West Philly is a mostly residential section of Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill River, which represented the western boundary of William Penn's original plan for the colonial city. West Philadelphia is a vibrant, diverse, multi-cultural urban area, home to three excellent and world-renowned universities. Tourists may be more interested in the neighborhoods near the campuses than the working-class that lie further west. Even farther out, at the very edge of the city, West Philadelphia gradually gives way to newer, and often larger housing in neighborhoods like Overbrook and Wynnefield, the latter of which is home to half of the Saint Joseph's University campus.
With the exception of a few colonial and early federal mansions like the Woodlands and Bartram's Gardens, most of West Philly developed from farmland as an early suburb. Development moved west from the Schuylkill following the course of a network of trolleys (many of which still run today) and the El which runs above Market St. University City is also known as the "Left Bank" (an homage to Paris' Latin Quarter), as well as Philadelphia's "international" neighborhood because of the multitude of ethnicities living here.
Not surprisingly, West Philadelphia today presents a living catalog of 19th- and early 20th-century residential architecture ranging from dramatic ornate Queen Anne Victorian mansions to more humble brick rowhouses. Although many sections suffered decline and urban blight as the heavy industry that fed the demand for housing construction in West Philly dwindled and departed the United States, areas like Powelton Village, Spruce Hill and Cedar Park have been largely preserved and provide an opportunity to "step back into time" as you stroll the wide tree-lined streets of stately 19th-century homes. The area has been declared a National Historic District.
The area also holds most of Philadelphia's expansive Fairmount Park, the largest municipal park in the country. It is home to Mann Music Center, the Philadelphia Zoo, and soon the Please Touch children's museum. On Sundays, MLK Drive is closed to traffic, so bring your Rollerblades!
Check out Clark Park on Baltimore Ave at 43rd Street, or take a stroll on Spruce or Pine.
By public transit
- West Philadelphia is primarily served by stops 30th St through 63rd St of the Market-Frankford subway/elevated train line, which most locals refer to simply as "the El." This transit line which, as its name suggests, runs along Market Street, connects the neighborhoods of West Philadelphia with Center City to the East, ending in the Frankford section of Northeast Philadelphia. To the West, the El connects the city with 69th Street Terminal in the suburb of Upper Darby, where riders can transfer to various suburban trolley and bus lines.
- In addition to the El, all of Philadelphia's remaining trolley lines run through West Philadelphia at some point of their route.
- West Philadelphia is also served by Regional Rail, the city's network of commuter lines. Every line serving the city stops at 30th St station, and each of the R1, R2, R3 and R5 lines make additional stops in the area (see the SEPTA rail map for additional information).
- Both Megabus and BoltBus have their Philadelphia stops behind 30th Street Station. The area is easy to locate as there is often groups of people waiting, vendors, and signs where the buses stop. Megabus and BoltBus both run multiple trips to New York each day. Megabus runs to various other places including Washington D. C., Toronto, Boston, State College, and more. See the website for current information.
In addition to the network of city streets, West Philadelphia has easy access to Interstate 76 (usually referred to as the Schuylkill Expressway, after the river along which it was built) on its Eastern edge and Interstate 476 (the Blue Route) may be accessed on the Western edge of the area via PA Route 3 (West Chester Pike).
West Philadelphia cyclists count on one of the more extensive networks of bike-friendly streets in the city, many of them with designated bicycle lanes. These streets are all part of the city's Bicycle Network. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia also provides resources. There are also a few good places to get new/used bikes as well as new/used parts and accessories: The Bike Church and Firehouse Bicycles.
- Powelton Village. Is a small enclave outside the University City section of Philadelphia, from 34th to 40th streets between Market and Haverford. It remains visually identifiable, an oasis of tree-lined streets, porch-fronted suburban houses interspersed with a few mansions and their commercial support buildings dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. Large, well-cared-for homes from the early 20th and late 19th century line several streets. This area is a collection of Philadelphia natives, college students and professors.
- University City. Roughly speaking, University City begins at 30th Street anchored by the historical 30th Street Station, extends west just beyond 40th Street, and north to Spring Garden Street. The area includes two of Philadelphia's major universities, Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania, and a teaching hospital. The neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and is a rapidly growing, heavily policed, student-friendly enclave within the larger predominantly working class West Philly. It also includes the prestigious culinary school The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College at 43rd and Walnut and the private university University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. West Philadelphia also includes the residential areas of Powelton Village, Spruce Hill and Cedar Park, all of which have large student populations. Locust Walk, a part of Locust Street that has been made pedestrian-only through the University of Pennsylvania campus, is a particularly nice place for a stroll.
- Philadelphia Zoo, 34th St and Girard Ave (parking is available along Girard Ave at 35th and 38th Sts). Daily, except Thanksgiving Day, December 24, 25 and 31, January 1, and the second Thursday in June. 9:30AM–5PM March–November; 9:30AM–4PM December–February. World-class zoo with camel and pony rides, bird safari, and Victorian-era train. $10.95/16.95 adults, $10.95/$13.95 children (2-11) high/low season (Zooballoon extra).
- Centennial Hall. Beaux-arts building of granite, glass and iron now houses a recreation center and offices for the Fairmount Park. Free.
- Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave (parking on Belmont Avenue), ☎ +1 215 893-1999. Theater and dining complex. Admission free, show prices vary.
- Japanese House and Garden (Shofuso). The Japanese House, as it is informally known to Philadelphians, was built in 16th century style on the grounds of the Horticultural Center in the West Philadelphia section of Fairmount Park near the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Montgomery Drive.
- The Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, ☎ +1 215 963-0667. 9AM-4:30PM daily, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. A fantastic place to take young children. As the name says, everyone is encouraged to touch the exhibits. $9.95.
- Belmont Plateau, 2000 Belmont Mansion Dr. Section of Fairmount Park with a great view of center city. The lower plateau has locations for grilling, baseball, and other activities. Climb to the upper plateau for the view.
- Belmont Mansion, ☎ +1 215 878-8844. Tuesday to Friday 11AM/12AM to 5PM. Historic mansion built in the early 18th century located at the top of the Belmont Plateau. Mansion now includes the Underground Railroad Museum. $7 adult, $5 children, students, seniors, under 6 free.
- Penn Museum, 3260 South St, ☎ +1 215 898-4000. Tu,Th-Su 10AM-5PM, W 10AM-8PM, M closed. An anthropology and archeology museum run by the University of Pennsylvania, $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children 6-17/students, children 5 and under free. Joint ticket with the Mütter Museum available for $20 adults, $14 concession.
- Studio 34: Yoga | Healing | Arts (Studio 34), 4522 Baltimore Ave (2nd Floor), ☎ +1 215 387-3434. check website for hours. Studio 34: Yoga $5 and up.
- The Bridge Cinema Delux.
- Group Motion Dance Company.
- Film @ International House.
- Philadanco. The Philadelphia Dance Company.
- Spiral Q Puppet Theater.
- Curio Theatre Company (also offers lessons for children)
- Arthur Ross Gallery.
- Esther M. Klein Art Gallery.
- Institute of Contemporary Art.
- The Slought Foundation.
- Barnes Foundation. Just west of the city boundaries in Merion, the former Barnes residence features a 12-acre arboretum, with over 3,000 species of woody plants and trees. The art collection moved to a new building in Center City West in 2012.
- Community Education Center.
- East Africa Resource and Study Center.
- Special Events @ International House
- Penn Humanities Forum.
- University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
- University City Historical Society.
- 2nd Friday. On Lancaster Ave -- a more "laid-back" version of Old City's 1st Friday.
- Be Happy House.
- Crossroads Music. Crossroads organizes world music concerts at various venues in West Philly.
- The Blockley, 38th and Chestnut. Concert venue for smaller acts. Includes both local and touring bands. $10-$30.
- Fiume (229 S. 45th Street, Upstairs) Live blues every Sunday, 7-10, and live Bluegrass on Thursdays, 10-1:45
- The Green Line Cafe.
- Gatherings Concert Series.
- Millcreek Tavern.
- Music @ International House
- Philadelphia Boys' Choir & Chorale.
- The World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Offers an eclectic offering of concerts, from jazz to rock, from locally and nationally-renowned artists.
- Foreign Language Classes @ International House
- Kelly Writers' House.
- University City Arts League.
- West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
- Penn Presents -- Annenberg Center.
- The Rotunda (promotion of arts/live music).
- Strikes Bowling Lounge.
- University Pinball.
Fitness & Recreation
- Clark Park.
- FIT Gym.
- LA Fitness.
- Penn Ice Rink.
- Philadelphia Karate Club.
- Power Yoga Works.
- Strikes Bowling Lounge.
- Studio 34: Yoga.
- SWEAT gym (right before the Walnut Street Bridge)
- The Urban Arboretum of University City.
There are two main streets in West Philadelphia along which the majority of the area's shopping is concentrated. Walnut street in University City caters to the more upscale tastes of residents, many of them students, who live on and around the college campuses, while 52nd St has historically been frequented by the less affluent residents of outlying neighborhoods. The 52nd St shopping district has recently started falling into decline, earning itself a reputation for being unsafe, but still may offer some interesting shopping and dining options for those who care to visit.
City Line Ave, which divides Philadelphia City and County from suburban communities in Montgomery County, also provides a variety of chain stores and restaurants.
- Eastern Mountain Sports, 3401 Chestnut St, ☎ +1 215-382-0930. Excellent selection of Scott Bikes - Road bikes, Hybrids, and Mountain Bikes
- The Fresh Grocer.
- Clark Park Farmer's Market.
- Lancaster Ave Farmer's Market (Powelton Ave & Lancaster Ave).
- Eastern Mountain Sports.
- The Black Cat.
- University Square.
- Penn Bookstore.
- The Natural Shoe Store
- Market & Shoppes @ 30th St Street Station.
- Supreme Supermarket (43rd and Walnut)
- UC Pets (4916 Baltimore Ave)
West Philadelphia boasts one of the largest and most varied concentrations of ethnic restaurants outside of Center City. However, more familiar chain restaurants, from McDonald's to Boston Market, aren't hard to find for the less-adventurous palate. Food trucks are also popular around the university areas, leading several Penn students to start a website cataloguing and mapping all the local trucks, with a handy filter for only trucks that are currently open.
- Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, 229 S 45th St, ☎ +1 215 387-2424. Daily 9AM-midnight. Good, affordable Ethiopian food, if you can stand the poorly rated service and long wait times. Vegan friendly.
- Bobby's Burger Palace, 3925 Walnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 387-0378. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay's first "fast casual" burger joint in a major city, featuring "Crunchified" burgers—potato chips between the meat and the bun. $6-$8.
- Kaffa Crossing Cafe, 4423 Chestnut St, ☎ +1 215 386-0504. Su-F 9AM-9PM; Sa 9AM-10PM. Cross between fair trade coffee shop and Ethiopian restaurant. Vegan friendly.
- Kim's Oriental Food, 37th and Walnut Streets (in the plaza next to the Pottruck Gym). M-F 11AM-8PM, Su Noon-8PM. Food truck that's immensely popular amongst college students, because it's cheap, tasty, extremely fast, and is one of the few food trucks that feels like it's always open. $3-$6.
- Pho Cafe Saigon, 4248 Spruce St, ☎ +1 215 222-6800. Cheap Vietnamese food.
- Saad's Halal Restaurant, 4500 Walnut St, ☎ +1 215 222-7223. M-Th 11AM-9PM; F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Mediterranean restaurant. $4-$15.
- Tacos Don Memo, 38th Street, between Walnut and Chestnut Streets (University City, across from the 7-Eleven), ☎ +1 610 529-2039. Some of the best burritos and tortas in the area actually come out of this tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-it taco truck on traffic-heavy 38th Street. Unfortunately, there will be quite a long wait—about a half hour or so—during the lunch rush, and despite their popularity, their presence is not always reliable (though you can now follow their Twitter account for updates). $2-$6.
- Allegro Pizza & Grill, 3942 Spruce St (University City), ☎ +1 215 382-8158. Su-W 11AM-midnight; Th-Sa 11AM-3:30AM. A staple of the college student's late-night delivery repertoire. $8-$15.
- Dahlak, 4708 Baltimore Ave, ☎ +1 215 726-6464. M-Su 4PM-10:30PM. Economical Ethiopian/Eritrean fare, one of the original and best east African restaurants in the neighborhood. Lovely traditional decor. $8-$14.
- The Greek Lady, 222 S 40th St (University City), ☎ +1 215 382-2600. Greek food.
- Kabobeesh, 4201 Chestnut St, ☎ +1 215 386-8081. Daily Noon-11PM. Pakistani restaurant. $8-$11.
- Koreana Restaurant, 3801 Chestnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 222-2240. M Closed, Tu-Su 11:30AM-10PM. You'd never know it was there, since it's tucked behind Abner's Cheesesteaks and a Chili's, but the Korean college students will tell you it's some of the best Korean food in the city. $7-$10.
- Lemongrass Thai, 3626-30 Lancaster Ave, ☎ +1 215 222-8042.
- Metropolitan Bakery, 4013 Walnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 222-1492. M-F 7:30AM-7PM; Sa-Su 8AM-7PM. Locally-based artisan bakery with several stores throughout Philadelphia.
- Mokas, 3505 Lancaster Ave (University City/Powelton Village), ☎ +1 215 222-4410. Greek restaurant.
- New Delhi Indian Restaurant, 4004 Chestnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 386-1941. Su, Tu-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, M Closed. Vegan friendly. $10-$15.
- Penne Restaurant, 3600 Sansom St (University City), ☎ +1 215 823-6222.
- Rx, 4443 Spruce St, ☎ +1 215 222-9590. Great food, with somewhat slow service.
- Sang Kee Noodle House, 3549 Chestnut St, ☎ +1 215 387-8808. Su-Th 6:30AM-10:30AM, 11:30AM -11PM; F-Sa 6:30AM-10:30AM, 11:30AM-Midnight. $7-$16.
- Satellite Cafe, 701 S 50th St. Local and organic coffee shop.
- Sitar India Cuisine, 60 S 38th St, ☎ +1 215 662-0818. W-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9:30PM; Su-Tu Closed. Vegan friendly.
- Tandoor India Restaurant, 106 S 40th St (University City), ☎ +1 215 222-7122. M-Th, Su 11:30AM-2:30PM, 4PM-10PM; F-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 4PM-10:30PM. Vegan friendly.
- Vientiane Cafe, 4728 Baltimore Ave. Thai/Laotian Restaurant. Vegan friendly.
- White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St (University City), ☎ +1 215 386-9224. M-Th 5:30PM-10PM F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM, Su 5PM-10PM. One of the pioneers of the "buy local" movement in Philadelphia, the White Dog uses products from local farmers, and serve beers from local breweries. As a result, prices are higher. The food is mostly American/Continental style, with pub grub served at the bar. $15-25.
- Distrito, 3945 Chestnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 386-1072. Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. "Modern Mexican" food by local restaurateur Jose Garces. Dinner starts being served at 5PM Distrito is a restaurant that’s full of pink décor that will get your attention. This modern restaurant has unique setting from chairs, booths and taxis. Chef Jose Garces won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award and won The Next Iron Chef in 2010. $5-$35.
- Marigold Kitchen, 501 S. 45th St, ☎ +1 215 222-3699. Su, Tu-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM; F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, M Closed. $25+.
- MidAtlantic, 3711 Market St, ☎ +1 215 386-3711. M-F 11:30AM-2PM, 4:30PM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10PM, Su Closed. Modern reinterpretation of Mid-Atlantic and traditional Philadelphian food. $5-$30.
- Pod, 3636 Sansom St (University City), ☎ +1 215 387-1803. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F 11:30AM-11PM; Sa 5PM-11PM; Su 5PM-10PM. Stephen Starr's Asian fusion restaurant in a funky, nightclub-like decor. $10-$30.
In West Philly, local dive bars and Irish pubs rule the roost.
- The Blarney Stone, 3929 Sansom St (University City), ☎ +1 215 222-5340. M-F 11:30AM-2AM; Sa-Su 12PM-2AM. Dive bar popular with Penn undergrads.
- Bridgewater's Pub, 2951 Market St (inside 30th Street Station), ☎ +1 215 387-4787. Rotating selection of local and German microbrews on draft.
- Dock Street Brewery, 701 S. 50th St, ☎ +1 215 726-2337. Changing selection of six microbrewed beers. Gourmet pizzas prepared in a wood burning oven.
- Fiume, 45th and Locust St. Live bluegrass music on Thursday nights and $3 PBR/Whiskey specials. Located above Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, enter on Locust street, and go up the stairs.
- Gojjo, 4540 Baltimore Ave, ☎ +1 215 386-1444. Daily 4PM-2AM. Ethiopian restaurant with a resident DJ that plays Friday and Saturday after 10PM.
- Local 44, 4333 Spruce St, ☎ +1 215 222-2337. Daily 11:30AM-2AM. Good food and a large selection of craft beers, both local and from around the world. Although the name evokes the all-powerful Philadelphia labor union, the crowd reflects this West Philly neighborhood of young professionals and graduate students.
- Mikey's, 3180 Chestnut St (University City), ☎ +1 215 222-3226. Daily 11AM-Close. An American sports bar, with decent food and beer bongs. Quizzo (that's two 'z's, outside of Patrick Hines's Quizo empire) on Thursday nights.
- Natalie's Lounge, 4003 Market St, ☎ +1 215 222-5162. M-Sa 8PM-2AM. Jazz club. Most popular night is on Saturdays, kicking it off with a jam session for anyone to join in and then with professional acts throughout the evening.
- New Angle Lounge, 3901 Lancaster Ave, ☎ +1 215 387-5147. A local bar on a triangle lot, hence its name. On Wednesdays, ordering a drink gets you a balloon which you pop, and there are instructions inside that tell you what to do next!
- New Deck Tavern, 3408 Sansom St (University City), ☎ +1 215 386-4600. Daily 11AM-2AM. An Irish pub a stone's throw away from the University of Pennsylvania, it's a popular hangout for students with good bar food. Home of the first Quizo game, which is still happens every Monday and Wednesday nights.
- Sláinte, 3000 Market St (Directly across from the south west corner of 30th street station), ☎ +1 215 222-7400. Daily 11AM-2AM. An Irish themed pub owned by the same people as New Deck and with a similar but less collegiate feel. Draws more of a business crowd but has good inexpensive bar food and beer.
- HI - Chamounix Mansion Hostel, 3250 Chamounix Dr (West Fairmount Park), ☎ +1 215 878-3676, toll-free: +1 800 379-0017, fax: +1 215 871-4313, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 4:30PM, check-out: 11AM. On a scenic bluff above the Schuylkill River and 45 minutes to downtown Philadelphia's cultural and historic attractions. Associated with Hostelling International. Curfew at 2AM, daily lockout between 11AM and 4:30PM.
Bed and breakfasts
- The Inn at Penn, 3600 Sansom St. A four-diamond Hilton property hotel on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Rooms from $209.
- Sheraton Philadelphia, 36th and Chestnut Streets. Sheraton Philadelphia University City hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania features luxurious rooms, meeting space, and a restaurant near city center.
- Penn Tower Hotel.
- Residence Inn Philadelphia Airport, 4630 Island Ave, ☎ +1 215 492-1611.
- Marriott Courtyard Philadelphia Airport, 8900 Bartram Ave, ☎ +1 215 365-2200.
- Philadelphia Airport Marriott, 1 Arrivals Rd, ☎ +1 215 492-9000. Connected to Terminal B of the Philadelphia International Airport via the skybridge. Has event space for meetings and weddings.
- Philadelphia Airport Hilton This hotel is not recommended for those who travel with their computers. There is no wireless access in any of the rooms (despite the website saying that there is free wireless). The hotel is not very clean (especially in the lobby). The front desk staff can be rude and condescending.
- Microtel Airport, 8840 Tinicum Blvd, ☎ +1 215 492-0700. Economy/budget hotel offering guests free local and free long distance calls in the continental United States, and free Wi-Fi in every room of their hotels, as well as advance online check-in and check-out with unlimited access to online folio information.
- Embassy Suites, 9000 Bartram Ave, ☎ +1 215 365-4500.
- Renaissance Philadelphia Hotel Airport, 500 Stevens Dr, ☎ +1 610 521-5900.
|Routes through West Philadelphia (by subway)|
|Upper Darby ← Millbourne ←||SW NE||→ Center City West → Northeast Philadelphia|
|Routes through West Philadelphia (by commuter rail)|
|North Philadelphia ← Center City West ←||N S||→ Philadelphia International Airport → END|
|Northwest Philadelphia ← Center City West ←||NW SE||→ END|
|END ← Northwest Philadelphia ← North Philadelphia ←||NE OB||→ Center City West → North Philadelphia|
|END ← Bala Cynwyd ←||NW SE||→ Center City West → END|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Center City West → Northeast Philadelphia|
|Norristown ← Center City West ←||NW SE||→ END|