While the City of Brotherly Love may have a harsh, blue-collar reputation to the rest of America, when you’re one of us, you’re one of us.
Philadelphia is a collection of neighborhoods. But unlike many other places, Philly sees itself as one cohesive city, undivided by boroughs and rivers, north and south sides or allegiances to multiple football teams.
Despite the solidarity, Philadelphians are zealously attached to the area they come from or reside in.
What are the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia?
Philly’s neighborhoods are distinct and diverse, flowing with inviting green spaces, bike paths, boutique retail, historical and cultural attractions, hot nightlife and trendy eateries surrounding Victorian homes, brick rowhouses, high-rise condos and apartment buildings.
But of all the nearly 200 distinct neighborhoods, which are the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia? Here are arguably the top 10 areas around the city.
Source: Rent.com / The Point at City Line
In West Philadelphia, Will Smith was born and raised. And specifically in the neighborhood of Overbrook. It was the courts at Tustin Playground, in fact, where he spent most of his days.
Overbrook — also home to basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain — is a suburban-style, upper-middle to middle-class family neighborhood on the edge of Philly’s swanky Main Line. Its leafy streets are lined with rowhouses, early 1900s brownstones, low-rise apartment buildings and duplexes, locally known as “semi-detached twins.”
Like any good suburb, Overbrook has commercial corridors filled with retail shopping, fast-casual dining, coffee shops and big-box stores, with City Avenue (U.S. 1) and Lancaster Avenue (U.S. 30) crisscrossing the neighborhood. The neighborhood is dominated by the large Morris Park and Haddington Woods along Indian and Cobbs Creeks. Overbrook is also home to Saint Joseph’s University, one of Philadelphia’s “Big 5″ Division I basketball schools.
Do you like food? Sandwiches and fresh produce and dishes made to eat with your hands? Then you’ll love Passyunk Square.
You may not have heard of this South Philly neighborhood, but you definitely know its two most famous spots: Pat’s and Geno’s. Pat’s is where the cheesesteak was invented in 1933, and Geno’s popped up to challenge the originator some 30 years later.
But steaks aren’t the only game in Passyunk Square. Down 9th Street is Philly’s Italian Market, the internationally-renowned curb market made famous when Sylvester Stallone galloped through in “Rocky.” The corridor houses decades-old family-owned fresh meat and produce markets, grocers, butchers, fishmongers, javapreneurs, fromagers and chocolatiers living among contemporary and traditional cafes and restaurants.
The chameleon neighborhood of Queen Village lies southeast of Center City and has long been Philly’s hub of counterculture. Depending on your decade, the district has called out to crowds of punks, bohemians, surfers, hip-hoppers, emos, goths, teens on bikes, LGBTG+ and a variety of alternative subcultures.
Unfashionably fashionable, the heart of the neighborhood is South Street — dubbed “the hippest street in town” by early-’60s girl group The Orlons. It’s home to iconic cheesesteak joints, dive bars, head shops, punk boutiques, used record shops, public art and music halls.
Deeper into Queen Village are the cobblestoned streets of the Headhouse District, home to one of America’s oldest farmers’ markets (with more than 40 vendors and open Sundays year-round), as well as historic 4th Street’s Fabric Row (the turn-of-the-century textile and garment district offering vintage clothing stores and thrift shops).
One cannot help breathing in history as you walk the streets of Old City, where some of the nation’s greatest figures like Franklin, Washington and Penn once lived, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed and where Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell still stand. It’s the oldest neighborhood in Philly, where the Quakers settled in 1682, and today, it’s a mecca for both tourists and residents alike.
Old City is one of Philly’s most vibrant districts, and one of its safest. It’s the site of constant activity along the river, including concerts, fireworks, cultural celebrations and parades, outdoor ice and roller skating, urban parks and piers, as well as some of the city’s trendiest eateries, gastropubs, dive bars, arthouse theaters, galleries, boutiques and cafes.
For a unique but pricey living experience, Old City is also where you’ll find Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously-occupied residential street in North America.
Society Hill may be named for the 17th-century Society of Free Traders league, but it has certainly grown into a neighborhood catering to the elites of Philly society. The district is a collection of historic Georgian rowhouses along cobblestone streets and their brick sidewalks and Franklin lamps in the backyards of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, filled with original colonial charm.
One of Philly’s most expensive and safest neighborhoods, it’s also one of its oldest. Historic buildings where Founding Fathers once stood intermingle with modern entertainment and nightlife spots, including the bars and pubs of the Headhouse Square district, original Penn square Washington Square Park, Spruce Street Harbor Park urban beach and boardwalk on the Delaware and even Zahav, the Israeli and Middle Eastern restaurant named “Best Restaurant in America” by the James Beard Foundation.
Tucked away in the hills of northwestern Philadelphia, Manayunk is one of Philly’s most beloved urban suburbs, accessible to but disconnected from Center City with its own identity. Home to an eclectic but tight-knit mix of upper-middle-class professionals, Gen X’ers, recent college grads and working-class families, Manayunk is a highly-desirable neighborhood, part riverside exurb and part small town.
Manayunk is an enclave filled with both quaint rowhomes and trendy lofts, up steep inclines and down cobblestone streets, set just off a highly-walkable commercial district. At the center, Main Street Manayunk is buzzy with taverns, boutiques, record shops, earthy art galleries and the city’s best bike shops (thanks to the “Manayunk Wall”). More than 50 first-rate eateries dot the neighborhood known for its up-and-coming chefs and restauranteurs honing their craft before hitting it big in Center City.
If you’ve seen AMC’s unconventional mystery drama “Dispatches from Elsewhere,” you’re already familiar with the quirky Fishtown neighborhood. Named for the fisherman who once inhabited the area along the Delaware River, Fishtown is Philly’s center for hipsters, young professionals, artists, gig economists, tech start-up entrepreneurs and foodies.
Together with sister district Northern Liberties, Fishtown is a formerly-industrialized North Philly expanse of now-gentrified blocks featuring trendy galleries, mid-rise rentals and lofts, brewpubs, eccentric eateries, co-working spaces, music halls and Rivers Casino. One of the coolest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Fishtown also houses two famous pizza spots: Pizza Brain, featuring the world’s first museum of pizza culture, and Pizzeria Beddia, named “Best Pizza in America” by Bon Appétit magazine.
Sitting across the Schuylkill River from Center City in West Philadelphia, University City is the bustling neighborhood surrounding three college campuses, Penn, Drexel and USciences. But University City is no mere college town.
The district is one of Philly’s best, offering a slew of trendy restaurants, art galleries, green spaces, music venues, stadiums and arenas, museums, residential towers and the historic 30th Street Station, the 10th-busiest rail station in America.
University City is also a glistening commercial hub, which is quickly turning into Philly’s second downtown, with skyscrapers like Cira Center, Cira South and the FMC Building all springing up since 2000. As well, growth in the region continues to boom, led by the under-construction, 14-acre Schuylkill Yards, a massive master-planned, multi-tower and public space redevelopment project, and Station Plaza, a proposed $6.5 billion, open space development around 30th Street.
Lying quietly out in northwest Philadelphia, Chestnut Hill came to popularity during Revolutionary War days as a fashionable getaway spot for Center City residents because of its bucolic beauty and higher elevations, which offered cooler summer temperatures. Now, the neighborhood is one of Philly’s most upscale districts, with tree-shaded blocks of Victorian townhomes and cobblestone streets lined with chic boutiques, brewpubs and restaurants known for comfortable outdoor dining.
Chestnut Hill is often referred to as Philly’s Garden District. The neighborhood lies aside the eastern edge of the 2,000-acre Wissahickon Valley Park (with 50 miles of trails), is the location of stunning Morris Arboretum and its 13,000 plants and flowers and is home to Philadelphia Cricket Club, the oldest country club in America.
Just 12 miles from Center City — a short 30-minute commute by car or 45 by train — Chestnut Hill is Philly’s best neighborhood outside the downtown core.
In the late 1600s, William Penn laid out his plan for a “Greene Countrie Towne” and its five great public squares, which included Southwest Square at 18th and Walnut streets. Today, the park is called Rittenhouse Square — named for David Rittenhouse, first director of the U.S. Mint — and the eponymous neighborhood surrounding it is the undeniable hub of Center City life and widely-considered the best neighborhood in Philadelphia.
On sunny days, Rittenhouse Square (the park) is filled with dog walkers, artists, pop-up organic food stands, the after-work crowd and young couples lunching on benches. Rittenhouse Square (the neighborhood) radiates from it, offering a plethora of trendy cafes, restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and high-end retail boutiques swarming with fashionistas. A number of arts and cultural institutions dot the neighborhood, especially along Broad Street. And the towering apartment and condo buildings that cast shadows over the park are home to some of the most expensive real estate and rents in the city.
Which Philadelphia neighborhood is best for you?
One of the most affordable major cities on the East Coast, Philadelphia offers big-city employment, cultural, sports, culinary, music and educational opportunities with diverse neighborhood settings that mix history with modern-day cosmopolitan.
Whether you’re considering a move to the City of Brotherly Love for family, work or just because, there’s something for everyone among its dozens of neighborhoods. From Academy to Wissinoming, Somerton to Overbrook to Eastwick, it’s up to you to decide which are the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia.