They say that the “city of love” is Paris, France. Well, no offence to Paris, but I think y’all got it wrong! I love Paris and the ambiance it offers. From walking the beautiful narrow streets, enjoying croissants at a sidewalk cafe, and basking in all the romance; I can see why people call it the “city of love”. But, after roaming through Philadelphia, I’ve been captured by the city of “brotherly love”. The streets aren’t narrow, there aren’t too many sidewalk cafes, and there is a different type of romance in the air.
The vibrancy and energy of Philadelphia captures you. There are local favorite spots, a growing food scene, unique bar scene, and so many different sites to offer! Not to mention, Rocky Balboa?!
To be honest, I’ve never seen the movie. Shhhh* This was the perfect weekend getaway for some quality time with the boyfriend, and a great couples travel destination!
Philadelphia is known as the birth place of the United States. It is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Did you know that the city was the first capital of the United States before it moved, permanently, to Washington, DC? Fun Fact, Washington, D.C’s layout was designed to look like Philadelphia’s. There is so much history in this city to learn and explore. Since Mario and I come from different countries, we learn different things in History class. I learned about the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and various things about our nation’s history. Mario, on the other hand, learned about European history, the Spanish civil war, and the importance of the Roman Empire. It’s always interesting to hear about his opinions in regard to our history!
Independence Hall is free and a great place to see where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and where the U.S. Constitution was debated, drafted and signed. The history that this building contains is mind-boggling! I swear I wanted to touch everything! Although visiting Independence Hall is free, you will need to pick up a ticket or reserve one. You can pick up free tickets, at a designated time slot, at the Visitors Center. It’s definitely worth it, and even includes a short tour that gives you some more information about the Hall. To our surprise, we were in the original building, not a remake!
The Liberty Bell is also free, you will only need to wait in line. Our recommendation is to go early in the morning to beat the line. We tried our first day, in the early afternoon, and the lines were so long! Not a good time for pictures, either. I hate seeing too many tourists in my photos! We came back our second day in the city and made it a point to go there first while we waited for our Independence Hall tour. The Liberty Bell sits at the back of the building, and usually very crowded. Thanks to Craig Brady, from National Parks Services, he gave us so much information on the Bell! For example, can you believe that this little baby weighs 2080 lbs?!
Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world. Not your typical date night for you and your partner, but Mario and I thought we’d give it a try. The building doesn’t look like it belongs in the city, as it is nestled into a residential area with the cutest houses. The prison is very big with high crumbling walls. We opted in for the audio tour, that walked us through the entire building and explained the different corridors, the history, and some of the famous stories that haunt it. To be honest, the real reason we decided to come into the Eastern State Penitentiary was so Mario could see AlCapone’s prison cell!
He saw it, and wasn’t too impressed (haha!) You can buy tickets at the prison for $14.
(Watch Philadelphia Travel Vlog Day 1)
We loved roaming around the city, in search of the best Philly Cheese Steak and softest Pretzel! What we were met with was an array of restaurants, bars, and cafes that satisfied all of our cravings! Mario and I walked A LOT, which was then met with very big appetites. Some things to try in Philadelphia:
- Philly Cheesesteak (of course!)
We didn’t go to Pat’s or Geno’s (since everyone said they were tourist traps), and instead had one at Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie. It wasn’t our first choice, but after roaming around the city, we got so hungry (read: I got hangry) that we needed to stop for a bite! I got the Franklin (with American and Philadelphia Cheese) and Mario had the the Classic (with peppers, mushrooms, and onions).
- Soft Pretzels
The soft pretzels in Philadelphia are DELICIOUS. I don’t think Mario has ever had a “proper” pretzel, but after he had this one he was hooked! At first, he didn’t want to try it with mustard, but the United States eater in me told him that condiments are essential. We didn’t end up buying one, but instead was given one from the nicest lady at a restaurant! I asked for a pretzel, but they didn’t have any, so one of the women working there handed me one from HER stash!
- Meatball Sandwiches
I’ve never been a fan of meatball sandwiches, I have always thought they’re too messy! Before we headed on our three hour drive home, we stopped by Antney’s Grub. It was one of those spur of the moment and random stops that we always end up doing. One of the famous items on Antney’s Grub’s menu is their meatball sandwiches. We were a bit gluttonous and bought TWO sandwiches! We ate them as soon as we arrived home, and their meatballs are delicious! They are homemade and aren’t too crazy, mixed with the perfect amount of spices and the sandwich was garnished with peppers and spinach. This was one of those spots we were lucky to stumble on.
Barbuzzo is recommended by locals AND food buffs! It is a small and compact restaurant located in the city center. They offer farm-fresh ingredients on their Mediterranean menu. I would recommend making a reservation early, because we walked in around 7pm and asked for a table, and was told that there wasn’t availability until 11pm! Four hours for a table?! Even if you can’t get a table, if you can, grab yourself a seat at the bar and watch the business! One notable item that we weren’t able to try was the Roasted Marrow Bone. It was a large bone, cut in half, and served on the plate!
- Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market is filled with hundreds of stands offering coffee, food, desserts, and other small trinkets. If you and your boo are big foodies or love eating (I mean, who doesn’t?), this is a great place to roam around. The Reading Terminal Market is big enough to get lost in (well, for me!). We enjoyed walking around, window shopping for sweets, treats, and savory items, while our senses were overwhelmed with the smells and sounds of people thoroughly enjoying their food. Looking for the perfect sweet treat before continuing your sight-seeing? We stopped at: The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, for two large cookies and a small bottle of milk, before heading back out to explore more.
- The Franklin Fountain
Exploring the city for two days didn’t give us enough time to see, visit, and eat everything that we wanted to. The Franklin Fountain, for example, was one place that we didn’t have the chance to visit. I’m a little disappointed because I LOVE tasting and trying ice cream from parlors that make their own. I’ve heard only good things about the menu that the Franklin Fountain offers and the old school/vintage feel it strives to embody. If any of you make it there, PLEASE tell me how it is and have a milkshake for me!
Arts & Ambiance
I think the one thing that made Mario and I really fall in love with Philadelphia was the ambiance that it offered. Not only did it look like Europe in a way, that’s what Mario keeps saying, the city had a surge of energy in the air. While we walked around and took in the sights, it felt romantic in its own way. Or, we could just be some crazy traveling hopeless romantics. But, if you want to test it out for yourself, walk around Philadelphia and soak it all in. Take moments to admire parts of it you wouldn’t look. Travel slow, take breaks, and our favorite thing to do is let the adventure guide us.
Rocky Steps & Statue
Yaaas, y’all. We were one of those couples that raced up the Rocky Steps (despite the crowd)! We have both never seen the movie, but wanted to be “Champions” anyways! The Rocky Steps are a bit crowded, but a nice place for a few photo ops, a funny video, and an ice cream treat from the trucks that line the street. We even saw a little dog race up the stairs while they were being filmed! At the top of the steps you can find Rocky’s footprints, and to the right of the steps, a large statue of Rocky.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
After running up the Rocky Steps and tiring yourself out, you can head directly into the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum is known to be one of the largest art museums in the United States! They have an immense art collection that spans over 2000 years of artistic achievement! We met locals and asked them for specific things we should do, and everyone had told us to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum offers specific and unique exhibitions for certain periods of time. While we were there, the Mexican art exhibition was up. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it into the museum due to our time crunch. We were able to walk around a little, but it is a massive building!
Spruce Street Harbor Park
It was a bit too cold and windy while we were in Philadelphia, but we did have the chance to see a bit of Spruce Street Harbor Park. It is the cutest little area to walk around with your partner, take in the “beachfront” sites, and see the Delaware River. We got a bit cold, so we didn’t stay here for long, but during the Spring or Summer, I’m sure it would be much nicer to walk around!
Walking around and exploring Philadelphia as a couple was more fun than we expected! There were a lot of younger people, a “hipster” atmosphere, and more relaxed vibe than Washington, D.C. offers! After a full day of sight seeing, exploring, and adventuring, we opted for a calmer night. Something that we both loved about this area was walking down South 13th Street, filled with restaurants and unique bars. We found a few outdoor bars that offered heat lamps and a great atmosphere to sit and enjoy each other’s company.
Another great place to explore is South Philly. The area is such a cute space with different shops and cafes that line the street. It’s a lot less busy than the city center, and offers a more intimate and cozy vibe. If you’re heading down this way, this is where visitors can find Pat and Geno’s, the two famous Philly Cheesesteak powerhouses! They sit directly across the street from each other. The best part about traveling as a couple? Being able to order twice the amount of food to try an array of dishes. Take one from Pat and one from Geno’s and you both can compare which one is better!
The City of Love
Philadelphia was the first city that Mario and I visited together where we didn’t know anyone. It was our first city we had both never been to, in the United States, and it was so much fun exploring it together! Coming from two different countries gives us very different perspectives about a lot of things. Learning about the birth of the United States (even though I’m supposed to know this) was a lot of fun! If you’ve never been to Philadelphia or have, traveling it with your partner is exciting and gives you the opportunity to try even more food!
Have you been to Philadelphia? What was your favorite part?
Special thanks to Visit Philly for sponsoring a few activities on this trip! As always, all opinions are my own.