West Philadelphia is a mainly residential neighborhood that's home to major universities, a few historical landmarks, and plenty of bike paths. Visitors who are looking for a bit of exercise may enjoy the bike paths as they tour this area of Philly. Sometimes called University City Philadelphia, this area is home to Drexel University and the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. With Saint Joseph’s University nearby, the neighborhood is home to many students and amenities that serve them. While West Philadelphia may not be as popular to visit at Center City or South Philadelphia with its Italian Market, there are still attractions worth seeing.
One attraction that brings people to this neighborhood is the Mann Center in Philadelphia. This center for the performing arts in Fairmount Park hosts concerts, shows, and programs for all ages. An especially popular destination in the warm summer months, the Mann Center in Philadelphia is constantly expanding the programs and types of music they offer. This venue for outdoor concerts brings an influx of life to West Philadelphia, and with the many students who already live in the area, there is a core group of concert-goers ready to buy up all the tickets. If there is a band or artist you’re interested in seeing at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time.
Besides all of the fun there is some serious studying going on in University City Philadelphia as well. This area of about 20 square blocks has a significant student population that attends Drexel or the University of Pennsylvania. There is also a teaching hospital, which is home to many young med students and doctors. For this reason there are many businesses in the area that cater to students including gyms, yoga centers, a farmer’s market, and bookstores. There are many residents of the area that aren’t students, and as a result, many restaurants, cafés, and bakeries have opened. A local favorite is the White Dog Café, which serves food made with locally grown ingredients, and beers from local breweries.
History-lovers will be charmed by the Victorian brownstones, operational trolley lines, and historic mansions. In fact, West Philadelphia has been declared a National Historic District for its nineteenth-century homes along tree-lined streets. For a taste of local flavor, many visitors spend an afternoon exploring the area and having lunch in one of the many cafés. Other attractions include the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Children’s Museum. University City Philadelphia is known as one of the most international neighborhoods in the city, as it is home to a great diversity of residents.
Like many neighborhoods, West Philadelphia also contains a more working-class area, though visitors will likely be most interested in the district near the universities, rather than the far-west residential areas. The neighborhood can be reached by trolley or bus if you’re traveling from another area of Philadelphia, and a rainy day could easily be spent in one of the galleries or cafés. There are a few charming bed and breakfasts, hotels, and one hostel in this area of town. The number of students has resulted in a great number of nightlife options, though the vibe may be basic and budget.
Image: R. Kennedy for GPTMC