The 25 Most Beautiful Places in Philadelphia — Visit Philadelphia
Jun 15, 2023
One of the most beautiful cities in the nation? Don’t take our word for it: Just ask Forbes.
The splendor of Philadelphia comes in many forms, whether it be the obvious (public art, museums and botanic gardens) or the subtle (skyline views, architecture and alleyways).
Climb high for unbeatable views of the city at Cira Green or the countryside at Bowman’s Hill Tower. Explore the region’s plethora of public gardens, including Tyler Arboretum and Chanticleer. And find hidden gems both indoors (like the grand concourse at 30th Street Station) and outdoors (Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center).
Below are 25 sites, vistas and locales that will make you say, “OMG, Philadelphia is just so beautiful.”
From atop 12-story tall Bowman’s Hill Tower, visitors can take in the surrounding vista for 14 miles out across Washington Crossing Historic Park, the Bucks County countryside and into New Jersey, as well as 134 acre Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Constructed between 1929 and 1931, the tower commemorates Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware. If you want to take in this breathtaking view, be prepared for a workout as it is a full 124 steps to the top via a century-old spiral staircase. (It’s worth it.)
Where: Bowman’s Hill Tower, 1 Tower Road, New Hope
This 45-acre Bucks County park is a destination for hiking, picnicking, kayaking and particularly rock climbing (one of just three state-run climbing areas in Pennsylvania). Stover’s High Rocks region — donated by author James A. Michener of the Michener Art Museum — is a 200-foot sheer rock face with over 60 routes. But if rock seeing is more your speed than rock climbing, one of the most gorgeous views can be had at High Rocks Vista overlooking Tohickon Creek Gorge and its horseshoe valley below, offering access to several trails and cliffside benches.
Where: High Rocks Vista at Stover State Park, 150 Tory Road, Pipersville
Two-century-old Laurel Hill Cemetery is a 74-acre garden burial ground elevated above the Schuylkill River and dotted with 33,000 gravesites of soldiers, luminaries and colonial Philadelphians. Stunning views (both grave and nature) abound, but deep into Laurel Hill East lies perhaps the graveyard’s most sought-after view. Secluded along the cliffside between Hunting Park Drive and Strawberry Mansion Bridge is an isolated overlook with incredible views out over the Schuylkill River. (See if you can spot the top of the Please Touch Museum in the distance.) Penned in by a 170-year-old stone fence, the 360-degree view gives an illusion of standing in a grand forest, not the middle of Philly.
Where: Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue
Deep inside Northwest Philly’s 2,000-acre Wissahickon Valley Park lies secluded Forbidden Drive, a seven-mile-long rocky trail running the spine of the park. It is here that you’ll find the gorgeous park’s most distinct feature, the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge. The only intact covered bridge remaining inside any major American city, Mill Bridge is a charming 86-foot-long single-span Howe-truss wooden crossing of the Wissahickon River you won’t believe is in the middle of the country’s sixth-largest city. Leave time to get lost in the other charming sections of the park, including Houston Meadow, one of the few remaining meadows in Philadelphia and a major birdwatching destination.
Where: Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, 8901 Forbidden Drive
Hidden in a clearing deep in West Fairmount Park is the exquisite Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, a post-war gift of peace to America from the Emperor of Japan. Modeled after a traditional Japanese temple guest house, teahouse and bathhouse, the center is a gorgeous example of early 17th-century Asian architecture. Surrounding the facility is an oasis of elegant gardens, a Zen-finding koi pond with a tiered waterfall and scores of century-old cherry trees. For that perfect pic for the ‘Gram, set up across the pond from the main house along Horticultural Drive and take in the view.
Where: Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, Horticultural Drive
In a region replete with historical markers and memorials, one rises above them all. Soaring 60 feet into the air, Valley Forge National Historical Park’s National Memorial Arch — based on the Arch of Titus in Rome — commemorates the Continental Army’s arrival at Valley Forge in 1777. Close up, details in the stone settings, architectural sculptures and numerous inscriptions warrant close inspection. For additonal views, take in the park’s surrounding vistas from historic lookouts like Artillery Park, Redoubt #3 and Redoubt #2.
Where: National Memorial Arch, 420 Gulph Road, King of Prussia
Philly features several sky-high viewing options (see: City Hall), but none offer quite the fresh-air experience that Cira Green does. The “Park in the Sky” — located 12 floors up atop the Cira Centre South Garage — is a 31,000-square-foot elevated urban park featuring plenty of sunshine and incredible open-air views. Off the west side, University City and its gorgeous campuses stretch out over West Philly, while along the eastern wall, the unimpeded panoramas across the Schuylkill River into Center City from 95 feet in the air are rarely matched. During warmer months, Sunset Social offers on-site food, a beer garden and weekly programming, including outdoor movie nights.
Where: Cira Green, 129 S. 30th Street
One a quiet urban pocket park. The other a bustling artists and makers market. Both Race Street Pier and Cherry Street Pier — former industrial docks 150 feet apart — offer stunning looks across the Delaware River alongside the Ben Franklin Bridge. The foot of Race Street Pier, stretching 600 feet into the river, offers big views of the bridge and Philly skyline from atop the 12-foot-high river overlook. Next door, the open-air café Garden Restaurant at Cherry Street Pier occupies the far end of the market, a relaxing space with equally incredible displays of the bridge and riverfront.
Where: Race Street Pier, N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (1)
Cherry Street Pier, 121 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
One of the most beautiful strolls in all of Philadelphia, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk is a 2,000-foot-long over-the-water pathway carrying the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to South Street featuring four scenic overlooks with stunning riverside views of both Center City and West Philly. The 15-foot wide boardwalk connects to (and runs under) the South Street Bridge via a 460-foot-long ramp, providing even more gorgeous vistas enjoyed while hopping across the river into University City.
Where: Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, 2799 South Street
VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (1)
South Street Bridge
At more than 1,000 acres, Longwood Gardens is Philly’s largest and most famous botanical garden. Pierre du Pont’s horticultural destination showcases nearly 10,000 varieties among its indoor and outdoor grounds. One of its most stunning features: the Illuminated Fountain Performances, seasonal 30-minute color-lighted musical dancing water shows at the center of a magnificent five-acre fountain garden. Before showtime, explore some of the other stunning sites at Longwood, including the Green Wall and Orchid House in the Conservatory and the Hillside Garden at the Chimes Tower District.
Where: Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square
A centerpiece of Delaware County’s posh Main Line, Chanticleer is an elegant “pleasure garden” displaying over 5,000 plants across a dozen collections, from perennials to agricultural crops, on the grounds of a century-old estate. But the attraction’s most noteworthy feature is the Minder Ruin Garden, a folly built on the main cottage’s foundation resembling an ancient ruin overtaken by the elements. Explore the stunning Great Hall with a 24-foot sarcophagus-shaped reflecting pool, the Library with giant books chiseled from stone and the Pool Room where polished marble faces lie entombed in a macabre fountain.
Where: Chanticleer, 786 Church Road, Wayne
Pennsylvania’s official state arboretum, Morris Arboretum & Gardens is a stunning nearly 100-acre oasis in Chestnut Hill. Its sprawling gardens and flowering meadows, featuring more than 13,000 labeled plants and 2,500 types of trees, offer lots of worthwhile viewing — but nothing can beat soaring over it all. The arboretum’s Tree Canopy Walk gives visitors a 50-foot-high view of the forest below alongside interactive elements like a larger-than-life “birds’ nest” and an elevated rope net play area called Squirrel Scramble.
Where: Morris Arboretum & Gardens, 100 E. Northwestern Avenue
Beauty isn’t only in the eye of the beholder — sometimes it can be in their ears, noses and fingertips, too. The 650-acre Tyler Arboretum showcases woodlands, meadows and flora as far as the eye can see — but not everyone has the ability to do so. Tyler’s Fragrant Garden was one of the very first gardens in the nation designed primarily for people who are blind. The gorgeous herb garden is filled with aromatic herbs and flowers, beautiful to smell and touch as well as see, of over 100 varieties, from lavenders to geraniums to nigella.
Where: Tyler Arboretum, 515 Painter Road, Media
Thanks to Rocky (and the exquisite art collection, too), nearly everyone is familiar with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As beautiful as the works on display from van Gogh, Manet, Cassatt, and Picasso, the museum itself is an architectural wonder — with the opulent Great Stair Hall at its heart. The massive 9,000-square-foot foyer lies under a dramatic 40-foot ceiling connecting soaring walls displaying giant tapestries and a majestic 50-plus step staircase under the eye of Diana, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 15-foot bronze statue of the Roman goddess.
Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Opened in 1933 during the golden age of rail travel, West Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station has remained a marvel for decades, named as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world by Architectural Digest. Its stunning neoclassical exterior gives way to the massive Main Concourse the length of two football fields under a 95-foot high ceiling strung with art deco chandeliers flanked by gilded columns, travertine walls and cathedral windows above Tennessee marble floors. An incredible display of public art waits inside as well, including large-scale paintings, friezes and sculptures.
Where: William H. Gray III 30th Street, 2955 Market Street
In Philadelphia, haute cuisine takes on a whole new meaning at the city’s (probably) most beautiful and (definitely) highest restaurants. At 1,121 feet, the Comcast Technology Center is the tallest building in the nation outside New York and Chicago. Occupying the 59th and 60th floors are James Beard Award Best Chef winner Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s two soaring restaurants, Jean-Georges (elegant) and JG SkyHigh (casual) inside the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. Each space offers stunningly plated high-end cuisine whose beauty is matched only by the sweeping panoramic views (highest in the city) out 40-foot windows, and the mesmerizing waterfall-encased staircase they share.
Where: Jean-Georges Philadelphia and JG SkyHigh, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center, 1 N. 19th Street
The former home of renowned archeologist, anthropologist and ceramist Henry Chapman Mercer, Fonthill Castle in Doylestown is an elegant 115-year-old residence-turned-museum displaying Mercer’s massive collection of prints, books and hand-crafted ceramic tiles produced at his historic Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. The collection — including a 2,000-year-old whale oil lamp and Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets dating back four millennia — is spread out among the mansion’s 44 rooms and 32 stairwells. The building itself is as impressive as the relics, featuring over 200 windows and 23 chimneys (not to mention 11 bathrooms!).
Where: Fonthill Castle, 525 E. Court Street, Doylestown
A fountain built to memorialize a lover of fountains: that’s the beautiful sentiment behind Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square. At the center of a traffic circle on the sweeping Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the 100-year-old feature honors the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society with water statues representing Philadelphia’s three major rivers — the Schuylkill, the Delaware and the Wissahickon Creek — depicted as Indigenous heroes. The 124-foot-diameter art deco fountain also displays several stone frog and turtle figurines spraying water jets in all directions and a central geyser rising up to 50 feet high.
Where: Swann Memorial Fountain, 19th Street and Logan Square
One of the most popular urban public art installations in the city, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a large-scale indoor/outdoor found-item mosaic structure made from discarded materials like broken mirrors, reclaimed glass, tiles, bicycle parts and an assortment of urban waste. Spanning half a city block along famous South Street between 10th and 11th streets, the mixed-media display is the largest work produced by local artist Isaiah Zagar, who has created more than 100 mosaics around the city, including many others in the South Street area.
Where: Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, 1020 South Street
Philly has a wealth of beautiful and quaint side streets, alleys and bylanes filled with stunning urban artscapes that are well worth getting lost in:
Where: 2001-2099 Delancey Street
VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (5)
126 Elfreth's Alley
1700 Addison Street
250 Quince Street
1300-1398 S. Percy Street
1700 S. 13th Street
The only way to fully experience Philly? Stay over.
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Package and get free hotel parking and choose-your-own-adventure perks, including tickets to Disney100: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute.
Or maybe you’d prefer to buy two Philly hotel nights and get a third night for free? Then book the new Visit Philly 3-Day Stay package.
Which will you choose?
Adventurers wanted... July 19, 2023Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (1)Where:VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (1)Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:Where:VIEW OTHER LOCATIONS (5)