Top Historic Philadelphia Attractions

The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall bring the past to life

History is everywhere in Philadelphia, from the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed to the oldest residential street in the nation. When you visit the City of Brotherly Love, these top 10 historic attractions are not to be missed, and if you're an American history buff, some are no doubt on your bucket list.

As part of this trip back into the nation's Revolutionary past, make a stop at City Tavern, where the servers look like they did when George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson met before and after sessions of the First Continental Congress. Much of the history of the Revolution was played out inside its walls. The original tavern building was razed in 1854, and in 1976 a historically authentic replica of City Tavern opened just in time for the nation's bicentennial. On the menu are authentic dishes of the 18th century.

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    USA, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Liberty Bell
    ••• Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

    A symbol of freedom both in Philadelphia and across the world, the Liberty Bell is on display alongside information about its history and its significance to America. Admission is free, but lines to see it can be long during peak seasons. While you wait, explore The President's House, a multimedia outdoor museum located just outside the building that houses the famed cracked bell.

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    Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    ••• NPS

    Park rangers lead guests on a guided tour of the birthplace of the United States of America, the building where the Founding Fathers debated and signed two groundbreaking documents: the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Admission is free, but you'll need timed-entry tickets from March through December. Pick them up at the Independence Visitor Center on the morning you want to tour or reserve them in advance for a fee.

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    National Constitution Center Opens For Preview
    ••• William Thomas Cain / Stringer / Getty Images News / Getty Images

    The National Constitution Center is dedicated to honoring the tenets outlined in the U. S. Constitution. Through interactive displays, live theatrical performances, and an impressive array of permanent and special exhibitions, the Museum of "We the People" helps visitors of all ages understand the historic document that forms the structure of the U.S. government and guarantees American freedoms.

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    William Campbell conjectural drawing of Franklin's house, drawing circa 1963.
    ••• MS INHP Archives

    Benjamin Franklin's house was torn down in the early 1800s, but the area where the house once stood is now known as Franklin Court. The site features a steel-framed outline of Franklin's house, a museum with a print shop, and an archaeological exhibit with objects found on the site. Since Franklin was the nation's first postmaster general, Franklin Court also includes a working post office where visitors can send letters hand-stamped with Franklin's original postmark.

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  • 05 of 10
    Elfreth's Alley
    ••• Jon Lovette/Getty Images

    Elfreth's Alley is the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in America, and when you walk along it you feel as if you have time traveled back to the 18th century. Thirty-two Federal- and Georgian-style houses line this tiny cobblestone throughway in Old City, and the street also includes a museum. Many of these houses are still private homes. Elfreth's Alley was saved from deterioration starting in the 1930s by the Elfreth's Alley Association, and it was ​designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

     

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    Betsy_Ross_House.jpg
    ••• Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia™

    Before Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan, there was Betsy Ross, the nation's most celebrated seamstress. Ross lived and worked at the site now known as the Betsy Ross House. Visitors can tour the house, which has been furnished as it was during the Revolutionary era. A costumed Betsy Ross re-enactor is on hand to bring the past to life, and artifacts help visitors learn all about the life of the famous flag maker.

     

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    Christ Church Burial Ground
    ••• Photo: Meg Favreau

    Many of America's most important leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, worshipped at Philadelphia's Christ Church,  which dates back to 1695. Next door, the Christ Church Burial Ground is the final resting place of the remains of prominent Philadelphians like Franklin and his wife, Deborah; composer and poet Francis Hopkinson; and medical pioneer Dr. Benjamin Rush.

     

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    Benjamin Franklin
    ••• Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    In 1743, Benjamin Franklin and some of his forward-thinking friends founded the American Philosophical Society, which focused on the ways that art, science, and history intertwine. The museum is now home to some of the city's most treasured artifacts, including Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s original journals.

     

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  • 09 of 10
    Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, PA
    ••• John Fischer

    In 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Carpenters' Hall and voted for a trade embargo that set the American Revolution in motion. The building is still owned and operated by the oldest trade guild in the country, the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia.

     

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    Declaration House
    ••• Photo: Meg Favreau

    In 1776, Thomas Jefferson rented a room in the home of Jacob Graff Jr., a Philadelphia bricklayer, and it's here that Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. Now known as Declaration House, the site now includes exhibits that showcase its rich history and vital role in the founding of the United States.