Whether in search of a famed hoagie, a wander through the Reading Terminal Market, or a repeat run of Rocky’s dash up the Art Museum steps, more than 42 million people visited Philadelphia last year. But, for the most part, visitors came for the history. Independence National Historical Park saw more than 5 million visitors, and more than 2.3 million people elbowed their way through crowds to get a look at that crack in the Liberty Bell through its sealed, glass casing.
Rookies. Sure, the park and the bell each deserves a visit. But the City of Brotherly Love offers so much history, and, for the informed traveler, other monuments and locations deliver just as much historical significance while also ensuring a mob-free experience. For example, just a few blocks away at Christ Church sits the Liberty Bell’s sister, the Great Bell (made in the same mold 50 years earlier) which lacks the protective glass and security guards and still provides you with a chance to hear liberty ring.
That’s just one stop on this essential guide to Philly’s hidden historical treasures. To create this list, we investigated every alley in the Old City district, went beyond Independence Hall to places like Elfreth’s Alley, Philly’s oldest residential street, and Cliveden, where the bloody Battle of Germantown took place, and ate a bite of Thomas Jefferson’s sweet potato biscuits at City Tavern, where Chef Walter Staib shares food and stories from the past with his customers. We explored the new Museum of the American Revolution, and scored a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most compelling objects on display with assistant curator Matthew Skic. We also spoke to re-enactors at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River, which has operated for 183 years.
Use our guide to get a behind-the-scenes look at the city of Philadelphia through the lens of living history.