The second-largest city in the Northeast Megalopolis of the United States is also one of the most important cities in the country.
The history of Philadelphia goes back to its foundation in 1682 by William Penn (1644-1718), an English Quaker who also founded the Province of Pennsylvania.
The city grew in importance during the 18th century when it became a meeting place for the future founding fathers of the United States. This sparked the American Revolution in the 1760s.
The historic importance of the city didn’t end there because it’s in Philly that the American Constitution was ratified in 1787. It was the largest city in the U.S. during this period as well before being overtaken by New York City in 1790.
It was the first capital of the United States and was so during 4 different periods, including between 1790 and 1800 when Washington D.C. was being constructed.
The city exploded during the 19th and 20th centuries as it became an important industrial center. This also resulted in a boom in the architectural landscape of the heavily urbanized city.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous buildings in Philadelphia, a city that is home to over 6.2 million people.
1. Independence Hall
Independence Hall is one of the most important historic buildings in the history of the United States. It’s here that the Founding Fathers discussed what should be included in the United States Constitution and the United States Declaration of Independence.
The building was completed in 1753 and was known as the Pennsylvania State House. This means that it served as the capitol of the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until it was moved to Lancaster in 1799. Independence Hall has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 and features a distinctive Georgian architectural design.
Official website: Independence Hall
2. Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall is a huge civic building in the heart of the city and serves as the official seat of the City of Philadelphia Government. It houses the offices of all government agencies as well as the offices of the city’s Mayor. Apart from all these functions, it also serves as a courthouse.
The building was constructed with bricks, limestone, and marble, and holds the record of being the tallest free-standing masonry building in the world. It was also the tallest habitable building upon completion in 1894 with a height of 167 meters (548 feet). It’s a great example of the Second Empire architectural style which was popular in North America between 1865 and 1900.
Official website: Philadelphia City Hall
3. Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is without a doubt the best place in the city to enjoy fine art. It houses an incredible collection of paintings which are housed in an amazing Neoclassical building. The total collection size of the museum is over 240,000 objects of American, European, and Asian art.
The museum was established in 1876 and was originally intended to serve as one of the main attractions of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia that year. It was originally housed in Memorial Hall, an amazing Beaux-Arts building, and moved to its current location along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the 20th century.
Official website: Philadelphia Museum of Art
4. Christ Church
Christ Church is an Episcopal church that is located in the Old City neighborhood of Philly. This is the historical heart of the city and features some amazing colonial-era buildings. This includes this amazing church which was completed between 1727 and 1744 in the Georgian architectural style.
The church was founded in 1695 by members of the Church of England. This was nothing more than a small wooden church building of which nothing remains today. Although the steeple only reaches a height of 60 meters, it was the tallest building in the Thirteen Colonies and the United States until the early 19th century.
Official website: Christ Church
5. Vanna Venturi House
The Vanna Venturi House is a residence that is located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood in the northern part of Philadelphia. It was designed by American architect Robert Venuti (1925-2018) for his mother Vanna and was the first Postmodern building ever constructed.
The building was completed between 1962 and 1964, which is about 8 years before Venturi wrote his work “Leaving Las Vegas” (1972) together with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown. This work defined Postmodern architecture, a style that flourished in the 1980s and 1990s.
6. Comcast Technology Center
The Comcast Technology Center is the only building in Philadelphia that can be classified as a supertall skyscraper (higher than 300 meters / 984 feet). This means it’s also the tallest building in Philly and the tallest building in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well.
This famous skyscraper stands 342 meters (1,121 feet) tall and was completed between 2014 and 2018. The central floors serve as an office building for Comcast software developers and engineers. The top floors are occupied by a restaurant and the highest hotel in the country and the ground floors feature television studios and stores.
7. 30th Street Station
30th Street Station is officially known as the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station and is the main railway station in the metropolitan area of Phildelphia. It’s the 12th busiest station in the United States with over 4 million yearly passengers and only Penn Station in Manhattan and Union Station in Washington, D.C. are busier Amtrak Stations.
The station is located in the University City neighborhood of Philly which is the easternmost section of West Phildelphia. The main building was completed between 1927 and 1933 and the station was heavily modified in 1989. It’s one of the most robust landmarks in Phildelphia and is brightly illuminated at night.
8. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is the main Roman Catholic church in Phildelphia. It’s located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the major thoroughfare in central Philly that features several important buildings. It’s one of the greatest examples of Renaissance Revival architecture in the city.
The building was completed between 1846 and 1864 and is the largest brownstone building in the city. It was designed by American architect Napoleon LeBrun who modeled the building on several churches in Rome. The heavily ornamented interior makes it worthwhile to enter the building as well.
Official website: Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
9. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is located just 4 blocks east of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in the heart of Phildelphia. It was established in 1805 and serves as a private art school, a museum, and an art gallery that hosts exhibitions.
The institution has come a long way because it’s the oldest art school and museum in the country. The current building was completed between 1871 and 1876 and incorporates a variety of architectural styles, including Renaissance, Gothic, and the Second Empire style.
Official website: PAFA
10. Comcast Center
The Comcast Center is another very tall skyscraper in Philadelphia that almost reaches supertall status. It stands 297 meters (974 feet) tall and was completed between 2005 and 2008. The building was originally known as “One Pennsylvania Plaza” but was renamed in honor of its main tenant Comcast.
Comcast has made the building its corporate headquarters and the company leases 89% of it, the equivalent of 101,656 square meters (1,094,212 square feet). In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful skyscraper in Philly. It has become a tourist attraction well as it features “The Comcast Experience,” a high-definition LED screen that covers an area of 190 square meters (2,000 square feet).