Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. Think of them as living, breathing organisms—ever-changing, ever-growing and each entirely different from the next. Now think of yourself as an explorer that is about to set off on an urban safari. Wander, observe and listen. Familiarize yourself with the city. After all, it’s your new home—and while it may be overwhelming at first glance, its bark is tougher than its bite. Follow this guide and you’ll feel like a local in no time.
Best known as: A mostly residential area with cheaper-than-Center City rent prices and home to some of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.
Where to eat: Fairmount’s Osteria (640 N.Broad St.) was named the best restaurant in the city by Philadelphia magazine in February, and its traditional Italian food lives up to the hype. The London Grill (2301 Fairmount Ave.) and the Rose Tattoo Café (19th and Callowhill streets) are also good back-ups if Osteria is booked for the night.
What to do: Check out the Eastern State Penitentiary (2124 Fairmount Ave.), a former state prison where Willie Sutton and Al Capone were once prisoners. For a little outdoor adventure, spend some time exploring the vast expanse of Fairmount Park or take a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo (3400 W. Girard Ave.)
Best known as: A diverse and eclectic residential neighborhood that is also home to the University of Pennsylvania’s gorgeous campus, Drexel University’s not-so-gorgeous campus and some of the city’s best house venues, where local experimental rock bands play low-key shows.
Where to eat: Feast yourself on foods from around the globe. Grab Ethiopian cuisine at Abyssinia (229 S. 45th St.) or Dahlak (4708 Baltimore Ave.), try Pakistani at Kabobeesh (4201 Chestnut St.), or gorge on the $10 all-you-can-eat buffet at Sitar India (60 S. 38th St.) For drinks, Dock Street Brewery and Restaurant (701 S. 50th St.) is a West Philly favorite. Try its award winning premium amber beer, which is brewed and bottled on site.
Where to shop: For those who travel on two wheels, the independently owned Trophy Bikes (3131 Walnut St.) is a must-stop. The Last Word Bookshop (220 S. 40th St.) is a great place to find dog-eared novels and cheap textbooks, and The Second Mile Center (214 S. 45th St.) is a thrift store with tons of stuff to dig through—some of it decent and salvageable, some of it not.
What to do: The International House (3701 Chestnut St.) hosts frequent concerts and movie screenings, and the World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.) is known for its live music and bar.
Best known as: The best-lit part of the city. Don’t even try to stargaze here.
Where to eat: Koja Grille (1600 N. Broad St.) offers delicious, spicy Korean dishes
for cheap prices—and you can use Diamond Dollars to pay. The Sexy Green Truck, located outside of the
Student Center, has some of the best food on campus and all of its produce is locally grown. But when it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve just come from a frat party, the only place to go is Temple Star (1412 W. Diamond St.)—for quick, greasy Chinese food that will soak up the beer in your stomach.
Where to shop: Phenomenal Records (1432 Cecil B. Moore Ave.) is a great place to
find underground hip-hop, rap and R&B records. Keep your eyes peeled—you may run into regulars Method Man, Ludacris or Ghostface Killah.
Best known as: A haven for artists and musicians, and a dining and nightlife rival for neighboring Old City.
Where to eat: Snack on miniature vegan donuts at the Soy Café (630 N. 2nd St), and then taste the bubble tea and stuffed pretzels at Euphoria Smoothies & Coffee (1001 N. 2nd St.) The gastropub offered at the Abbaye (637 N. 3rd St.) is a good spot for drinks. The brand-new Cantina Dos Segundos (931 N. 2nd St.) is earning a reputation for its guacamole and chips.
Where to shop: Made to Order (817 N. 2nd St.) and Art Star Gallery & Boutique (623 N. 2nd St.) both offer unique and eclectic clothing and accessories for men and women.
What to do: Indulge your inner child with bowling, arcade games and tater tots at North Bowl (909 N. 2nd St.), or catch a free Thursday night outdoor movie screening at the Arbol Café (209 Poplar St.)
Best known as: A place for sightseeing, wining and dining.
Where to eat: Stephen Starr’s original restaurant, Continental (138 Market St.), may look like a diner on the outside, but you won’t find lobster mashed potatoes or decadent martinis at your local greasy spoon. Old Original Bookbinder’s (125 Walnut St.) is another Old City classic, a Philadelphia landmark where everyone including David Bowie, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Nixon
have dined. For dessert, check out the old-fashioned milkshakes and malts at the Franklin Fountain (116 Market St.)
Where to shop: All within a few blocks of each other, used book stores Big Jar Books (55 N. 2nd Street) and The Book Trader (7 N. 2nd Street), and record emporium A.K.A. Music (27 N. 2nd Street) are worthy stops. Chic boutiques are plentiful on Third Street, but Sazz Vintage Clothing (133 N. 3rd Street), in particular, is a gem—the store sells mostly men’s vintage, with a focus on rockabilly and disco styles.
What to do: The Khyber (56 S. 2nd Street) is one of Philadelphia’s most popular bars and a frequent stop for bands and musicians on the road. Also worth checking out is Penn’s Landing, located on the Delaware River waterfront, where concerts and other events are sometimes held.
Best known as: The first place most people visit when they move to Philadelphia.
Where to eat: The Jamaican Jerk Hut (1436 South St.) serves up mouthwatering
Caribbean food, while South Street Souvlaki (509 South St.) makes a mean gyro. Also, Lorenzo & Son
Pizza (305 South St.) is known for its huge, greasy slices.
Where to shop: The best shops on South Street are the sex shops— Condom Kingdom (437 South St.), Erogenous Zone (523 South St.) and The Mood (531 South St.) Also worth
checking out are Repo Records (538 South St.), vintage shop Retrospect (534 South St.) and women’s boutique Guacamole (422 South St.)
What to do: Make sure you visit Isaiah Zagar’s spectacular mosaic labyrinth, the Magic Garden (1020-1022 South St.), open to the public for a mere $3 donation during weekday and weekend afternoons. Whole Foods (929 South St.) often holds movie screenings, concerts and other
events on its roof, and Manny Brown’s (119 South St.) is home to the original Kinky Quizzo, held every Wednesday night. If that doesn’t peak your interest, check out Bob & Barbara’s Lounge (1509 South St.) for live jazz, drag shows and drunken spelling bees.
Best known as: The battleground for the war between Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s, a better alternative to Pathmark in terms of produce and a great spot for people-watching and
Where to eat: A trip to either Pat’s or Geno’s is absolutely necessary when roaming the Italian Market. Both are located at the intersection of Ninth and Wharton streets and Passyunk Avenue, and both offer pretty much the exact same cheesesteak—just remember to order in English if you’re visiting Geno’s. Sabrina’s Café (910 Christian St.) is another Italian Market favorite, known for its great breakfast food.
Where to shop: Molly’s Bookstore (1010 S. 9th St.) always has tons of cheap used books to poke through. For gourmet cheeses and meats, stop by Di Bruno Brothers (930 S. 9th St.), Esposito’s Meats (1001 S. 9th St.) or Talluto’s Pasta and Cheese (944 S. 9th St.), where they make fresh mozzarella every day.
Best known as: The friendliest neighborhood in the city for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders and a great spot for dining and nightlife.
Where to eat: Stephen Starr’s El Vez (121 S. 13th St.) serves unique, Mexican-inspired dishes and huge margaritas. Bump Lounge (1234 Locust St.) offers specialty martinis with names like “The Metrosexual” and two menus, one with “big plates” and the other of “small plates.” While restaurants like Italian joint Portofino (1227 Walnut St.) and the French bistro Caribou Café (1126 Walnut St.) tend to be a bit pricier, there’s always the Pad Thai Shack (122 S. 12th St.) for those looking for cheap, tasty take-out.
What to do: Woody’s Bar (202 S. 13th St.) is the Gayborhood’s most famous
nightclub and a favorite among college students, even those who aren’t gay. Sal’s (200 S. 12th St.) holds regular dance parties and concerts, and the Last Drop (1300 Pine St.) is a popular Gayborhood coffee shop that stays open late for night owls.
Best known as: A predominantly Asian neighborhood with a lot of cheap restaurants and bubble tea shops.
Where to eat: Penang (117 N. 10th St.) is well known in the area for
its unique Malaysian cuisine, while Imperial Inn (146 N. 10th St.) is often hailed as one of Chinatown’s best – and least expensive – dim sum restaurants. For those with dietary restrictions, New Harmony (135 N. 9th St.) and Kingdom of Vegetarians (129 N. 11th St.) are both certified kosher vegan restaurants that also serve gluten-free dishes.
Where to shop: The best shopping in Chinatown is at its many Asian grocery stores,
where you can purchase all the goods you need to make your own sushi, as well as fresh noodles, spices, sauces and dumplings.
Anna Hyclak can be reached at email@example.com.