Everything You Need to Know About Living in Philadelphia, PA
We found out everything you wanted to know about the makes the City of Brotherly Love so great to live in from the people that call it home. Download our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to review all of the details.
Philadelphia, PA: Fast Facts
Philadelphia is the 5th most populous city in the US and the 49th most populous city in the world. It’s also known as Philly and the City of Brotherly Love.
Philadelphia is an iconic American city because of its role in the American Revolution. As the starting point and where the Declaration of Independence was signed, Philly has a rich history in America’s early days.
Philadelphia is a great city that I believe is going to continue to grow into something even more. There is something for everyone here whether you’re single, married, introvert, extrovert, etc. The pace is nowhere near as fast as New York, but you definitely can keep yourself busy, entertained and occupied if you want. The sports scene is incredible; we really have the most passionate fans in the country. You can really live the kind of life you want to live here in Philadelphia.Marcus W.
Chestnut Hill: Tucked away in extreme northwest Philadelphia, Chestnut Hill began its life as a popular get-away spot for the Center City elite during the Revolutionary War, thanks to its bucolic beauty and cooler summer temperatures due to its higher elevation. Today, the high-end neighborhood is quiet along its residential streets filled with Victorian townhomes and historic mansions but bustles with activity along cobblestoned Germantown Avenue. The quaint yet trendy main street is lined with boutiques, brewpubs, bakeries, and restaurants like Mica, CinCin, and Cake, many with outdoor seating to take advantage of beautiful spring and fall Philadelphia weather. Even though its namesake chestnut trees are nearly extinct, the area is known as Philly’s garden district, and is home to the Philadelphia Cricket Club, the oldest country club in the nation. For the rest of us, Chestnut Hill is adjacent to sprawling 2,000-acre Wissahickon Valley Park, with 50 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trail.
Main Line: Following the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s suburban easement, the Main Line is a series of 20 or so interconnected upscale towns northwest of the city along the borders of Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties. Among the best suburbs of Philadelphia, some of the wealthiest communities in the nation dot the Main Line, including estate towns Lower Merion, Devon, Malvern, and Gladwyne, and a dozen university communities like Haverford, Villanova, and Bryn Mawr. The old money suburbs feature a number of world-renowned golf clubs such as Aronimink, Merion, and the 130-year old Philadelphia Country Club. The area is also home to the Devon Horse Show, the oldest and largest horse competition in America.
Rittenhouse Square (Center City): In Center City, Philadelphia’s downtown area, Rittenhouse Square is one of the most beloved and fashionable regions of Philly. Named for one of the original five public squares as laid out by William Penn for his “greene country towne,” Rittenhouse today is a land of upscale high-rise condos and apartments towering over the historic park. Its cost of living is also among the highest in Philadelphia. Each day, dog walkers, artists, the after-work crowd, and young couples populate the park, lunching on benches and strolling the streets.
Conshohocken (Montgomery County Suburb): This Montgomery County enclave is a suburban hotspot for both tech business and young professionals working in the surrounding communities. Over the last decade, “Conshy” has boomed with suburban-chic and cosmopolitan residential housing and mid-priced high-rise rental towers, mostly thanks to its location as a transportation center. A number of these buildings hug the river, along with the Conshohocken Rowing Center and Riverside Dog Park. The borough’s restaurant and bar scene revolves around the Fayette Street corridor
Fishtown: If you’ve watched the new AMC network program “Dispatches from Elsewhere,” you’ve seen a lot of the quirky and public-art-focused neighborhood of Fishtown. The neighborhood got its name from the proliferation of fishermen who populated the area throughout its early history. In recent years, it’s been booming as a trendy arts, culture, foodie, and entertainment community along the Delaware River in North Philadelphia, and rental and home costs have risen along with demand.
Northern Liberties: When William Penn laid out his plan for Philadelphia, he set aside the area north of Vine Street as “liberty land,” free lots granted to landowners down in the city. Thus, Penn created the first suburb. The region was a home for mills, factories, foundries, and breweries in the 1800s, but today it thrives as one of the most popular redeveloped Philadelphia neighborhoods, with rising home and rental prices. The focal point of “NoLibs” is the new Piazza Pod Park, a 35,000-square-foot dog-friendly outdoor oasis featuring a dozen food and drink vendors and retailers tucked inside recycled shipping containers — all surrounding an inviting play and seating area.
University City: Across the river from Center City in West Philly, University City is the neighborhood that surrounds the interconnected campuses of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the University of the Sciences. The district along the Schuylkill is an education and commercial hub which is quickly becoming a second downtown, with skyscrapers like Cira Center, Cira Center South, and the FMC Building all springing up since 2000. The region continues to grow, chiefly with the under-construction 14-acre Schuylkill Yards, a massive multi-tower and public space redevelopment project, and Station Plaza, a $6.5 billion open space development around Amtrak’s historic 30th Street Station. Home and rental prices range from affordable off-campus student housing to new construction luxury high-rise apartments and condos. And every Friday at noon, non-commercial radio powerhouse WXPN presents a free public concert featuring national touring acts at the beautiful World Café Live music venue.
Old City: Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell. Betsy Ross House. One can’t help but breathe in the history as you walk the streets of Old City, where some of America’s greatest figures once lived — from William Penn to Ben Franklin to George Washington. The neighborhood where the Quakers first settled and the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were adopted is also a modern, vibrant district, and one of the safest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For the most unique but pricey living experience, try to snag an available unit along Eltfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously-occupied residential street in North America.
Passyunk Square: You may not have heard of South Philadelphia’s Passyunk Square, but you certainly know its two most famous locations. Sitting across the corner from each other at the diagonal intersection at South 9th Street and East Passyunk Avenue are two rival restaurants, Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. Pat’s, as any good Philadelphian can tell you, is where the steak sandwich was invented in 1933 (the cheese was added to create the cheesesteak a decade later at Pat’s old Ridge Avenue location). In 1966, Geno’s opened up right across the pointed intersection and an historic cheesesteak rivalry was born. But that’s not the only food game in Passyunk. Along 9th Street lies the southern end of the Italian Market, the renowned curb market made world famous when Sylvester Stallone galloped through in “Rocky.” The Market is famous for its blocks of awning-covered sidewalk stalls of grocers and butchers, fishmongers and fromagers, coffee purveyors and chocolatiers. South of Washington Avenue, the market has expanded to include exciting international cafes and restaurants.
Society Hill: Society Hill’s haughty name originates from the Free Society of Traders, a league of elite business and cultural leaders steering the future of 17th century Philadelphia. Today, the Center City neighborhood is a collection of historic Georgian rowhomes along brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets lit with Franklin lamps. Sitting in the backyard of Old City’s Independence Hall and Liberty Bell, Society Hill is one of the most expensive Philadelphia neighborhoods and has one of the city’s lowest crime rates. In addition to all those historic buildings and important locales once frequented by our Founding Fathers, Society Hill offers a bevy of modern entertainment and nightlife destinations.
Langhorne: When looking for a great place in the suburbs for a family to live, where better than the home of Sesame Place? The young children’s theme park is a unique focal point of this lovely suburb. More important, area public schools are solidly rated by GreatSchools.org. Langhorne, both the dual boroughs and greater Middletown Township collectively referred to as Langhorne, is an important business and retail center in the charming mid-range family destination of Bucks County. The borough along Neshaminy Creek itself offers a quaint Historic District with 19th-century homes and buildings to explore, as well as a number of shops and restaurants along Pine Street and Maple Avenue. Family-friendly attractions lie throughout the township.
Levittown: At the end of World War II, Long Island’s Levittown planned suburban community became both the subject of fascination and the blueprint for the typical post-war commuter suburb. Just after its completion, Levitt & Sons turned its attention to Bucks County, PA, to construct its second Levittown, a community filled with uniform, assembly-line prefab housing and military base-style convenience to schools, groceries, and parks. With it, the Levitts invented the modern suburb, a place for middle-class families outside of the city centers centered on America’s new car commute culture.
New Hope: Thirty miles north of Philadelphia in bucolic Bucks County, New Hope is a community of many diversions, as well as highly rated schools. For all it offers, home and rental property prices are higher than most of Philly’s suburbs, even for attractive Bucks County. Among its diverse attractions, New Hope is known as a:
- Ferry village along the Delaware River known for canoeing and kayaking
- Hotspot for motorcycle enthusiasts who cruise Main Street en masse on summer weekends
- Colony for world-renowned impressionist and experimental visual artists
- Popular resort retreat for the LGBT community
- Family destination with attractions like the Bucks County Children’s Museum, Bucks County Playhouse, and rides on the antique New Hope & Ivyland Railroad
Overbrook: If all you know about Overbrook is that it’s the home of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, that’s a good start. It’s also home to another famous star — Will Smith, who spent most of his days on the courts at Tustin Playground. The suburban-style West Philadelphia neighborhood is one of the most desirable and reasonably priced upper-middle to middle-class family residential spots in the city. The district came of age in the early 1900s as one of the first outlying areas city folks escaped to once trolley lines were installed, and it boomed through the 1960s. This allowed for a range of styles of affordable housing to spring up over time, from spacious row houses to low-rise apartment buildings and semi-detached “twins,” more commonly known as duplexes in other parts of the country. The family focal point of the neighborhood is the century-old Overbrook High School, which counts Chamberlain and Smith among its alumni, along with many other hoop and hip-hop stars. Overbrook serves as the West Philly gateway to the Main Line across City Avenue, with its commercial corridor along U.S. 30/Lancaster Avenue and a large green space in Morris Park.
Valley Forge & King of Prussia: Twenty-five miles northwest of Philadelphia, Valley Forge is an affordable, pastoral hamlet famous for George Washington’s encampment. While the village proper of Valley Forge is relatively small, it’s part of the Schuylkill Township and a larger area that’s also commonly identified as Valley Forge. This includes communities like King of Prussia, home to the Valley Forge Casino Resort, the King of Prussia Mall (America’s largest, by retail space), and Oaks, site of the Greater Philadelphia Convention Center. These landmarks contribute to the area’s ranking as the third largest employment center in the Philly area. While Valley Forge National Historic Park attracts tourists, new planned housing and mixed-use developments like the Village at Valley Forge are luring residents to the area. Developers built a main street and King of Prussia Town Center from the ground up, featuring a 24-hour Wegmans grocery, LA Fitness, and REI to go along with the many walking and biking trails.
Doing Business in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the eighth largest US metropolitan economy. Many large corporations are headquartered in the area because of its close proximity to other large metro areas.
Key Industries: Bio-science, Financial Services, Tourism
Major Employers: University of Pennsylvania and Health System, Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, ACCU Staffing, Comcast Corp.
Originally born and grew up in a small town in western KS, living then in OKC, Cambridge, MA, Philadelphia, NYC, Wichita and now Kansas City area, I considered my twenty years in Philadelphia the best! I called it my soul city. I found people to be genuinely good, caring and friendly overall. I happened to find out a few years ago that my many times great grandfather Swede, sold the family farm to Wm Penn and when living in Center City, I was walking around the family farm. No wonder I call it my soul city. I love Philly forever!Ronald R.
Cost of Living in Philadelphia
While Philadelphia is much more affordable than other large US cities, its housing expenses are 30% higher than the national average and the utility prices are 25% higher than the national average.
In Philadelphia, the median rent is $965 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,118 for a two-bedroom. Rents have dropped sharply by 6,2% in comparison to the same time last year. Renters will find more reasonable prices in Philadelphia than most other large cities. For example, San Francisco has a median 2BR rent of $2,322, which is more than twice the price in Philadelphia
What Philadelphia Renters Want– Here are the top things tenants report looking for in a property:
- In-unit laundry facilities
- Air conditioning
- Hardwood floors
- Dog and cat friendly
It’s a really awesome and underrated city, for all the reasons others listed here. The amount of rent you pay for centrally located and decently sized space here relative to other big cities is incredible. Philly is hugely more livable than a place like NYC or SF. You have virtually the same access to restaurants and culture and bars without nearly as much downside.Karl U.
Arts, Recreation, and Entertainment in Philsdelphia
Philadelphia’s historic district is full of stories and sights.
- One of the most iconic symbols in U.S. history, the 2,080-pound Liberty Bell stands proudly on Independence Mall.
- Independence Hall is the centerpiece of the renowned Independence National Historical Park. In 1776, the Founding Fathers came together to sign the Declaration of Independence in this historic building. Eleven years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the US Constitution.
- Presidents George Washington and John Adams each lived at 6th and Market streets during their tenures as president. While the original President’s House has since been demolished, the foundation remains and now serves as part of an outdoor museum where looped videos give a special focus to the lives of the nine enslaved men and women who lived and worked here during Washington’s time in office.
- Independence National Historical Park, also known as America’s most historic square mile, is a must-see to learn more about America’s origins.
- At the National Constitution Center museum-goers can explore exhibits and artifacts, view an original Bill of Rights, walk among 42 life-size bronze statues of the delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and learn more about the amendments to the Constitution that ended slavery and granted the right to vote to Black men and some women.
The Philadelphia region is blooming with lively urban parks, re-imagined recreational landscapes, spirited pop-up gardens and scenic running and biking trails. From the massive trail systems of Fairmount Park and Wissahickon Valley Park to the delightful riverside enclaves of the seasonal Spruce Street Harbor Park and Race Street Pier to regional attractions like Longwood Gardens and Valley Forge National Historical Park, residents and visitors enjoy relaxing, exercising and playing in these public spaces.
Philadelphia is one of just a few cities with a professional franchise in five major league sports. Most of Philadelphia’s pro teams play a few miles south of Center City, either at the Wells Fargo Center (76ers basketball and Flyers ice hockey), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles football) or Citizens Bank Park (Phillies baseball). The Philadelphia Union soccer team plays at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.
Renowned for its live music scene, Philadelphia’s vibrant rock, rap, jazz and pop venues located in neighborhoods all across the city showcase the world’s most buzzed-about musicians. That’s not to mention the city’s renowned classical groups, which includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the world’s greatest classical music organizations and one of the most prolific recording acts in history. The Avenue of the Arts, also known as Broad Street, features many of the city’s premier theater and dance venues, while small, intimate spaces devoted to experimental ventures specialize in everything from avant-garde to musicals, recent hit plays to original scripts, and classics to children’s theater. With dozens of professional dance companies and a number of excellent venues, Philadelphia boasts an internationally renowned modern dance company, a fabulous ballet troupe, and African, hip-hop, tap, salsa, Flamenco and postmodern ensembles.
Read the full research report: Philadelphia, PA. We interviewed the people that live there to find out what makes their city special. Stay tuned for more city research.