Philadelphia is one of America’s most important historical cities. At Independence Hall on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and in September 1787, the Constitution was drafted. A century earlier, William Penn, a prominent Quaker and namesake of Pennsylvania, was a catalyst for the changes that transformed these British colonies into an independent nation. Here are some popular attractions in Philadelphia.
1. Liberty Bell Pavilion
The liberty bell has long been a symbol of freedom and independence in the United States. It rang to mark the signing of the Constitution, but contrary to popular myth, the big crack came in 1846, when it tolled in observance of George Washington’s birthday.
You’ll learn this and other facts about the bell in the exhibits, and a film shows how abolitionists, suffragists, and other groups adopted the bell as a symbol of freedom. In the late 1800s, the bell went on tour around the country in an effort to conquer divisions left by the Civil War. The bell completed its journey in Philadelphia in 1915, where it has remained.
2. Independence Hall
Independence Hall originally served as the State House of the Colony of Pennsylvania and is best known as the place where the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It was also where the Continental Congress met again 11 years later and wrote the United States Constitution.
The highlight is Assembly Hall, where the Second Continental Congress met behind closed doors to discuss independence from the British. This is where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where George Washington was chosen as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
3. Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park is quite possibly America’s most historic square mile. In addition to housing famous sites, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, many other important attractions line the cobbled streets of this old area. Independence Hall has seen some of America’s most important historical moments and hosted some of its most famous founders. It stood witness to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and the creation of the United States Constitution in 1787.
It is flanked by Congress Hall, where the first Congress of the United States met from 1790 to 1800 and George Washington and John Adams were elected President, and Old City Hall, which was never in fact the town hall but was the seat of the Supreme Court from 1791 to 1800.
4. Philadelphia Museum of Art and the “Rocky Steps”
The Philadelphia Museum of Art contains one of the United States’ largest collections of painting and other artworks. Among the finest sections of the museum are the medieval galleries, which include pictures by Rogier van der Weyden and the van Eyck brothers.
In other rooms are Renaissance and Baroque works and art of the 18th and 19th centuries, including pictures by Van Gogh, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Cézanne, Monet, and Degas. A collection of 20th-century European art is represented by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Miró, Paul Klee, and other artists.
5. Reading Terminal Market
The Market at Reading Terminal has been a National Historic Landmark since 1995, and is a deeply rooted Philadelphia institution. It has been in operation since 1893, when the Reading Railroad Company built this space beneath their new station to accommodate the farmers and butchers who had been using the area for their open-air markets for decades.
The old market has undergone renovations, but it has retained its unique ambience and many of the structure’s original features. Today, you will find more than 80 merchants, 75 of whom are small independent businesses. Both locals and tourists come to buy local produce; free-range meats; canned goods; fresh-baked Amish breads; and handmade crafts, including clothing, jewelry, and gifts. Several vendors specialize in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods.