Where to stay in Philadelphia for first time: 4 Safe areas

Hi guys, on my website, I already wrote an article about staying in Philadelphia without a car (I will put the links to it at the end of this article). In today’s article, I will help you to find the best places to stay in Philadelphia for first-time visitors and tourists.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Philadelphia for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Philadelphia and recommend some of the best hotels in Philadelphia for various budgets.

Before get into the detail of the main topic, let’s look at some facts about Philadelphia:

Philadelphia is a major city in Pennsylvania and is the sixth-most populous city in the United States. Located along the Delaware River, it is within driving distance of other major cities such as New York City and Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia played a crucial role in the early history of the United States. It was the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the drafting of the United States Constitution in 1787. The city served as the temporary capital of the United States while Washington, D.C., was being built.

Independence Hall is where both the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were debated and adopted. It is now part of the Independence National Historical Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located near Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence. It is known for its crack and its inscription that reads “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.”

The city has numerous museums, theaters, and art galleries. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is famous for its Rocky Steps, featured in the film Rocky. The city also hosts the Philadelphia Orchestra and several performing arts venues.

It is home to the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Temple University. It also has several renowned medical institutions, such as the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The city is known for its diverse culinary scene, with a variety of restaurants offering everything from traditional Philly cheesesteaks to upscale dining experiences.

Is Philadelphia safe to visit?

Yes, Philadelphia is generally safe for visitors. Popular tourist areas, such as Center City and Old City, are generally safe, especially during daylight hours. But, like any major city, it’s wise to exercise caution, avoid dimly lit areas at night, secure your belongings, and use reputable transportation.

Where to stay in Philadelphia for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Philadelphia for first-timers and tourists are Old City, Center City, Rittenhouse Square, and University City. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and take common-sense precautions regardless of where you stay.

Old City offers historic charm. It is rich in history, with attractions like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It has a lively nightlife scene, art galleries, and unique boutiques. Close to the waterfront.

Center City is the heart of Philadelphia, with easy access to many attractions, shops, restaurants, and theaters. It includes areas like Market East, Chinatown, and the Avenue of the Arts.

Rittenhouse Square is an upscale area with beautiful architecture, high-end shopping, and dining. Rittenhouse Square itself is a lovely park. It has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to some other central areas.

University City is home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, it has a youthful energy. Often less crowded than other central areas, making it a great base for a more laid-back atmosphere, especially if you enjoy the presence of college campuses.

You might want to avoid Kensington, particularly near the Kensington and Allegheny intersection, as well as parts of North Philadelphia, such as Strawberry Mansion and Allegheny West, have higher crime rates. Also exercise caution in some sections of West Philadelphia, like Mantua and Haddington. 

During my trip to Philadelphia, I stayed in the 3-star Penn’s View Hotel Philadelphia. It was a good value for money hotel in a central location along Front Street, easy distance from the river and the major sights including the Independence Hall. My rooms was spacious and comfortable.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Philadelphia for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Philadelphia first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Philadelphia first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Philadelphia, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Philadelphia have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in Philadelphia for first-timers and tourists:

1. Old City

Old City is one of the best areas to book accommodation in Philly for first-timers. It is a historic neighborhood with a rich past and a vibrant present.

Staying in the Old City offers easy access to major sights such as the Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Betsy Ross House, which is the historic home of the woman credited with making the first American flag.

You can visit the National Constitution Center for interactive exhibits about the United States Constitution. History lovers can explore the Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia History Museum, and Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street, lined with charming colonial homes.

You can enjoy the monthly event, First Friday, where art galleries and shops open their doors for the public to explore, typically accompanied by live music and food trucks.

Old City is known for its diverse and trendy dining scene, with numerous restaurants, cafes, and bars to explore. You can find everything from upscale dining to casual eateries.

This area also offers easy access to the Penn’s Landing waterfront area with parks, restaurants, and seasonal events.

Best places to stay in Philadelphia Old City for first-timers:

  • Mid-range ($$): Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, an IHG Hotel, great 4-star hotel located in Chestnut Street, in the heart of Philly, featuring a rooftop lounge with the view of the Liberty Bell. It has parking, family rooms, and 24-hour front desk.
  • Budget ($): Independence Park Hotel, Premier Collection, 3-star historic accommodation located in the Historic District, easy walk from the famous Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Court and National Constitution Center. The hotel serves nice hot breakfast and free afternoon tea/cookies.
  • Budget ($): Thomas Bond House, 1 star good value for money bed and breakfast located in the 18th century building in the center of Philadelphia.  Close to the National Liberty Museum, Liberty Bell, and Pennsylvania Convention Center.

2. Center City

Center City is a great choice for first-time visitors who want to be centrally located with easy access to major attractions. It is the downtown area and the central business district of the city with a mix of historic sites, modern skyscrapers, shopping districts, and cultural attractions.  

The area is pedestrian-friendly, making it enjoyable to explore on foot. It is also a major transportation hub with easy access to public transit.

Center City is home to the City Hall, one of the most iconic landmarks, with an observation deck providing panoramic views of the city. The historic Reading Terminal Market is also in this area, offering a diverse range of food vendors and merchants.

It is also close to the Love Park (JFK Plaza), which is known for the iconic LOVE sculpture. You can also find Dilworth Park nearby with events, fountains, and seasonal ice skating.

This area offers easy access to Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Foundation, Rittenhouse Square, Walnut Street and Chestnut Street high-end shopping districts with a variety of boutiques.

For theater’s fans, you can check out the Avenue of the Arts and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on South Broad Street.

Center City offers a wide range of dining options, from fine dining to casual eateries, reflecting various cuisines.

Best places to stay in Philly Center City for first-time visitors:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Notary Hotel, Philadelphia, Autograph Collection, great 4-star hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located on North Juniper Street in Center City. It has Private Parking and 24-hour front desk.
  • Mid-range ($$): Canopy By Hilton Philadelphia Center City, popular 4-star hotel in the heart of the city, on Ludlow Street, a 10-minute walk from Liberty Bell. It has free bikes, private parking, a fitness center, 24-hour front desk and a business center. Easy access to  National Liberty Museum, Barnes Foundation and Mutter Museum. 
  • Budget ($): Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City, popular 3-star hotel on Arch Street, in the central area,  next to Chelsea market and the convention center, close to Reading Terminal Market and the Independence Hall.

3. Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square is one of Philadelphia’s most upscale and picturesque neighborhoods, known for its beautiful park, historic architecture, high-end shopping, and fine dining. It is centrally located between Center City and the Schuylkill River.

At the heart of this area is the Rittenhouse Square Park, a popular spot for locals and visitors to relax, read a book, or people-watch.

It is home to Walnut Street and Chestnut Street, which are lined with luxury boutiques, designer stores, and high-end shops, offering a premier shopping experience.

The neighborhood is characterized by charming brownstone townhouses and historic architecture. Rittenhouse Row area features a concentration of art galleries, showcasing both local and international artists.

Best places to stay in Philly in Rittenhouse Square for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Rittenhouse Hotel, 5-star hotel located on West Rittenhouse Square, within walking distance of important museums, shops, and the business district. The hotel has an  indoor heated pool and sun terrace that offer free access to guests.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Windsor Suites Philadelphia, popular 4-star hotel located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, close to Logan Square and close to 15th Street Trolley Station. It has an Outdoor swimming pool and private parking for those who drive.
  • Budget ($): Motto by Hilton Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square, 3-star accommodation situated in the city center area, on South 19th Street, 5-minute walk from Mutter Museum. Also close to Barnes Foundation, Convention Center and Liberty Bell.

4. University City

University City is a vibrant area, known for its academic institutions, cultural attractions, and a youthful energy. The neighborhood is primarily centered around the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Drexel University. 

You can visit some cultural attractions such as Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).

University City offers a variety of dining options, from casual eateries to international cuisine. Baltimore Avenue has a diverse range of restaurants, shops, and cultural spaces.

There are numerous green spaces in this area including the Clark Park, which is a large park with a farmers’ market, playgrounds, and community events. Penn Park is another park that offers beautiful views of the Philadelphia skyline.

University City is well Well-connected to public transportation and SEPTA services, including buses and the Market-Frankford Line (subway).

Best places to stay in University City for first-time travelers:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Study at University City, Study Hotels, 4-star hotel located on South 33rd Street, next to the campuses of The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. It has a Good Breakfast and 24-hour front desk.
  • Mid-range ($$): The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel, 4-star accommodation on Sansom Street, short distance from University of Pennsylvania. It has Very Good Breakfast according to its guests’ reviews.
  • Budget ($): Sonder The Sloan,  3-star condo hotel located a 15-minute walk from University of Pennsylvania , featuring accommodation with a kitchen and laundry services. 

In conclusion, Old City, Center City, Rittenhouse Square, and University City are the best places to stay in Philadelphia for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe and central areas that provide a variety of accommodation options for all budgets to explore the city.

If you don’t plan to drive in Philadelphia, you can check this article: Best places to stay in Philadelphia without a car; If you travel to Philadelphia as a family, I recommend reading this article: Best places to stay in Philadelphia with kids.

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Philadelphia. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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