Philadelphia Historical Sites: A Guide for the Curious Tourist

Philadelphia, a city steeped in history, has played a pivotal role in the founding of America. From the signing of the Declaration of Independence to Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, Philadelphia's Old City preserves countless relics and stories from our nation's earliest days.

Follow along as we dive deep into the iconic landmarks that define history in Philadelphia.

Strap on your walking shoes and get ready to step back in time as we explore the cobblestone streets and Philadelphia historical sites. That transport you straight into the days of powdered wigs and founding fathers.

Wander down historic lanes like Lombard Street and Vine Street, gazing up at the brick row houses and quaint storefronts. Or perhaps you’ll duck into one of the candlelit taverns and eateries tucked within 18th-century buildings.

Whether you’re meandering past sites like the First Bank of the United States on a sunny spring afternoon. Or briskly strolling to your next destination in the cold of winter, historic Philadelphia immerses you in the sights, sounds, and even tastes of colonial America.

Keep reading our ultimate historic Philadelphia visitors guide to uncover the monuments, homes, and halls that line the streets of America’s first World Heritage City.

The front of the historic Betsy Ross house in the daylight with a flag flying on the front of it in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
photo credit: Betsy Ross House via Facebook

Betsy Ross House

Even though we all know the story of the famous seamstress, the Betsy Ross House is like a time machine. That takes you back to 18th-century Philadelphia and the life of this well-known artisan.

Walk through Betsy’s house and upholstery shop, getting hands-on insights into the past with exhibits, live demonstrations, and an optional audio guide narrated by Betsy herself. Picture meeting a costumed Betsy as she works on her needlework using old-fashioned tools and techniques.

The Betsy Ross House not only tells the story of her stitching America’s first flag but also gives you a peek into everyday life in the 1700s. What’s more, this National Historic Landmark offers a full calendar of special events and group tour packages at discounted rates.

After uncovering Betsy Ross’ world at one of Philadelphia’s top historical landmarks, extend your journey through the city’s history with the Go Philadelphia Explorer Pass. This pass allows you to save up to 45% on admission to over 30 attractions and activities, letting you craft your own experience while discovering Philly.

interior view of desks and chairs with candles inside the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
photo credit: Aldona Bujalski Ferraro via Facebook

Independence Hall

Journey back in time as you step into the Assembly Room of Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Where our founding fathers made history by signing both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It’s like walking in the footsteps of the legends who shaped America!

As one of the most popular Philadelphia historic sites, tickets are in high demand, so make sure to grab your timed entry passes online well in advance. And remember, you’ve got to pass through security screening 30 minutes before the tour starts.

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But trust us, it’s worth it for the immersive experience inside the very chamber where our nation was born over two centuries ago. After touring the birthplace of American democracy at Independence Hall, embark on a broader journey through Philadelphia’s history aboard a City Sightseeing Philadelphia double decker bus.

Select single or multi-day hop-on, hop-off passes to take in over 25 noteworthy sites at your own pace. Together with the expert guides, you’ll get to tour Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and more landmarks that chronicle our nation’s complex story.

Girl with her back turned to the camera looking up at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
photo credit: Independence Historic Area – Downtown Philadelphia via Facebook

Independence National Historical Park

Independence National Historical Park preserves America’s most historic square mile. This National Park Service site protects over 20 historic landmarks clustered in downtown Philadelphia.

At its heart lies Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – the birthplace of American democracy. Nearby, Franklin Court commemorates Ben Franklin’s contributions, while the Graff House chronicles Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration drafts.

Lining the cobblestoned streets, these sites collectively tell the dramatic story of a fledgling nation taking shape. This compact historic square mile makes America’s formative history remarkably accessible within Independence National Historical Park.

Franklin Square

Franklin Square offers a scenic respite in the heart of historic Philadelphia. Originally named Northeast Square when plotted by William Penn, it was later renamed to honor Benjamin Franklin in 1825.

Today, its pathways, lawns, gardens, and fountains create an urban oasis amidst the city. Families flock to the square for the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, mini-golf course, and summer concerts.

Pssst…if you want a comprehensive overview of Philadelphia’s top attractions, don’t miss

The Best of Philadelphia: Private Half-Day Driving Tour. This guided tour hits the most iconic sights like Philadelphia’s Historic District, The LOVE Statue, The Magic Gardens, and The Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

With a personal driver and guide, you’ll efficiently see the highlights of Philadelphia from the comfort of a private vehicle. The knowledgable guide customizes the tour based on your interests, making this a stress-free way to experience the very best of Philadelphia in just half a day.

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site commemorates one of history’s most influential literary figures. Located on 7th Street in Philadelphia, it was Poe’s home from 1843 to 1844.

Though only living there for a year, he wrote some of his most iconic works like “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” within these walls. Tour the historic home restored with period furnishings that bring his era to life.

Through exhibits and memorabilia, trace Poe’s time in Philadelphia along with his mysterious later years. This National Historic Site on 7th Street provides an intimate glimpse into a tormented creative genius who left an enduring mark on literature.

Close up shot looking up at the Liberty BellLiberty Bell Center

No lineup of historical sites in Philadelphia would be complete without the iconic Liberty Bell, a symbol of freedom since the 1830s. Cast in 1755, the Liberty Bell stood in the Pennsylvania State House before cracking and later being moved to Independence Hall.

Learn about the Liberty Bell’s famous crack and journey across the country after the Civil War. The good news? Admission is free for visitors to see this artifact of American history.

If you want to truly discover the foundations of the nation, join The Founding Fathers of Philadelphia: Private 2-hour History. This 2-hour walking tour takes you to the Independence Mall, National Constitution Center, and Liberty Bell, tracing Philadelphia’s history from its colonial era through the Revolutionary War period.

long dark corridor tunnel inside the Eastern State Penitentiary ESP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAEastern State Penitentiary

Originally proposed by Benjamin Franklin, the Eastern State Penitentiary sought to rehabilitate prisoners through isolation and penitence when it opened in 1829. As the world’s first true penitentiary, Eastern State revolutionized the prison system with its wagon wheel floor plan of solitary confinement cells.

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Once holding notorious criminals like Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton, Eastern State Penitentiary was notoriously strict, with prisoners staying in their cells almost 24 hours a day. After closing in 1971, the ominous and decaying structure of Eastern State Penitentiary is now a stabilized ruin open for historic prison tours.

Take audio tours narrated by actor Steve Buscemi and see exhibits detailing daily life for prisoners and guards within its 30-foot high walls. Art installations, the abandoned cell blocks, and hospital wing allow you to imagine how it felt to serve time at Eastern State Penitentiary before it closed after 142 years of operation.

exterior view of fort mifflin on delaware with flag pole and airplane in the sky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
photo credit: Fort Mifflin via Facebook

Fort Mifflin

Strategically located on the Delaware River, Fort Mifflin was crucial in stopping the British Navy during the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Fort Mifflin in 1777. As General Washington led his troops to Valley Forge, this fortified star fort held off a massive British bombardment for over a month.

After its valiant stand, Fort Mifflin continued serving various military purposes, like housing prisoners during the Civil War and storing ammunition in World Wars I and II. Today, people can tour the barracks, dungeon and powder magazine to glimpse Fort Mifflin’s nearly 250 years of history spanning from the Revolutionary War through the Cold War era.

Restored 18th-century buildings combined with ruins at this National Historic Landmark allow you to imagine both the active past and deterioration of Fort Mifflin. Special events from education programs to paranormal tours let you experience the strategic role this fort played in enabling America’s fight for independence.

Free Quaker Meetinghouse

The Free Quaker Meetinghouse, one of the historic sites in Philadelphia, was built in 1783 by Quakers who split from the pacifist Quaker tradition to support the Revolutionary War. It provides a window into the religious diversity that has long shaped the city’s culture.

Betsy Ross was a prominent member of the meetinghouse, which served as a place of worship and discussion for “Free” Quakers to coordinate their war-time efforts in the fight for independence. Admission is free for visitors who want to see where colonial history was made.

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Eager to explore more of Philadelphia’s colonial and Revolutionary-era history? Say less! The Best of Philadelphia Private Walking Tour immerses you in over 3 hours of Philly’s most significant historic sites.

You’ll visit the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s house, and a Quaker meeting house, the Independence Mall and other landmarks that shaped America’s founding. This in-depth tour brings Philadelphia’s monuments to life to showcase the city’s proud early American history.

First and Second Banks of the United States

Originally chartered in 1791, the First Bank of the United States was created to manage the new nation’s debt and promote economic growth, though not without political controversy. After its charter expired, the Second Bank of the United States was established in the same role, with a magnificent building to match its financial power.

While the First Bank of the United States now houses private offices, the Second Bank building serves as a free portrait gallery. It’s home to the “People of Independence” collection of 18th and 19th century leader portraits.

Unwind and discover more untold stories of Philadelphia’s history over drinks at the Liberty Pub Crawl of Old City. This lively bar crawl takes you behind the scenes of Philly’s historic taverns, where a guide reveals amusing anecdotes and hidden history between stops for local beers and cocktails.

It’s an entertaining way to tap into the spirited past of Colonial America’s thriving port city while making new friends. The pub crawl brings early American history humorously to life, putting a tipsy twist on learning about Philadelphia’s integral part in the founding of America.

exterior view of Club Quarters Hotel, Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAPhiladelphia Hotels

Travelers often face the challenge of finding suitable accommodations in Philadelphia given the overwhelming choices. It’s not easy to choose between the sleek comfort of modern establishments and the rich, storied past of historic hotels in Philadelphia.

Fear not, as Trisper makes searching for the right Philadelphia hotel effortless. Explore our carefully crafted list of Philadelphia Hotels, offering the best of both worlds. You’ll find your home away from home in no time!

Unlock the Gates to History: Step into the Past with Historic Philadelphia

Well-preserved historical places in Philadelphia help chronicle the birth of our nation. As you wander the cobblestone market streets of historic Philadelphia, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported back to the 1700s.

Independence Hall, Betsy Ross House, and other landmarks let visitors walk in the footsteps of legendary leaders and ordinary citizens who shaped history. Though we covered numerous historical sites, there are even more intriguing historical places in Philadelphia left to explore.

Don’t delay and book your historical adventures through Tripster today! Prepare to uncover over two centuries of history still echoing within Philadelphia!

Tell Us, What Other Historical Philadelphia Spots Did We Miss?

With so many historical sites near Philadelphia to check out, which one stands at the top of your list? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Archie Villaflores

Over the years, he has won numerous national contests for news and editorial writing, but he has recently discovered that his true passion...

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