Philadelphia

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In 1790, Philadelphia was even declared the first capital of the United States. But the City of Brotherly Love offers a whole lot more than historical landmarks: it’s a vibrant metropolis teeming with sites to see, places to be, and areas to wine, dine and shop. It takes approximately seven hours to fly direct from Shannon Airport to Philadelphia. From there, the Airport Line rail service ($7) brings you downtown in around 25 minutes. 

Exploring Philadelphia

The endless array of things to see and do in Pennsylvania’s largest city can be daunting for the first-time tourist. So make the Independence Visitors’ Centre your first stop – it’s full of knowledgeable staff who can help you plan your stay. 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art ($20), one of the largest and most respected art museums in the States, is a firm favourite with visitors. Though it houses works by Dali, Monet and Turner, it’s also well known for the 72 stone steps leading up to its entrance, which were immortalised in the movie Rocky. 

For something a little bit different, check out the Eastern State Penitentiary, one of America’s oldest and most intimidating former prisons. The prison, which is said to be haunted, hosts a ‘Terror behind the Walls’ tour during autumn. Experience it if you’re brave enough! 

Shopping

Unlike most of the US, Philadelphia has no sales tax on clothing, so what better excuse to replenish your wardrobe? Bellevue, Broad and Walnut Street all offer a great variety of shopping options from high street to high-end. If you get peckish, you’ve got to try Philadelphia’s local delicacy, the Philly Cheesesteak – a long crusty roll packed with thinly sliced sautéed beef and topped with melted cheese. For the real deal, head to Pat’s – King of Steaks in the Italian Quarter. Its founder, Pat Olivieri, reportedly invented the steak sandwich in 1930.

Travel

Philadelphia is rated as one of the best walking cities in America, so many visitors choose to stroll from one attraction to the next. But if you forget to pack your walking shoes, never fear: Philly has an excellent transit system called SEPTA. For roughly $11 you can get a One-Day Independence Pass which gives you 24 hours of unlimited use. 

If you’ve packed your itinerary with sites and attractions, then purchasing a Philadelphia Pass is probably a smart move. A three-day adult pass costs around $85, grants you free admission to over 30 attractions and comes with a guidebook and a detailed map. 

Five for free

  • Call in to Independence Hall

    No visit to Philadelphia would be complete without a trip to Independence Hall, the birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Situated at the heart of Independence National Historical Park, Independence Hall offers free guided tours from March through December. 

    Just a short walk from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell, which is housed in a modern glass-museum. This massive copper bell was originally a symbol of American independence but has also been adopted as an emblem for the Women’s Rights movement and the abolition of slavery. 

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  • Visit Edgar Allan Poe House

    The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is located in a preserved home that was rented by Poe, the 19th century’s favourite macabre storyteller, during his six most productive years. It was here that Poe penned his chilling stories A Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher. Visitors can learn about Poe’s life in the socio-political context of his time and see how his work influenced the likes of Hitchcock and Stephen King. The site is open Wednesday to Sunday.

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  • Relax in Fairmount Park

    Despite being located in the heart of the city, Fairmount Park feels like an oasis of tranquillity. With its lush green expanse covering a massive 9,200 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest municipal parks, boasting several million trees, a Zoo ($14) and Japanese Gardens ($6).

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  • Tour the US Mint

    A tour of the US Mint will give visitors a fascinating insight into the history, and present state, of coin manufacture. Along the way you can see the earliest coining press which was used to strike the United State’s first coins in 1792, and meet Peter the Mint Eagle – a Bald Eagle who made the First United States Mint his home. Now stuffed, Peter is still studied by today’s Mint artists when working on new eagle designs. Free tours are on offer every weekday.

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  • Heaton Park

    Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential street, was built in 1702 and is now designated a National Historic Landmark. The walkway comes to life during Fête Day celebrations in early June, when residents open their homes to the public, and a number of historical re-enactments take place. 

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