While Old City has a reputation for being a particularly touristy part of Philadelphia due to its history as the birthplace of the nation, it’s also a unique area of the city populated by a diverse group of independently–owned businesses, beautifully curated galleries, and tasty eats sure to satisfy any craving. While you can’t do Old City without a little bit of touristy behavior, this neighborhood guide will help you explore the cobblestoned streets like a local.
11:00 a.m.: Whether you’re fighting off a hangover or fueling up before a jam–packed day, there are tons of casual brunch options in the area. One neighborhood mainstay and hidden gem for affordable Mediterranean–inspired dishes is Cafe Ole. While you can’t go wrong with their french toast, omelettes, crepes, and pastries, the shining star on the menu is their authentically made shakshuka (a North African dish of eggs poached in a spiced tomato sauce). It’s made four different ways, so vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, and spice fiends can all enjoy it. For other sit–down options, there’s The Continental Midtown, FARMiCiA, and High Street on Market.
1:00 p.m.: After brunch, take it upon yourself to explore the many independent shops and galleries Old City has to offer, and with most of them concentrated on 3rd Street, you won’t have to go far! However, keep in mind that independent boutiques in the area tend to be slightly pricier than the norm because of higher–quality goods. That said, don’t let this discourage you from looking around for good deals anyway—or just window–shop! Whether you’re looking to treat yourself or just browse, some options for home goods, accessories, and clothing are Sugarcube, Lost & Found, The Geisha House, Vagabond, Meadowsweet Mercantile, and Charlie’s Jeans. If you can’t resist the urge to get a Philly–themed souvenir, head to Philadelphia Independents for locally–sourced goods (and yes, they really do have Gritty gear…).
3:00 p.m: Old City is nothing without its seemingly endless amount of art galleries, and there are options for art viewing on every corner of the neighborhood. Some eclectic picks that range from a gallery that doubles as a vape shop to a gallery devoted to works made only from wood include The Center for Art in Wood, 3rd Street Gallery, Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Snyderman–Works Galleries, and Ruckus Gallery.
6:00 pm: For dinner, it’s hard to go wrong in Old City. If you’re feeling like winging it, walk down the stretch of restaurants on Market Street and you’re bound to find something. However, some recommendations for planners would be Revolution House (which has a year–round outdoor terrace that’s heated in the winter and features beautiful views of the city), Sonny's Famous Steaks if you’ve been meaning to try a Philly cheesesteak but haven’t gotten the chance, and Cuba Libre for Cuban food and even occasional late–night salsa dancing!
7:00 p.m.: Make sure to save room for what’s sure to be one of the most decadent desserts of your life: ice cream from the retro–themed Franklin Fountain. While this tends to be where most tourists end up for dessert at the end of the day and there’s bound to be a long wait (even in the winter months!), it’s totally worth it for their incredibly rich ice cream and range of regular and vegan flavors. If you want a shorter wait (in exchange for a smaller menu), head over to Franklin Ice Cream Bar, which is a part of the Franklin Fountain family, but themed differently as a 1930s–1940s era ice cream bar. If you still haven’t gotten your sweet fix and want more, go to their related candy shop, Shane Confectionery for handmade chocolates, a chocolate café, other types of candies, and for tours of their candy–making facilities on Friday nights.
8:00 p.m. and beyond: If you’re looking to unwind after a long day in Old City and get cultured at the same time, check out a play at the storied Arden Theatre Company or catch an independent movie at one of the three Ritz theaters in the area (Ritz 5, Ritz East, and Ritz at the Bourse).