Tracing its origins to the late 17th century, Old City is where the grand experiment called the United States was first launched, and beacons of American cultural life—from Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell—still illuminate the neighborhood today.

In Old City, horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone streets and actors in colonial dress are regular reminders that you’re deep in the heart of historic Philadelphia. Yet the neighborhood has evolved greatly in the past decades, holding onto its heritage while blossoming into a forward-looking enclave of eclectic shops, art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants, fashionable lounges and exciting residences. Historic brownstones and brick town homes still line charmingly narrow cobblestone passages like Elfreth’s Alley—America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street—and the neighborhood’s commercial past has proved a wonderful opportunity for developers who have transformed its turn-of-the-century warehouses and factories into airy, light-filled lofts and luxury condos with views of the landmark Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

Old City also offers a multitude of entertainment options, from some of the city’s best nightlife to the festive atmosphere surrounding the First Friday art scene (Second Street has the highest concentration of galleries in the region). Franklin Square—one of Philadelphia’s five original public squares—is a favorite spot for family fun, with a carousel, fountain, miniature golf course, and a playground that Yahoo! recently ranked among the top five in the country. Film buffs enjoy the nearby Ritz cinemas, and of course there’s historical attractions to last a lifetime, from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center and the Constitution Center to more hidden gems such as the Betsy Ross House and Carpenters’ Hall.

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD