Where to Stay in Philadelphia: 8 Best Areas

In this guide, I will help you to find Where to stay in Philadelphia first time and without a car. We will be looking at the best areas to stay in Philadelphia (with a map), the best hotels for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed), and the safest places to stay in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is a major city located in the state of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1682 by William Penn, a Quaker seeking religious freedom, the city played a crucial role in the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States. It served as the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800 while Washington, D.C. was under construction.

Philadelphia’s nickname is “The City of Brotherly Love,” derived from the Greek words “philos” (love) and “adelphos” (brother). It reflects the city’s historical and cultural emphasis on community and tolerance.

The city is home to numerous historic landmarks, including Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted. The Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American freedom, is also housed in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is easily reachable by air, train, bus, and car. Philadelphia International Airport offers both domestic and international flights. From the airport, you can take a taxi, Uber/Lyft, or public transportation to reach your destination.

If you’re driving, Philadelphia is accessible via major highways like I-95, I-76, and I-676. It is only a few hours drive from New York City, Washington D.C., and Atlantic City. But, the Center City is very compact and walkable, you can park a car at the hotel and explore on foot.

Additionally, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station is a major railway hub in Philadelphia, with trains connecting various cities across the United States. It is also well-connected by intercity buses.

Philadelphia is a safe city for tourists, but as in any big city, there are scams and pickpocketing on public transportation. You should use common sense and be aware of surroundings. You should also avoid bad neighborhoods such as Kensington, Fairhill, Nicetown, and South Street.

Central Philly such as the Old City and Center City are the safest place to stay in Philadelphia for visitors. Remember that even in relatively safe neighborhoods, it’s always essential to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and take standard safety precautions.

Where to stay in Philadelphia first time?

The best areas to stay in Philadelphia for tourists are the Old City, Center City and Midtown Village, Rittenhouse Square, University City, and Fishtown. These are the city’s most popular and safe neighborhoods for visitors that offer a wide variety of attractions and amenities.

Old City is the best overall area for first-time visitors due to its central location, proximity to the major attractions, and a wide variety range of amenities. Staying here offers easy access to many historical landmarks, restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, and theaters.

Center City and Old City are the best places to stay in Philadelphia without a car due to their prime location and excellent connection to public transportation. You can easily explore the area on foot, bicycles, buses, trolleys, and subways.

If you are traveling as a family seeking for family-friendly neighborhoods, I recommend booking a stay in Center City, Old City, Rittenhouse Square, and University City. They all offer plenty of kid-friendly things to do and see.

Where did I stay in Philadelphia?

When I first visited Philly, I stayed for 3 nights at the Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City. It was a great 3-star hotel in the heart of the city, a short distance from the Independence Hall, Chinatown, and Reading Market. My room was very clean and comfortable.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Old City – Society Hill
💎 Best luxury hotel:Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, an IHG Hotel
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Philadelphia Marriott Old City
💰 Best budget hotel:Apple Hostels of Philadelphia

Map of neighborhoods and areas in Philadelphia:

Map of 8 Best Areas & neighborhods to Stay in Philadelphia
Map of 8 Best Areas & neighborhods to Stay in Philadelphia

How to get around Philadelphia without a car?

Getting around Philadelphia without a car is quite manageable, thanks to the city’s extensive public transportation system, walkability, and various alternative transportation options. 

Here are some ways to navigate Philadelphia without a car:

SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority):

SEPTA operates two subway lines. the Market-Frankford Line (Blue Line) and the Broad Street Line (Orange Line). These are convenient for traveling within the city.

SEPTA also has an extensive bus network that covers most areas of Philadelphia, making it easy to reach your destination. Check schedules and routes on their website or using their mobile app.

SEPTA also runs several trolley lines in various neighborhoods.

SEPTA’s Regional Rail system connects Philadelphia to its suburbs and nearby cities. It’s an excellent option for traveling to destinations outside the city center.

You can consider getting a SEPTA Key Card, which is a contactless smart card that can be loaded with fare credits for use on SEPTA buses, trolleys, subways, and Regional Rail.

Indego Bike Share: 

Philadelphia has a bike-sharing program called Indego. You can rent a bike at various docking stations throughout the city and return it to any station when you’re done.


Philadelphia is a walkable city, especially in its central neighborhoods. Many popular attractions, restaurants, and shops are within walking distance of each other.

Ride-Sharing and Taxis: 

Services like Uber and Lyft are widely available in Philadelphia. Taxis are also an option, though they can be less convenient and more expensive than ride-sharing.

Philly PHLASH: 

The Philly PHLASH is a seasonal, hop-on-hop-off bus service that stops at major tourist destinations. It’s an excellent way to explore the city’s top attractions.

The Best areas to stay in Philadelphia for tourists are:

1. Old City

Old City - Society Hill, where to stay in Philadelphia for first time visitors

Old City, also known as “America’s most historic square mile,” is the overall best place to stay in Philadelphia for first-timer due to its central location and proximity to many of top attractions like the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and National Constitution Center.

Staying here allows you to be located within walking distance to some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, shops, museums, galleries, and historic landmarks.

Old City Philadelphia is generally a safe area, especially during the day when it sees a significant influx of visitors. It is a well-patrolled area, but, like any urban area, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings, stay in well-lit and populated areas, especially at night.

Old City is located on the bank of the Delaware River, seperated with Society Hill by Walnut Street. The neighborhood is known for its beautiful colonial architecture and picturesque cobblestone streets, which create a nostalgic and charming atmosphere.

Old City is a highly walkable neighborhood with many attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops within a short distance from each other. Visitors can explore the area on foot easily without needing to rely heavily on public transportation.

Old City offers easy access to the Independence National Historical Park, home to some of America’s most significant historical sites, including Independence Hall (the birthplace of the United States), and Liberty Bell Center, showcasing the iconic cracked Liberty Bell.

Located adjacent to Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center is an interactive museum that explores the history and significance of the U.S. Constitution and its impact on American life.

At the Christ Church Burial Ground, you can find the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers and an influential figure in American history.

You can also find the hitoric Betsy Ross House, which is believed to be the residence of Betsy Ross, who is said to have sewn the first American flag. It’s a popular attraction for those interested in the nation’s early history.

Old City is also home to Elfreth’s Alley. Dating back to 1703, Elfreth’s Alley is comprised of thirty-two historic houses along a small cobblestone path. Two houses on Elfreth’s Alley now serve as a gift shop and museum that displays artifacts from hundreds of years ago. 

Toward to the Delaware River, you’ll see Penn’s Landing recreational area that hosts various events, festivals, and concerts throughout the year. It offers beautiful views of the river and the city’s skyline.

In addition to the hitorical attractions, Old City offers a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and bars, providing visitors with a wide array of dining and nightlife options.

On the first Friday of each month, many art galleries and shops open their doors late into the evening, hosting special exhibitions and events. It’s a great way to experience the artistic side of Old City.

Old City has a plenty of accommodations ranging from luxury and budget hotels. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in understanding the roots of the United States.

Best places to stay in Philadelphia Old City:

  • luxury ($$$): Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, an IHG Hotel, 4-star hotel, offering a rooftop lounge with the views of Liberty Bell. It is centrally located in Center City, easy walk from Independence Hall.
  • mid-range ($$): Philadelphia Marriott Old City, 4-star hotel, located in the heart of America’s most historic square kilometre, easy walk from the iconic Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
  • budget ($): Apple Hostels of Philadelphia, great hotel, centrally located close to the Museum of the American Revolution and Independence National Historical Park.

See more:

2. Center City

downtown philadelphia

Center City, is the modern downtown area, located right next to the Old City. It serves as the city’s central business district and is a hub for commerce, culture, and entertainment.

Center City is the most easily accessible from the Philadelphia National Airport, on the Market Street or Broad Street lines of the SEPTA system, as well as via bus, train or car over the Ben Franklin Bridge if you are coming from New York or New Jersey.

Center City is one of the most vibrant and historically significant parts of Philadelphia, featuring a mix of old and new architecture, parks, museums, restaurants, and shops.

Center City’s location offers easy access to major landmarks such as the Independence Hall, the iconic Liberty Bell, Reading Terminal Market, Chinatown, and Rittenhouse Square.

Reading Terminal Market is a bustling indoor farmer’s market and food hall with a diverse selection of vendors offering a wide range of fresh produce, meats, and specialty items.

There are numerous green spaces in the Center City, including Dilworth Park and Love Park, which is famous for the LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, a popular spot for tourists and locals.

Additionally, you can also find the Avenue of the Arts, which is a section of South Broad Street featuring numerous theaters, performing arts venues, and cultural institutions.

To the east of Center City lies the City Hall, a magnificent building with an iconic statue of William Penn atop its tower, which historically set the limit for building heights in the city.

Center City offers easy access to Midtown Village with contains the LBGTQ-centric Gayborhood, many restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The local retailers sell hand-made products like custom stationery, candles, and hand-poured soap.

Center City along with Old Town is one of the safest neighborhoods in Philadelphia for tourists. Midtown Village is also generally a safe area, but like any urban area, it’s always essential to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.

Chef Valerie Safran and Chef Marcie Turney own restaurants in Midtown Village along 13th Street. Some of the businesses they own include Lolita, Verde, Barbuzzo, and Open House.

Chef Michael Schulson is a local celebrity. He serves Asian dishes, coffee, and craft cocktails. His celebrity status makes the Double Knot and Sampan highly desired eateries. You and your family will be able to enjoy exquisite dining and drinks at either of his establishments. 

City Center is Philadelphia’s tourist hotspot and a budget-friendly area to stay in the city. If you are looking for a place where there are an adult and child-friendly activities, historic attractions, and luxurious hotels, Center City is the place to stay. 

Best places to stay in City Center and Midtown Village:


3. Parkway Museum District (Logan Square)

Parkway Museum District

Parkway Museum District, also known as the Museum District, is named after Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a scenic boulevard designed by Jacques Gréber that stretches from Philadelphia City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which anchors the district at its western end.

The Parkway Museum District is home to a remarkable concentration of museums, cultural institutions, and public spaces, making it a significant cultural hub in the city.

Some of the major institutions located in or around the district include:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest and most renowned art museums in the United States, famous for its iconic “Rocky Steps” entrance.
  • Rodin Museum, houses an extensive collection of works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, including his famous piece “The Thinker.”
  • The Barnes Foundation, known for its impressive collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings, African sculpture.
  • The Franklin Institute, one of the oldest centers of science education in the United States.
  • Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, oldest natural history museum in the Americas, known for its diverse collection of specimens and exhibits.
  • Free Library of Philadelphia, often hosts cultural and literary events.
  • The Please Touch Museum, a children’s museum with interactive exhibits for young visitors.

The Parkway Museum District is not only a place for educational and cultural enrichment but also a picturesque area for leisurely strolls and outdoor events. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway itself is often used for parades, concerts, and other public gatherings.

If you decide to visit during Halloween, the Eastern State Penitentiary is rumored to be haunted. During Halloween they will decorate the former prison as a haunted house, frightening all who enter. 

The Eastern State Penitentiary used to hold the famous Al Capone. During regular business hours, they offer you an audio-voiced tour so you and your family can explore at your own pace. 

Shortly after Halloween, the parkway hosts a large Thanksgiving Day Parade which is great fun for the whole family. In the summertime, The Parkway Museum District is host to a large Fourth of July celebration and the Made in America Festival.

The Parkway Museum District is fun for the whole family any time of year. If you are looking to attend a special event, you should prepare accordingly. 

For example, if you want to see the Fourth of July celebration, you should make accommodations in advance. Hotels reservations quickly become unavailable during this time. You can easily make reservations at a hotel or other accommodation online to save your spot. 

Best places to stay in Parkway Museum District:


4. Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square, an upscale neighborhood

Rittenhouse Square is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Philadelphia. It is one of the original five squares designed and established by the founder William Penn. 

William Penn envisioned properties surrounded by greenery: trees, shrubs, flowers, and orchids. He wanted this greenery around public squares reflecting the parks in London. 

He called this vision “Greene Country Towne.” Rittenhouse Square encompasses his vision. The greenery and historic culture make Rittenhouse beautiful to this day. 

Having held the founder’s vision, Rittenhouse square is one of the most expensive and luxurious neighborhoods in Philadelphia. When you are making accommodations to stay in Philadelphia, you should be aware staying in or near Rittenhouse Square will be more expensive than in other neighborhoods. However, the fine dining and attractions are well worth the cost. 

During separate times of the year, Rittenhouse Square hosts festivals, shows, and events. In the fall, there is a huge art show called “Circle the Square” during the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show. 

May is an exciting time to visit Rittenhouse Square. During this month, Rittenhouse square hosts the Square Spring Festival. Tens of thousands of visitors visit Rittenhouse square for this festival. There is shopping, live entertainment, and plenty of food. You and your loved ones will have an experience of a lifetime. 

In the summertime, Rittenhouse Square is bustling with artists and performers. You can enjoy a delicious lunch while admiring the greenery. During a stroll through the square, you will find amazing boutiques and artists selling their designs. 

The holidays are also a fun time to visit Rittenhouse Square. Christmas time is extra special with Tree Lighting. Thousands of holiday decorations light up the square. Christmas songs will echo through the square as you and your family stroll through the square. Christmas time is a wonderful time of year to visit. 

Rittenhouse Square is the perfect place to bring your children or have a romantic getaway for you and your loved one. The beautifully designed square is perfect for a photo-op with a mix of family and adult activities. 

As discussed previously, Rittenhouse square is more expensive than other places to stay in Philadelphia. However, local accommodations like hotels have special packages that can save you money.

For example, booking with some hotels may get you free tickets or a “buy-one, get-one” special to events. Other hotels may include free off-road parking and other guest specials. A boutique hotel is also an extravagant option to those that want a quieter setting near the square. 

Best places to stay in Rittenhouse Square:


5. University City

Rittenhouse Square, an upscale neighborhood

University City is in the center of West Philadelphia. The city is known as the academic epicenter because it is the location of two major institutions: Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania

The college town is youthful and filled with innovation. Students from all over the world live in University City for their college years. But what does college have to do with visiting? It sets the feel and scene. 

The population of University City is young and vibrant while the town is historic. During the year, students’ parents and families visit for the holidays and breaks. There are attractions for all ages. 

West Fairmount Park is the main attraction. The whole family will find enjoyment in the green acres. Did you know that it is home to the nation’s first zoo? The Zoo brings thousands of visitors all year. It is an interactive experience with petting zoos and fun exhibits. 

University City is home to The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). This ICA has been the source of controversy throughout history. In 1965, Andy Warhol nearly caused a riot due to the exhibit displaying his latest art. This art that sparked debate and controversy later became a trend. 

The ICA displays art pieces from Agnes Martin, Robert Indiana, Laurie Anderson, and Andy Warhol to name a few. You and your family can visit the institute and witness valuable pieces that established culture in art history. 

Famous critics from the New York Times have commented on the innovative and controversial galleries from the ICA. The ICA is the main attraction for the art-goer in University City. 

Another art attraction is Penn Campus. Artists from all over have art displayed through its soaring ceilings and galleries. The campus hosts various art and fashion shows. Some noteworthy past shows include Rudi Gernreich and Tony Conrad’s displays. 

When you are making plans to visit University City, you should check the calendar for the art and fashion shows. These displays are a wonderful experience for all ages and the fashionista. 

University City is one of the best places in Philadelphia. The entire family can enjoy the young and fast scene or slow down for a stroll in the park. You can take your children to the Zoo one day and enjoy a romantic dinner with your significant other in the evening. University City is known as the academic center, but also as an art hub. 

Best places to stay in Philly in University City:


6. Fishtown/Northern Liberties

fishtown philadelphia

Fishtown is a working-class neighborhood. Fishtown was nicknamed Fishtown due to it being the center for the commercial fishing industry. Fishtown is not as luxurious as Rittenhouse square but is a charming family town. 

The neighborhood has narrow streets with row homes. Many small business owners are dependent on their neighbors and visitors to stay in business. Fishtown is composed of locally owned and locally made products.

Fishtown is located south of Lehigh, east of Front, west of the Delaware River and North of Girard. This area is home to longtime residents as well as a recent influx of new residents. The combination of the old and new makes Fishtown unique. 

The narrow streets are bustling with life. Family-owned businesses such as restaurants, studios, galleries, and bars are the main source of attraction in Fishtown. You will get that hometown feel in a big city. 

Northern Liberties is directly southeast of Fishtown. You can easily travel from one place to another with your vehicle or public transportation. 

When you walk through Northern Liberties, you will see sanctioned projects by the Mural Arts Philadelphia. On buildings, local artists have designed and painted murals. For example, if you walk 2nd and Poplar Streets, you will see murals of eagles, a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, and a large painting of a bison. Murals do change and rotate so each experience is new. 

Each August, Northern Liberties hosts a huge event called the Northern Liberties 2nd Street Festival. This festival is fun for the whole family. During the day there are kid-friendly activities and games. There is live music, amazing performers, craft sales, and food/drink vendors.

When you plan to visit Fishtown or Northern Liberties, there are a small bed and breakfast inns and Airbnbs. The best hotels to stay in are located just over half of a mile away in Center City. When you stay at one of these hotels, you will get the benefits of a large hotel and still be able to easily access the small-town feel of Fishtown and Northern Liberties. 


7. South Philadelphia

Lincoln Financial Field

South Philadelphia is known for its residents’ Italian Heritage. Throughout the years South Philadelphia has grown increasingly diverse attracting residents from all backgrounds and cultures. 

With its diverse culture, South Philadelphia has multicultural food attractions. You can enjoy Asian cuisine for one meal and get a taste of Italy with your next. 

Did you know various iconic films took place in South Philadelphia? The Sixth Sense and the Rocky franchise are two extremely popular films that are set in South Philadelphia. 

The Lincoln Financial Field home to the Eagles is in Philadelphia. Are you a fan of the Eagles or a fan of a team about to play the Eagles? Thousands of visitors and tourists schedule their vacation around an Eagles game. Fans of all ages pack the stadium, while they enjoy a classic American sport. 

Do you love shopping? King Prussia Mall has all the newest trends, styles, and products without the hassle of New York traffic. King Prussia Mall is the largest US retail space making it a tourist destination. There are over four hundred stores to shop displaying high-end name brands. In November and December alone, over five million people will shop at King Prussia Mall. 

Magic Gardens is located on South Street and displays work from Isaia Zagar. His mosaic tiles are both indoors and outdoors in a sculpture garden. It takes about 15 minutes to walk and spans about half of a block. Magic Gardens is a visionary art environment and a must-see when in Philadelphia. 

There are many places to stay in South Philadelphia from motels to hotels to Airbnbs. If you are traveling on a budget, it is not a problem South Philadelphia has accommodations that span over a wide range of price ranges. 

Best places to stay in South Philly:


8. Around the Philadelphia International Airport

Philadelphia International Airport

The Philadelphia Airport is extremely large. Whether you are stuck on a layover or want to explore nearby, there are tons of activities for the entire family around the airport. 

Around the airport, there is a myriad of stores such as Pandora, Taxco Sterling, The Body Shop, Tech Interaction, Roster, Philadelphia America!, Lids, Tumi, Sunglass Hut, Gap, Finish line.

If you love to shop, the airport is a terrific location. The airport also offers transportation to local accommodations like hotels, motels, Airbnbs, and boutique hotels. A car service will assist you and your family to get to your destination safely with your belongings. There are also car rental services right at the airport so you can have a car during your stay in Philadelphia. 

Are you stressed out after a long flight? The airport has a spa to help you relax. You could walk off your plane and right into a massage to start your vacation. 

The airport also has an amazing culinary scene. You can choose from fast food to a fine dining experience. Your family will have a wide range of food choices, so everyone will be happy. 

Best places to stay in Philly near Philadelphia International Airport:

mid-range ($$): Philadelphia Airport Marriott This 4-star hotel is connected directly to the Philadelphia International Airport. it has a car park, a gym, a business center, as well as an on-site Aviation Grill that serve American cuisine.

budget ($): Residence Inn by Marriott Philadelphia Airport This is a 3-star hotel that offers free private car parking onsite, free wifi, and 24-hour front desk.

budget ($): Delta Hotels by Marriott Philadelphia Airport This hotel offers spacious rooms and suites a Smart TVs, free wifi, coffee makers and tea service.


Where should I stay in Philadelphia for the first time?

Old City is the best overall place to stay in Philadelphia for first-timers due to its central location and proximity to major sights likte the Liberty Bell and Penn’s Landing. Staying here offers easy access to attractions, as well as restaurants, bars, and shops.

What are the best areas to stay in Philadelphia?

Old City, Center City and Midtown Village, Rittenhouse Square, University City, Northern Liberties, and South Philadelphia are the best areas to stay in Philadelphia because they are the most popular areas for tourists that offer many things to do and see.

Where to stay in Philadelphia without a car?

Old City and Center City are the best areas to stay in Philadelphia without a car. They are central neighborhoods that are walkable and well-connected to public transportation. You can easily get around on foot, or by buses, trolleys, and subways without the need of having a car.

Where to stay in Philadelphia with a car?

Most hotels in Downtown Philadelphia offer paid parking. If you are looking for a hotel with free car parking in Philadelphia, look into Live! Casino & Hotel – Philadelphia and The Gables Bed and Breakfast Philadelphia.

What is the safest area to stay in Philadelphia?

Old City and Center City are the safest places to stay in Philadelphia for tourists with plenty of things to do and see. It is recommended to always practice common sense and take care of your belongings as you would travel to any big city. 

Where not to stay in Philadelphia?

You should avoid wandering too far south from South Philly, or too far north from Fishtown. You should also always stay alert, and pay attention to your surroundings.

See more:

To sum up, the best places to stay in Philly to book your accommodations are the Old City, Center City and Midtown Village, Rittenhouse Square, and University City. These areas provide central locations, easy access to major sights, and a wide range of accommodations for all visitors.

Overall, Old City is my favorite area in Philadelphia as a first-timers. It offers easy access to historical attractions, many restaurants, bars, and shops.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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