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.

West Philly is home to several large educational institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the University of Sciences in Philadelphia.

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.

Get in

By public transit

By car

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).

By bike

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.



Fairmount Park






Live music


Fitness & Recreation


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.


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.





In West Philly, local dive bars and Irish pubs rule the roost.



Bed and breakfasts


Airport hotels

Go next

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 PhiladelphiaNorth 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

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.