Motion Dance Company, 3500 Lancaster Ave.
- 5 Film @ International House.
- 6 Philadanco. The Philadelphia Dance Company. Events often take place at the Kimmel Center in Center City.
- 7 Spiral Q Puppet Theater, 3808 Lancaster.
- 8 Curio Theatre Company, 4740 Baltimore. It also offers lessons for children.
- 9 Arthur Ross Gallery.
- 10 Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, 3701 Market.
- 11 Institute of Contemporary Art. A modern art museum.
- 12 The Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut. Runs cultural events.
- Barnes Foundation. Just west of the city boundaries in Merion, the former Barnes residence features a 12-acre arboretum, with over 3,000 species of woody plants and trees. The art collection moved to a new building in Center City West in 2012.
- Community Education Center.
- East Africa Resource and Study Center.
- Special Events @ International House[dead link]
- Penn Humanities Forum.
- University City Historical Society. A registry of historic buildings in the University City area.
- 13 2nd Friday (35th and Lancaster). A more "laid-back" version of Old City's 1st Friday.
- 14 Crossroads Music. Crossroads organizes world music concerts at various venues in West Philly.
- 15 Fiume, 229 S. 45th St (Upstairs). Live blues every Sunday 7-10PM, and live Bluegrass on Thursdays 10PM-1:45AM.
- The Green Line Cafe.
- Gatherings Concert Series.
- 16 Millcreek Tavern.
- Philadelphia Boys' Choir & Chorale.
- 17 The World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Offers an eclectic offering of concerts, from jazz to rock, from locally and nationally-renowned artists.
- Foreign Language Classes @ International House[dead link]
- 18 Kelly Writers' House.
- University City Arts League.
- West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
- 19 Penn Presents -- Annenberg Center.
- 20 The Rotunda (promotion of arts/live music).
- University Pinball.
Fitness & recreationEdit
- FIT Gym.
- 21 Penn Ice Rink.
- Philadelphia Karate Club.
- Power Yoga Works.
- 22 Studio 34: Yoga | Healing | Arts (Studio 34), 4522 Baltimore Ave (2nd Floor), ☏ +1 215 387-3434. check website for hours. A 5,000-square-foot healing and creative arts space in vibrant, diverse West Philadelphia. It offers yoga, Pilates, healing, creative arts events, and community programs 15 minutes from City Hall on SEPTA's Route 34 Green Line trolley. $5 and up.
- SWEAT gym (right before the Walnut Street Bridge)
- 23 Penn Campus Arboretum. Penn campus can be a place to appreciate greenery.
There are two main streets in West Philadelphia along which the majority of the area's shopping is concentrated. Walnut street in University City caters to the more upscale tastes of residents, many of them students, who live on and around the college campuses, while 52nd St has historically been frequented by the less affluent residents of outlying neighborhoods. The 52nd St shopping district has a reputation for being unsafe, but still may offer some interesting shopping and dining options for those who care to visit.
City Line Ave, which divides Philadelphia City and County from suburban communities in Montgomery County, also provides a variety of chain stores and restaurants.
- 1 The Fresh Grocer.
- 2 Clark Park Farmer's Market.
- 3 Penn Bookstore.
- 4 Supremo Supermarket (43rd and Walnut).
West Philadelphia boasts one of the largest and most varied concentrations of ethnic restaurants outside of Center City. However, more familiar chain restaurants, from McDonald's to Boston Market, aren't hard to find for the less-adventurous palate. Food trucks are also popular around the university areas, leading several Penn students to start a website cataloguing and mapping all the local trucks, with a handy filter for only trucks that are open.
- 1 Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, 229 S 45th St, ☏ +1 215 387-2424. Daily 9AM-midnight. Good, affordable Ethiopian food, if you can stand the poorly rated service and long wait times. Vegan friendly.
- 2 Kaffa Crossing Cafe, 4423 Chestnut St, ☏ +1 215 386-0504. Su-F 9AM-9PM; Sa 9AM-10PM. Cross between fair trade coffee shop and Ethiopian restaurant. Vegan friendly.
- 3 Kim's Oriental Food, 37th and Walnut Streets (in the plaza next to the Pottruck Gym). M-F 11AM-8PM, Su noon-8PM. Food truck that's immensely popular amongst college students, because it's cheap, tasty, extremely fast, and is one of the few food trucks that feels like it's always open. $3-6.
- 4 Pho Cafe Saigon, 4248 Spruce St, ☏ +1 215 222-6800. Cheap Vietnamese food.
- 5 Saad's Halal Restaurant, 4500 Walnut St, ☏ +1 215 222-7223. M-Th 11AM-9PM; F Sa 11AM-10PM. Mediterranean restaurant. $4-15.
- 6 Tacos Don Memo, 38th Street, between Walnut and Chestnut Streets (University City, across from the 7-Eleven), ☏ +1 610 529-2039. Some of the best burritos and tortas in the area actually come out of this tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-it taco truck on traffic-heavy 38th Street. Unfortunately, there will be quite a long wait—about a half hour or so—during the lunch rush, and despite their popularity, their presence is not always reliable (though you can now follow their Twitter account for updates). $2-6.
- 7 Allegro Pizza & Grill, 3942 Spruce St (University City), ☏ +1 215 382-8158. Su-W 11AM-midnight; Th-Sa 11AM-3:30AM. A staple of the college student's late-night delivery repertoire. $8-15.
- 8 Dahlak, 4708 Baltimore Ave, ☏ +1 215 726-6464. Daily 4PM-10:30PM. Economical Ethiopian/Eritrean fare, one of the original and best east African restaurants in the neighborhood. Lovely traditional decor. $8-14.
- 9 The Greek Lady, 222 S 40th St (University City), ☏ +1 215 382-2600. Greek food.
- 10 Kabobeesh, 4201 Chestnut St, ☏ +1 215 386-8081. Daily noon-11PM. Pakistani restaurant. $8-11.
- 11 Metropolitan Bakery, 4013 Walnut St (University City), ☏ +1 215 222-1492. M-F 7:30AM-7PM; Sa Su 8AM-7PM. Locally-based artisan bakery with several stores throughout Philadelphia.
- 12 New Delhi Indian Restaurant, 4004 Chestnut St (University City), ☏ +1 215 386-1941. Su Tu-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F Sa 11:30AM-11PM, M closed. Vegan friendly. $10-15.
- 13 Sang Kee Noodle House, 3549 Chestnut St, ☏ +1 215 387-8808. Su-Th 6:30AM-10:30AM, 11:30AM -11PM; F Sa 6:30AM-10:30AM, 11:30AM-Midnight. $7-16.
- 14 Satellite Cafe, 701 S 50th St. Local and organic coffee shop.
- 15 Sitar India Cuisine, 60 S 38th St, ☏ +1 215 662-0818. W-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9:30PM; Su-Tu closed. Vegan friendly.
- 16 Ekta India Restaurant, 106 S 40th St (University City), ☏ +1 215 222-7122. Vegan friendly.
- 17 Vientiane Cafe, 4728 Baltimore Ave. Thai/Laotian restaurant. Vegan friendly.
- 18 White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St (University City), ☏ +1 215 386-9224. M-Th 5:30-10PM, F Sa 5:30-11PM, Su 5-10PM. One of the pioneers of the "buy local" movement in Philadelphia, the White Dog uses products from local farmers, and serve beers from local breweries. As a result, prices are higher. The food is mostly American/Continental style, with pub grub served at the bar. $15-25.
- 19 Distrito, 3945 Chestnut St (University City), ☏ +1 215 386-1072. Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F Sa 11:30AM-11PM. "Modern Mexican" food by local restaurateur Jose Garces. Dinner starts being served at 5PM Distrito is a restaurant that’s full of pink décor that will get your attention. This modern restaurant has unique setting from chairs, booths and taxis. Chef Jose Garces won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award and won The Next Iron Chef in 2010. $5-35.
- 20 Kpod, 3636 Sansom St (University City), ☏ +1 215 387-1803. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F 11:30AM-11PM; Sa 5-11PM; Su 5-10PM. Stephen Starr's Asian fusion restaurant in a funky, nightclub-like decor. $10-30.
In West Philly, local dive bars and Irish pubs rule the roost.
- 1 Dock Street Brewery, 701 S. 50th St, ☏ +1 215 726-2337. Changing selection of six microbrewed beers. Gourmet pizzas prepared in a wood burning oven.
- 2 Gojjo, 4540 Baltimore Ave, ☏ +1 215 386-1444. Daily 4PM-2AM. Ethiopian restaurant with a resident DJ that plays Friday and Saturday after 10PM.
- 3 Local 44, 4333 Spruce St, ☏ +1 215 222-2337. Daily 11:30AM-2AM. Good food and a large selection of craft beers, both local and from around the world. Although the name evokes the all-powerful Philadelphia labor union, the crowd reflects this West Philly neighborhood of young professionals and graduate students.
- 4 Sláinte, 3000 Market St (Directly across from the south west corner of 30th street station), ☏ +1 215 222-7400. Daily 11AM-2AM. An Irish themed pub owned by the same people as New Deck and with a similar but less collegiate feel. Draws more of a business crowd but has good inexpensive bar food and beer.
- 1 HI - Chamounix Mansion Hostel, 3250 Chamounix Dr (West Fairmount Park), ☏ +1 215 878-3676, toll-free: +1 800 379-0017, fax: +1 215 871-4313, email@example.com. Check-in: 4:30PM, check-out: 11AM. On a scenic bluff above the Schuylkill River and 45 minutes to downtown Philadelphia's cultural and historic attractions. Associated with Hostelling International. Curfew at 2AM, daily lockout between 11AM and 4:30PM.
Bed and breakfastsEdit
- 2 Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast, 3300 Baring.
- 3 The Gables Bed & Breakfast.
- Akwaaba Philadelphia, 3709 Baring St, toll-free: +1 866 466-3855.
- 4 The Inn at Penn, 3600 Sansom St. A four-diamond Hilton property hotel on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Rooms from $209.
- 5 Sheraton Philadelphia, 36th and Chestnut Streets. Sheraton Philadelphia University City hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania features luxurious rooms, meeting space, and a restaurant near city center.
- 6 Residence Inn Philadelphia Airport, 4630 Island Ave, ☏ +1 215 492-1611.
- 7 Sonesta Select Philadelphia Airport, 8900 Bartram Ave, ☏ +1 215 365-2200.
- 8 Philadelphia Airport Marriott, 1 Arrivals Rd, ☏ +1 215 492-9000. Connected to Terminal B of the Philadelphia International Airport via the skybridge. Has event space for meetings and weddings.
- 9 Embassy Suites, 9000 Bartram Ave, ☏ +1 215 365-4500.
- 10 Delta Hotel Philadelphia Airport, 500 Stevens Dr, ☏ +1 610 521-5900.
|Routes through West Philadelphia (by subway)|
|Upper Darby ← Millbourne ←||SW NE||→ Center City West → Northeast Philadelphia|
|Routes through West Philadelphia (by commuter rail)|
|North Philadelphia ← Center City West ←||N S||→ Philadelphia International Airport → END|
|Northwest Philadelphia ← Center City West ←||NW SE||→ END|
|END ← Northwest Philadelphia ← North Philadelphia ←||NE OB||→ Center City West → North Philadelphia|
|END ← Bala Cynwyd ←||NW SE||→ Center City West → END|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Center City West → Northeast Philadelphia|
|Norristown ← Center City West ←||NW SE||→ END|