Travel

Center City

Establishment neighborhood
The Ritz Philadelphia
10 Avenue of the Arts, Center City
The Ritz is the gold standard of hotels in Philadelphia. The lobby is housed in the rotunda building that was completed in 1908 as a model of Rome’s Pantheon, using 9,000 tons of Georgia marble—by the same architectural firm behind the first MSG and Washington Square Arch in NYC, as well as the Boston Symphony Hall. (The interior marble was largely sourced from the same Italian quarry as Michelangelo’s David.) First the company home of the Girard Trust Company president E.B. Morris, the rotunda building went on to house the Girard Trust Corn Exchange, and later two different banks, before being converted into a hotel in 2000. The Ritz rooms are in the partner tower, which was designed by the same firm in 1923, and grew from eight to thirty stories in 1931. In 2016, the Ritz underwent a major redesign but you’ll still see pieces of the past, from the tower’s original brass clock to the warping on one side of the former vault (now ballroom) stairs—an imprint of the women who once walked them, hugging the sole banister, on the way into the vault to pick up…
Vetri
1312 Spruce St., Center City
The first venture by Philly native and James Beard Award-winning Chef Marc Vetri and sommelier/partner Jeff Benjamin, Vetri remains a celebrated restaurant two decades (and as many sister restaurants) later. The thirty-two-seat dining room has a rustic wood floor and exposed ceiling beams, and is elegantly dressed with a hand-blown glass chandelier lighting the center of the room. (As of 2014, Vetri has a private dining room upstairs, too, with a dedicated kitchen; intimate ten-person dinners can be had around the chef’s counter, or larger meals around the formal dining table.) The Italian-style tasting-menu-only setup is matched by a 2,500-bottle wine cellar, also Italian-focused, though Vetri offers great craft beer pairings as well.
Double Knot
120 S. 13th St., Center City
Okay, Double Knot, which opened in 2016, hardly qualifies as historic, but it seems destined to become a Philadelphia mainstay. It’s a handsomely decorated (dark wood, industrial lighting, leather chairs, bookshelves) hybrid cafe/Japanese fusion restaurant that’s open all day—beginning with a.m. espressos and moving toward banh mi, pork buns, robatayaki-style meat, and handrolls throughout the day. Cocktails are poured into the night at the intimate, speakeasy-like basement bar.
Vedge
1221 Locust St., Center City
Vedge has the distinction of being not only one of the best vegan restaurants in the country, but also one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, period—a particularly impressive distinction for a city that has such stiff competition (not to mention, home of the cheesesteak). An emphasis on vegetables has resulted in an amazing menu that includes drool-worthy fare like stuffed avocado, country-fried kohlrabi, and eggplant braciole. While the food certainly takes center stage, the beer, wine, and cocktail selections are also top-notch.
Reading Terminal Market
51 N. 12th St., Center City
Philadelphia has a long market history, the first informal iterations having appeared in the 1680’s. Reading Terminal was formed from a few different markets and opened in 1892; train service began the following year. The last train left Reading Terminal in 1984, but the market lives on. Today, people come here for excellent produce, meat, cheese, specialty chocolate, flowers, and gifts—and the legendary soft pretzels from Miller’s Twist.
The Barnes Foundation Museum
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Center City
The Barnes Collection was originally established in 1922 by Albert Barnes, a Philadelphia businessman who amassed a stunning collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings—including significant works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau. In 2012, Barnes’ namesake foundation opened a stunning new campus building that devotes 93,000 square feet to storage, conservation, education, and exhibition space, which makes his stunning collection more accessible than ever. There’s no excuse for missing the downtown building if you’re staying in city center, but if time allows, make the trek to their suburban campus in Merion, which boasts a gorgeous arboretum.
The Liberty Bell
6th St. & Market St., City Center
You pretty much can’t throw a stone in this part of Philadelphia without hitting something beautiful and historic. (But maybe don’t do that.) Case in point: You can plan a walk that starts at the Liberty Bell—one of the most iconic symbols of American sovereignty—and reasonably also include Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), Carpenters’ Hall (where Congress met while Philadelphia was the capital), Christ Church (where George Washington and Benjamin Franklin once had assigned pews), and the Betsy Ross House (where the building’s namesake sewed an early American flag)—in a single, leisurely afternoon.
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