Millions of people come each year to soak in the rich history of our nation’s birthplace—and for good reason. A 2007 Travel + Leisure survey ranked Philadelphia  second only to Washington, D.C., among U.S. cities, for its wealth of historical sights and monuments. The majority of pivotal events leading to the formation of the United States happened on local ground, including Revolutionary War battles and the formation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Philadelphia also served as the nation’s capital for its first ten years, and a wealth of interesting, interactive monuments and museums keeps that history alive.
Independence National Historical Park  encompasses several square blocks in the heart of Old City, rightfully dubbed “America’s most historic square mile.” Many of Philadelphia’s most famous sights—including the Liberty Bell  and Independence Hall —are conveniently located within this compact and attractive area.
As you walk the streets—complete with tour guides dressed in colonial garb—it is easy to imagine the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin among them, inhabiting these same streets. Philadelphia’s favorite son, Franklin, is connected to practically every pivotal decision, event, and invention in the city’s early history.
In the past decade, this bustling area has been given a boost with the addition of the interactive multimedia Constitution Center , a new and improved museum to house the Liberty Bell, and a major renovation of Franklin Square . The area will continue to improve in the coming years, with additions such as the President’s House  monument, on the ground where both George Washington and John Adams once lived.
The Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum  and the Museum of Jewish American History  are also moving to new locations in the heart of Independence Park. Even the least patriotic among us find it hard not to feel a surge of national pride after spending time in this part of town.
While Old City is certainly the most popular area for tourists, you’re never far from history with markers of the city’s long life apparent from South Philadelphia to Germantown. As you explore, look for the National Historic Landmark symbol on homes, churches, cemeteries, hotels, and even buildings that now house modern shops and restaurants.
More recent historical and architectural gems include City Hall  and the Grand Masonic Temple . Built in the mid-19th century, they now share the skyline with ultra-modern skyscrapers. Extending out from Center City, the broad Benjamin Franklin Parkway, often called the Museum District or the Cultural District, is a sight in its own right. Inspired by Paris’s Champs-Élysées, it connects City Hall with the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art  and other famous museums of art and science. The already massive Art Museum expanded in 2007 with the addition of the Perelman Building across the street, so even repeat visitors never run out of something new to see. The one-of-a-kind Eastern State Penitentiary  in nearby Fairmount rounds out the diverse sights in the area.
Just beyond, Fairmount Park extends on both sides of the Schuylkill River into the northwest section of the city. The park offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities, including the Philadelphia Zoo  and a wealth of historic homes, gardens, and sculptures. Still more historic homes—some that were stops on the Underground Railroad or sites of Revolutionary battles—are open for tours in Germantown.
Meanwhile, local institutions like Reading Terminal Market  have remained popular for more than a century, helping to connect Philadelphia’s  history with the present. In a place that has done an extraordinary job of preserving its past while keeping up with the times, there is no shortage of interesting sights.