Philadelphia Introduction Walking Tour, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Philadelphia

The sixth largest city in the United States and the largest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is a dynamic city heaped with old-world charm and contemporary infrastructure. Notable for its rich history, primarily as the birthplace of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Often called Philly, Philadelphia is also known as the City of Brotherly Love – a combination of two Greek words: love (phileo) and brother (adelphos). Its founder, English Quaker William Penn, envisioned a city of religious tolerance where everyone was free to practice their religion without fear of persecution. Pursuant to this goal, he made treaties with the Native Americans living on the land to ensure peace.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. The first European colony, founded by the Dutch in the early 17th century and known as New Netherland, was captured by an English fleet in 1664. 1682 is considered the year of Philadelphia's foundation when the area was included in William Penn's charter for Pennsylvania which was granted to him by King Charles II of England a year earlier.

The city served as the capital of the Pennsylvania Colony during the British colonial era and went on to play a vital role in the 18th century as the central meeting place for the nation's founding fathers whose plans and actions ultimately inspired and resulted in the American Revolution. Philadelphia hosted the First Continental Congress in 1774, preserved the Liberty Bell, and hosted the Second Continental Congress during which the Declaration of Independence was signed in what's now known as Independence Hall.

The U.S. Constitution was later ratified at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. The city remained the nation's largest until 1790, and served as its first capital, from May 10, 1775 until December 12, 1776, and on four subsequent occasions during and following the American Revolution.

The architectural history of Philadelphia, started in colonial times, includes a wide range of styles. During the 18th century, the cityscape was dominated by Georgian architecture, seen in the likes of Christ Church.

In the 19th century, the city became a key national industrial center and railroad hub flooded by immigrants, first Europeans and then African Americans who came from the South. In the 20th century, Philadelphia enjoyed further vitalization and gentrification of neighborhoods.

To explore the most famous sights of Philadelphia, some of which have seen actions that shaped the United States as we know today, take this self-guided walk!
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Philadelphia Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Philadelphia Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Philadelphia (See other walking tours in Philadelphia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Independence Hall
  • Liberty Bell
  • Museum of the American Revolution
  • Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court
  • Christ Church
  • Betsy Ross House
  • Christ Church Burial Ground
  • Independence National Historical Park
  • Reading Terminal Market
  • Masonic Temple
  • Philadelphia City Hall
Independence Hall

1) Independence Hall (must see)

In 1729 it was becoming evident that Philadelphia needed a state house. In August 1732, the Scottish lawyer Andrew Hamilton showed his plans to the Provincial Assembly. The ground was broken for construction soon after in Philadelphia. The State House would be on the south side of Chestnut Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The cost was to be about 2,000 pounds.

The Colonial Government of Pennsylvania took occupancy of the State House immediately. Construction was designed and built by architect Edmund Woolley. The building proceeded piecemeal as funds were allocated. The State House was completed in 1753. It served as the Capitol of the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until 1799.

Independence Hall is a Georgian-style hall with a red brick facade. There is a central building with a bell tower and steeple. The center is attached by arcaded passageways to wings on either side. The steeple spire is 169 feet high. Old City Hall, Congress Hall, and Independence Hall together with Philosophical Hall, share Independence Square.

The Hall underwent several renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the mid-20th century, the National Park Service carried out a reconstruction to restore the Hall to its 18th-century appearance. On the ground floor are the Assembly Room and the Supreme Court Room, separated by a vestibule. Behind the entrance is the Tower Stair Hall.

From 1775 to 1783, the Pennsylvania State House was the main meeting house of the Second Continental Congress. The Declaration of Independence was approved within its walls on July 4, 1776. Congress had to abandon the State House from time to time as British forces occupied Philadelphia. The United States Constitution was approved here in 1787.

Independence Hall has often served as a venue for speeches, rallies, and protests. Most events have been held on behalf of democratic and civil rights movements.
Liberty Bell

2) Liberty Bell (must see)

Since 2003, the Liberty Bell, formerly the State House Bell, has been kept in the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Park. That's a short walk away from the Old State House, now Independence Hall. The bell was commissioned in 1752 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. They chose the London firm of Lester and Pack to do the casting.

The bell cracked the very first time it was tried. The local foundry operators, Pass and Stow, did the recasting. This was done twice. The recast bell was hung on the State House steeple. The crack reappeared in 1835 while tolling the death of Chief Justice John Marshall. The bell was brittle from faulty alloys of tin, pewter, and copper.

The Liberty Bell was used to ring on Independence Day, Washington's Birthday, and Election Day; and to summon legislators into session. In 1835 the bell was dubbed the "Liberty Bell" in the Anti-Slavery Record, an Abolitionist publication. Inscribed on the bell is the message: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof."

On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and changed its name to "Taco Liberty Bell." They claimed the bell would be kept at Taco Bell's home office in Irvine, California. There was outrage, and Taco Bell had to admit it was an April fools' Day joke. The sale of enchiladas rose that week by $500,000.
Museum of the American Revolution

3) Museum of the American Revolution (must see)

The Museum of the American Revolution, located in Philadelphia, is dedicated to chronicling the story of the American Revolution. This institution, originally known as The American Revolution Center, opened its doors to the public on April 19, 2017. This date holds particular historical importance as it marks the 242nd anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, pivotal conflicts in the American Revolutionary War that occurred on April 19, 1775.

The Museum of the American Revolution boasts a vast collection of several thousand artifacts, forming a rich tapestry of the nation's history. Among its prized possessions are items personally owned and used by General George Washington during the War of Independence. The collection is also renowned for its extensive array of historic firearms, edged weapons, significant art, invaluable manuscripts, and rare books. A notable part of this collection originated from the early 20th-century efforts of Rev. W. Herbert Burk, forming the core of the museum's offerings.

Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), the building was unveiled on June 12, 2012. The structure itself is an architectural marvel, extending three stories above street level and encompassing a total of 118,000 square feet. Of this, 32,000 square feet is dedicated to exhibits and interpretive spaces. The first floor, which houses a museum shop and the Cross Keys Café, is built around a skylit central interior court. It also features a cross-vaulted ticketing lobby, a multi-use theater, and a gallery for changing exhibitions. The second floor is home to 18,000 square feet of galleries, including a theater showcasing George Washington's marquee tent.

Additionally, the third floor of the museum offers event spaces and two terraces, providing breathtaking views of the First Bank of the United States, Independence National Historical Park, and the expansive Philadelphia skyline. The Museum of the American Revolution not only serves as a repository of historical treasures but also as a vibrant space for engaging with the enduring legacy and relevance of the American Revolution.

You may skip the introductory film on the 1st floor, but don't skip the presentation on George Washington's tent, which is the museum's highlight. Check to see what times the presentation is playing, and make sure to show up a little bit early, as the theater is not large and fills up quickly.
Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court

4) Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court

The Benjamin Franklin Museum lies in the fully-enclosed courtyard where the Founding Father's house and print shop once stood. Although these were torn down long ago, some archaeological remains were excavated and are visible beneath glass windows in the ground along with explanatory signs.

"Ghost" houses were built in the exact spots where the house and print shop once stood, so one gets a real sense of how the site would have looked when those structures were standing. There is also a working 18th-century print shop adjacent which is a neat experience.

It doesn't cost anything to walk through Franklin Court, view the "ghost" houses, or visit the working print shop. The museum costs a very reasonable fee. While the space is not huge, it provides a very thorough and interesting overview of Franklin's life and contributions to the country. There are lots of interactive objects for kids and fascinating things to see, read, and ponder for adults.

The visitors can get both an overview of Franklin's life, as well as little interesting tidbits of trivia about him. They even have entertaining videos illustrating some humorous (and informative) episodes in his life, which seem to be everyone's favorite part. All in all, there is something for everyone, regardless of age.
Christ Church

5) Christ Church (must see)

Founded in 1695, Christ Church is considered one of the finest Georgian structures in America. It is often called the "Nation's Church" for having hosted members of the Continental Congress, including Washington, Adams, Rush, Franklin, and others.

The building itself is large and impressive. It was the town's tallest at the time and, for some 50+ years, the tallest structure in the U.S. Outside, the walkways are lined with the graves of early church members. One may recognize a few as being signers of the Declaration of Independence. Christ Church was a site where many famous Americans worshiped during the country's founding, and the pews are labeled with their names.

One of the most striking aspects of the place is that the windows are not stained-glass, but are clear, letting in not only the daylight but pristine views of the outdoors. That is very unusual for churches of the era, but it makes the interior quite lovely and bright. Docents are there to answer questions.

Don't miss the historical collection, including the 14th-century baptismal font in which William Penn was baptized, along with a rare book collection.
Betsy Ross House

6) Betsy Ross House (must see)

The story goes that Mrs. Eizabeth Claypoole, also known as Betsy Ross, had a visit from George Washington in 1776. She persuaded him, some say, that a five-pointed star was better than a six-pointed star. Betsy was an upholsterer, and she had been making flags for the Pennsylvania Navy. Flags were her specialty.

True or not, this captivating tale was told by her grandsons, William and George Canby, in the 1870s. People loved it, and it became a popular national legend. Number 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia is where Betsy is said to have lived with her third husband, John Claypoole. The house is a restoration done by architect Richardson Okie in 1940.

The "Betsy Ross" house that stands today may have been the house used by Betsy for her business. The residence of Betsy and her husband was adjacent to the present house. The houses next door were demolished and turned into a courtyard.

Richardson Okie used materials from the demolished houses in his restoration. A brick structure was built behind the house. Windows and a dormer were replaced. The whole property was gifted to the city of Philadelphia in 1941. In 1974 the courtyard was provided with a fountain.

As part of the American Bicentennial of 1976, city authorities moved the remains of Betsy and her husband, John Claypoole. They were reinterred in the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House. Betsy is thought to have resided in the house from 1776 until 1779.

John Ross, Betsy's first husband, a member of the militia, died in a gunpowder explosion. Her second husband, Joseph Ashburn, a mariner captured by the British, died in prison in Plymouth, England. John Claypoole was a fellow prisoner. He knew Ashburn. Betsy married Claypoole in 1783.

The Betsy Ross House is traditionally the site of Philadelphia's celebration of Flag Day. This legendary woman lived and worked here for a few short years when the Great Experiment began. Whatever else she may have done, she made flags.
Christ Church Burial Ground

7) Christ Church Burial Ground

Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia is an important early-American cemetery, which is still active. Despite the name, it is actually three blocks west of Christ Church. The land was acquired in 1719 when the church's property was full, and the new land was on what was back then considered the outskirts of town.

Christ Church is an Episcopal church founded in 1695, and it was the place of worship for many Revolutionary War participants, including George Washington.

Here is the final resting place of many historic national figures and prominent Philadelphians, including Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah, as well as four other signers of the Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Rush, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes, and George Ross. Two more signers (James Wilson and Robert Morris) are buried at Christ Church itself.

The Burial Ground is open to the public for a small fee. When the Burial Ground is closed, one can still view Benjamin Franklin's gravesite from the sidewalk at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets through a set of iron rails. The rail opening in the brick wall was added for public viewing in 1858 at the request of the Franklin Institute.

It is an old Philadelphia tradition for people to leave pennies at Franklin's resting place.

Further away from Franklin, the visitors can see a small but neatly kept space with lesser-known graves, some of which are also quite interesting.
Independence National Historical Park

8) Independence National Historical Park (must see)

Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia has been called "America's most historic square mile." Administered by the National Park Service, the 55 landscaped acres hold several often-visited historic sites within the Old City and Society Hill neighborhoods.

The heart of the Park is Independence Hall, the former Old State House of Philadelphia. This is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were adopted. The first Continental Congress met in 1774 in Carpenters' Hall next door to Independence Hall, the home of the Second Continental Congress.

The Liberty Bell hangs in the Liberty Bell Center across from Independence Hall. The First Bank of the United States is in the Park. The Second Bank of the United States was closed down by President Andrew Jackson. Nearby is the City Tavern, a refuge of delegates and John Adams' favorite hangout.

The Park houses Franklin Court Museum dedicated to Benjamin Franklin. Another park resident is the United States Postal Service Museum. The three blocks immediately north of Independence Hall is Independence Mall. Besides the Liberty Bell Center, the Mall holds the National Constitution Center and George Washington's residence in his second term.

The first proposal for Independence National Historical Park was floated in 1915. Architects Albert Kelsey and David K. Boyd were driven to create a more sylvan locale for Independence Hall. The action was not taken until June 1948, when Congress authorized the creation of the Park. The Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Reading Terminal Market

9) Reading Terminal Market (must see)

Open-air markets were popular in early Philadelphia. By the mid-19th century, markets along the Delaware River ran on for a mile or more, and High Street was renamed "Market Street." In 1859, the city dismantled everything under public pressure, which perceived open-air markets as dirty and unhygienic. Two indoor markets, Franklin Market and Farmers' Market opened at 12th and Market Streets. These two would be the foundation of the Reading Terminal Market.

With the coming of the railroads, architect Francis H. Kimball designed the Reading Railroad headhouse terminal in 1891. The train shed platform was built over the newly opened consolidated market. In 1893 an up-to-date refrigerated storage space was available for use in the market basement. Vendors could store perishable goods year-round.

After a period of prosperity, the Market experienced a long period of hardship. The Great Depression and the rise of competing supermarkets took their toll. Reading Railroad went bankrupt. In 1990 the City Council set up the non-profit Reading Terminal Market Corporation. The Market revived, and it is currently open seven days a week.

The Reading Terminal Market features arts, crafts, gifts, bakeries, confectionaries, eateries, flowers, ice creams, meats, seafood, Pennsylvania Dutch products, produce, and specialties. There are also diners, restaurants, and fast-food venues.
Masonic Temple

10) Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple of Philadelphia is located at 1 North Broad Street, across the Philadelphia City Hall, and serves as the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The Temple holds the Masonic Library and Museum of Philadelphia. The Temple welcomes thousands of visitors every year. In its seven lodge rooms, the Philadelphia lodges and the Grand Lodge conduct their meetings.

The Masonic Temple was designed in the medieval Norman building style by architect James H. Windrim. The enormous 10-ton granite cornerstone was laid in June 1868. Grand Master Richard Vaux used the same gavel that day used by George Washington to level the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793.

The interior, which took 15 years to finish, was mainly designed by the decorative painter George Herzog. The stylistic elements of the Middle Ages meld into a fantasy of Renaissance and Neo-classicism in the halls and a 19th-century "eclectic revivalism" in the lodge rooms.

On the first floor are the Oriental Hall and the Library and Museum, the Grand Banquet Hall, the Grand Master's Suite, and offices. Norman, Egyptian, Ionic, Corinthian, and Renaissance Halls share the second floor. On the third floor is Gothic Hall. Ornate corridors and stairways connect every room.
Philadelphia City Hall

11) Philadelphia City Hall

King Charles II owed a hefty sum of money to Admiral Sir William Penn, to wit 16,000 pounds. To discharge the debt, on 4 March 1681, the King signed a charter granting what is now Pennsylvania to the Admiral's son, William. William the Younger was a radical Quaker filled with democratic ideals. He set out for America.

Center Square was one of the original five squares marked out by Penn as the center of his city. It was simply a public square until the building of City Hall in 1871. By that time, it had come to be called Penn Square.

Located at number 1 Penn Square, City Hall was designed by architect John McArthur in the Second Empire style. It was in the process of construction from 1871 until 1901. Upon its completion, the Hall was the world's tallest habitable building.

The City Hall is a masonry building supported by brick and granite walls up to 22 feet thick. The outside walls are mainly limestone, granite, and marble. Sculptor Alexander Milne Calder created over 250 sculptured images of American ideals. With nearly 700 rooms, the Hall is the largest civic building in the country with the tallest clock tower in the world.

The tall clock tower has a clock face on each side. Four bronze eagles are perched above the clocks. A giant bronze statue of William Penn by Calder is at the top of the tower. Beneath the monument is a glass-enclosed observation deck.

Walking Tours in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Fairmount Park Historical Houses Walking Tour

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As America's first university, The University of Pennsylvania (aka Penn or Upenn, for short) has a history stretching back to the mid-18th century, closely bound with the city's colonial past and the birth of the United States. Initially, this Ivy League institution emerged as the College of Philadelphia, one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the US Declaration of...  view more

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Rocky Movie Sites Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
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King Charles II of England owed a lot of money to Admiral Sir William Penn. He paid in 1681 by signing over lands in America to the Admiral's son, William Penn. Young William, a Quaker and a thorn in the side of the King, became landlord of present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware. William sailed up Delaware, laid out a grid, and founded Philadelphia.

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Franklin Parkway Walking Tour

Franklin Parkway Walking Tour

Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a scenic boulevard running through the cultural heart of Philadelphia. Named for America's Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, this mile-long tree-lined parkway is lined with several notable sights and world-class museums.

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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