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Top Rated Attractions in Philadelphia

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Eastern State Penitentiary

When it opened in 1829 Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the largest prison facilities built in the country. The penitentiary experimented with previously unheard ideas of incarceration that prioritized reformation over punishment. A form of solitary confinement was the rule, on the theory inmates would use the time for prayer, reflection and penitence. Despite the cost and efforts taken, the system was not a success and numerous challenges finally led it to close in the 1970s, but not before inspiring numerous similar prison systems around the world. Inmates formerly incarcerated here include arch-criminal Al Capone and bank robber Willie Horton. Although it stands today in crumbling condition, visitors will find it fascinating to explore the vaulted cell blocks and central rotunda.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Philadelphia's South Street is home to one of the most remarkable creations of art in the city. Known as the Magic Gardens, this work by artist Isaiah Zagar spans almost an entire block and engulfs everything in sight including the pathways and building walls. The continuously evolving work is a colourful riot and incorporates tiles, bottles, bicycle tires, spokes; pretty much anything you could think of. With this stunning landscape and installations, the artist draws you into his world for a peek into his mind. This one is not to be missed.

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Due to its spellbinding architecture and sheer grandeur, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a must-visit place on the list of every tourist in Philadelphia. This beautiful cathedral is the centerpiece of one of the largest Catholic populations in North America. It was designed by celebrated architect Napoleon LeBrun and constructed between 1846 and 1864 by blending Palladian and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. A beautiful “baldachin” or “canopy” over the altar is evidence of the Italian influence while the church façade is in the Palladian style. In fact, you may be forgiven for thinking you are in Europe while viewing this glorious cathedral. Embark on an audio tour and learn more about its eight chapels, 2000-seat sanctuary, vaulted copper dome, and a spectacular apse featuring red marble carvings and stained glass work. During the tour, you will also be familiarized with the fascinating history of the basilica. As Pennsylvania's largest Catholic church, this monument is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art features over 240,000 objects filled with treasures spanning across continents and cultures, drawn from a collection of more than 400,000 works of art like prints, drawings and photographs. The huge stone edifice of the museum, supported by majestic Doric columns, looks over the Schuylkill River. Scale the steps made famous in the 'Rocky' movies.

Liberty Bell

A jewel of the Independence National Historic Park, the Liberty Bell spans layers and layers of long-standing history. In 1751, William Penn asked that the new bell being cast for the Pennsylvania Statehouse be engraved with the words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” When the bell first rang to call citizens to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence, little did it know that it was going to change the course of the country forever. It was later dubbed the 'Liberty Bell' by abolitionists, who adopted the bell as a symbol of their fight for freedom for all Americans. A copper-clad, 2,080-pound (940-kilogram) icon of American independence, The Liberty Bell yet serves as a symbol of pride, inspiration and freedom.

Race Street Pier

One of the city's most unique parks and outdoor spaces, Race Street Pier stands close to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, jutting out into the Delaware River. Manicured lawns cover one part of the pier, while a beautiful raised promenade occupies the rest of the space. From joggers in the morning to picnicking families and tourists looking for some calm by the river, the park sees a lot of visitors throughout the day, and is an excellent bet for people-watching. Panoramic vistas of the city make it a favorite hangout for photographers. Check website for more.

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