Before travelling to Philadelphia, I sat down and went through a long research of different kinds of transport, contemplating price, duration and comfort of travel. The most convenient and affordable way was to get an AMTRAK train from Penn Station in New York City, to the majestic 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
The duration of the trip is just about two hours long and it cost around $60 (£46). The price included comfortable seats, a checked-in bag and hassle free travelling with no airport security checks – yay!
Train & local travel costs: $60 + up to $3 for a single metro ride to Penn Station.
New York City can be seen as a concrete jungle with some New Yorkers being the wild ‘concrete’ animals that will stop at nothing but their destination, so you need to keep a confident and steady pace on your way to Penn Station, especially if you are travelling during rush hour!
Penn Station is the main intercity railroad station in New York City with trains travelling to places like Washington DC, Boston, Baltimore, New Jersey and many more destinations across the east coast. It is a massive station with many different areas, platforms and levels. It can be very intimidating at first, so if you are taking an AMTRAK train, you will need to get to a designated area within the station, called “The AMTRAK Seating Area” located in Lower Level 1.
Although I researched beforehand and felt very confident, I was still a bit baffled when I got to the station. One thing that really helped me find that designated area, is an app called Find Your Way. It is powered by AMTRAK and it has a full map of the station. Plus you can turn on your live location for easier guidance towards “The AMTRAK Seating Area”. It is available for both Apple and Android phones.
The City of Philadelphia
As mentioned before, it takes about two hours to get to Philadelphia and some of the scenery along the way is simply stunning. Having said that, I would like to point out that you should stay alert at all times, as there were no stop announcements and signs.
You should be ready to leave the train when it pulls at your stop as it does not stay put for a very long time. I kept checking my Apple Maps app just to be confident.
The 30th Street Station is the main station in the city of Philadelphia. Getting there was a breeze but the city transport is not great, therefore you might need to get an Uber or Lyft to get to your destination.
Train station to hotel costs: Free (if you can walk it!) or $10-$30 for an Uber or Lyft
TIP: If you want to save a couple of dollars per trip, keep checking between the two apps (Uber & Lyft) as one of them will always be cheaper than the other.
If you have read my previous posts, you probably know that I do not mind paying just a bit extra to be in the city centre rather than wasting money and time on transport. In this case I only had to walk from the station to my hotel which was about a 15 minute walk.
The accommodation prices vary a lot. You can either get an Airbnb or a hotel room for just about the same price. In this case, I chose to get a hotel room right in the city centre for convenience and security. The hotel I stayed in was called Club Quarters Club and it was right in the centre of beautiful Philadelphia. My room was on the 10th floor so the view was quite magical from up there, especially in the morning hours. It cost about $64 per night (£50) and there was no breakfast included, but there was free tea & coffee, soft drinks and free snacks in the morning, such as banana chips, M&Ms, granola etc. I am definitely extremely lazy when it comes to exercising but there was also a free gym on the 12th floor, you know, if you are that kind of person!
Although the hotel was lacking breakfast, there were plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants around to get a decent breakfast.
Accommodation costs: $45-$70 per night, according to your needs.
Things to do and see in the city of Brotherly Love
The word Philadelphia is Greek for “brotherly love”, derived from the Ancient Greek terms phílos (beloved, dear) and adelphós (brother, brotherly). With that said, the city did feel very friendly and warm, so I would say the name fits like a glove.
There are plenty of things to do in Philadelphia, or “Philly” as the locals call it. Philly is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States, therefore there were a lot of historical sites to explore and it has been a very educational trip overall. From all the things I have done whilst in Philly, I believe that these are the main attractions that you should definitely not miss during your time here!
Philadelphia City Hall
The building itself is definitely something that you cannot miss seeing; the stunning architecture and its notable size are worth of admiration. It is the largest municipal building in America and the world’s tallest masonry structure. People in the 1950’s wanted to demolish the building as the new industrial era deemed it as “America’s ugliest building” due to its peculiar style, but people began to change their mind as it was restored to its full glory a couple decades later. Experience it for yourself and judge its beauty!
The Franklin Institute
If you fancy seeing a 20-foot statue of the founding father of the United States known as Benjamin Franklin, then The Franklin Institute is the place to go. It is merely a 10 minute walk from the City Hall and you get to walk through beautiful Logan Square on your way there.
The Franklin Institute is home to the Science Museum which you will need to have a ticket to see, but the statue is free to see as it’s just by the entrance of the museum. Many people go to see the statue everyday so I suggest you go either really early in the morning or late at night. There is a projection of lights and educational videos about Benjamin Franklin’s work and history which make the whole experience even more interesting and entertaining.
Liberty Bell & Independence Hall
The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of the American independence that is located in the Liberty Bell Centre, just by the Independence Hall. If you would like to see the Independence Hall, you will need to either reserve a ticket, or simply walk up to the building really early in the morning.
They offer a limited amount of FREE walk-up tickets, starting at 8:30am on a first-come, first-served basis. All you need to do is walk there as early as possible and ask for a free ticket. In order to see the Liberty Bell, all you have to do is walk into the Liberty Bell Centre and go through the airport style security control. Yes, unfortunately you have to remove all your accessories, belts, bits and bobs, but hey, at least it’s free of charge!
Costs: Most of places were free of charge as long as they were planned in advance.
Independent Film Showcase
I did not get to explore the bars or night scene in Philly but if you fancy seeing something artistic and creative whilst in Philly, I suggest you check Philadelphia Film Centre. They host a film showcase with films from independent and professional filmmakers that are from Philly or have a strong connection to the city. The showcase is then followed by a Q&A and the tickets are free of charge! All you have to do is reserve a ticket online and choose to donate if you can and want to, in order to support the filmmakers and their journey.
Tickets sell out quick though so even if you do not manage to get one, then I suggest you walk to the box office at least half an hour before the show and ask if they have any extra “no-show” tickets.
Wine at Five
One of the many perks that my hotel offered was the daily Wine at Five event (4:00pm to 6:00pm) in the lobby, with unlimited complimentary glasses of wine. I had the opportunity to meet friendly people from across the continent and people from all over the world, who were interested in hearing about my story whilst sipping a refreshing glass of white wine!
If you are interested in the American history, then Philadelphia is a city that is definitely worthy of a visit. The locals are very friendly and I felt very safe during my stay. With New York City being a famous destination and Philly being only a short train journey away from it, I really recommend it as a “getaway” if you happen to be visiting New York!