Only have one day in Philadelphia to shop, eat and drink. Spend that one day in Philadelphia’s Old City, the 18th C historic section of downtown, that is considered the birthplace of the American Revolution.
While the food scene and Philadelphia restaurants are at the top of their game, great shopping in the city of Brotherly Love is not up to par with any of its East Coast cousins. Maybe it’s the pull of King of Prussia Mall, second largest mall in America, that drags the potential shoppers away from center city.
Old City Shopping
Still, I have found a few Philadelphia shops and sights that really deserve our attention and if you have one day in Philadelphia to shop, hit these before you go. You don’t have to get up early as most of these open at 11:00am. Tour the Philadelphia Old City highlights, like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and then wander over to 3rd Street and Market.
I am not a real coffee drinker, tea is my game, but I always stop at Menagerie Coffee to see what’s on tap. This time it was the Eggnog Latte, perfect for pre-holiday Philadelphia shopping. The rich sweetness of Pennsylvania’s Tricking Springs Creamery Eggnog combined with the bitterness of Italian Espresso tasted more luxurious then any latte I’ve had anywhere else. This special might not be available if you venture here in the summer, but I am sure there will be something else just as delish.
How could I not have this bag? I found it in the store that is rumored to have started it all! Third Street was never the same after Vagabond moved into old city Philadelphia. Stuffed with cutting edge designers and designed with a vintage shop feel, Vagabond makes you want to try everything on and never leave. I loved the soap, jewelry and accessories collection as well and came home with that bag!
Art in the Age
Walter Benjamin is no household name. The author of the original essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” claims “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” The art that is being created in this store is of the alcoholic kind with a high percentage of cocktail ware and their own home brewed spirits.
With a founder like Steven Grasse, the enfant terrible behind Hendricks and other major brands, it’s not surprising that nothing is reproduced mechanically! I was lucky enough to grab their SNAP, a smooth 80-proof spirit made of molasses, ginger and brown sugar, before they stopped making it. Fortunately they have just reopened after a few months refurb and are now producing many more spirits, built a tasting room as well as, a bar and sells the best bar ware in the business.
The Cypriot pointed out this Philadelphia barbershop with the very English name before it caught my eye. Made me giggle seeing it in old city Philadelphia since over two hundred years ago we fought a war against “blokes” on these very streets during the American Revolution. Now we’re doing their hair!
Right around the corner on 2nd street is literally one of the oldest streets in America, Elfreth’s Alley. It’s moniker is even “our nation’s oldest residential street.” Built between 1728 and 1836, the thirty-two houses are a prime example of American Colonial Architecture. Flags usually fly high and you feel that you might catch Thomas Jefferson emerging from one of those houses at any minute.
Be forewarned, you just can’t pop into Christ Church for a look. Guides are on hand to lure you in and regale you with stories of sermons past, but that’s a good thing. Christ Church, just down the street from Elfreth’s Alley, was one of the most important churches in the new world during the early years of the USA. All the forefathers attended every Sunday, including George Washington, Betsey Ross and Benjamin Franklin. At one point, its steeple was the tallest structure in North America, so take that Christopher Wren!
Benjamin Franklin Museum
By the time we walked through the courtyard of the Benjamin Franklin Museum, we were ready to eat. Actually we just wanted to see Benjamin Franklin’s “Ghost House.” Designed by contemporary architect Robert Venturi, this steel shell is an outline of what Franklin’s house and print shop would have looked like if they were still around. If you are not as hungry as we were, you can take the tour of the museum as well.
Philadelphia’s Best Sandwich, no, it’s not a cheesesteak!
We practically ran the 10 blocks to the Reading Terminal to get our lunch. There is no time I am in Philadelphia when the Cypriot and I do not have Tommy Dinic’s iconic Roast Pork Sandwich for lunch. It deserves not only a mention, but its own website. You have to be a meat eater because this combo of slow roasted pork, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe has been satisfying Philadelphian’s since 1980. You usually have to wait to grab a few seats at the counter, but it is so worth it.
Here it is being made!
Actually all the treats in the Reading Terminal are great – so share a sandwich and then grab a hot pretzel, another iconic Philly food. They had just made and were almost too hot to handle. Somehow we made it though and they were the best soft pretzels I have ever had….of course they were dripping with butter and crunchy with salt. Thank goodness, I will be back in March for my next dose!
Best Bits: Travel Cheat Sheet
- Menagerie Cafe, 18 S. 3rd Street
- Vagabond, 37 N. 3rd Street
- Art in the Age, 116 N. 3rd Street
- Blokes, 151 North 3rd Street
- Elfreth’s Alley, 124-126 Elfreth’s Alley
- Christ Church, 20 N American Street
- Benjamin Franklin Museum, 317 Chestnut Street
- Reading Terminal, 51 N 12th Street
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One thought on “Best Bits of Old City, Philadelphia, USA”
You need to do a full Cheesesteak review. Philly only. And Hoagies of course. It’s important for people to know that Jims and Pats and Genos is garbage