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Most cities in the United States have a downtown or financial district. We have one in Philadelphia also. We call it Center City. Center City neighborhood is by far the best neighborhood to live in Philadelphia. Within Center City, there are a few popular neighborhoods like Old City, Society Hill, Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square and Fitler Square.
Center City is the neighborhood where the oldest part of Philadelphia is located. This area of the city is known as Old City (Old City is where William Penn and the Quakers first settled). Independence Hall (the birthplace of America), Liberty Bell and Elfreth’s Alley are located in Center City as well (Elfreth’s Alley is one of the oldest streets in the United States of America and it dates back to 1703).
Philadelphia was founded by William Penn in 1682. Center City was essentially Philadelphia for a very long period of time. In 1854 the State of Pennsylvania passed the “Consolidation Act” thereby extending the boundary of Philadelphia all the way to match the boundary of the County of Philadelphia (The Philadelphia City and Philadelphia County borders are the same since). The size of Philadelphia went 2 Square miles to almost 130 square miles.
In his plan for Philadelphia, William Penn envisioned 5 major squares. All 5 squares are in Center City (Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, Logan Square, Franklin Square and Center Square (Center Square is where the City Hall building is today)).
Where is Center City?
North to South, Center City is the area between Spring Garden Street and South Street. West to East, it is the area between the Schuylkill River and the Delaware River. Obviously, the Art Museum area, South Philadelphia and University City are not part of Center City.
Market Street is the backbone of Center City. Other major streets of Center City are Lombard, Spruce, Walnut, Chestnut, Arch and Race. Interstate 676 goes through Center City as well. I-676 connects I-76 and I-95.
Is Center City Philadelphia Safe?
Philadelphia is one of the biggest cities in the United States and has all the problems that large American cities have. If you consider American cities that have more than 1 million residents, Philadelphia has the highest violent crime rate and poverty rate and also one of the highest illiteracy rate (Almost 22% of the citizens of this city ages 16 and above have difficulty reading (this is higher than many so called “third-word countries”)).
Philadelphia is also a prime example of how racially segregated American cities are. Overall, only about 35% of people who live in Philadelphia are White. 44% are Black and 14% Hispanic. But 67% of the residents of Center City are white, 13% Asian and only 9% Black.
Sadly, all this is the legacy of 65 plus years of continuous Democrat Party rule. The last Republican Mayor of Philadelphia was Bernard Samuel whose term ended back in 1952. The citizens of this great American city, the city that is the birth place of American democracy, have no political options left on the table. This city deserves better.
I have lived in many different parts of Philadelphia. Incidents of violent crime and crime in general is very low in Center City compared to other neighborhoods. Center City by far is the safest neighborhood in the City of Philadelphia.
How to get to Center City.
It is very easy to get to Center City Philadelphia by train, bus or by car (traffic permitting).
- By Car: Center City is located between the Schuylkill River and the Delaware River. I-76 (also known as the Schuylkill Expressways is built along the banks of the Schuylkill River as it meanders though Philadelphia. I-95 on the other hand follows the Delaware River. I-676 connects I-76 and I-95. There are three major exists from I-676 to different parts of Center City Philadelphia. Keep in mind that traffic on these three highways can be very high during peak hours.
- By Train: There are three major train stations in Philadelphia (30th Street Station, Suburban Station and Jefferson Station). Two of these stations, namely Suburban and Jefferson Stations are in Center City Philadelphia. 30th Street Station is technically in University City neighborhood but it is right next to Center City (the Schuylkill River separates 30th Street Station from Center City). Most SEPTA regional trains stop at all three stations. Amtrak and the NJ Transit Atlantic City Train only stop at the 30th Street Station. You can also get to Center City using PATCO. PATCO has a stop that is very close to Rittenhouse Square (Locus Street) and another stop very close to Washington Square/Independence Hall. You can also travel from one end of Center City to another (Schuylkill to Delaware Rivers) by taking the Market-Frankford Subway line. You can also get to Center City by taking the Broad Street Line (also known as the Orange Line). The line connects South Philadelphia and North Philadelphia and cuts across Center City. The Broad Street Line and the Market Frankford Line meet at City Hall.
- By Bus: The main bus station of Philadelphia is also in Center City. It is called the Greyhound Bus Station and it is in Chinatown (walking distance from City Hall and Independence Mall). You can take buses from this bus stop to New York City, Washington DC, Niagara Falls etc.
Getting to Center City from the Philadelphia International Airport.
Center City is only a 15 minute drive away from the Philadelphia International Airport. The standard taxi fare from the airport to Center City is around $30.00. You can also take the SEPTA Airport Line from the airport to Center City (the train will stop at all the three station (30th Street, Suburban and Jefferson).
Things to do in Center City.
Most of Philadelphia’s biggest attractions are in Center City. The places that I would recommend are:
- Independence Mall: Independence Hall and Liberty Bell.
- Old City and Society Hill.
- Washington Square.
- City Hall: City Hall, Love Park and Logan Circle.
- Rittenhouse Square.
- Schuylkill River Park.
If you are planning to visit Philadelphia, you should also definitely visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Steps and the Rocky Statue are both in front of the museum. But this area is outside the Center City neighborhood although it is very close to it. This part of Philadelphia is known as Fairmount.
Rittenhouse Square is the spot in Center City. The square is one of the most active places in the city and has a lot of bars and restaurants. The area around Rittenhouse Square (Walnut and Chestnut Streets) offer some of the best shopping experiences in the city. Schuylkill River Banks is a short walk away from Rittenhouse Square.
Where should you stay in Center City?
The place to stay in Philadelphia is the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. All the major offices, hospitals and Universities are very close to this neighborhood. The Marriott chain of hotels has a few hotels that are close to City Hall/Logan Square neighborhood. This is where most of the business travelers stay. These hotels are nice, but the neighborhood is not the same.
Which Center City neighborhood do you like the most?