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.
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.
Spreading across 9200 acres (3723.11 hectares) with 63 parks, Fairmount Park is among the biggest city park systems in the nation. It features picturesque trails, rolling hills, streams, historical structures, woodlands, public arts and more. The Centennial Arboretum, Horticulture Center, Japanese House and Garden and Philadelphia Museum of Art are some of the interesting sites located in this massive expanse. It also has recreational centers and sporting fields.
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.
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.
Few artistic geniuses have captured the human form and condition in sculpture-like Auguste Rodin. Marvel at perhaps his most famous work, The Thinker, and wonder at the introspective nature of man and the might that is thought and creation. The Kiss and other noteworthy sculptures are also on hand including his last work, Gates of Hell. Apart from the French Rodin Musee, the Philadelphia locale is considered the largest collection of his masterpieces.
Gothic and neoclassical influences dominate the features of City Hall. The statue of William Penn that resides atop City Hall's clock tower remains a Philadelphia skyline marker—until the 1980s there was a "gentleman's agreement" that no Philadelphia building would be built higher than the rim of Penn's hat. City Hall provides a majestic backdrop for shoppers and businesspersons alike as it is situated on the intersection of the city's two main arteries, Broad and Market Streets. The tour of the City Hall lasts for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Located in Center City Philadelphia, the Dilworth Park is a 120,557 square foot (11,200 square meter) area public park with lush a green lawn, trees and an interactive fountain which converts into a skating rink in the winter. Favorite among kids and adults alike, this park is the perfect place to seek time in solitude while enjoying being surrounded by greenery and listening to the sounds of excitement in the voices of the kids playing nearby. Scattered throughout the park are areas with works of art on display and laws that are designated picnic areas, while certain tree grove areas have selected tree species conducive to the city. The park also doubles up as a rental space for art festivals, weddings and exhibitions.
As the largest fully-functioning pipe organ in the world, the Wanamaker Organ has serenaded visitors to the Wanamaker Building with special concerts since 1911. Although ownership of the building has since changed over to Macy's, the organ can still be viewed and heard in all its splendor. The Wanamaker Organ is played at least twice daily Monday through Saturday, so be sure to stop by and hear it in person.
This 1976 Claes Oldenburg sculpture carries the same bit of quirk found in many of his other works about the city. If you take a stroll through Philadelphia, you'll find it is not that odd to find a 20-foot tall, red clothespin in the middle of high activity areas. The Clothespin also provided the background for a scene with Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Ankroyd in the film "Trading Places." There are other Claes Oldenburg sculptures around town, including the giant broken button on the Penn campus at 36th and Locust Walk.
Founded in 1830, this Catholic church serves the heart of Philadelphia by providing worship services and prayer. St. John Neumann, who is remembered for his efforts to establish a parochial school system in Philadelphia and for his devoted care toward immigrants, was consecrated here in 1852. His funeral was held at this church in 1860. William Penn's great-great grandson, Thomas Penn Gaskell, is buried in the cemetery next to the church. A statue of Mary, erected in 1857 survived an 1899 fire.
The Arch Street United Methodist Church is an extraordinary example of Gothic Revival architecture. Founded in 1862, this striking white marble building is in excellent condition and houses a Stanbridge organ built in 1870. Arch Street was probably the first church in Philadelphia to fully integrate its membership when it welcomed participation by Roman Catholic leaders in the 1960s. The Church is also noted for its efforts to help the homeless, for starting Native American ministries, and for sponsoring AIDS awareness activities. Open sundays 8:30am onwards.